Patterne Hall. Home of Sir Willoughby Patterne, the “egoist” of the title. Using a technique more common to drama than to the Victorian novel, George Meredith sets virtually every scene of the novel somewhere on the grounds of Patterne Hall. Sir Willoughby’s country estate is not merely his home; he considers it a kind of earthly paradise where he and others wise enough to follow his lead can escape the vexations of the modern world. After leaving the hall for a three-year tour of the Continent when he was jilted, Willoughby has returned to settle down, bringing friends and acquaintances to Patterne Hall to impress them with his wealth and wisdom.
Described at various places in the novel as both a fortress and an aerie, Patterne Hall serves as Willoughby’s Garden of Eden, in which he can pursue idiosyncratic pleasures. The grounds of the estate are spacious and variegated, consisting of woods, farm lands, and several cottages in which tenants and other dependents live. Sir Willoughby’s second fiancé, Clara Middleton, is at first taken with the magnificence of the hall but eventually finds it is a prison in which she is likely to become trapped if she marries Willoughby. Much of the novel is taken up with her struggle to be released from her engagement and leave Patterne Hall. Clara finds it difficult to escape, however; her friends and family believe her engagement to Willoughby is a coup for her, since her...
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