Places: Diana of the Crossways

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1885

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedThe Crossways

The Diana of the CrosswaysCrossways. Redbrick country house in Sussex, England, that is home to the protagonist, Diana Antonia Merion. The Crossways, which she has inherited at her father’s recent death, is her only source of income, through rentals to tenants. The house takes its name from being near the crossroads to Brasted, London, Wickford, and Riddlehurst; it also symbolizes the transitional, or crossroads, period in Diana’s life.

Keeping the Crossways is an important part of Diana’s marriage agreement with her first husband, Augustus Warwick. When he loses money on the railroads, he attempts to pressure her to sell the house, but she instead arranges a government position for him because of her friendship with the influential Lord Dannisburgh. That relationship leads to accusations of adultery and Diana’s separation from Warwick. She escapes to the Crossways when the pressures of the divorce case become too great. In the end, her attempt to become a novelist fails, and she is forced to sell the Crossways. Until near the end of the novel, she is unaware that she will be able to keep the Crossways, after all, for the man she is about to marry, Thomas Redworth, is the secret purchaser of the house.

Copsley

Copsley. Country home of Lady Emma Dunstane, Diana’s surrogate mother figure, located in Sussex, near the Crossways. Diana socializes at Copsley, where she experiences the love and friendship of Lady Emma. Lady Emma’s feelings about nature are contrasted to Diana’s because she is an invalid and because she does not enjoy living in a secluded rural setting. Symbolically, she has no need for the sublime qualities of nature because she is already married and thereby, in Victorian terms, fulfilled. In contrast, Diana is still seeking marital happiness and fulfillment. Various characters, including Diana, walk the grounds and sail the property’s lake, which gives them the chance to be renewed by contact with nature.

*London

*London. Capital city of Great Britain, in which Diana lives during her marriage to Warwick and after her separation. Their London house represents Diana’s imprisonment in a loveless marriage, as she is required only to be beautiful, to be witty, and to entertain important male friends of her husband. After Diana and Warwick separate, Warwick remains in the London house and later dies from complications of a stroke. Meanwhile, Diana takes up residence in another London house that she cannot afford to maintain as she attempts to launch a writing career. This second house also becomes a prison to her.

<i>Clarissa</i>

Clarissa. Yacht on which Diana sails on the Mediterranean Sea with her friends after her divorce trial ends. The cruise gives her a chance to reflect on what has happened and what she wants to do with her life, now that she is free of Warwick. She joins Thomas Redworth in Cairo, with Sir Percy Dacier, nephew to Lord Dannisburgh, and Dacier falls in love with her.

*Italy

*Italy. Country that Diana visits during her Mediterranean cruise. There she travels along the shores of Lake Como and Lake Lugano, below the Italian Alps, a region that Meredith prized for its restorative powers and exquisite beauty. There, Diana finds herself “reawakened, after a trance of a deadly draught, to the glory of the earth and her share in it” merely by hiking in the mountains, picking flowers, eating local food, and spending time alone in nature.

Meredith found it unnecessary to explain why British travelers went abroad, taking for granted readers’ knowledge and experiences of the Grand Tour of the Continent, as well as the class-based expectation that going abroad provided personal growth. Diana experiences nature both as a spiritual force and as a loving companion. Her sensibilities and the narrator’s descriptions of the landscapes mirror the expressions of Meredith’s nature-themed verse, as the narrator states, for example, “Lugano is the Italian lake most lovingly encircled by mountain arms.” Later, while Diana is struggling to write novels in London, she fantasizes about “flying straight to her beloved Lugano lake, and there hiding, abandoning her friends, casting off the slave’s name she bore, and living free in spirit.”

*Ireland

*Ireland. Country from which Diana’s father comes. As an Anglo-Irish person, Diana is torn between the England of her mother and the Ireland of her father. She describes herself as Irish in the novel, and many of her political opinions support government policies that should be favorable to Ireland. When she is about to marry Redworth, she remarks, “Old Ireland won’t repent it” as she sees “Old England” (Redworth) coming to greet her. Diana gains a new home in Dublin as Redworth is named Irish secretary, giving her the happiness she seeks.

BibliographyConrow, Margaret. “Meredith’s Ideal of Purity.” Essays in Literature 10, no. 2 (Fall, 1983): 199-207. Explores Meredith’s definition of the ideal of sexual purity and his double standard. Examines the Lugano scene in Diana of the Crossways.Daniels, Elizabeth A. “A Meredithian Glance at Gwendolen Harleth.” In George Eliot: A Centenary Tribute, edited by Gordon S. Haight. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1982. Like George Eliot, Meredith did not wish to overturn Victorian marriage, but he was sharply critical of the callous nature of the male ego and believed that society needed women with fuller psychic development.Deis, Elizabeth J. “Marriage as Crossways: George Meredith’s Victorian-Modern Compromise.” In Portraits of Marriage in Literature, edited by Anne C. Hargrove and Maurine Magliocco. Macomb: Western Illinois University, 1984. Discusses Meredith’s position on marriage as a transitional one.Elam, Diane. “‘We pray to be defended from her cleverness’: Conjugating Romance in George Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways.” Genre 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1988): 179-201. Meredith’s text self-consciously thematizes romance, employing it not only as a process of structuring the novel but also as a subject of the narrative. Shows that reality outside the novel is also a narrative construction.McGlamery, Gayla. “In His Beginning, His Ends: The ‘Preface’ to Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways.” Studies in the Novel 23, no. 4 (Winter, 1991): 470-489. A close reading of the difficult opening chapters, with their contorted stylistics and philosophical pronouncements, as a demonstration of all that Meredith hopes to achieve in the rest of the novel. Notes the new direction in his handling of identity and in his relationship to the reader.
Categories: Places