Places: The Newcomes

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1853-1855

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social morality

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*London

*London. Newcomes, TheGreat Britain’s capital and leading city, where members of the Newcome family live. The various addresses cited in the text provide a map of the Newcomes’ social positions and shifting fortunes. For example, the colonel’s half-brothers establish their families in Park Lane, Queen Street, and the slightly less fashionable Bryanstone Square to the north. The living acquired by the Reverend Charles Honeyman, the colonel’s brother-in-law, is also in Mayfair, on Denmark Street, while his lodgings are in Walpole Street. The colonel himself resides for a time at 120 Fitzroy Square, on the edge of Marylebone, which is considerably farther north than Bryanstone Square; however, Clive contrives to live for a while in Hanover Square on the east edge of Mayfair. After the colonel’s financial disaster, however, Clive settles in Howland Street, which is close to Fitzroy Square but considerably less grand.

*Clapham

*Clapham. Village near London in which the colonel’s father settles on first arriving in London. He lives in a cottage with his first wife, but moves into the Hobson family “mansion” when he marries his employer’s daughter and heiress, Sophia Alethea Hobson–after whom, according to the story’s fictitious claims, several local terraces and minor roads are named. When the novel was written, Clapham was in the process of being devoured by Greater London’s expansion, because it had become the site of a major railway junction.

Newcome

Newcome. Manufacturing town situated between Liverpool and Manchester in the north of England. It is the senior Thomas’s native town, but the junior Thomas finds a cold welcome when he visits (his still-resident brother is nicknamed Screwcome). The town becomes significant late in the story when one of Clive’s cousins attempts to use his family connection to become the town’s member of Parliament. It eventually evolves into Newcome New Town, characterized by a great railway viaduct, and swallows up the nearby village of Rosebury, where Madame de Florac, née Higg, eventually settles (the Higgs hail from Manchester).

Grey Friars

Grey Friars. School in the City of London where the notional author first meets Clive. The school plays a key role in a heavily nostalgic scene near the end of the novel, when the colonel attends its founder’s day celebration. The fictional school’s situation corresponds with that of the real Bluecoat School, on the site of Christ’s Hospital, where the Grey Friars (members of the contemplative monastic order also known as the Cistercians) established their abbey in 1223; that abbey was confiscated by Henry VIII in the 1530’s and destroyed by the great London fire of 1666.

*Paris

*Paris. France’s capital city plays an important role in the plot because the elder Thomas’s beloved Léonore settles there after becoming the comtesse de Florac. Clive becomes re-entangled with the family because he stays in the rue de Rivoli, where the Hôtel de Florac is located, on his first trip to Paris. After experiencing his financial disaster, the colonel–following the fashion of English exiles of the period–takes up residence in Normandy, in Boulogne-sur-Mer.

*Rome

*Rome. Italy’s capital city is the destination of Clive’s grand tour; the enthusiastic description of the city–where Clive spends his happiest days–is the most detailed in the book, reflecting the fact that William Makepeace Thackeray based Clive on the painter Frederick Leighton, whom he met there. Clive also visits Pompeii in southern Italy and runs into the Kews again at nearby Naples.

*Baden-Baden

*Baden-Baden. Spa town in southern Germany that was a favorite resort of English aristocrats. It is an important setting in the novel. Clive stays there while on tour, running into Lord Kew and the vicomte de Florac before their duel.

*Brighton

*Brighton. Resort town on the south coast of England, where Clive’s aunt has a lodging-house at 110 Steyne Gardens. Clive visits it several times, and other characters occasionally stay there.

BibliographyFerris, Ina. “The Way of the World: The Newcomes.” In William Makepeace Thackeray, edited by Herbert Sussman. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Includes brief commentaries by Thackeray’s contemporaries, as well as one by Thackeray himself. Discusses Thackeray’s self-conscious realism and the way in which his fiction responded to the society in which he lived.Harden, Edgar F. The Emergence of Thackeray’s Serial Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979. Discussion of the serial structure of five novels, including The Newcomes, with particular focus on Thackeray’s manuscripts and his compositional process. Explains how the serial installments shaped the forms of the novels.Hardy, Barbara. The Exposure of Luxury: Radical Themes in Thackeray. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972. Discusses aspects of Thackeray’s social criticism and points out themes that illustrate his preoccupation with the surface manners of his society. Concludes that self-consciousness and lack of moral optimism are closely related as aspects of Thackeray’s radical thinking.Ray, Gordon. The Buried Life: A Study of the Relation Between Thackeray’s Fiction and His Personal History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952. Comprehensive biocritical study of Thackeray’s state of mind while writing the novel. An excellent resource for the serious researcher.Ray, Gordon. “The Newcomes.” In Thackeray: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Alexander Welsh. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Discusses the structural importance in the novel of the main themes, as well as how Thackeray reflects his disillusionment with his world.
Categories: Places