lackmore had this much in common with Scott: He took a small corner of England and painted it, with its peace, its people, and their eccentricities. Like Scott, he placed his humor in his peasant characters, whom he drew with great skill. Scott, however, was always careful to make full acknowledgement of the sources of his characters:
The author may here remark, that the character of Dandle was drawn
from no individual. A dozen, at least, of stout Liddesdale yeomen with
whom he has been acquainted, and whose hospitality he has shared. . .
might lay claim to be the prototype of that rough, but faithful, hospitable,
and generous farmer. [
And Scott goes on to give an exact accounting, in so far as it is possible to do so, of the origin of Dandle. Not so Blackmore. All that we may know of John's origin from Blackmore's statement is embodied in the opening words of the novel:
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. [
Blackmore followed the program, laid down by Scott, of striking an intelligible mean between the language of a past age and that of the present, although there is nothing to indicate that he got the program from Scott. It is a parallel, innocent of derivative significance, and the similarity goes no further. Blackmore shunned the history of great society; he would have none of your strutting captains, none of the pomp and pageantry Scott loved so well. Neither did he write of any nation or people at a crisis in their affairs, religious or otherwise, except in Springhaven, where he drew upon the report that Napoleon contemplated an invasion of England from the south. He had no rigid pattern of historical interpretation; he neither affirmed nor denied the history of his story, except to declare that the incidents and characters alike were romantic.
He did not, as did Scott with Scotland, deliberately try to express the genius of a whole nation. Rather he drew the unpretentious life of the obscure yeoman who loved his land beyond all things else, and stayed quietly at home, out of the brawls and perils of a civil war, until the folly of his hotter brother-in-law forced him to go to his rescue. He drew a little corner of England, and somehow, it is true, he managed to infuse the whole of English spirit in the figures who appeared in it.
But the chief difference between Scott and Blackmore is . . . [that Scott] was something timid about approaching a scene in which the tender passions were involved, because, some assert, he had himself been disappointed in love. Be the reason what it may, his aversion to such scenes is well established. His heroes woo coldly, and are never so lyric and so lush with praises as John Ridd, when he dwells upon the perfections of Lorna. Blackmore was never timid about his love scenes. [151-52]
Burris, Quincy Guy. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: His Life and Novels. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1930.
Last modified 8 June 2007