English Literature Of The 19th Century:
Richard Doddridge Blackmore
Sir Walter Besant
Robert Louis Stevenson
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Richard Doddridge Blackmore
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Although Richard Doddridge Blackmore has written many novels, he is known as the author of one "Lorna Doone," a semi-historical romance, which has given fame to a Devonshire valley. He was born in Berkshire in 1825, graduated at Oxford, studied law, practiced as a conveyancer, and when his health failed, became a market-gardener near London. His first literary ventures were poems. He did not attempt novel-writing till he was nearly forty, nor did he secure much attention for some time after his best work was published in 1869. Slowly its merits were recognized and at last the melodramatic romance attained popularity. "Lorna Doone" is a story of the time of King Charles H. The Doones were a family of outcast nobles, living as robbers in Bagworthy forest, the wild road to their home being strictly guarded against intruders. But young John Ridd, the stout and valiant son of a simple yeoman, who keeps sheep on the Downs, chances to meet Lorna Doone, the fair queen of the wild band, falls in love with her, undertakes wild and desperate adventures for her sake, and rescues her and himself out of perils by his native shrewdness. Among Blackmore's other stories are "The Maid of Sker," "Cripps the Carrier," "Erema; or, My Father's Sin," "Sir Thomas Upton." He depicts with much skill the peasants and fisher-folk of the West of England, hardy, slow of speech, yet keen-witted. His stories are told in a quaint, meditative way, are full of adventure and dramatic situations. His heroes are gallant, and his heroines sweet, but the other characters, parsons and rustics, or even highway-men, usually excite more interest.
Perhaps the most prolific writer of books in the present day is the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould. He was born at Exeter in 1834, graduated at Cambridge twenty years later, and entered the Church. He became rector at Lew Trenchard, Devonshire, in 1881. Part of his youth was spent in Germany and France, and from the literature of these countries he has drawn for his numerous writings. His easy conversational style has enabled him to treat English rural life, Ireland, theological topics, mediaeval myths, folklore, comparative mythology, and German history in an equally interesting way. The best known of his books is "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages" (1866) . Of more than thirty novels may be mentioned, "Red Spider," "Mehalah; a Tale of the Salt Marshes," "Gabrielle André," "In Exitu Israel." Wide information and powerful imagination are shown in these, but the striking characters often drawn from English peasant life, are not attractive. Much more pleasant is his biography of the Rev. R. S. Hawker, "The Vicar of Morwenstow."
Henry Rider Haggard is a fine story-teller, whose accounts of wild adventures gave him for a time extraordinary success. He was born in 1856 and had been on Government service in South Africa. After publishing an account of "Cetewayo and His White Neighbors" (1882) he used his knowledge of strange lands in romances of adventure. Among the most noted of his books are "King Solomon's Mines" (1886), "She" (1888), and "Allan Quartermain" (1889). In "The World's Desire" he was associated with Andrew Lang.