THE TALES OF THE HALL
The Tales of the Hall were published by John Murray in June 1819, in two handsome octavo volumes, with every advantage of type, paper, and margin. In a letter of Crabbe to Mrs. Leadbeater, in October 1817, he makes reference to these Tales, already in preparation. He tells his correspondent that “Remembrances” was the title for them proposed by his friends. We learn from another source that a second title had been suggested, “Forty Days—a Series of Tales told at Binning Hall.” Finally Mr. Murray recommended Tales of the Hall, and this was adopted.
In the same letter to Mrs. Leadbeater, Crabbe writes: “I know not how to describe the new, and probably (most probably) the last work I shall publish. Though a village is the scene of meeting between my two principal characters, and gives occasion to other characters and relations in general, yet I no more describe the manners of village inhabitants. My people are of superior classes, though not the most elevated; and, with a few exceptions, are of educated and cultivated minds and habits.” In making this change Crabbe was also aware that some kind of unity must be given to those new studies of human life. And he found at least a semblance of this unity in ties of family or friendship uniting the tellers of them. Moreover Crabbe, who had a wide and even intimate knowledge of English, poetry, was well acquainted with the Canterbury Tales, and he bethought him that he would devise a framework. And the plan he worked out was as follows:
“The Hall” under whose roof the stories and conversations arise is a gentleman’s house, apparently in the eastern counties, inhabited by the elder of two brothers, George and Richard. George, an elderly bachelor, who had made a sufficient fortune in business, has retired to this country seat, which stands upon the site of a humbler dwelling where George had been born and spent his earliest years. The old home of his youth had subsequently passed into the hands of a man of means, who had added to it, improved the surroundings, and turned it into a modern and elegant villa. It was again in the market when George was seeking a retreat for his old age, and he purchased it—glad, even under the altered conditions, to live again among the loved surroundings of his childhood.
George has a half-brother, Richard, much younger than himself. They are the children of the same mother who, some years after her first widowhood, had married an Irish gentleman, of mercurial habit, by whom she had this second child. George had already left home to earn his living, with the consequence that the two brothers had scarcely ever met until the occasion upon which the story opens. Richard, after first trying the sea as a profession, had entered the army during the war with Napoleon; distinguished himself