This map plots the settings and references in The Turn of the Screw
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Essex is an English county originally settled by the Celtic Trinovantes tribe before coming under the rule of the Roman Empire in 49 AD. During the Anglo-Saxon period, it formed the eastern portion of the Kingdom of Essex, part of what later became known as the Heptarchy. Despite its long history and proximity to London, Essex remains largely untouched by urban development outside of its major population centres.
The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5, remarks that "[m]uch of the surface, from combination of natural feature and artificial embellishment, exhibits a pleasing and ever-varying succession of rural landscapes". To the seaboard, it is low-lying and frequently marshy, whilst further inland, small villages dot the faintly undulant countryside. Much of its 3,670 km2 expanse is given over to agriculture. During the 1840s, cereals were the main crop, but beans, peas and vetch were also cultivated.
The English artist John Constable is renowned for his portrayals of the Essex countryside, and works such as The Stour Valley and Dedham Village (1815) provide a romantic view of the county as it appeared in the early 19th century.
Trinity is one of the University of Cambridge’s 31 colleges (24 in 1898). Founded by Henry VIII in 1546, it has a reputation for both academic excellence and aristocratic standing — numerous members of the Royal Family have passed through its hallowed doors. Boasting courts, cloisters, a fountain and a library designed by Christopher Wren, its architecture is as stately and grand as its students.
It was a Trinity scholar, Edward Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who gave James the original idea for The Turn of the Screw. The preface to volume 12 of the New York Edition tells how Benson, during an evening round the fire very much like this one, recalled a lady who once described a vaguely remembered experience of hers. It concerned "a couple of small children in an out-of-the-way place, to whom the spirits of certain ‘bad’ servants, dead in the employ of the house, were believed to have appeared with the design of ‘getting hold’ of them". Douglas, then, is a fictionalized version of Benson, and the narrator is James himself.
London, England’s capital and the seat of the British Empire, was the largest city in the world between 1831 and 1925. Attracting immigrants from the colonies and poorer areas of Europe, its population ballooned during the 19th century from 1 million at its inception to 6.7 million in its final years. This incredible growth was accompanied by problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation, disease, pollution and a marked divide between wealth and impoverishment. For this reason, the governess's interviewer believes the countryside a fitter place for bringing up children.
Harley Street, in the City of Westminster, is a prestigious London street owned by the de Walden family. It has long been associated with medical and surgical practices, and the area around Harley Street now has a high concentration of medical facilities, with over 3,000 people employed in related professions. However in the period of the novella, this tradition was only just starting to take root, with fewer than 20 doctors in the area in 1860.
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England. It takes its name from the great port of Southampton.
A predominantly agricultural region, Hampshire was, in contrast to London, barely touched by the Industrial Revolution and is hence associated with a simpler, less sophisticated way of life.
India had been under the control of the British Raj since 1858. This meant Britain depended on India for many of its raw materials and foodstuffs, and numerous British soldiers and officers were deployed there to protect those interests.
British views of India at the time were highly romanticized, with art and literature portraying it as a place of sensual exoticism. However, regular outbreaks of cholera in India claimed millions of lives during the 19th century and it may well have been this that carried off our young bachelor’s parents.
The Sea of Azov is an extension of the Black Sea situated off the southern shores of Russia and Ukraine. It covers an area of 15,000 square miles and its waters, averaging a depth of seven metres, are the shallowest in the world. In ancient times it was known as Lake Maeotis. Although it teems with aquatic life, the Sea freezes over entirely between November and March, and in warmer seasons much of it is reduced to swamp and quagmire. Its westernmost reach, now called Sivash, was referred to as the Putrid Lake by the Ancient Greeks.
This phrase has a long history, with its first English usage appearing in Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe (1391). It refers specifically to the Milliarium Aureum, a monument erected by Caesar Augustus in 20 BC in the central Forum of Ancient Rome. It was from this point that all roads were considered to issue and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to it. At the height of Rome’s power, 29 great military highways radiated from this central point.