Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Bartram-Haugh. Sprawling estate in Derbyshire, a locale in the English countryside. For decades, it has been the home of Silas Ruthyn, Maud Ruthyn’s ruined uncle, and its decrepit condition is clearly intended to symbolize aspects of Silas’s character. Upon her arrival Maud notes palatial architectural features that have eroded over time and the growth of moss and vegetation around the doorways, all of which give the place “a forlorn character of desertion and decay, contrasting most awfully with the grandeur of its proportions and richness of its architecture.” Like Silas, who is deeply in debt, the estate has seen more prosperous days. When Maud apprises the reader that “the actual decay of the house had been prevented by my dear father,” who has regularly loaned money to his financially irresponsible brother, she establishes the importance of the family fortune she has inherited to her Uncle Silas.

The nature of Bartram-Haugh’s dilapidation is also significant. Maud notes a courtyard “tufted over with grass” and a carved balustrade around the courtyard “discoloured with lichens.” The rarely visited estate is slowly being reclaimed by the natural world outside its once well-kept borders. This encroaching wildness suggests Silas’s own predatory scheme to dispose of his niece in order to steal her inheritance. Huge trees in the courtyard felled by a recent storm telegraph Silas’s intentions to the reader: they “lay with their upturned roots, and their yellow foliage...

(The entire section is 630 words.)