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Monday, June 13, 2016

Henry Kingsley on Little Rebellions

This is a book I mentioned in the May Reading Roundup posts. 
Westminster Abbey,
a church directly responsible to the Queen,
and a symbol of England's status
in the spiritual realm.

After reading The Babe by E. F. Benson, in which the character of the Babe finds inspiration and determination in Henry Kingsley's novel Ravenshoe, I decided to indulge my curiosity. I downloaded latter novel as a free eBook onto my Kindle. Then, I began reading it. And reading it. 

And reading it.

Like Westward Ho! by his brother Charles, Ravenshoe is a long, doorstopper of a novel. Or at least it seemed so, while reading it on my small, illuminated screen. The narrator's voice intrudes at times, a little more heavily than I would like. Still, it's an involving novel about life among the various classes of life in England in the mid 19th century. Lovers of Charles Dicken's meditations on the nitty-gritty of life across the vast social spectrum, and devotees of such TV series as Downton Abbey, may find this novel offers another lens though which to gaze back upon an earlier era of British life.

The Ravenshoes have a long family history, going back to 1066, an important time in English history. Throughout all the centuries, they have remained staunchly Catholic. A priest resides on the Ravenshoe family property, where he conducts services in the family church, and instructs the children in their religious education. But in the early 19th century, one man breaks with tradition. He is Densil Ravenshoe, the family heir. After the death of his first wife, he travels through Europe. When he returns, he brings back home a Protestant wife. 

You might wonder why Densil would do such a thing. It's not as if he has decided to renounce his own Catholicism. So why should he make trouble for himself like this? The thing is, that in his youth, he went away to Oxford, and began mixing with a crowd of people who espoused different beliefs and values than his Catholic priest. Although the priest came after him, convinced him to conform to expectations, and return home, Densil obviously resented being asked to tow the line. This, years later, was his act of rebellion. Still, talk about making your life difficult. Not only that, but putting the woman you've fallen in love with into a difficult situation. And all to get back at a priest who had "put him in his place" in his youth.

Thankfully, such an act resides entirely in the land of fiction. I mean, none of us would ever act out in such a way, right?

Dragon Dave

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