Hampstead is a village in the environs of London, newly fashionable with those wishing to make a short retreat into the country. (Mr Constable the artist has made the very pretty picture of it on the left.) It is, as our author tells us, some five miles from London and was until quite recently entirely bucolic in character, but is now replete with cottages ornés and every kind of dishonest modern architectural folly.
Hampstead is also the home of the unfortunate Mrs Bullworth, who lives there in a retirement forced upon her by her father, Sir James Southwell. This worthy man evidently feels his daughter's transgressions have unsuited her for decent society, yet like a careful parent he also wishes to prevent her sinking further into vice. He therefore provides her with a comfortable home while stipulating she must live there in a seclusion as complete as that of an Eastern lady in a seraglio. He approves of no other society for her save that of an elderly aunt, who is religiously given.Quite how she comes upon Christopher Drawlight therefore - or he upon her - is a mystery: but then Mr Drawlight, as he himself acknowledges elsewhere, has his own peculiar methods of discovering that which is intended to be kept secret. We know he had access to the house of Mrs Bullworth's seducer, Mr Lascelles: and one cannot easily imagine Christopher Drawlight failing to read any letter not securely locked away. .