Monday, July 23, 2012

Lorna Doone

Lorna Doone. R.D. Blackmore. 1869. 658 pages.

If anybody cares to read a simple tale told simply, I, John Ridd of the parish of Oare, in the county of Somerset, yeoman and churchwarden, have seen and had a share in some doings of this neighborhood, which I will try to set down in order, God sparing my life and memory. 

Lorna Doone was a classic that I almost almost loved. However, while I didn't "love" it, I certainly liked it. What I liked best about Lorna Doone was the romance. There were a few love scenes in this one--scenes where John Ridd is wooing Lorna Doone and professing his unending love for her. And those scenes work the best of any in the novel. But those scenes make up just a fraction of the novel, and to be honest I found most of this one to be boring. Now, I enjoy a rambling novel, I do. I love Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins. I don't mind an author that takes his time telling a story--so long as the asides are written in a charming, entertaining way. But I didn't feel that was the case in Lorna Doone.

This historical romance is set in Exmoor (Devon and Somerset England) in the 17th Century) during the reigns of King Charles II and James II. John Ridd falls in love with Lorna Doone, but there are a few big obstacles standing in the way of their true love. First, she is a Doone. The Doone clan murdered John's father. John himself forgives this flaw easily since Lorna is so incredibly beautiful. The rest of his family may not be eager to welcome a woman from the outlaw clan. And the Doone clan, well, they are definitely not wanting to lose "their" Lorna to John Ridd. Second, Lorna's mysterious past. She doesn't remember a time before the Doones, but, that doesn't mean there wasn't one. And this big reveal causes some to believe that John Ridd isn't good enough--worthy enough-- for her. I will not say more than that. Third, the general times in which they lived: the political mess of the battle for the kingdom between James II and the Duke of Monmouth. John is mistakenly taken for a soldier on Monmouth's side--that is not the case, but it does pose some problems. Fourth, the pure evil that is Carver Doone.

Favorite scenes:
I would have leaped into the valley of the shadow of death (as described by the late John Bunyan), only to hear her call me "John"; though Apollyon were lurking there, and Despair should lock me in.
She stole across the silent grass; but I strode hotly after her; fear was all beyond me now, except the fear of losing her. I could not but behold her manner, as she went before me, all her grace, and lovely sweetness, and her sense of what she was.
She led me to her own rich bower, which I told of once before; and if in spring it were a sight, what was it in summer glory? But although my mind had notice of its fairness and its wonder, not a heed my heart took of it, neither dwelt it in my presence more than flowing water. All that in my presence dwelt, all that in my heart was felt, was the maiden moving gently, and afraid to look at me.
For now the power of my love was abiding on her, new to her, unknown to her; not a thing to speak about, nor even to think clearly; only just to feel and wonder, with a pain of sweetness. She could look at me no more, neither could she look away, with a studied manner—only to let fall her eyes, and blush, and be put out with me, and still more with herself.
I left her quite alone; though close, though tingling to have hold of her. Even her right hand was dropped and lay among the mosses. Neither did I try to steal one glimpse below her eyelids. Life and death to me were hanging on the first glance I should win; yet I let it be so.
After long or short—I know not, yet ere I was weary, ere I yet began to think or wish for any answer—Lorna slowly raised her eyelids, with a gleam of dew below them, and looked at me doubtfully. Any look with so much in it never met my gaze before.
"Darling, do you love me?" was all that I could say to her.
"Yes, I like you very much," she answered, with her eyes gone from me, and her dark hair falling over, so as not to show me things.
"But do you love me, Lorna, Lorna; do you love me more than all the world?"
"No, to be sure not. Now why should I?"
"In truth, I know not why you should. Only I hoped that you did, Lorna. Either love me not at all, or as I love you for ever."
"John I love you very much; and I would not grieve you. You are the bravest, and the kindest, and the simplest of all men—I mean of all people—I like you very much, Master Ridd, and I think of you almost every day."
"That will not do for me, Lorna. Not almost every day I think, but every instant of my life, of you. For you I would give up my home, my love of all the world beside, my duty to my dearest ones, for you I would give up my life, and hope of life beyond it. Do you love me so?"
"Not by any means," said Lorna; "no, I like you very much, when you do not talk so wildly; and I like to see you come as if you would fill our valley up, and I like to think that even Carver would be nothing in your hands—but as to liking you like that, what should make it likely? (214-5)
She made for awhile as if she dreamed not of the meaning of my gaze, but tried to speak of other things, faltering now and then, and mantling with a richer damask below her long eyelashes.
"This is not what I came to know," I whispered very softly, "you know what I am come to ask."
"If you are come on purpose to ask anything, why do you delay so?" She turned away very bravely, but I saw that her lips were trembling.
"I delay so long, because I fear; because my whole life hangs in balance on a single word; because what I have near me now may never more be near me after, though more than all the world, or than a thousand worlds, to me." As I spoke these words of passion in a low soft voice, Lorna trembled more and more; but she made no answer, neither yet looked up at me.
"I have loved you long and long," I pursued, being reckless now, "when you were a little child, as a boy I worshipped you: then when I saw you a comely girl, as a stripling I adored you: now that you are a full-grown maiden all the rest I do, and more—I love you more than tongue can tell, or heart can hold in silence. I have waited long and long; and though I am so far below you I can wait no longer; but must have my answer."
"You have been very faithful, John," she murmured to the fern and moss; "I suppose I must reward you."
"That will not do for me," I said; "I will not have reluctant liking, nor assent for pity's sake; which only means endurance. I must have all love, or none, I must have your heart of hearts; even as you have mine, Lorna."
While I spoke, she glanced up shyly through her fluttering lashes, to prolong my doubt one moment, for her own delicious pride. Then she opened wide upon me all the glorious depth and softness of her loving eyes, and flung both arms around my neck, and answered with her heart on mine,—
"Darling, you have won it all. I shall never be my own again. I am yours, my own one, for ever and for ever."
I am sure I know not what I did, or what I said thereafter, being overcome with transport by her words and at her gaze. Only one thing I remember, when she raised her bright lips to me, like a child, for me to kiss, such a smile of sweet temptation met me through her flowing hair, that I almost forgot my manners, giving her no time to breathe.
"That will do," said Lorna gently, but violently blushing; "for the present that will do, John. And now remember one thing, dear. All the kindness is to be on my side; and you are to be very distant, as behoves to a young maiden; except when I invite you. But you may kiss my hand, John; oh, yes, you may kiss my hand, you know. Ah to be sure! I had forgotten; how very stupid of me!"
For by this time I had taken one sweet hand and gazed on it, with the pride of all the world to think that such a lovely thing was mine; and then I slipped my little ring upon the wedding finger; and this time Lorna kept it, and looked with fondness on its beauty, and clung to me with a flood of tears.
"Every time you cry," said I, drawing her closer to me "I shall consider it an invitation not to be too distant. There now, none shall make you weep. Darling, you shall sigh no more, but live in peace and happiness, with me to guard and cherish you: and who shall dare to vex you?" But she drew a long sad sigh, and looked at the ground with the great tears rolling, and pressed one hand upon the trouble of her pure young breast.
"It can never, never be," she murmured to herself alone: "Who am I, to dream of it? Something in my heart tells me it can be so never, never." (261-2)
Isn't the "I love you more than tongue can tell, or heart can hold in silence" lovely?

Lorna Doone isn't just a romance, however; John Ridd has a few adventures all his own, including more than a few fight/battle scenes.

Read Lorna Doone
  • If you like classics
  • If you like historical romances

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


melissa @ 1lbr said...

How funny! I remember reading and loving this one (quite a few years ago now) and thinking how humorous I found it. Rambling, I'm sure, but for some reason I can't remember well, I thought the ramblings were funny. Eh. Guess I need a reread.

Heidenkind said...

I really enjoyed this one. The nature descriptions are a little much, but I loved John a lot, and I thought the romance was sweet. You should watch the adaptation!

Furries @ said...

I love the cover!

For me I'm ashamed to say that the cover is what I often go for when I choose a book. How about you?