Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Passy (PAH-see). Small community on the western edge of Paris, where Peter Ibbetson spends his childhood. Idealizing his own childhood, George du Maurier created an edenic setting for Peter. Passy is a place of freshness and innocence, filled with beautiful people, music, and flowers such as “roses, nasturtiums and convolvulus, wall-flowers, sweet-pease and carnations,” all seeming to be perpetually in bloom. Memories of this childhood home, of idealized family, friends, and school, give Peter a rich inner life which sustains him when his parents die and he moves to England to live with his uncle, Colonel Ibbetson. As an adult, Peter revisits Passy but finds it altered for the worse. The Passy of his youth is the place of his outer life when he is a child and the predominant locale of his inner dream life when he is an adult.


*Paris. Capital of France and the location of many of Peter’s boyhood adventures. Through Peter, du Maurier vividly describes the sights, sounds, and scents of old Paris. At times, the novel reads almost like a guide book to Paris, with lists of historical places that Peter and his friends frequent: the Island of St. Louis, the Island of the City, the Pont Neuf, and the winding streets and alleyways that were destroyed when Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann undertook the renovation of Paris. Old Paris is further romanticized as Peter’s reading of novels colors his vision of the city. Peter, the adult, feels nostalgia for the Paris of his youth when he returns and sees the changes in the city.


*Pentonville. London suburb in which...

(The entire section is 681 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

James, Henry. “George du Maurier.” Harper’s Weekly Magazine 38 (April 14, 1894): 341-342. A short but perceptive discussion of Peter Ibbetson and Trilby. As a personal friend of du Maurier and as a great novelist himself, James’s commentary on du Maurier’s fiction is highly instructive.

Kelly, Richard Michael. The Art of George du Maurier. Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1995. Examines the relationship between du Maurier’s art and his fiction.

Kelly, Richard Michael. George du Maurier. Boston, Twayne, 1983. A comprehensive discussion and analysis of du Maurier’s life, art, and novels. Contains a lengthy analysis of Peter Ibbetson that explores the psychodynamics of the work.

Ormond, Leonee. George du Maurier. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969. The definitive biography of du Maurier, profusely illustrated. Ormond relates many elements of du Maurier’s life directly to the subjects and themes of Peter Ibbetson.

Stevenson, Lionel. “George du Maurier and the Romantic Novel.” In Essays by Divers Hands, edited by N. Wallis Wallis. London: Oxford University Press, 1960. Argues persuasively that du Maurier’s three novels are “masterpieces of romantic fiction.”

Wood, T. Martin. George du Maurier, the Satirist of the Victorians: A Review of His Art and Personality. London: Chatto & Windus, 1913. Contains an appreciative commentary on Peter Ibbetson, concluding, “It is by this book I like to think du Maurier will be remembered as a writer.”