About a third of the way through Lorna Doone, the narrator and hero visits London, concluding
And after all, it was not worth seeing, but a very hideous and dirty place, not at all like Exmoor. Some of the shops were very fine, and the signs above them finer still, so that I was never weary of standing still to look at them. But in doing this there was no ease; for before one could begin almost to make out the meaning of them, either some of the wayfarers would bustle and scowl, and draw their swords, or the owner, or his apprentice boys, would rush out and catch hold of me, crying, "Buy, buy, buy! What d'ye lack, what d'ye lack? Buy, buy, buy!" At first I mistook the meaning of this &mdsh; for so we pronounce the word "boy" upon Exmoor — and I answered with some indignation, "Sirrah, I am no boy now, but a man of one-and-twenty years; and as for lacking, I lack naught from thee, except what thou hast not — good manners."
The only things that pleased me much, were the river Thames, and the hall and church of Westminster, where there are brave things to be seen, and braver still to think about. But whenever I wandered in the streets, what with the noise the people made, the number of the coaches, the running of the footmen, the swaggering of great courtiers, and the thrusting aside of everybody, many and many a time I longed to be back among the sheep again, for fear of losing temper. [Ch. 24, "A Safe Pass for the King's Messenger," 187]
Given Blackmore's own love of rural life, one can assume that he not only agrees with his character's judgment of London but also that he intends John Ridd's criticism of seventeenth-century London to apply to the Victorian city as well. But, since good writers often manage to accomplish several things in a single passage, we can ask ourselves what else this sly critique manages to do. What for example does it tell us about John, and what does it tell us about the Exmoor dialect?
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 modified 8 June 2007