High-Place Hall

Colliton House, Dorset — Hardy's High-Place Hall, which is Lucetta Templeman's House in The Mayor of Casterbridge: Detail of "the leering mask". Photograph and following commentary by Philip V. Allingham. 2002. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

The seamier side and distinguishing feature of High Place Hall, the Palladian mansion which Lucetta Templeman (an assumed name, in fact) leases when she arrives in Casterbridge after inheriting her aunt's fortune, in Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge is the ghastly mask over its rear entrance -- the key stone a mask defaced by successive generations of stone-throwing Casterbridge street-boys. Their adult counterparts in mischief-making, the organizers of the Skimmington Ride, correctly "read" the real Lucetta in her "correspondence" with their former mayor (Henchard), and "publish" their findings in a "readers' theatre" that precipitates a fit of recognition in Lucetta. Thus, the Casterbridge proletariat, the denizens of Mixen Lane are avenged in folk-ritual for the poverty and obscurity of their existence upon the quondam Tenant of High Place Hall, which, as Hardy remarks in Chapter XXI, spuriously proclaims through its dignified, grey-stone fašade: "Blood built it, and wealth enjoys it" (p. 107). Pinion states that "The original of High-Place Hall is Colliton House in Glyde Path Road, not far to the west of North Square" (263). Denys Kay-Robinson adds:

Colliton House is the 'High Place Hall' occupied by Lucetta Templeman; Hardy varied its position, however, not merely with each new edition [of the The Mayor of Casterbridge], but within any single edition. The 'little used alley' to which the door with the mask gave access must surely have been Glyde Path Road, and the allusion to 'the Town Hall below Lucetta's house [my italics] also suggests this site. On the other hand, the reference to the house overlooking the market, and to the nearness of the Town Hall archway where Henchard's waggon upset, seem to suggest a position in Cornhill. (11)

The Dorset County Museum now houses both the Jacobean wall and the archway from the house on Colliton Walk (called "Chalk Walk" in Ch. IX of the novel), mask and all. The hideousness of the mask, defaced by time, seems an apt symbol for the duplicitous Lucetta, who is deathly afraid of showing her age.

References

Daiches, David, and John Flower. Literary Landscapes of the British Isles: A Narrative Atlas. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.

Kay-Robinson, Denys. The Landscape of Thomas Hardy, photographs by Simon McBride. Exeter: Webb and Bower, 1984.

Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge. An Authoritative Texts, Backgrounds, Criticism. Ed. James K. Robinson. London & New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.

Lefebure, Molly. Thomas Hardy's World. London: Carlton, 1996.

The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Great Britain and Ireland, ed. Dorothy Eagle and Hilary Carnell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. New York and London: Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, 1968.

Seymour-Smith, Martin. Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994.


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Last modified 24 August 2008