he interests of Blackmore are not less clearly mirrored in his plots than they are in character and setting. His constant and unvarying theme is romance, the romance of simple hearts in their love-time. Love for Blackmore is an idyllically pleasant emotion, a lyric exaltation; it is the bond between a true man and a pure woman. All of his novels are tales of love.
Subsidiary themes there are, of course, but they all revolve about this central sun. The minor themes which he was fond of treating were English military and naval history, English patriotism, and devotion to the rural parts of England. These sometimes hold conspicuous places in the novels, but they do not figure in all of them. Most of his stories, as I have already said, are set in some period of English history, and some of them may quite clearly be called historical romances. They are based in some part upon historical events, though the main characters are never historical. Blackmore's love of lowly people led him more than once to put such a romance in the first person, in the mouths of humble characters such as John Ridd; and in such a manner that the unimportance of historical events in the minds of these people is made clear. What Blackmore was interested in, and what these characters were absorbed in, was the daily round of petty affairs, and the love-stories in which they were in- volved. I have called them historical romances; I must amend that: They are much more romances than they are history.
There are yet other interests of Blackmore, hardly worthy the name of themes, which take the shape of oft-repeated devices or situations. Of these abduction is the most frequently in evidence. It appears in about half of his novels, in one form or another. Forged letters often make these abductions possible, as in the case of Grace Oglander, in Cripps the Carrier. Children, for whom he apparently had a great fondness, are very often the victims of violent characters through this device, and their recovery forms part of the interest of the novel. Add to this the problem of the disputed inheritance, and the sum of his major devices is complete, except for one thing, perhaps deserving of more significant mention; namely, his interest in the weather. This concern of his, which was constant with him, is almost invariably represented in his novels. Time and again it is the instrument of fate which clarifies a mystery, or kills the villain, or aids the reunion of the hero and his beloved. It is not easy to forget the storm in Christowell, in which George Gaston died so horribly.
The plots are very simple. It is clear from them that his world was the division of what is good from what is bad. The forces which move the characters, like the characters themselves, may be easily ranged upon the one side or upon the other. The motives of the evil are the opposite of the motives of the good. The love of pure women, goodness of heart, humility, manly courage, and desire for a quiet life are those which actuate the good characters; and those who work evil moved by the desire of women, pride, resentment of station, covousness, and sheer unexplained viciousness. [56-57]
Burris, Quincy Guy. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: His Life and Novels. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1930.
Last updated 12 May 2006
Last modified 8 June 2007