xxxxxThe English writer R.D. Blackmore wrote fourteen novels, but he is remembered today for just one of them, the romantic story of Lorna Doone, published in 1870. An exciting tale, full of family feud, skulduggery and murder, and with a moving love story running throughout, it proved highly popular. And it was made the more compelling by the countryside in which it was set, the bleak heights and lush valleys of Exmoor in south-
RICHARD DODDRIDGE BLACKMORE 1825 -
Blackmore: date and artist unknown. Country: contained in A Literary Tour of Devon, written by Paul Wreyford and illustrated by Mike Stonelake, published 1996. Malmsmead: contained in the eBook of Lorna Doone, A Romance of Exmoor, artist unknown – The Project Gutenberg. Ned Kelly: impression, artist unknown. Swinburne: by the English Pre-
xxxxxThe English writer R.D Blackmore -
xxxxxBlackmore was born in Longworth, then in the county of Berkshire. He was educated at Blundells School, a public school in Tiverton, Devon, and won a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford. He obtained a degree in classics in 1847 and decided to study law. He entered the Middle Temple in London two years later, and was called to the Bar in 1852, but then ill health -
xxxxxHis market gardening project was never very successful and, for a time, neither was his work with the pen. He published several volumes of poetry, but these failed to impress and for that reason he turned to fiction. In this genre he fared better. His first two novels, Clara Vaughan in 1864 and Craddock Nowell two years later, were moderately successful, but it was his third novel that gave him a lasting name in English literature. Published as a three-
xxxxxThe extreme popularity of the novel took Blackmore -
xxxxxLorna Doone established Blackmore as one of the foremost novelists of his time, and his novels helped to create a new romantic movement in English literature. Among his other works were Alice Lorraine (1875), Cripps the Carrier (1876), Christobell (1882), Springhaven (1887), Perlycross (1894), Tales from the Telling House (1896) and Dariel (1897).
xxxxxBlackmore’s wife Lucy died in January 1888, and he died twelve years later after a long and painful illness. In 1904 a committee which included his friends and admirers Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson and James Barrie erected a memorial to him in Exeter Cathedral.
xxxxxIncidentally, the bleak area of Exmoor in Lorna Doone is very much like the part played by the fictitious Egdon Heath in Hardy’s novels, set in southern Dorset. And Hardy, who began writing in the early 1870s, also had a deep love of nature and a sound knowledge of rural life. ……
xxxxx…… The Blackmores had no children of their own, but they were very fond of Agnes’ four children (his wife’s sister). They helped with the cost of their education and virtually adopted one of them, a girl named Eva, when she was seven. ……
xxxxx…… It is said that Lorna Doone was a favourite with the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, and that he might well have got the idea of wearing armour by reading about the Doones and their “iron plates on breast and head”.
and Anna Sewell
xxxxxThe English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-
xxxxxIt was around this time, in 1866, that the English poet and critic Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-
xxxxxSwinburne was born in London, but he spent his early years at his home at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight and in Northumberland, where his grandfather lived. He was educated at Eton (1849-
xxxxxIt was soon after arriving in London that he produced two verse dramas The Queen Mother and Rosamond, but it was not until 1865 that he came to prominence with his choral verse drama Atalanta in Calydon. This ambitious Greek-
xxxxxByxthe end of the 1870s his alcoholism and his sexual depravity had brought him to a physical and mental breakdown. It was at this stage -
xxxxxSwinburne wrote more than 35 books, including 12 verse dramas and 14 volumes of poetry, but, in the main, his reputation as a great poet rests upon a small number of poems, and these include, as mentioned earlier, Atalanta in Calydon (1865), Poems and Ballades (1866), and Songs Before Sunrise (1871). To these must be added Songs of Two Nations, and the tragedies Bothwell and Erechtheus in the 1870s, and, in the 1880s, Songs of Springtide, A Century of Roundels, and Tristram of Lyonesse, a modern love story in the Arthurian tradition. In general his later poems were subdued and less vigorous than his earlier works, but in his nature studies his style remained rich and powerful. Some of the poems in his collection A Channel Passage, published in 1904 -
xxxxxIn general, Swinburne’s poetry is elaborately ornate and sometimes quite obscure -
xxxxxIncidentally, Rossetti used to call him “my little Northumberland friend” (Swinburne was only 5ft 4ins tall). They lived together in a house in Chelsea, London, for some years, and it was during that time that Swinburne took to heavy drinking and began frequenting the flesh pots of the city. ……
xxxxx…… One of his roundels, A Baby’s Death, was put to music by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar. His Poems and Ballads of 1878 contains the moving elegy “Ave Atque Vale”, (Hail and Farewell), written in praise of the French poet Charles Baudelaire.
xxxxxThe classic novel Black Beauty was published in 1877, the work of the English author Anna Sewell (1820-
xxxxxIt was in 1877, the year Algernon Swinburne produced his Note on Charlotte Bronte, that the classic novel Black Beauty was published. It was an instant success, and became one of the best selling books of all time, with 50 million copies sold worldwide. Its author, Anna Sewell (1820-
xxxxxSewell was born into a Quaker family at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, and as a young child was educated at home. The family moved to Stoke Newington, just north of London, in 1832, and it was there at the age of 12 that she fell heavily while walking home from school and injured both ankles. The injury made here lame for the rest of her life, but she was able to drive a pony and chaise, and it was from this activity that she acquired a deep love of horses. It was not until the early 1870s, however, when she was living in Old Catton, a village near Norwich, Norfolk, that she began to compile the story of Black Beauty. Bedridden by this time, she wrote the story down on slips of paper or dictated it to her mother. Subtitled The Autobiography of a Horse, it told in simple but endearing fashion the hardships he suffered and the happiness he enjoyed at the hands of his different owners. The aim of the story, as she put it, was to “induce kindness, sympathy and an understanding treatment of horses”.
xxxxxHer mother, Mary Wright Sewell, was herself a popular writer of children’s stories, and Sewell spent long hours editing her mother’s works. This task doubtless helped her when she came to write her own novel.
xxxxxIncidentally, her birthplace in Church Plain, Great Yarmouth, is now a museum, and in Norwich there is a memorial fountain to her at the entrance to Sewell Park.