Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

THE FORTRESS is the third part of the six-part Herries chronicle, which covers more than two hundred years of English social history. The present work portrays the later life of Judith Paris and her quarrel with Walter. The scope of the chronicle is vast, and THE FORTRESS alone covers a space of more than fifty years and a host of people. Although at times THE FORTRESS stalls among the multitude of characters and their gossip, it has considerable narrative power. Hugh Walpole must be considered a competent popular novelist.

THE FORTRESS, while presenting important events in the story of the Herries family, is probably the weakest segment of the Herries chronicle. Although the action is intense in many spots, Walpole seems to feel the need to pad this novel with unnecessary descriptions of scenery and of social gatherings. Probably the strongest aspect of THE FORTRESS is its predominant theme of the conflict between good and evil forces. This theme informs all the novels in the Herries chronicle; therefore, the present novel is, in spite of its weaknesses, an important link in the series.

The main impetus for the novel’s action is the continuation of the “broken fan” feud begun in the preceding novel, JUDITH PARIS. The feud itself is a rather tepid affair, but the events and consequences that spring from it comprise the most intense action. This feud and Walter Herries’ egocentric greed for power and possessions lead to the death of Jennifer Herries, leaving Judith Paris to see the battle out to its conclusion, as well as providing the basis for the conflict between John and Uhland Herries, which ends in the tragic death of both. In the context of the events issuing from the feud, the thematic conflict of good versus evil is seen not so much in the senseless, petty indignation shown by one side of a family toward another, but,...

(The entire section is 782 words.)