Labyrinth

From The Library at Hurtfew
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The Labyrinth is the name of a spell created by Walter de Chepe, the aim of which is to create confusion within a building, landscape etc. Mr Norrell used a remarkable version of it to protect his precious library at Hurtfew. When visited by John Segundus and Mr Honeyfoot at the Abbey early in 1807 Mr Norrell led them directly to the library himself; and yet Mr Segundus (who had a very strong sense of direction) was aware that they were following routes that were impossible to make sense of, or, as he later found, to remember at all clearly [1]. Towards the end of the book Henry Lascelles also falls victim to the same spell when, scorning the advice given to him by a servant, Lucas, he stubbornly attempts to find the library on his own. After spending a fruitless morning returning either to his point of departure, or ending up in the kitchen, he abandons the attempt. Mr Lascelles, as befits a man blind to his own shortcomings, blames his failure on "a peculiarity of Yorkshire architecture" [63].

The Labyrinth spell cast by Norrell is of course still in place when Jonathan Strange at last arrives at Hurtfew; but with his customary penetration Strange merely breaks the labyrinth and weaves another and better one against Norrell. It takes his erstwhile master some time to overcome this obstacle and when he does, he does so alone, for he vanishes from the sight of Henry Lascelles and the little band of servants who until then had been at his heels.

Despite having conquered the Labyrinth spell Strange confessed himself very favourably impressed by it, and thereupon revised his opinion of de Chepe, stating that previously he had "always supposed [de Chepe] to be a very minor scholar without an original thought in his head." [66]



Hurtfew Abbey - Labyrinth.jpg

A contemporary casting of de Chepe's spell | Nine unfortunate German tourists are still trapped inside, but fortunately they had had rather large servings of stuffed cabbage for breakfast that fateful morning.