I find this 1920 summary to be overly harsh, but wished to include it as an instructive example of how fickle reputations can be in the literary world. Consider that the American author Herman Melville was not widely read during his lifetime and died in literary obscurity only to gain wide spread recognition after his death. Here we find the situation reversed, where Blackmore succeeds in capturing worldwide recognition while living, only to drop towards obscurity in death (save for this particular work).
LORNA DOONE, by Richard Doddridge Blackmore, published in 1869, was one of the earliest and by far the most popular of all Blackmore's dozen or more novels. By some critics it has been esteemed one of the great pieces of English fiction, but this praise is undoubtedly excessive. The theme is entirely romantic, there being little realism and no “problem” writing whatever. It is the theme of apparently hopeless, but finally triumphant, love; of feminine pity and distress; of manly courtesy and resolution; of the success of the noble-hearted and the discomfiting of evil men. John Ridd, a young rustic giant of North Devon, rescues the high-born Lorna from the hands of her outlaw relatives and finally rises not only to the possession of Lorna's hand, but to high position on the strength of his own merit. There is some historical background out of the reigns of Charles II and James II, most vividly represented at the battle of Sedgemoor. The Doones themselves are largely legendary. Probably their formidableness and knavery are very much exaggerated over any actual facts, just as the scenery of Devon and Somerset, especially the description of Doone Valley, are great exaggerations. Interwoven with the romantic and semi-historical pictures of the tale are many pleasant details of country life and many quiet scenes and adventures of a placid rural sort. The length of the story is not diminished by being told in the first person by the hero, but it is full of honest spirit and of attractive detail.
William T. Brewster.
In the 1893 illustration to the right, John ("Jan") Ridd learns to shoot his father's gun.
Return to R. D. Blackmore's library.