Places: Lorna Doone

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1869

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Adventure

Time of work: Late seventeenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Exmoor

*Exmoor. Lorna DooneMoorland in southern England overlapping the counties of Somerset and Devon. The flat sweep of moorland south of Plover’s Barrows farm has bogs here and there with brushy areas around them. Deep ravines run inland from the sea. The fertile valleys are either wooded or farmed.

Exmoor has changed little since the time in which Lorna Doone is set. From his childhood home in nearby Newton, Glamorganshire, R. D. Blackmore could see the heights of Exmoor. The roads across the moors are often deep in mud and prone to being covered with dense fog. Dulverton, the home town of John Ridd’s great-uncle Reuben Huckaback lies at the southern edge of the moor.

Plover’s Barrows

Plover’s Barrows. Farm of the protagonist and narrator, John Ridd. Located in the East Lynn River valley, it is the largest of three farms in the valley and is the closest to the coast. The farmyard is surrounded by outbuildings–a barn, a corn-chamber, a cider press, a cow house, and stables–and orchards lie beyond. The farm’s rooms are underground so that both people and animals are warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The farmhouse has a kitchen and parlor downstairs and several rooms upstairs. John Ridd’s room, under the rafters, faces east and from the latticed window he can see the yard, the wood-rick, and the church in the village of Oare in the distance.

Doone Valley

Doone Valley. Home of the outlaw Doone clan; an oval-shaped green valley surrounded by eighty-to one-hundred-foot cliffs of sheer black rock. The valley is traversed by a winding stream, on the banks of which are fourteen one-story square houses built of stone and wood. Sir Ensor Doone’s house is closest to the Doone-gate. Carver Doone’s house is lowest in the valley.

Doone-gate

Doone-gate. Entrance to Doone Valley. Approached along a straight track, it has three archways, above which a huge tree trunk is suspended, ready to be dropped to bar entrance to the valley. A ledge twenty feet above the road provides a good defensive position. Inside the central archway, a crude cannon guards the entrance. Sentries are posted in a niche part way along the passage.

Another approach to the valley lies hidden in an ash wood. A wooden door leads to a low, narrow passage which comes out at the top of Doone valley.

*Bagworthy Water

*Bagworthy Water (BADJ-wer-thee). Called “Badgworthy Water” on modern maps, a stream that flows two miles below Plover’s Barrow, into the Lynn River Valley. On either side of Bagworthy Water lies dense Bagworthy Wood. Following the water upstream through the wood, it opens into a pool. At one side water cascades over a cliff as a water slide.

At the top of the cliff is the secluded area of Doone Valley in which John Ridd meets Lorna Doone, an ostensible member of the outlaw family. At the top of the slide, Lorna’s bower is reached by stone steps leading to a narrow ivy-covered crevice. The chamber, open to the sky, is eighteen or twenty feet across, and its walls are adorned with living ferns, moss and lichens. Grass and moss cover the floor, around the edge of which are seats of living stone.

*London

*London. Great Britain’s capital city, which John Ridd first visits in 1683. In contrast to Exmoor, London is a hideous and dirty place, although some of its shops and their signs are very fine. Its streets are very noisy, filled with coaches and people and footmen rushing about. John takes lodgings in the house of a fellmonger abutting the Strand. which runs from Temple Bar to Charing (then a village surrounded by fields). The house of Earl Brandir, Lorna’s guardian, is at Kensington. It is approached along a lane between fields from Charing Cross.

Wizard’s Slough

Wizard’s Slough. Mire in Exmoor in which Carver Doone dies. Located at the end of a gully south of Black Barrow Down, the slough is a black, bubbling bog ringed by yellow reeds. Bright green watergrass hides it from the unwary. On the margins grow plants such as campanula, sundew, and forget-me-not. The surrounding hillsides are dotted with tufts of rush, flag (water iris), and marestail, and a few alder-trees. No birds dwell here. On the far side of the mire is the vertical shaft of the entrance to the gold mine exploited by Reuben Huckaback. There is a path between the cliff and the slough, but it is not easy to find.

BibliographyBudd, Kenneth George. The Last Victorian: R. D. Blackmore and His Novels. London: Centaur Press, 1960. A good introduction, connecting the plot to legend and to children’s nursery tales. Analyzes Blackmore’s style and lyricism, rebutting accusations of wordiness and lack of realism. Favorably compares Blackmore to other Victorian rural novelists.Burris, Quincy Guy. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: His Life and Novels. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973. Discusses Blackmore’s attitudes about nature and civilization, analyzing plot, character, and theme. Compares Lorna Doone with other Blackmore novels, tracing symbol and imagery, recurring ideas, and character types.Dunn, Waldo Hilary. R. D. Blackmore. New York: Longmans, Green, 1956. Although marred by some inaccuracies about Blackmore’s father, provides the best introduction to his life and work. Discusses details of various editions and Blackmore’s changing views about Lorna Doone by comparing the prefaces to various editions of the novel.Elwin, Malcolm. Victorian Wallflowers. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1966. Presents Blackmore as an unjustly neglected author by providing a literary history of the period, comparing Blackmore’s works with Anthony Trollope’s and Thomas Hardy’s. Asserts Blackmore’s portrayal of rural England ranks with Dickens’ portraits of cockney London.Sutton, Max Keith. R. D. Blackmore. Boston: Twayne, 1979. Provides an excellent beginning source, the most detailed critical study of Lorna Doone. Short biography provides updated information about Blackmore’s life. Extensive discussion of the novel’s mythic nature, both as an initiation rite and as a re-creation of the story of Persephone and Demeter. Analyzes character, theme, symbol, and language.
Categories: Places