Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

The third of Robert Smith Surtees’ novels treating the comic misadventures of “Cockney sportsman” John Jorrocks, HILLINGDON HALL is somewhat less episodic and more conventionally plotted than the picaresque JORROCKS’ JAUNTS AND JOLLITIES (1838) or HANDLEY CROSS (1843). The author continues the career of Jorrocks, now in his late middle age and fairly prosperous from the success of his London grocery business, who determines to settle down with his wife and hounds at a country estate in order to enjoy the vigorous life of a sporting squire. By placing his parvenu hero among the landed gentry, Surtees is able to develop the amusing possibilities of an idea that he had proposed in his first novel: that if Jorrocks’ lot had been “cast in the country instead of behind a counter, his keenness would have rendered him as conspicuous—if not as scientific—as the best of them.”

The test of this proposition occurs at Hillingdon Hall. In spite of his urban background in vulgar commerce, Jorrocks is entirely at ease among both the aristocrats and simple country folk of the vicinity. Jorrocks is, after all, “frank, hearty, open, generous, and hospitable”—possessing virtues certain to prevail no matter where fortune leads him. There is no question that the onetime grocer is shrewder than his lordly neighbors, the effete Duke of Donkeyton and his blue-blooded but insipid son, the Marquis of Bray. Furthermore, Jorrocks is...

(The entire section is 534 words.)