Places: The Ordeal of Richard Feverel

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1859

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Tragicomedy

Time of work: Mid-nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedRaynham Hall

Raynham Ordeal of Richard Feverel, TheHall. Ancestral seat of the Feverel family. Like many English manorial estates, Raynham Hall is a self-contained city, frequently described as a fortress or citadel sheltering its inhabitants from the outside world. Sir Austin keeps his only son, Richard, a virtual prisoner in Raynham Hall while the boy is growing up, carefully ensuring that Richard will face no temptations, especially from women, during his formative years. Because Raynham Hall provides a practically self-sufficient community, Sir Austin is able to introduce what he believes are the right kinds of people to help shape his son’s character and not allow Richard to fall prey to the wrong woman, as happened to Sir Austin himself. The cold, lifeless surroundings of the hall are set in contrast to the grounds outside, and especially to the farms in the surrounding area, where life seems to flourish and relationships develop naturally.


Belthorpe. Home of Farmer Blaize, Lucy Desborough’s uncle. Richard and his friend Ripton arrange to burn a haystack on the farm in retaliation for Farmer Blaize’s treatment of them when he catches them poaching game. In having to admit guilt for his offense, Richard visits Belthorpe and first meets Lucy. A future chance meeting in the woods brings the young people together again, and the rural setting provides an Arcadian backdrop for their first amatory adventures. Despite his father’s instructions, Richard lolls about in the woods and on the waterways in the area, courting Lucy in these idyllic settings.


*London. Great Britain’s capital serves as the meeting place for people of different backgrounds and social classes. Through a series of coincidences made believable because of their setting in the great city, Richard eventually reunites with Lucy, after she is sent away from Belthorpe at the request of Sir Austin. In London, he marries Lucy and eventually negotiates a reunion with his estranged parent. The city is also a place of intrigue, in which Richard is enticed by a woman hired to keep him away from his wife, whose employer attempts to seduce her.

*Isle of Wight

*Isle of Wight. Island off the southern coast of England. Traditionally a spot for vacationers, the island serves as Richard and Lucy’s honeymoon getaway. Richard leaves Lucy there when he returns to London to seek a reconciliation with his father. Unbeknownst to him, he leaves Lucy exposed to the machinations of Lord Mountfalcon, a libertine noble who hires a woman to seduce Richard while he himself pursues Lucy. The suggestion that Wight is a spot for carefree play lends credence to the idea that people of seemingly upright social status can behave hypocritically outside the normal boundaries of society.


*Continent. European mainland on which Richard wanders aimlessly after abandoning Lucy. On the banks of the Rhine River, he experiences a wild thunderstorm that reveals to him the power of nature and variety of life; the exhilaration he feels later gives him the courage to return home to face Lucy and confess his infidelity.

BibliographyHorne, Lewis. “Sir Austin, His Devil, and the Well-designed World.” Studies in the Novel 24, no. 1 (Spring, 1992): 35-48. Argues that Richard Feverel’s ordeal is also to a great extent that of his father, Sir Austin. Analyzes the novel’s metaphors and classical references.Muendel, Renate. George Meredith. New York: Twayne, 1986. Good introduction to the Victorian writer and his works, with broad, insightful analyses. Includes bibliography and a concordance to Meredith’s poetry.Shaheen, Mohammad. George Meredith: A Reappraisal of the Novels. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981. Suggests that traditional Meredith criticism has viewed his fiction too much in the light of The Egoist. Concentrates on the writer’s other major works as being more representative of his truly independent mind. Specifically explores how character expresses theme in Meredith’s novels.Stone, James Stuart. George Meredith’s Politics: As Seen in His Life, Friendships, and Works. Port Credit, Canada: P. D. Meany, 1986. Attempts to expound what Stone calls Meredith’s “evolutionary radicalism” and the complex and interesting ways in which this suffuses his greatest novels. Useful for beginning students.Williams, Joan, ed. Meredith: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971. A collection of reviews and essays showing the critical reception of Meredith’s work from 1851 through 1911.
Categories: Places