Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Great Britain’s capital and greatest city. The London boardinghouse owned by Sarah Walker’s father is the only city site identified in Hazlitt’s tormented account of his romantic obsession. Hazlitt falls in love with Sarah the instant she walks into his room to serve him breakfast. The rest of the world seems to vanish as he concentrates on her graceful movements. Before long, she allows him to fondle her, and they exchange many kisses. This familiarity always takes place in Hazlitt’s room, and he has almost no knowledge of Sarah outside the confines of their morning meetings. They create, in other words, their own little world. Gradually Hazlitt conceives the idea of divorcing his wife and marrying Sarah. Almost at the same time he catches a glimpse of her outside his room with another lodger. Hazlitt suspects that Sarah has also given this other man her attentions. Distraught, he nevertheless maintains plans to divorce his wife, and he departs for Scotland, where he can obtain a divorce quickly and without the legal complications he would encounter in England.

Hazlitt plans to return from Scotland and attempt to renew Sarah’s affections. Indeed he seems drawn by an irresistible force as he describes the River Thames heaving her “name pantingly forth.” However, Sarah has rejected him, and the intense obsession that Hazlitt experienced earlier in the boardinghouse returns as he takes up residence there once more, keenly observing her every move and...

(The entire section is 620 words.)