Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
During Austen’s lifetime, the country gentry–prosperous landowners living on estates similar to Kellynch and serving as local landlords and civil magistrates–constituted the backbone of English society. However, Sir Walter, selfish, shallow, hopelessly vain, and near financial ruin, is forced by his circumstances to rent out Kellynch Hall and move to less expensive quarters in Bath. In so doing, he forsakes his social responsibilities as manor lord, leaves his tenants to fend for themselves, and makes of Kellynch Hall and its “deserted grounds” a kind of socially purposeless derelict that his daughter Anne can only think of in pain.
Uppercross. Musgrove family estate, located three miles from Kellynch Hall. It includes both the Great House that is the home of the elder Musgroves and their daughters, Henrietta and Louisa, and Uppercross Cottage, the home of Anne’s sister Mary and her husband, Charles Musgrove. The senior Mr. Musgrove is very much an English squire in the traditional sense–one of which Austen approves. His estate is well managed, prosperous, and generally happy. At the same time, however, Uppercross is in the midst of ongoing renovation. Uppercross Cottage (“elevated” from a farmhouse) now sports a “veranda, French windows, and other features. Even the Great House’s old-fashioned parlor has been modernized to such an extent by Henrietta and Louisa that its paintings of Musgrove ancestors seem “to be staring in astonishment.” Austen, a social conservative in most ways, nevertheless recognizes that change, when undertaken within reasonable limits, is both a necessary and a healthy process. The Musgroves change, and their estate thrives; Sir Walter does not, and Kellynch is left barren.
*Lyme. Dorset town on the southern coast of England, some twenty miles from Uppercross. Well known as a seaside resort and for its Cobb, a massive stone breakwater enclosing its small harbor, Lyme becomes the temporary home of Captain Harville and his family. When Anne visits Lyme, she is impressed both with the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside and with the “picture of repose and domestic happiness” within the Harville’s small house–a telling contrast with the cold, vacant grandeur of Kellynch Hall.
One of the novel’s key events occurs on a walking tour in Lyme, when Louisa Musgrove is badly injured in a fall from the Cobb. Significantly, Austen’s descriptions of the local landscapes in this section of the novel, with an emphasis on “high grounds” and “dark cliffs,” are among her richest and most deeply felt, suggesting an imaginative identification with nature that would seem to connect her with her literary contemporaries, the Romantic poets. Certainly, Anne’s appreciative response to Lyme’s natural beauty points to her own reawakening after eight years of heartbreak and emotional dormancy–a reawakening outwardly symbolized by her renewed “bloom.”
*Bath. Early nineteenth century England’s premier resort town, located near Bristol, about fifty miles from Kellynch Hall. Named after its famous hot springs, which are supposed to have curative powers, Bath is fashionably elegant and offers a lively social agenda, including theatrical performances, concerts, dances, and the Pump Room, in which visitors can drink its famous water.
Bath was attractive to most classes of English society, but Anne’s impoverished friend Mrs. Smith can only afford to live in Bath in a humble way, “almost excluded from society.” Anne herself, however, sincerely dislikes Bath, as did Austen (who is said to have fainted when she found that her family was to move there in 1801). She finds little there but despair: The rain seems unending; the streets are crowded, muddy, and full of mindless clamor; and her snobbish family’s evenings are often passed “in the elegant stupidity of private parties.” Only the presence of the Crofts (the admiral hopes that “taking the waters” will help his gout) and, later, Wentworth, makes life bearable for her.