Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Setting at Audley Court and Baskerville Hall

“But behind the peaceful and sunlit countryside there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills”(56).

The settings of Audley Court and Baskerville Hall are interestingly similar, despite the text being very different. The main similarity is that both residences are isolated in some manner, which makes sense considering the gothic trope of isolation. Audley Court however, is isolated in an arguably more deceptive way. The lack of linear time certainly separates it from the outside world, as well as the fact that it is physically out of the way. The court itself,though, operates normally and seems to blend well with the town of Essex. Baskerville Hall,however, is very different in its isolation. It is physically isolated which can be seen in the quote with the juxtaposition of the moor and the surrounding area. The “peaceful” and “sunlit” countryside is juxtaposed with the “gloomy” moor and “dark” sky. There is nothing deceptive about the moor. Its quality as “sinister” is explicitly stated by Watson, and not implicitly inferred like that by the narrator of Lady Audley’s Secret. There is clearly a physical barrier to the countryside in Devonshire and that is the moor, for its peace is “broken” by the “jagged hills”.

In Lady Audley’s Secret there was very much an element of terror from the deception of Lady Audley. She is even compared to a siren several times in the text and she is so frightening because  she looks innocent and harmless but is in fact the opposite. Even though there is a potential for this in The Hound of the Baskervilles based on the escaped convict and Barrymore, I don’t expect the evil to be rooted in the inside because of the potent description of the evil coming from the outside, or the moor, for it is “gloomy,” and “sinister.”


  1. What I find interesting about your comparison is that you point out how similar the atmospheres of the two residences are. What I thought interesting as well was what the authors use to try and ease the misgivings characters have about both mansions. For “Lady Audley’s Secret”, it is Lady Audley herself that seems to brighten the place. She does this not only with her beauty, but also by using her newfound wealth to make material purchases for the court. Sir Henry, similarly, sees Baskerville Hall and makes immediate plans to update the out-of-time appearance by having electricity installed both in and outside the main building.

    Despite these goals, there is an overarching feeling of dread or gloom from the Court and the Hall, and this must come from somewhere, but where? I would argue that the characters themselves perpetuate these feelings, because of the history associated with old homes, or passed-down property. There is an out-of-time feeling because that is what is expected of places like this, and so the characters look for gloom or mystery where there might not be any.

  2. I had not previously considered comparing the settings of Audley Court with Baskerville Hall, but I think you’re absolutely right that there is the underlying theme of isolation. However, I would argue that Audley Court is more isolated than Baskerville Hall despite the location because of the fact that all of the surrounding neighbors of Baskerville Hall are close enough to at least one of the main characters that they all come up in the novel and all are able to be “examined” and described by Watson. For example, Mortimer is able to list all of the people that are “suspects” of the case: “The moor is very sparsely inhabited, and those who live near each other are thrown very much together… Sir Charles was a retiring man, but the chance of his illness brought us together, and a community of interests in science kept us so.” (HOB, chapter 2, page 17). Audley Court, however, seems to have very few outside connections other than Robert and Lady Audley – all of the other important characters are introduced in the novel because of Robert or some past relationship of Lady Audley’s: “Perhaps it was this cry which penetrated into the quiet chambers of Audley Court; or perhaps it was the sight of her pretty face, looking over the surgeon’s high pew every Sunday morning.” (LAS, chapter 1, page 12)

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