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Saving Endangered Heirs and Estates

Studies in European Literature

by Hugo G. Walter (Author)
Monographs X, 202 Pages

Summary

This book is a collection of great and insightful essays which discuss heroic endeavors to save endangered heirs and estates by searching devotedly for the truth in various criminal and civil situations. This book focuses especially on important works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodor Storm, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Agatha Christie, while also discussing works by other important European authors. In each of these literary masterpieces the landowner or heir is emotionally and physically endangered and his or her house and estate imperiled by one or more individuals from within his or her own family or from within the sphere of influence of the family. In these works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodor Storm, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Agatha Christie there is a valiant attempt by such individuals as Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mary Lennox, Hercule Poirot, and others to save the landowners and heirs who are endangered and the estates which are threatened by thoroughly investigating their situations and by searching meticulously for the truth. These protagonists share and exemplify the "passion for getting at the truth" which Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Murder in Three Acts declares is the primary motivating force and inspiration for his criminal investigations.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1 Arthur Conan Doyle
  • 2 Theodor Storm
  • 3 Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • 4 Agatha Christie
  • Conclusion
  • Works Consulted
  • Index
  • Series index

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my literature and humanities professors at Princeton University, Yale University, Old Dominion University, and Drew University for their guidance and inspiration over the years. I would especially like to express my gratitude to the following professors: Theodore Ziolkowski, Michael Curschmann, Carl Schorske, William G. Moulton, Robert Ready, John Warner, Sara Henry-Corrington, Victor Lange, John Fleming, Douglas Greene, John Kuehl, Linda McGreevy, Karl Knight, James McNally, Sandra Bermann, John R. Martin, David Coffin, Peter Demetz, Jeffrey Sammons, Harold Bloom, and Geoffrey Hartman.

I would like to thank Professor Horst Daemmrich of the University of Pennsylvania for his inspiration and supportiveness of my Peter Lang publications over the course of a number of years. And I would like to thank Ed Larkin and Ginny Lewis and Dr. Meagan Simpson of Peter Lang Publishing for their insightful and thoughtful comments regarding my manuscript.

I would like to express my gratitude to my many colleagues at Berkeley College (Online, New Jersey, and New York) for their kindness and encouragement.

Finally, I would like to thank the Production Department of Peter Lang for their helpful assistance and patience in the production of the manuscript.

I would like to acknowledge the following institutions for permission to reprint from the following works:

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Sanctuaries of Light in Nineteenth Century European Literature, by Hugo Walter, Copyright © 2010, Peter Lang Publishing, reprinted with the permission of the publisher.

Beautiful Sanctuaries in Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century European Literature, by Hugo Walter, Copyright © 2011, Peter Lang Publishing, reprinted with the permission of the publisher.

Magnificent Houses in Twentieth Century European Literature, by Hugo Walter, Copyright © 2012, Peter Lang Publishing, reprinted with the permission of the publisher.

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Introduction

There are numerous beautiful and aesthetically interesting houses and extensive estates in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century European literature that are characterized by architectural magnificence and distinction, a vital sense of inner space and spatial expansiveness, an atmosphere of aesthetic splendor affirmed in the presence of various extraordinary and lovely objects in the interior of the house or mansion, and an ambience of great natural beauty in the surrounding property. The splendor of a number of these beautiful houses is also affirmed by their potent capacity for suffusing diverse lovely objects in their domain in an exquisite radiance as well as representing a dynamic effulgent space which counters the presence of forces of darkness in the surrounding environment and in contemporary society.

Some of these beautiful houses and estates and their owners and heirs are seriously endangered or even undermined and destroyed by malevolent individuals and by deleterious forces in their immediate environment or in contemporary society. A landowner or an heir and the family mansion and estate may be threatened by a sibling, a spouse, or a parent, by multiple family members, by immediate members of the family circle or the estate household, by a malicious neighbor, by a deceitful stranger, by evil and malevolent inclinations or tendencies in a community or a society, by a destructive and uncontrollable social force such as war, by an environmental calamity such as a tempest or terrible storm, by chance or fate in the form of fire or a horrible accident, by the enduring presence of a conspicuous ←1 | 2→painting of an infamous or a problematic family member in the portrait gallery of the ancestral mansion, or even by one or more addictions or desires which plague and undermine the self.

In this book, I will discuss the landowners and heirs who are endangered and their great houses and estates which are threatened in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles; Theodor Storm’s Aquis submersus; Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden; and Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and The ABC Murders. In each of these literary masterpieces the landowner or heir is emotionally and physically endangered and his or her house and estate imperiled by one or more individuals from within his or her own family or from within the sphere of influence of the family. In these works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodor Storm, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Agatha Christie there is a courageous, exemplary, and valiant attempt by such individuals as Sherlock Holmes, Mary Lennox, the narrator of Aquis submersus, Hercule Poirot, and others to save the landowners and heirs who are endangered and the estates which are threatened by thoroughly investigating their situations and by searching carefully, devotedly, and meticulously for the truth. These protagonists share and exemplify the “passion for getting at the truth” (220) which Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Murder in Three Acts declares is the primary motivating force and inspiration for his criminal investigations.

In Chapter 1 I discuss a threatened landowner and estate in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901–1902). In this novel Sir Henry Baskerville should have enjoyed a congenial, serene, and enduring existence at Baskerville Hall. From his initial experience of Baskerville Hall Sir Henry shows a sensitive and vital appreciation for and admiration of the ancestral mansion and estate. Yet, the horrific death of his predecessor, Sir Charles Baskerville, is a sign that the Baskerville heritage and legacy are threatened and will not be easily continued and preserved. The assistance of Sherlock Holmes in discovering the murderer of Sir Charles and in trying to ensure the safety and well-being of Sir Henry is important and essential. As in numerous other cases Sherlock Holmes shows himself in The Hound of the Baskervilles to be an investigator of the greatest acumen, insight, intellectual attentiveness and awareness, rationality, and wisdom who is devoted to discovering the truth about and resolving a criminal problem while also protecting or saving his client from danger. In saving Sir Henry from the horrific hound and from Stapleton, its diabolical owner, Sherlock Holmes also saves the Baskerville legacy, rescues the Baskerville family from an imminent doom, and preserves the spirit of civilization against the forces of evil and disorder. Sir Henry is so traumatized by the severe existential threat which he endured that he ultimately needs to travel extensively abroad to recover his physical and emotional ←2 | 3→well-being. It is noteworthy that the end of The Hound of the Baskervilles expresses no absolute certainty when or if Sir Henry will safely return to Baskerville Hall.

Chapter 2 discusses Theodor Storm’s Aquis submersus (1876), which offers a potent example of an endangered heir and estate. In this narrative Katharina, the beloved of Johannes, the painter, whose fascinating and poignant personal story is depicted in the old manuscript with the yellowed pages which the narrator finds in the house along the marketplace and cherishes reading, is portrayed as an extraordinary woman. The narrative of Johannes, the painter, begins with his statement that in the spring of 1661 he returns to the familiar district of Holstein and to the house and estate of the aristocrat Herr Gerhardus from an apprenticeship in Amsterdam. Johannes had spent many pleasant days at the house of the aristocrat Herr Gerhardus during his childhood and youth. One of the hallmarks of this period in the youth of Johannes was the friendship and affection which developed between him and Katharina, the noble-spirited and generous-hearted daughter of Herr Gerhardus. When Johannes returns several years later to this place which is sacred in his memory, he discovers that Herr Gerhardus, his noble patron, has died and is lying in state in the chapel. Wulf, the ruthless son of Herr Gerhardus and his heir, aims to undermine any possible romantic connection between his sister and Johannes because the painter does not belong to the same socioeconomic class as the Gerhardus family.

The only comfort for Johannes and Katharina in this problematic situation is that Wulf wants the painter to produce a portrait of his sister. Clifford Bernd emphasizes in Theodor Storm that this portrait “was commissioned for the express purpose of perpetuating her memory in her ancestral home when, after marrying, she took up residence elsewhere” (184). However, the portrait of Katharina endured a problematic history and was sadly removed from the Gerhardus mansion. The bleak house in which Katharina’s portrait is ultimately placed is near a threatening stretch of the ocean where many people have lost their lives in the flooding waves of terrible storms. That the painting of her which should have remained at the family mansion is dispersed into the wilderness of mortality is tragic because it implies that the spirit of Katharina no longer feels at home in this environment. It is as if the departure of Katharina’s portrait from the mansion inevitably leads to the disintegration of the estate, for it is no longer cared for by a generous and noble guardian spirit. Eventually the self-indulgence and irresponsibility of Katharina’s cruel brother Wulf destroys and ruins his family’s legacy and estate. Katharina is compelled to marry someone she does not love and seems thoroughly in despair at the end of the narrative. While the search for the truth by the painter Johannes in this narrative does not lead to the prospect of a happy conclusion, the narrator’s endeavor to revive the “truth” about Johannes, namely, the manuscript and artistic ←3 | 4→legacy of the painter, is exemplary and remarkable. Yet, the painfully poignant aura of the end of the narrative suggests the omnipotence and inevitability of evanescence and transience.

In Chapter 3 I explore the theme of an endangered heir and an imperiled estate in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911). Colin Craven in Burnett’s The Secret Garden is a member of an extremely wealthy family which owns a magnificent ancestral home and estate. Both Colin Craven and Mary Lennox are sensitive, imaginative, generous-hearted, and creative individuals with an appreciation for nature and beauty who are exceedingly undervalued by their families. Colin is viewed by his father as a sickly and weak youth, and Mary Lennox is very undervalued by her parents when they are alive. When Mary Lennox is brought to Misselthwaite Manor and hears about a garden which has been closed for a number of years she is curious to learn more about it. As Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot in their criminal cases, Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden has a strong investigating capacity and is interested in discovering the truth about a situation. Through her curiosity, determination, and persistence Mary Lennox ultimately discovers not only the secret garden but also the secluded presence of Colin Craven in Misselthwaite Manor. Colin will presumably become healthier as he explores the “secret garden” and the Misselthwaite Manor estate through the magnanimous encouragement and inspiration of Mary Lennox and will eventually assume his proper position in society.

For Mary Lennox and Colin Craven in Burnett’s The Secret Garden, as for Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, a place of sanctuary, natural beauty, and serenity which offers emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual comfort is of the utmost importance. The quest in Brideshead Revisited to find that “low door in the wall … which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden” (31) which Charles expresses explicitly on the day when he first lunches with Sebastian at Christ Church, Oxford, and to which Sebastian is instinctively dedicated is analogous to the search for “the secret garden” in The Secret Garden. Similarly, the revitalizing experience of Mary, Colin, and Dickon in the lovely enclosed garden and the imaginative and inquisitive wanderings of Mary and Colin in Misselthwaite Manor in The Secret Garden are comparable to the exploration in Brideshead Revisited of Brideshead Castle and its various magnificent aspects and features by Sebastian and Charles during that one glorious summer of their aesthetically enriching and emotionally stimulating isolation. Colin Craven exemplifies the situation of an heir who is endangered and weakened but is saved from further physical and emotional decay and demise by Mary Lennox and by the eventual supportiveness of his father when he returns from foreign travel. Colin Craven feels so encouraged and inspired that he, unlike Sir Henry Baskerville in ←4 | 5→The Hound of the Baskervilles, does not feel the need to travel away from his gorgeous mansion and estate for his recovery and future development.

In Chapter 4 I discuss endangered landowners and heirs in several novels and various short stories by Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot’s brilliance, diligence, genius, and perseverance as a criminal investigator solves the cases and the criminal problems in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), and The ABC Murders (1936). Similarly, in such short stories as “The Lemesurier Inheritance,” “The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly,” “The Cornish Mystery,” “The Plymouth Express,” “How Does Your Garden Grow?” and “The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor” Hercule Poirot very cleverly and ingeniously solves the criminal problems. In some instances, Hercule Poirot saves the owner, heir, or potential heir from harm, injury, or disaster. And if Poirot is involved in a case after an individual is murdered, then he will devote himself to discover the truth and find the criminal or criminals so that justice can be served. For example, in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Hercule Poirot is brought into the case after Mrs. Inglethorp has been poisoned. While Poirot cannot save the generous Mrs. Inglethorp who had kindly helped him and his fellow Belgian refugees during the world war, he is ultimately able to discern the truth, reveal the identity of the criminals, and save the estate, ensuring that the Cavendish family remains in possession of it. Similarly, in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Poirot is called in after Roger Ackroyd has been killed; but the great detective does everything in his power to save the new heir from being endangered or falsely accused and to make sure that the criminal who committed the crime will suffer for his destructive action so that justice is served. In other narratives, Hercule Poirot is able to rescue an heir from dangerous threats before he is fatally injured. For example, in “The Lemesurier Inheritance” Poirot, having discovered the identity of the perpetrator of the crimes, is able to save the young sons of the family from being physically harmed. Likewise, in “The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly” Poirot realizes that the father is actually responsible for the kidnapping of his young son—Poirot makes it clear to the father that he must safeguard the boy and ensure his proper return to the family or certain consequences will inevitably follow.

Details

Pages
X, 202
ISBN (PDF)
9781433141089
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433141096
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433141102
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433141072
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (October)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. X, 202 pp.

Biographical notes

Hugo G. Walter (Author)

Hugo G. Walter has a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.A. from Old Dominion University, a Ph.D. in literature from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary humanities from Drew University. Dr. Walter is Professor of English and Humanities at Berkeley College. His two most recent publications are Magnificent Houses in Twentieth Century European Literature (Lang, 2012) and Sanctuaries in Washington Irving’s ‘The Sketch Book’ (Lang, 2014).

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Title: Saving Endangered Heirs and Estates