Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Sacred Spaces

“I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.”  (Doyle, 16)


So far in my reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles, I have come across the Gothic trope of the uncanny.  From the very beginning of the novel, Doyle made the reader aware of some supernatural powers lurking in the plot which has already caught my attention.  When viewed through this Gothic lens, I already see many parallel’s in the text between The Hound of the Baskervilles and Lady Audley’s Secret.  However, one that really stood out to me is how both novels introduced early on a sort of sacred space that is mentioned to make the reader uneasy.  At the very end of the manuscript read by Dr. Mortimer in chapter two, it is mentioned that no member of the Baskerville family shall cross the moor after dark.  This poses many questions to the reader.  What lies beyond the moor?  What shall happen if one crosses the moor gate?  I think this introduction to such a space is a foreshadowing moment that maybe some of the answers are found there.  It leaves the reader with many questions but also seems to set the scene for this underlying supernatural theme the author plans to delve into further in the novel.

This parallels Lady Audley’s Secret because in the very first chapter of the novel, the narrator speaks of a lime-tree walk, “an avenue so shaded from the sun and sky, so screened from observation by the thick shelter of the over-arching trees, that it seemed a chosen place fro secret meetings or for stolen interviews; a place in which a conspiracy might have been planned or a lover’s vow registered with equal safety; and yet it was scarcely twenty paces from the house” (Braddon, 9).  Both the moor from The Hound of the Baskervilles and the lime-tree walk introduce the reader to this mysterious place not far from the main setting of each novel and as we find out later in Lady Audley’s Secret, the walk is where the reader finds the answers to the main mystery.  Which makes one wonder, what will Holmes and Watson find lying beyond the gates of the moor?

1 Comment

  1. I think this idea of setting creating a feeling of mystery is very interesting. In The Hound of the Baskervilles Watson says to Holmes in a letter, “but the moor with its mysteries and its strange inhabitants remains as inscrutable as ever. Perhaps in my next I may be able to throw some light upon this also” (98). Watson knows that the setting of the moor itself allows for mysteries to occur, and that the people of the moor have almost an advantage because they are used to the terrain.

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