Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Queenborough. Virginia town in which the novel is set; modeled after Richmond, Virginia. Queenborough is known for its beautiful women, who define the mood of the town and its inhabitants during each generation. The older, more refined members of Queenborough society are embodied in Amanda Lightfoot, a woman in her fifties. During the late 1880’s, Amanda was a much sought-after beauty. Her beauty, like Queenborough’s, has endured, but her ability to charm Judge Gamaliel Honeywell, her former fiancé, has faded. He finds her more mature beauty less appealing than her earlier charm and her voice, which he describes as monotonous, lacking in its former allure. The new Queenborough is symbolized by Amanda’s current successor as the town beauty, Annabel Upchurch.

Like many of its residents, Queenborough has also lost its ability of self-criticism and has become old and complacent. The never-ending cycle of dinners and balls that the newly married Judge Gamaliel and Annabel Honeywell attend are symptoms of the malaise of an entire community that refuses to face the realities of a changing world. These social rites represent both a society that has never matured and one that has remained mired in tradition. The judge attends these events only so that his much younger bride Annabel can enjoy herself with friends and dancing. Forever reminding himself of what life was like during the 1880’s in Queenborough, the judge can never enjoy these gatherings of Queenborough’s elite.

Washington Street

Washington Street. Main...

(The entire section is 650 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Godbold, E. Stanly, Jr. Ellen Glasgow and the Woman Within. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972. A reliable biography with useful comments on Glasgow’s major novels. Some criticism.

Holman, C. Hugh. “The Comedies of Manners.” In Ellen Glasgow: Centennial Essays, edited by M. Thomas Inge. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976. Contrasts the comedy of the Queenborough trilogy with the didacticism of earlier realistic novels. Focuses on Glasgow’s narrative techniques (influenced by Henry James) and points out similarities and differences among the three novels.

Raper, Julius Rowan. From the Sunken Garden: The Fiction of Ellen Glasgow, 1916-1945. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. Thoughtful commentary on all major novels. Argues that The Romantic Comedians displays a classic comic pattern (subversion of gerontocracy by youth).

Rouse, Blair. Ellen Glasgow. New York: Twayne, 1962. Good introduction to Glasgow’s fiction. Views Queenborough as the essence of several Virginia towns and suggests tragic overtones within the comedy of The Romantic Comedians. Annotated bibliography.

Santas, Joan Foster. Ellen Glasgow’s American Dream. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1965. Sees The Romantic Comedians along with They Stooped to Folly and The Sheltered Life (1932) as a progressive study of the limitations of a fading Virginia aristocracy.