Richard Doddridge was the son of John Blackmore, the curate-in-charge of Longworth in Berkshire. Sadly, his mother died during an outbreak of typhus only a few months after his birth. Richard was brought up by his aunt, Mary Frances Knight, and her husband, Rev. Richard Gordon, at Elsfield in Oxfordshire; while his father returned to Devon, his childhood home. Richard only joined him in Culmstock, when he remarried in 1831.
From the age of twelve, Richard was educated at Blundellís School in Tiverton. Excelling in classical studies, he eventually won a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, from where he graduated in 1847. It was during his holidays from university that he made his first attempt at writing. He began a novel called 'The Maid of Sker' although it remained unfinished for many years.
After leaving Oxford, Richard became a private tutor for a short while, but soon decided upon a legal career. He was called to the bar in 1852, having entered the Middle Temple three years previously. In November 1853, at Holborn, Richard married Lucy Maguire, a twenty-six year old Roman Catholic. His wife was a little fragile and they therefore never had children; but they did adopt Eva, Lucy's seven-year-old niece. Blackmore's position at the Temple did not last very long. Ill-health forced him to retire from the law and, in 1854, he moved to Hamton Wick (Middlesex) in order to take up the post of classics master at the Wellesley House Grammar School in nearby Twickenham. In the same year, Blackmore published his first work of literature, 'Poems by Melanter,' followed by a second volume, 'Epullia,' in 1855. The two were an anonymous presentation and generally thought to be of little merit.
In the September, Richardís uncle, the Rev. H.H. Knight of Neath, died and left him a substantial sum of money. The would-be writer used it to purchase a sixteen acre plot of land in Teddington where he built himself 'Gomer House' - named after his pet spaniel - with a large market garden, completed in 1860. Unfortunately, though Blackman's horticultural knowledge was extensive, his business sense was not; and his fruit growing enterprise was never terribly successful, despite his having managed to keep his land out of the hands of London & South-West Railway Company.
In 1864, Blackmore published his first novel, Clara Vaughan, which was immediately recognized for its excellent qualities. Cradock Nowell followed in 1866, but it was not until 1869 that he really came to public attention with his Lorna Doone, produced in both triple and single volumes. This classic work, apparently based on West Country tradition, was a pioneer in the romantic revival of English fiction, having singular charm, vigour and imagination which have endured throughout the years. Though he continued to write lesser works, including the completion of the 'Maid of Sker,' they remain largely unknown:
1854: Poems by Melanter
Richard's wife died in 1888 but he lived on at Gomer House, under the watchful eyes of her nieces, Eva and Adalgisa Pinto-Leite. He finally died there after a long and painful illness, and nearly twelve years of widowhood. He was buried in Teddington Cemetery.
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