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Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2231

First published: 1931

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical chronicle

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Locale: England

Principal Characters:

Judith Herries, later, Judith Paris and the daughter of Rogue Herries

David Herries, her half brother

Francis Herries, her nephew

Jennifer, Francis’ wife

Reuben Sunwood ...

(The entire section contains 2231 words.)

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First published: 1931

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical chronicle

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Locale: England

Principal Characters:

Judith Herries, later, Judith Paris and the daughter of Rogue Herries

David Herries, her half brother

Francis Herries, her nephew

Jennifer, Francis’ wife

Reuben Sunwood, Judith’s cousin

Georges Paris, Judith’s husband

William Herries, Francis’ brother

Christabel, William’s wife

Walter Herries, William’s son

The Story:

On the wild winter night Judith Herries was born in the gloomy old house at Herries in Rosthwaite, her aged father and young gypsy mother both died. The country midwife laid out the parents with as much respect as she thought Rogue Herries and his strange wife deserved. She wrapped the baby warmly, for it was bitterly cold. Then she sat down with a bottle of strong drink to fortify her own thin blood. The wind rose, and a loose windowpane blew in. The snow drifted in upon the cradle, but the midwife slept on.

Squire Gauntry, tough and taciturn, came by tired from hunting. He stopped when he heard the child’s thin wail above the howling wind. Failing to arouse the stupid countrywoman, he took the baby home to his masculine hall until her half brother, David Herries, arrived to claim her.

Judith Herries grew up at Fell House, near Uldale, with David Herries and his family. David, however, was fifty-five years older than Judith, and he often clashed with his young sister. She was spanked many times; the most serious punishment came when she danced naked on the roof. Judith frequently visited Stone Ends, Squire Gauntry’s place, where there were no restrictions.

One significant visit came in her eleventh year, when she ran away from Fell House after being punished for disobedience. Rough Gauntry welcomed her to a strange gathering. There were two women present with the gentlemen who were drinking and playing cards. One was vast Emma, Gauntry’s mistress, who was always to be Judith’s friend, and the other was beautiful Madame Paris, the mother of Georges. Judith, only a year or so younger than Georges, enticed him away on a childish prank. When she kissed him, he gently pulled her hair, and she slapped him.

That night when Judith went to bed, she entered the room she usually slept in at Stone Ends. There she saw Georges’ beautiful mother standing naked beside the bed. On his knees before her, dressed only in his shirt, knelt a gentleman who was kissing Madame Paris’ knees. From that night on, Judith thought as a woman.

When she was twelve years old, she saw Georges again at a display of fireworks by the lake. Disobeying orders, she went out in a boat with him. His kisses that night were more grown-up.

When she was sixteen years old, Judith married Georges. It was a bad match in every way, except that Judith really loved her husband. Georges installed her at Watendlath, a remote northern farm. There she lived a lonely life. Georges, a smuggler, spent little time at home.

After some years, Georges and Judith went to London, where the smuggler turned gambler and intriguer to recoup their fortunes. During a comparatively harmonious interval, they attended the famous ball given by Will Herries.

Jennifer Cards was the belle of the ball. She was a strikingly beautiful woman of twenty-six years and still single by preference. Many of the married Herries men followed her like sheep. Christabel, Will’s wife, was much upset and scolded Jennifer for attending the ball without a chaperon. Jennifer answered roughly, and in her anger, she seized Christabel’s fan and broke it. That was the occasion for the great Herries quarrel. Ever after, Will and then his son Walter were intent on destroying Jennifer.

Their quarrel eventually involved Francis, Judith’s well-loved nephew, for Francis, thirty-six years old and a pathetic, futile man of deep sensibility, married Jennifer years after the incident.

Georges at last seemed to be serious in attempting to advance his fortunes. Judith never knew exactly what he was doing, but part of his project meant standing in well with Will Herries, who was a real power in the city. Mysterious men came and went in the Paris’ shabby rooms. Stane was the one whom Judith distrusted most, and often she begged Georges to discontinue his association with him. Her suspicions were verified one day when Georges came home exhausted and in wild despair. He told Judith that because he had struck a man, London would be closed to him for a while.

Despondent, Georges went to Christiana and returned to smuggling; Judith went to Watendlath. After one of his mysterious trips, Georges appeared haggard and upset; he told her that off Norway he choked Stane to death. Then he had overturned the small boat to make the death appear an accident and swam ashore. Although Georges was unsuspected, he needed Judith now. She had him to herself at last.

Then old Stane came, professing to seek shelter with his dead son’s friend. When he had satisfied his suspicion of Georges’ guilt, the powerful old man threw Georges over the railing of the landing and broke his back, killing him.

Now a widow, Judith moved to London. Nine years later, she went to stay with Francis and Jennifer. The beautiful Jennifer now had two children, John and Dorothy. Since she had never loved Francis, Jennifer felt no compulsion to keep his love. She gave herself to Fernyhirst, a neighbor. Although most of the people in the neighborhood knew of her infidelity, Francis shut his eyes to it.

Then came the news that Will Herries had bought Westaways, only eight miles away from Fell House, where Judith lived in the uneasy home of Jennifer and Francis. They were sure that Will meant to harm them for the slight to his wife years before; indeed, Will hated them savagely. It was Walter, however, who was to be the agent for his father’s hate.

Warren Forster brought the news of Will’s plans to Fell House. He was a tiny, kindly man who had long admired Judith. The two went riding one day, and out of pity and friendship, Judith gave herself to Warren, whose wife had left him years before.

Judith was now nearly forty years old, and she knew that she was carrying Warren’s child. She went to Paris with blowzy Emma, now on the stage. It was just after Waterloo, and Paris was filled with Germans and Englishmen. When Warren finally found them, he was a sick man.

While Judith and Warren dined in a small cafe one night, a vengeful Frenchman shot a Prussian sitting at the next table. In the excitement, Warren died. The shock unnerved Judith, and there, behind a screen, her son Adam was born.

In England, Walter was determined to harm Jennifer. He knew of her affair with Fernyhirst, and he also knew of a journey Francis was taking. After he sent a note of warning to the inn where Francis was staying, Francis returned unexpectedly to Fell House. There he found his wife’s lover in her room and fell on him savagely. Later, he overtook the fleeing Fernyhirst and fought a duel with him, but Fernyhirst ran away. In futile despair, Francis went to London and there he later killed himself.

Now Judith had to manage a shaken and crumpled Jennifer and fight a savage Walter. A riot was incited by Walter that caused the death of Reuben Sunwood, Judith’s kinsman and staunch friend, and a fire of mysterious origin broke out in the stables. Judith gave up her plan to return to Watendlath. For Jennifer’s sake, she and Adam went back to Fell House to stay.

Critical Evaluation:

JUDITH PARIS picks up the story of the Herries family where it left off in ROGUE HERRIES, the preceding volume of the Herries chronicle. Therefore, as a chronicle, the action of this second novel moves forward as the reader would expect; Hugh Walpole’s style, however, while remaining the same in many ways, differs significantly from the preceding novel. It is an interesting discovery that the stylistic changes in JUDITH PARIS, when compared with ROGUE HERRIES, appear as weaknesses; yet, ironically, they emerge as strengths in the context of this second novel.

JUDITH PARIS, like ROGUE HERRIES, is the story of one character. Judith enters the world at the moment of her parents’ death; however, she serves to combine and to perpetuate their strong characteristics. Judith, therefore, inherits aggressiveness and the need to dominate others from her father; fidelity and inexorable honesty from her mother. These prime forces in Judith’s personality make her a dynamic character, although she lacks the vitality and appeal of her father, the protagonist in ROGUE HERRIES. The major weakness in Walpole’s characterization of Judith is not only the lack of a “double” to clarify the protagonist’s character but the fact that there is none of the psychological introspection that figures so strongly in the “rogue’s” personality. In the preceding novel, Francis Herries’ idiosyncracies were, at once, the subject and the results of his search for self-realization and self-fulfillment. Judith’s personality, however, is resolved from the beginning. She inherits a combination of strong characteristics from both her parents with an added touch of practicality developed from her exposure to David Herries. Her personality remains consistent throughout the novel. She does not question her motives; she merely recognizes the qualities of her character and acts according to them.

Although not as intense as in ROGUE HERRIES, an inner struggle does take place in JUDITH PARIS. Judith’s actions are characterized by firm self-control, and she allows herself few indulgences but recognizes temptations as they arise. This is not to say that she does not relish life in all of its facets; like her father, the “rogue,” she exhibits the distinctive Walpole zest for life. Nevertheless, all her actions occur only after careful consideration, in accordance with the primary drives of her personality. Her father, in the preceding novel, does not display any appreciable self-control until the final portion when his destiny is fulfilled in Mirabell Starr, and he becomes an ennobled figure. Therefore, prudence assumes an exalted position in the value systems of the novels, and Judith’s character is enhanced by this quality. Her residence at Uldale, following Georges’ death, is a decision based on her loyalty to her nephew, Francis, and her need to dominate others, in this case to rescue the management of Fell House from the inept Jennifer. Although Judith suffers from Jennifer’s feeling of contempt toward her, she sacrifices her own comfort to obey the more powerful forces of her nature. Later, after Francis’ suicide, she remains at Fell House to manage the Uldale estate and provide the necessary obstacles to Will and Walter Herries’ insanely exaggerated need for revenge after the “broken fan” incident. She chooses to do this while yearning for the peace and good cheer she could find in her adored Watendlath. While Judith’s character is certainly forceful, the characterization is weakened by is predictability and its clearly resolved nature.

In spite of weak characterization, including the figures involved in the various subplots of the novel, JUDITH PARIS gathers its strength from features that were not so strongly developed in ROGUE HERRIES. In the second novel, historical setting plays a much more influential role, and Walpole’s use of the “sensational” is of a different nature from that in the preceding work. Where before the historic setting provided only a backdrop, a context, upon which the drama of the “rogue’s” life played itself out, in the present work historic events prove to be prime factors in the evolving action. The fall of the Bastille, for example, causes the outburst between David Herries and his son, Francis, leading eventually to the father’s death and the resultant chaos at Fell House. The social upheaval felt throughout Europe and England consequent to the French Revolution becomes an underlying motive for the growing dissension among various members of the Herries family. In a similar fashion, while Walpole’s use of the “sensational”—in the preceding novel it was the influence of supernatural forces—served before as an incidental force, in the second novel, the “sensational,” in the form of extreme violence and murder, plays a more substantial role. The French Revolution, Stane’s murder by Georges, Georges’ death at the hands of Stane’s father, the attack upon Fell House, and the violent death of Reuben Sunwood are all events that significantly affect the action of the novel. They are far from incidental occurrences.

In JUDITH PARIS, therefore, shallowness of characterization, lack of psychological investigation, and the failure to make characters better in condition or nature at the end of the novel, are all weaknesses compared to the first volume of the Herries chronicle. Nevertheless, the ill effects of these weaknesses subside somewhat in view of the more integral functions of historical setting and the use of the “sensational.” These positive features, along with the distinctive Walpole zest for life and his perceptive view of the conflict between good and evil forces, emerge as strengths to make JUDITH PARIS a work with a good story and memorable characters, the traditional requirements of a good novel.

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