After John Ridd, the young protagonist of Lorna Doone, tells us that after he managed to pull himself out of the river whose powerful current nearly drowned him, he finds

a little girl kneeling at my side was rubbing my forehead tenderly with a dock-leaf and a handkerchief.

"Oh, I am so glad," she whispered softly, as I opened my eyes and looked at her; "now you will try to be better, won't you?"

I had never heard so sweet a sound as came from between her bright red lips, while there she knelt and gazed at me; neither had I ever seen anything so beautiful as the large dark eyes intent upon me, full of pity and wonder. And then, my nature being slow, and perhaps, for that matter, heavy, I wandered with my hazy eyes down the black shower of her hair, as to my jaded gaze it seemed; and where it fell on the turf, among it (like an early star) was the first primrose of the season. And since that day I think of her, through all the rough storms of my life, when I see an early primrose. Perhaps she liked my countenance, and indeed I know she did, because she said so afterwards; although at the time she was too young to know what made her take to me. Not that I had any beauty, or ever pretended to have any, only a solid healthy face, which many girls have laughed at. . . .

"What is your name?" she said, as if she had every right to ask me; "and how did you come here, and what are these wet things in this great bag?" [58]

My name is John Ridd. What is your name?"

"Lorna Doone," she answered, in a low voice, as if afraid of it, and hanging her head so that I could see only her forehead and eyelashes; "if you please, my name is Lorna Doone; and I thought you must have known it."

Then I stood up and touched her hand, and tried to make her look at me; but she only turned away the more. Young and harmless as she was, her name alone made guilt of her. Nevertheless I could not help looking at her tenderly, and the more when her blushes turned into tears, and her tears to long, low sobs.

"Don't cry," I said, "whatever you do. I am sure you have never done any harm. I will give you all my fish Lorna, and catch some more for mother; only don't be angry with me."

She flung her little soft arms up in the passion of her tears, and looked at me so piteously, that what did I do but kiss her. It seemed to be a very odd thing, when I came to think of it, because I hated kissing so, as all honest boys must do. But she touched my heart with a sudden delight, like a cowslip-blossom (although there were none to be seen yet), and the sweetest flowers of spring.

She gave me no encouragement, as my mother in her place would have done; nay, she even wiped her lips (which methought was rather rude of her), and drew away. [58-59]

Why does Lorna turn away fron John after telling him her name, and why does Blackmore have Ridd tell us that "her name alone made guilt of her"? What does Ridd's comparisons of her to "an early primose" have to do with love poetry? Do his descriptions of her support or undercut his self-characterization as "slow"? Why does Blackmore have Ridd think about the difference between the way his mother and Lorna react to his kiss? What other encounters of young boys and girls can you think of in Victorian fiction?


Blackmore, R. D. Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor. New York: Clarke, Given and Hooper, 1890. [e-text of this edition at Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

Last updated 4 May 2006

Last modified 8 June 2007