The Lorna Doone story

Summary

John Ridd of Somerset is twelve years old in 1673 when

his father is killed by Carver Doone, one of a murderous

outlaw band. John wants to avenge his father’s death, but

falls in love with Lorna Doone, who later turns out to be

Lorna Dugal, the daughter of a rich Lord. Carver Doone

intends to marry her to get her inheritance.

John’s uncle enlists the help of Judge Jeffreys to fight

the Doones. Soon afterwards, rebellion begins. John is

wrongly suspected of being a rebel fighting with the Duke

of Monmouth against King James II. However, he is

rescued from hanging and taken to London where he is

made a knight.

Back in Somerset, an attack is launched on the Doones.

They all die except Carver. At John and Lorna’s wedding,

Carver shoots Lorna. He is chased by John and perishes in

the marshland. Lorna recovers and they live happily for a

long time after.

Chapters 1–3

In 1673, John Ridd, the son of a farmer, is at school in

Devon. On his twelth birthday, he has to go back home.

His father has been killed by Carver Doone, one of an

outlaw band who live in a nearby valley and terrorise the

area. On the way back, John meets Benita, the servant of

a Lady who is travelling with her daughter to Watchet,

and later has to hide from the Doones, who are carrying

booty and a girl. John decides to avenge his father’s death.

Two years later he visits the Doone valley by chance

where he meets Lorna Doone, and likes her very much

in spite of her surname. A year later, Tom Faggus, John’s

mother’s cousin, comes to the farm. Though he has been a

highwayman since he lost his lands, he helps the poor and

sick. Six years go by, and John becomes a strong young

man.

Chapters 4–6

On his way to the Ridds’ on New Year’s Eve, John’s

mother’s uncle, Reuben Huckaback, is attacked by the

Doones. Having obtained no help from the local Judge,

Lord Wichehalse, Uncle Reuben writes to Judge Jeffreys in

London, and makes a plan to fight the Doones, but John

is worried because, after seven years, he has seen Lorna

again and is in love with her. John and Lorna meet again,

and Lorna tells him her story. She feels lonely. She can

not remember her parents. Only Sir Ensor Doone, her

grandfather and the Counsellor, who is the wisest of the

Doones, are kind to her. Carver wants to marry her. She

can only talk to her servant girl, Gwenny Carfax. Lorna

also tells John that the year before, a young man, Lord

Alan Brandir, came to the valley to take her away. He said

he was her cousin and had been made her guardian.

But Carver Doone killed him before she could escape.

Chapters 7–9

Jeremy Stickles, a servant at the law courts, brings a letter

to John. He is summoned to London. Judge Jeffreys wants

information about the Doones and about talk of rebellion

against James, King Charles II’s brother and heir. When

John gets home, rumours of a revolt begin. Lorna is

scared because the Counsellor wants her to marry his son,

Carver. Another Doone, Charlie, also wants to marry her.

Sir Ensor Doone falls ill and Carver becomes the leader

of the clan. In the meantime, Anita, one of John’s sisters,

falls in love with Tom Faggus. Stickles comes back to find

out about local plans to join the rebellion. John overhears

Carver and Lord Wichehalse’s plan to kill Stickles, and

rushes to warn him. Stickles knows the Doones and Lord

Wichehalse are involved in the rebellion and has plans to

kill the clan. John is very worried about Lorna’s fate.

Chapters 10–12

Gwenny asks John to go to the valley. Sir Ensor Doone is

dying. On his deathbed, he accepts Lorna and John’s love

and gives Lorna a glass necklace and ring that John takes

with him. Some time later, Tom Faggus, now a farmer,

tells John and Lorna they are diamonds. John goes back

to the valley and finds Lorna and Gwenny locked in and

hungry. He has to fight Charlie and another Doone to

rescue Lorna and Gwenny. Carver threatens to kill Lorna

if she doesn’t go back to the valley, and the Doones fail in

their attempts to kill Stickles and burn the Ridds’ farm.

Soldiers keep arriving in the area. The Cousellor visits the

farm and, through a subterfuge, recovers the necklace. In

the meantime, Jeremy Stickles meets Benita, who tells him

that on their way to Watchet the Doones had attacked

them and had stolen her Lady’s jewels and carried off her

daughter. The girl is Lorna.

Chapters 13–15

Under the leadership of Jeremy Stickles, the King’s soldiers

and local people attack the Doone valley but fail to defeat

the Doones. Lorna, now Lady Dugal, is summoned to

London. King Charles II dies and his brother becomes

King James II. There are rumours that the Duke of

Monmouth will lead a rebellion against him, and that

Judge Jeffreys is coming to hang the rebels. John is

wrongly taken for a rebel, but Stickles arrives just in time

and takes him to London to be tried, where John meets

Lorna again. There he saves Lord Brandir, Lorna’s uncle,

from being robbed and killed, and is made a knight by the

King.

Chapters 16–17

John goes back to his farm. With the help of his

neighbours, he launches a new attack on the Doone valley.

Only Carver survives. John and Lorna get permission to

marry but, at the wedding, Carver breaks into the church

and shoots Lorna. He is chased by John and perishes in

the thick mud of the marshland. John returns home and

Lorna recovers. They live happily and bring up Carver’s

son, Ensie.

Background and themes

Is Lorna Doone just a classic love story, or a piece of

history with a love story entwined? There seem to have

been stories in the area where Blackmore grew up about

a band of outlaws living on Exmoor in the seventeenth

century. They were said to have been a Stuart family who

lost their lands in Scotland and came south. Stories of

highwaymen and murderous cattle rustlers on Exmoor

were also common.

The central event towards the end of the novel is pure

history. The Monmouth Rebellion reached its bloody

and pitiful end in the ditches and dykes of Somerset and

anyone living in the area at that time would have been

caught up in it, on one side or the other. Judge Jeffreys is

a historical figure; although he comes out of the novel as a

person wholly on the side of the angels, perhaps the truth

is a little more complex.

Whether the background is based on truth or not, Lorna

Doone has all the ingredients of a classic Victorian love

story. The love is sustained over a long period and a secret

past eventually transforms the present. The love between

John and Lorna seems destined to be unrequited, given

the enmity between John’s people and Lorna’s. But the

star-crossed lovers overcome all the odds to meet, time

and again, and eventually marry. A fabulous inheritance

ensures that they will live happily ever after.

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