Like Charles Kingsley's muscular Christian, R. D. Blackmore's John Ridd fights for virtue, love and country. A Yorkshire farmer, Ridd is embroiled with the outlaw Doones of Scotland when he falls for Sir Ensor Doone's granddaughter, Lorna. Though aristocrats, the Doones are rebels, thieves and Catholics—the opposite of Ridd, a devout Protestant, a simple yeoman, an honest man.
A rousing adventure story, Lorna Doone looks at the nature of masculinity and fidelity, celebrates pastoral life, romantic love, and the Victorian ideals of domesticity, religion, and morality. Ridd narrates, offering a firsthand defense of the good life rather than relying on philosophic digressions to relay Blackmore's message.
Ridd struggles to resolve the tension between his love for Lorna and his love of country and family. Immensely strong of body yet plain-minded, in every situation he pursues the manliest course. While often obsessed with outward displays (at one point he carries sheep two-by-two through a snowstorm), his less visceral feats are the ones we admire most (like his wooing of Lorna).
Praised by writers as diverse as Thomas Hardy and Robert Louis Stevenson, Lorna Doone is an often overlooked classic, thoughtful and well-crafted. In an era when manliness is vilified or reduced to machismo and violence, John Ridd is a breath of fresh air. Blending scenes of agrarian bliss with exciting adventures, Blackmore's novel (intensely relevant in his own day) is just as powerful today.
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