Places: Sir Charles Grandison

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1753-1754

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fiction of manners

Time of work: Eighteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedGrandison Hall

Grandison Sir Charles GrandisonHall. Family home of Sir Charles Grandison in the Essex suburbs of London. Located just outside London, Grandison Hall represents a level of remove from the city even as it permits active engagement in the great city’s social, political, economic, and cultural spheres. However, the hall is close enough to the city to be tainted by urban vices, such as Sir Charles’s father’s having a mistress, whom Sir Charles tactfully removes to a London home upon returning from his tour. Reinforcing the hall’s role in virtue, an Anglican clergyman friend of Sir Charles administers charitable support from Grandison Hall. Sir Charles also restores the beauty of the parks of the estate, as well as the health of the estate as a whole. Doing so satisfies two ideals: the contemporary Georgian obsession with landscaping estates and having the wealth to afford to do so. Finally, as the home of the now-married Sir Charles and Harriet, Grandison Hall facilitates the reconciliation for the Porretta family and thus the international triumph of the Georgian domestic ideal.

*London

*London. Capital and leading city of Great Britain, that demonstrates both the social and moral sensibilities of the 1750’s. Sir Charles lives in a town house on St. James’s Square, an exclusive neighborhood built around a carefully landscaped park. During the mid-eighteenth century, the square’s town houses were considered extremely fashionable; the fact that Sir Charles lives there demonstrates his high social status.

Grosvenor Street is another fashionable London neighborhood; its homes are not as exclusive as town houses on a square, but appropriate for a well-to-do Northamptonshire family, such as the virtuous young Harriet Byron and her aunt and uncle.

The extraordinary cultural opportunities that London offers, such as playhouses, recreational gardens, and opera houses make it an exciting destination. However, it also crowds together opportunities for vice–such as gambling and usury–and vapid entertainments. The novel conveys the impression that living in London too long coarsens one’s social and moral sensibilities. Minor women characters who have lived for a time in London have attitudes opposed to successful domestic lives: they become either too witty, too ignorant, or too fashionable. Likewise, the male characters who reside there tend to prefer silly women and dissipated entertainments.

*Northamptonshire

*Northamptonshire. County in northern England that is several hours’ travel by carriage from London, in which Harriet has grown up under the care of relatives. Sir Charles goes to Northamptonshire to court Harriet and to marry her, so it offers a background for domestic virtuousness. However, that background is tainted by rural enthusiasm, symbolized by the Methodist Sunday services. Because Anglicanism is part of the domestic ideal, Grandison Hall is superior to Northamptonshire. However, Northamptonshire is more remote from the moral ambiguities of London. It is therefore an appropriate place for young women like Harriet and her cousin Lucy to mature, which is why Emily Jervois spends time there at the close of the novel.

*Bologna

*Bologna (boh-LOH-nyah). North-central Italian city that was favored as a travel destination for English gentlemen on their grand tours because of the opportunities it offered for fine music and for acquiring art objects. Sir Charles spends most of his time in Italy there with the Porretta family. Bologna also represents the temptations available to British gentleman on tour, and Sir Charles faces his ultimate temptation in Lady Clementina, a woman at once noble, beautiful, virtuous, conversant in English, and in love with him. However, in order for him to marry her, she insists that he convert to Roman Catholicism and take up permanent residence in Bologna. Sir Charles rejects the offer and offers a compromise that will allow him to maintain his British identity, but that, in turn, is rejected, and he returns to England, where he encounters Harriet.

Lady Clementina is also delicate of health. When Sir Charles returns to Bologna, he comes equipped with English physicians and their suggestions to assist in curing her and her brother, thereby symbolically bringing British superiority in medicine. After he is satisfied that Clementina and her brother are cured, he returns to England. When the Porretta family unexpectedly arrives in England, bringing European instability to his doorstep, Sir Charles once again facilitates a “cure” by demonstrating the British domestic ideal through his life with Harriet at Grandison Hall.

BibliographyDoody, Margaret Anne. A Natural Passion: A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1964. Sympathetic treatment. Examines Sir Charles Grandison as comedy. Discusses the personalities of the women and the imagery in the novel.Flynn, Carol Houlihan. Samuel Richardson: A Man of Letters. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982. Brief discussions of various aspects of Sir Charles Grandison–for example, the use of epistolary method, the figure of the rake, sexual conflict, and the role of romance.McKillop, Alan Dugald. “On Sir Charles Grandison.” In Samuel Richardson, edited by John Carroll. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Argues that Sir Charles Grandison excels in making readers feel “intimacy with a group of characters set in the framework of a familiar society.” Suggests that the novel paved the way for later novels of manners.Marks, Sylvia Kasey. “Man and God in Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison.” In Man, God, and Nature in the Enlightenment. Edited by Donald C. Mell et al. East Lansing, Mich.: Colleagues Press, 1988. Discusses the treatment of Christianity in Sir Charles Grandison. Examines Sir Charles’s character in light of the Christian religion.Marks, Sylvia Kasey. Sir Charles Grandison: The Compleat Conduct Book. Cranbury, N.J.: Bucknell University Press, 1986. Examines Sir Charles Grandison in its social context. Discusses the novel as “the culmination of the conduct-book tradition.”
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