The Horse's Mouth

by Joyce Cary

Start Free Trial

Places Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 455


*London. Capital city of the British Empire, whose neighborhoods, landmarks, public houses, and climate provide a constant source of energy for a maverick artist. His friends, admirers, rivals, and passersby represent the rich variety of life in Great Britain just before the war that significantly transformed the city. Other parts of the city are brought into the narrative as Jimson pursues his quest for a place to paint. The wealthy patron Hickson lives in “Portland Place, top end, near the park,” one of the more affluent sections of the city. The Beeders, who are collectors, live in a modern development called Capel Mansions, a relatively tasteful, slightly ostentatious group of town houses that Jimson describes as “fine large new buildings in the playbrick design.” The sculptor’s model Lolie is described as good stock by her husband, who identifies her as being from Bethnal Green. Sara Monday, Jimson’s lifelong, truest love, lives with her common-law husband in Chattfield Buildings, grim, squalid, deteriorating tenements probably built as inexpensive lodgings for the poor. These locations, as well as public houses in Chelsea, Hammersmith, and Belgravia—bohemian quarters near the city’s center—contribute to the ambience of the metropolis and deftly suggest its complexity. A bus tour that Jimson and his admirer Nosy Barbon take provides additional details to deepen the picture.

*River Thames

*River Thames (tehmz). England’s greatest river and London’s connection to the sea. Jimson refers to the river as “the old serpent, symbol of nature and love,” suggesting its timeless allure, as well as its primal power and its capacity for engendering the strongest emotional response. The river’s serpentine course through London is suggestive of Jimson’s peregrinations through the city, and its Greenbank section, near the city’s center, is the location of Jimson’s home. Familiar London landmarks, such as the fabled Tower of London and the London Bridge, are just upriver from Greenbank. What Jimson calls his old studio is actually a deserted boathouse down by the water.


Greenbank. Maps of London list the section that Cary calls “Greenbank” as two words, and while he is clearly using the geographical facts of that site, his adjustment of the name is designed to permit a degree of imaginative alteration. His intention is to draw on fundamental features that his British readers would recognize to highlight his rendition of the neighborhood. Not far from many world-famous tourist spots, Jimson’s Greenbank is a working-class realm, gritty and blunt, where the homeless shelter Elsinore is placed. Cary gives it an Ellam Street address, another invention as there is no Ellam Street in London, and also places his friend Plantie’s cobbler shop there in a basement off Greenbank.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 178

Adams, Hazard. Joyce Cary’s Trilogies: Pursuit of the Particular Real. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1983. Discusses Cary’s philosophical and political ideas in The Horse’s Mouth. Particularly good on Cary’s uses of William Blake’s poetry.

Bloom, Robert. The Indeterminate World: A Study of the Novels of Joyce Cary. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962. Considers Cary’s attempt to combine the serious and the comic in a single novel; includes a useful list of Cary’s other publications.

Cook, Cornelia. Joyce Cary: Liberal Principles. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981. An incisive overview of the themes, motifs, and intellectual backgrounds of The Horse’s Mouth from a social perspective.

Echeruo, Michael J. C. Joyce Cary and the Dimensions of Order. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Examines The Horse’s Mouth as an expression of an existential impulse toward human freedom and artistic expression.

Wolkenfeld, Jack. Joyce Cary: The Developing Style. New York: New York University Press, 1968. Emphasizes the use of poetic language in the depiction of the protagonist’s artistic vision and his personal psychology.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Critical Essays