lackmore was staunchly English, and full of the history of his country. This knowledge is felt in almost if not quite all his novels, though with fluctuant importance. In some of them it is a major con- sideration; and in nearly all of them it is presented as background to the story, if it does not actually figure in the tale itself. Cradock Nowell is an example of this use of history as background, in the explanation of the manner in which Charles II brought about the existence of such a place as Nowellhurst. This is but one of numerous instances of this sort.
His great love of the English people and their traditions centers chiefly in the south and west of England, whence Blackmore's ancestors came. Of the dialects of the counties in that section of England Blackmore had a thorough knowledge, and they are given a large place in his novels. Lowly and simple characters speak these dialects, characters of the sort for which Blackmore more than once evinced a genuine admiration.
The types of character which he chose as the vessels of his sentiments are in perfect accordance with the interests of the man and with the settings. The most conspicuous and the most persistently recurrent characters, although not always the main ones, are men of the country, men of close and long contact with the soil, or with nature in some form or another. Indeed, so great an ardor for the soil and for nature breathes from the pages of his novels that any one whose character is not congenial with these things is alien to the rest of the novel, as is frequently the case with his villains. From the first of his novels to the last, the most memorable of his characters are soil-loving men — memorable though not always technically important. At times such a man is the hero, and at others a very humble and inconspicuous person. But he is always there, always felt. Girt Jan Ridd, with his huge body, and his humility before Lorna, seems to have been the pattern of them all. Of those who follow in his train, the most distinct figures are Farmer Huxtable, of mighty thews and slow, heavy southern speech; Stephen Anerley, father of Mary; Farmer Lovejoy, with his orchards; Kit Orchardson, son of old Cornelius; Zebedee Tugwell, the fisherman, and in some measure, Davy Llewellyn. These men are a good deal like Blackmore himself, without his classical attainments. They share largely in his love of nature, his preference for humble folk, his masculinity, and his love of the south and west of England. They are large men, stalwart, honest, and loyal. Sometimes a little narrow, they love their prejudices, and are not much concerned with abstractions or with deep learning. But in a practical way they are shrewd and well-founded in native intelligence. Sensitive but fearful of nothing, kindly, and beyond every other consideration, forthright and open, their natures sum themselves in the solid and reliable opening declaration of John Ridd:
If anybody cares to read a simple tale told simply, I, John Ridd, of the parish of Oare, in the county of Somerset, yeoman and churchwarden, have seen and had a share in some doings of this neighborhood, which I will try to set down in order. God sparing my life and memory. [50-51]
Burris, Quincy Guy. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: His Life and Novels. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1930.
Last updated 30 April 2006
Last modified 8 June 2007