A Romance of Exmoor (ILLUSTRATED)
This novel, published in 1869, is a romance based on a group of historical characters and set in the late 17th century in Devon and Somerset, particularly around the East Lyn Valley area of Exmoor. In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read. It was first published anonymously in 1869, in a limited three-volume edition of just 500 copies, of which only 300 sold. Republished the following year in an inexpensive one-volume edition, it became a huge critical and financial success and has never been out of print since.
It was praised by later Victorian writers including Robert Louis Stevenson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Thomas Hardy. A favourite among female readers, it is also popular among males; in 1906, male students at Yale named it as their favourite novel.
Blackmore relied on a "phonologic" style for his characters' speech, emphasizing their accents and word formation. He expended great effort, in all of his novels, on his characters' dialogues and dialects, striving to recount realistically not only the ways, but also the tones and accents, in which thoughts and utterances were formed by the various sorts of people who lived in the Exmoor district in the 17th century.
Blackmore incorporated real events and places into the novel. The Great Winter described in chapters 41–45 was a real event.He himself attended Blundell's School in Tiverton, shown in the opening chapters. One of the inspirations behind the plot is said to be the shooting of a young woman at a church in Chagford, Devon, in the 17th century. Unlike the heroine of the novel, she did not survive, but is commemorated in the church. Apparently, Blackmore invented the name "Lorna," possibly drawing on a Scottish source.
According to the preface, the work is a romance and not a historical novel, because the author neither "dares, nor desires, to claim for it the dignity or cumber it with the difficulty of an historical novel." As such, it combines elements of traditional romance, of Sir Walter Scott's historical novel tradition, of the pastoral tradition, of traditional Victorian values, and of the contemporary sensation novel trend. Blackmore based his historical understanding on Macaulay's History of England and its analysis of the Monmouth rebellion. The novel also incorporates folk traditions, such as the many legends based around both the Doones and Tom Faggus.
- Revenant, December 2012
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