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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Blackmore, Richard Doddridge

BLACKMORE, Richard Doddridge, English novelist: b. Longworth, Berkshire, 7 June 1825; d. 20 Jan. 1900. His father, curate of Longworth, and a graduate of Exeter College, Oxford, was a man of scholarly character; among his ancestors on his mother's side Blackmore numbered Philip Doddridge, the Non-Conformist divine. Blackmore was educated at Blundell's School at Tiverton and at his father's college, which he entered in 1843 with a good reputation for scholarship, and where he had a successful career. In one of his long vacations he began ‘The Maid of Sker,’ which was not published till 1872. He was graduated in 1847, with M.A. in 1852. In 1852 he married Miss Lucy Maguire, and while supporting himself in London read law in the Inner Temple. Admitted to the bar the same year, he had some success as a conveyancer, but finding London life detrimental to his health, gave up his work and in 1855 became classical master at Wellesley House School, Twickenham Common. In 1853 he published his first volume, ‘Poems by Melanter,’ and a little later ‘Epullia,’ also an anonymous volume of verses. In 1855 appeared ‘The Bugle of the Black Sea,’ and in 1860 ‘The Fate of Franklin.’ About this time a legacy from his uncle, the Rev. H. H. Knight, enabled him to build himself a substantial country house, Gomer House, at Tcddington, near Twickenham. Here he lived the rest of his life, devoting his mornings to the raising of fruits and flowers, famous for quality but costing him an average loss of £250 a year. The remainder of his time he gave over to literature. A translation of two of the Georgics of Virgil, entitled ‘The Farm and Fruit of Old’ (1862), was followed by ‘Clara Vaughan’ (1864) and ‘Cradock Nowell’ (1866), neither very successful novels. His third novel, ‘Lorna Doone’ (1869), after a somewhat slow start, became one of the great popular novels of the century; up to the time of Blackmore's death it had gone through nearly 50 editions, and has now assumed the place of a semi-classic. Uneven in structure, often prolix, exaggeratedly romantic, occasionally falling into a false metrical prose, it nevertheless continues to hold the interest of its readers through the fine sense of the Devon country where the scene is laid, the very real and human country types and the essentially manly character of its hero, John Ridd. Up to the time of his death, Blackmore continued to produce novels at the rate of about two in five years. Of these the most important are ‘The Maid of Sker,’ regarded by the author as his best, ‘Springhaven’ (1887) which he thought superior to ‘Lorna Doone,’ ‘Alice Lorraine’ (1875), and ‘Cripps the Carrier’ (1876). The other titles are ‘Erema, or My Father's Sin’ (1877); ‘Mary Annerley’ (1880); ‘Christowell’ (1882); ‘The Remarkable History of Tommy Upmore’ (1884); ‘Kit and Kitty’ (1889); ‘Perleycross’ (1894); ‘Tales from the Telling House’ (1896), and ‘Dariel’ (1897). A volume of verse, ‘Fringilla’ (1895), completes the list of his published work. No life has as yet been published, and most of the commentary on him is to be found in magazine articles and reviews. See Lorna Doone.

Professor of English, Columbia University.