Appropriately, Henry Kingsley dedicated his second and best novel, RAVENSHOE, to his older brother Charles; not only did the brothers hold each other in high esteem and affection, but their writing shared some common virtues and reflected similar interests and predilections. RAVENSHOE, like WESTWARD HO!, is distinguished by typical Kingsley virtues: lively descriptions of noble, manly deeds; beautiful pictures of English sea and countryside; a good-humored joviality of tone; and an invigorating sense of the author’s enthusiastic love of life. At the same time, Kingsley’s characteristic weaknesses are also evident in RAVENSHOE; the plot is encumbered with too many incidents, the style is careless, the narrative flow is disrupted by too frequent authorial intrusions, and the story line is often melodramatic and implausible.
The most attractive feature of the novel is the characterization of Charles Ravenshoe. He hovers somewhere between obstinacy and determination, foolishness and whimsy, rebelliousness and independence; in the end, however, he always has the reader’s affection and sympathy. The novel is essentially the story of the good-hearted, exuberant boy who must learn, through suffering and hardship, to accept the responsibilities of manhood. He needs to temper his boyish boisterousness with levelheaded, adult patience and discipline; his animal energy and high spirits must eventually find constructive and...
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