Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Bideford. English town in north Devon in which the novel’s protagonist, naval hero Amyas Leigh, was born and to which he returns after each of his voyages. Bideford was an important port in southwest England during the time in which the novel is set. It slopes upward from the broad tidal river Torridge, which the town bridge, with its twenty-four arches, has spanned since the Middle Ages. The hills above the town are covered by oak woods, through which can be seen fern-fringed slate outcroppings. Below the town, the land flattens into salt marsh and sand dunes. Kingsley knew Bideford well, as part of the book was written in the Royal Hotel in the town. Bideford Bay, into which the Torridge flows, is one of the places in which Amyas likes to bathe. The bay protects the fertile alluvial fields from high tides. Clovelly, Will Cary’s home, is at the western end of the bay. The westernmost headland is Hartland Point on which an abbey stood until the dissolution of the monasteries. This site is now the site of a minor stately home.

Burrough Court

Burrough Court. Bideford home of the Leigh family; it nestles on a wind-swept down amid a ring of oaks. From the gray stone gateway is a view westward of a wide bay bounded to the south with purple cliffs. Lundy Isle is dimly visible out to sea. Below and to the right, the River Torridge flows westward to its estuary. On the other side of the river is Tapeley Park.

Stow house

Stow house. Home of Sir Richard Greville, located near Moorwinstow (now Morwenstow) on the west coast between Bude and Hartland Point. The house is a huge, rambling building, part dwelling house, part castle, on the north side of a wooded valley.

*West Indies

*West Indies. New World archipelago stretching between the southern tip of Florida to the mainland of South America—the Spanish Main—that separates the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. At the time in which the novel is set, most of the islands and surrounding landmasses were Spanish colonies, which were subjected to English raids during time of war. The novel depicts the islands and the northern coast of South...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Chitty, Susan. The Beast and the Monk: A Life of Charles Kingsley. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1974. Using confidential papers that had been closed to researchers for more than a century, Chitty attempts to link Kingsley’s writings with his erotic sensibilities, especially his enjoyment of conjugal love. Chitty includes a chapter that discusses Kingsley’s financial difficulties at the time of writing Westward Ho!, difficulties that influenced his choice of theme.

Collums, Brenda. Charles Kingsley: The Lion of Eversley. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1975. This more conventional biographical approach is a useful introduction to Kingsley’s public life. It includes substantial extracts from the novel as part of its investigation of the background to Kingsley’s writing.

Houghton, Walter E. The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1957. This is a superb survey of the many currents of Victorian thought. Its section on the worship of force includes a good discussion of Kingsley.

Martin, Robert Bernard. The Dust of Combat: A Life of Charles Kingsley. New York: W. W. Norton, 1960. The most well-balanced biography of Kingsley. The author has an excellent analysis of Muscular Christianity.

Sutherland, J. A. Victorian Novelists and Publishers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976. This study of the relationship between writers and their publishers argues that financial considerations sometimes determined writers’ choices of form, style, and subject matter. The chapter on Westward Ho! describes the artistic, financial, and personal factors that shaped the process of writing the book. Kingsley worked with his publishers to produce a spectacularly successful book that was distributed with a view to capitalizing on the Crimean War.