Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Nightmare Abbey

Nightmare Abbey. Dilapidated mansion in England’s Lincolnshire County; a former monastery whose state of sad disrepair reflects the plight of its residents, the deeply dysfunctional Glowry family. The house is not far from the sea, being separated therefrom by a tract of low-lying fenland dotted with windmills.

There is nothing unrealistic about an early nineteenth century English family living in what once had been an abbey; many English religious houses became secular residences following King Henry VIII’s dissolution of England’s Roman Catholic monasteries in the sixteenth century. The abbey’s address reveals something about the Glowry family’s problematic social status—they are products of social upheavals that were still considered recent by the English landed aristocracy—but its real significance is that Nightmare Abbey is symbolic of a nation and a world whose secularization has left it uncomfortable and desolate. The road that connects the abbey to the nearest town, Claydyke, is a narrow causeway raised above the fen, from which carriages are all too easily dislodged.

The abbey itself is square in shape, its four walls facing the four points of the compass. It has a tower at each corner, and is surrounded on every side but the south by a moat. The northwestern tower is the domain of Christopher Glowry, the abbey’s owner. The southeastern tower, which is home to Christopher’s son, Scythrop, opens up onto a terrace which is called the garden, but nothing grows there except weeds. The abbey’s southwestern tower is in...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Butler, Marilyn. Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in His Context. London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1979. Makes Nightmare Abbey a focal point, positing that as finely drawn as the gentlemen characters are (all of whom are satirically based on real-life personages), the novel is actually the story of two women, Marionetta and Celinda/Stella.

Cunningham, Mark. “‘Fatout! Who Am I?’ A Model for the Honourable Mr. Listless in Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey.” English Language Notes 30, no. 1 (September, 1992): 43-45. Discusses the possibility of who may have been the model for the character of Mr. Listless, who spends whole days on a sofa in perfected ennui.

Schwank, Klaus. “From Satire to Indeterminacy: Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey.” In Beyond the Suburbs of the Mind: Exploring English Romanticism, edited by Michael Gassenmeier and Norbert H. Platz. Essen, Germany: Blaue Eule, 1987. Discusses the effectiveness of Peacock’s satire, placing Peacock’s novel in a category of works that defy satire.

Wolf, Leonard. “Nightmare Abbey.” Horror: A Connoisseur’s Guide to Literature and Film. New York: Facts On File, 1989. Compares Peacock’s satirical verse as a precursor to Oscar Wilde’s similar style.

Wright, Julia M. “Peacock’s Early Parody of Thomas Moore in Nightmare Abbey.” English Language Notes 30, no. 4 (June, 1993): 31-38. Discusses Peacock’s use of Thomas Moore as, possibly, a template for a character in Nightmare Abbey.