Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Traditional capital of England and capital of all of Great Britain after the union of England and Scotland in 1707. At the time in which Sir Walter Scott’s story is set, much of what is now “Greater London” lay outside London’s city gates. Thus, the Greenwich described here is a park where the king goes hunting, and Enfield Chase is a heath. The River Thames is the story’s principal thoroughfare; most of its settings are distributed along the river’s banks and can be reached by boat. The protagonist, Nigel Olifaunt, goes by river to visit King James’s court at Whitehall Palace, and returns by the same route when the treacherous Lords Huntinglen and Dalgarno try to inveigle him into heavy losses in Beaujeu’s gambling den. On the other hand, George Heriot goes to Whitehall by passing through Temple Bar (here a mere wooden barrier rather than the stone monstrosity it later became), then riding along the Strand and through Charing Cross, both of which are being built up at the time of the novel. Scott observes that Covent Garden is, at this time, still a garden rather than a cultural center.

Other famous London landmarks featured in the novel include St. James’s Park, where Nigel is accosted by Sir Mungo Malagrowther and encounters the diminutive Prince of Wales (the future Charles I) before quarrelling with Dalgarno; the Tower, where Nigel is imprisoned along with the disguised Margaret Ramsay; and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, on the crown of Ludgate Hill, where the climactic wedding takes place. Hyde Park and the Fortune Theatre are briefly encountered as Nigel passes...

(The entire section is 665 words.)