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Crotchet Castle

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Crotchet Castle (kroh-SHAY). House in England’s Thames Valley. Not a true castle, it stands on the summit of a hill whose slopes are wooded, overlooking a grassy valley punctuated with juniper bushes. The hill still bears slight but clear traces of ancient Roman occupation. The opinion that it was once a military station or castellum—a theory robustly defended by the Reverend Dr. Folliott—provides a further excuse for its misleading name, although it is commonly referred to in the text as a mere camp.

Within the house the breakfast room is the arena of the first of the philosophical discussions conducted in the text, whose principal focus is—as is usual in Peacock’s fictions of contemporary manners—the inexorable march of social progress. Subsequent discussions take place in the main dining room, the library, and the music room. The library houses a large collection of books, both ancient and modern (the older ones carefully sorted by Dr. Folliott), while the music room is equipped in a similarly egalitarian spirit with the scores of classical operas and more fashionable tunes.

The reader is told neither the name of the village adjacent to Crotchet nor the name of the inn where Dr. Folliott is taken to see the Charity Commissioners after his violent encounter with ruffians in the vicinity of the Roman camp. This unusual vagueness is symbolic of the judgment that Crotchet Castle and its surroundings are typical of social changes that have overcome the whole of England. The past is retained, in the Roman camp, the library, and the music room, but it has become detached from the present, relegated to the status of a collection tended by amateur curators.

Hautbois farm

Hautbois farm ([H]OH-boy). Ancient property near Crotchet Castle that has long been taxed to pay for the upkeep of an almshouse on the edge of the unnamed village. This farm is the only place in the vicinity of Crotchet Castle that is named in the novel. The almshouse its taxes support is derelict, although the tax is still collected, having been absorbed into Mr. Folliott’s salary—the underlying allegation is that the church no longer passes on the welfare that it collects.

*Oxford

*Oxford. Historic university town on the River Thames. A further reflection of Crotchet Castle’s emphasis on matters of learning is provided by an expedition up the River Thames and across the River Severn into Wales. The characters are tourists in Oxford, continuing their discussions as they stroll around observing “curiosities of architecture, painted windows, and undisturbed libraries.”

Lake in Meirion

Lake in Meirion. Wild spot in western Wales that the romantically inclined Mr. Chainmail eventually reaches at the end of his long expedition, having parted company with his fellows; there he sees the “vision” of a lovely girl rowing a coracle that leads to his marriage. The lake is close to the seashore, where the ruins of a real castle can be found, providing a sharp contrast with Crotchet Castle. This part of Wales had a special mythical significance for Peacock, who set his Arthurian romance The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829) there shortly before writing Crotchet Castle.

Chainmail Hall

Chainmail Hall. Mr. Chainmail’s home, which receives all of Crotchet Castle’s guests, as well as its own, on Christmas Day, is a far more imposing building than Crotchet Castle. Its vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, and other anachronistic embellishments—especially its medieval armory—embody Chainmail’s great regard for the long-gone feudal era of chivalry. It is here, steeped in nostalgia, that the novel ends. Although the sadly ironic postscript makes further reference to the symbolic location of Dotandcarryonetown—the world of commerce—its final phrase suggests that the greater part of the world is now a “rotten borough.” (Rotten boroughs were parts of England no longer inhabited by more than a handful of individuals, but which still had the right, in 1831, to elect members of parliament.)

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219

Burns, Bryan. The Novels of Thomas Love Peacock. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1985. Sound criticism, with unsurprising insights. Includes a good discussion of Crotchet Castle.

Butler, Marilyn. Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in His Context. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. The most influential book on Peacock of its time, with acute critical discussions of all seven novels, especially Crotchet Castle.

Dawson, Carl. His Fine Wit: A Study of Thomas Love Peacock. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. A comprehensive survey of Peacock’s poetry, nonfictional prose, and novels. Good discussions of the Peacockian novel in general and of the individual novels, including Crotchet Castle.

Kjellin, Hakan. Talkative Banquets: A Study in the Peacockian Novels of Talk. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1974. An interesting study of Peacock’s relations with the dialogue and dramatic traditions. Discusses five of his seven novels, including Crotchet Castle.

McKay, Margaret. Peacock’s Progress: Aspects of Artistic Development in the Novels of Thomas Love Peacock. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1992. Traces Peacock’s growth as a novelist through his seven novels.

Peacock, Thomas Love. Novels. Edited by David Garnett. 2 vols. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1963. Discusses Crotchet Castle in volume 2. This edition is recommended for its annotations, which are by Peacock himself and by Garnett.

Priestley, J. B. Thomas Love Peacock. London: Macmillan, 1927. A classic essay, still worth consulting.

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