Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Norton Bury

Norton Bury. Small town in the county of Gloucestershire in the west of England; it lies on the flood plain of the River Avon. The River Severn and its estuary can be seen from the nearby Cotswolds Hills. There, Phineas Fletcher, the novel’s narrator, is brought up, his Quaker father owning a tanner’s yard and, later, a mill. The main historical features of the town are the abbey, now in ruins, and its gardens. The nearest large town, Coltham, a center of fashion, lies ten miles away.


Longfield. Second home of John and Ursula Halifax, who earlier live in a modest house in Norton Bury. Located some six miles from Norton Bury, Longfield is a small farmhouse that is periodically enlarged. It is the house to which John and his friend Phineas attach the greatest emotional warmth. John and Ursula’s dream is to retire there—a dream cut short by their relatively early deaths. It is “a nest of love and joy,” a place of blessing, where “liberty, fraternity and equality” are practiced. In fact, it is seen as Arcadia, the ideal pastoral setting in which to bring up a young family.


Enderley. Town in the Cotswold Hills, most of which is owned by the earl of Luxmore, where John Halifax leases a stream-driven mill that he tries to develop into a profitable cloth-weaving business. Lord Luxmore’s refusal to upgrade the mill or workers’ tied cottages...

(The entire section is 592 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Altick, Richard D. The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1991. Covers a large number of Victorian novelists, showing how they used everyday materials and experiences to satisfy readers’ interest in the contemporary scene and ordinary social life. Specific discussions of John Halifax, Gentlemen.

Brantlinger, Patrick. The Spirit of Reform: British Literature and Politics, 1832-1867. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977. An excellent discussion of the novel in chapter 5, “The Entrepreneurial Ideal,” identifies the strengths and weaknesses of Mulock’s social idealism. Index.

Gilmour, Robin. “Dickens and the Self-Help Idea.” In The Victorians and Social Protest, edited by John Butt and I. F. Clarke. Newton Abbot, England: David and Charles, 1973. Much of the chapter is a detailed comparison between Great Expectations and John Halifax, Gentleman. Bibliography and index.

Gilmour, Robin. The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel. London: Allen & Unwin, 1981. Gilmour sees John Halifax, Gentleman as “the classic novel of self-help . . . in its purest, least critical form.” Notes the idea of retrieval of status and the way that John’s self-culture is colored by sexual desire and social ambition. Index.

Mitchell, Sally. Dinah Mulock Craik. Boston: Twayne, 1983. A useful life-and-works study, with a good section on John Halifax, Gentleman. Bibliography and index.