Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Lomax Place

*Lomax Place. Working-class section of Pentonville in north London that is home to Amanda Pynsent, the foster mother of Hyacinth Robinson, who is ostensibly the bastard child of an English lord. In spite of their lowly social position, Pynsent raises Hyacinth to be a gentleman, not only because she believes that in fact he is one, but also because of her reverence for the upper class. Prior even to Hyacinth’s own recognition of his “mixed blood,” there is already a tension between his social status and his upbringing.


*Millbank. Prison on the River Thames in which Hyacinth’s birth mother, Florentine Vivier, has been imprisoned for murdering the man she claims is Hyacinth’s father, Lord Fredericks. The prison is the setting for one of the most important scenes in the novel, in which the young Hyacinth meets his dying mother and thus confronts his own mixed origins. This encounter sets up the tension between the two sides of Hyacinth’s character that struggle with each other throughout the novel.

James himself visited Millbank in 1884, and Miss Pynsent’s commentary on the prison may be seen as James’s own reflections on the subject.

*Audley Court

*Audley Court. Neighborhood in Camberwell, a lower-class section in south London, in which Paul Muniment, the chemist who leads Hyacinth into revolutionary work, and his sister Rose, live. Rose has a debilitating illness, but is strong enough to voice her protests against a working-class revolution, making Audley Court another setting for...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bell, Millicent. Meaning in Henry James. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991. Bell focuses on James’s belief that a novel is “about nothing so much as its own coming-into-being.” Chapter 4 discusses the conflict in The Princess Casamassima between naturalism and impressionism.

Johnson, Warren. “Hyacinth Robinson or The Princess Casamassima?” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 28, no. 3 (Fall, 1986): 296-323. Both Hyacinth and the princess are masks for the author, who investigates their fates in order to test his own freedom; the novel is named after the princess because we “prefer her knowledge to Hyacinth’s example.”

Jolly, Roslyn. Henry James: History, Narrative, Fiction. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1993. Jolly discusses The Princess Casamassima as a novel in which James tries to unite history and fiction; the main conflict for Hyacinth and the princess alike is fought between their personal visions of the future and the social constraints on those visions.

Seltzer, Mark. Henry James and the Art of Power. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984. Seltzer applies the ideas of Michel Foucault on power and subterfuge to James’s work. In chapter 1, he uses The Princess Casamassima to link naturalism with the novelist’s will to power.

Tilley, Wesley H. The Background of “The Princess Casamassima.” Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961. Tilley traces the sources of James’s knowledge of anarchism to articles in The Times of London and finds models for Millicent, for Muniment, and for Hoffendahl in actual subjects of news reports during the 1870’s and 1880’s.