1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Blackmore, Richard Doddridge

BLACKMORE, RICHARD DODDRIDGE (1825–1900), English novelist, was born on the 7th of June 1825 at Longworth, Berkshire, of which village his father was curate in charge. He was educated at Blundell’s school, Tiverton, and Exeter College, Oxford, where he obtained a scholarship. In 1847 he took a second class in classics. Two years later he entered as a student at the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar in 1852. His first publication was a volume of Poems by Melanter (1854), which showed no particular promise, nor did the succeeding volume, Epullia (1855), suggest that Blackmore had the makings of a poet. He was nevertheless enthusiastic in his pursuit of literature; and when, a few years later, the complete breakdown of his health rendered it clear that he must remove from London, he determined to combine a literary life in the country with a business career as a market-gardener. He acquired land at Teddington, and set earnestly to work, the literary fruits of his new surroundings being a translation of the Georgics, published in 1862. In 1864 he published his first novel, Clara Vaughan, the merits of which were promptly recognized. Cradock Nowell (1866) followed, but it was in 1869 that he suddenly sprang into fame with Lorna Doone. This fine story was a pioneer in the romantic revival; and appearing at a jaded hour, it was presently recognized as a work of singular charm, vigour and imagination. Its success could scarcely be repeated, and though Blackmore wrote many other capital stories, of which the best known are The Maid of Sker (1872), Christowell (1880), Perlycross (1894), Tales from the Telling House (1896) and Dariel (1897), he will always be remembered almost exclusively as the author of Lorna Doone. He continued his quiet country life to the last, and died at Teddington on the 20th of January 1900, in his seventy-fifth year. Lorna Doone has the true out-of-door atmosphere, is shot through and through with adventurous spirit, and in its dramatic moments shows both vigour and intensity. The heroine, though she is invested with qualities of faëry which are scarcely human, is an idyllic and haunting figure; and John Ridd, the bluff hero, is, both in purpose and achievement, a veritable giant of romance. The story is a classic of the West country, and the many pilgrimages that are made annually to the Doone Valley (the actual characteristics of which differ materially from the descriptions given in the novel) are entirely inspired by the buoyant imagination of Richard Blackmore. A memorial window and tablet to his memory were erected in Exeter cathedral in 1904.