Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

ROGUE HERRIES is the first novel of a tetralogy that traces in detail the story of an English family over a period of two hundred years. The novel, like the other installments of the Herries chronicle, is an ambitious effort on the part of Hugh Walpole. In addition to offering a work that conforms to the criteria of a “traditional” novel—characterized by memorable characters and a well-constructed plot—he incorporates features that have become indicative of his own personal style.

Most prominent in ROGUE HERRIES is the youthfulness and enthusiasm of its tone. The major characters, while differing in other ways, share a common zest for life. Francis, in the midst of his curious moods and mysterious motivations, loves drinking, cockfighting, and bullbaiting with other high-spirited men, and he relishes taking his horse Mameluke out into the countryside. David, Francis’ son, is tame in nature compared to his father; he comes to love the valley and mountains that make up Borrowdale where the Herries family lives; it is an organic fusion—David becoming a part of everything around him—that characterizes him throughout his life. Sarah Denburn, David’s wife, enthusiastically joins forces with David to find a means of escape from her uncle so that she might partake of the full life she envisions as David’s mate. It is Walpole’s design to have this zest for life identify his positive characters, while lethargy, as seen in Uncle Pomfret and Aunt Janice, identifies the negative personalities.

The malevolent characters that exist in the novel, as well as in most of Walpole’s works, demonstrate that the author sees a continuous conflict in the universe between good and evil forces. This theme is apparent in the stormy relationship between Francis Herries...

(The entire section is 738 words.)