Angus Wilson: Setting the World on Fire

(481 words)
  • Marina MacKay (University of Durham)

This pageant-like novel opens at the end of the Second World War, when two young brothers are visiting their aristocratic grandmother, Lady Mosson, at her great house in Westminster. The importance of Tothill House within the novel is such that it has been given a perfectly plausible provenance: designed by the architects Roger Pratt and John Vanbrugh, with decorations by Grinling Gibbons and Antonio Verrio, the house has also a Great Hall with a trompe l'oeil painting of Phaeton's descent to earth. The Phaeton myth is central to the novel because it polarises the characters of the two boys: brave Piers admires Phaeton's courageous, doomed flight, but cautious Tom is terrified in childhood by the image of the earth being set …

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MacKay, Marina. "Setting the World on Fire". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 January 2001
[, accessed 28 September 2016.]