Ovingdean Grange: A Tale of the South Downs (1879)

Ovingdean Grange: A Tale of the South Downs (1879) - William Harrison Ainsworth [These notes were made in 1986:]. In one sense, the sequel to Boscobel, in that this novel has at its historical core the flight of Charles II after his disastrous 1651 attempt to regain his kingdom. There is much of the same travelogue quality, especially in those parts relating to Charles himself, which makes me wonder if there were not some earlier work - "In the Footsteps of Charles" - on the fragments of which these two novels were written. Clavering Maunsel, the ostensible hero of the work, is as insipid a hero as one could possibly wish for, and Dulcie, his lady-love, doesn't have much more to distinguish her. Charles feels himself obliged to ensure that their marriage takes place, but somehow we have the feeling that the obstacles were never very serious. Some of the minor characters have some interest, notably the somewhat ambiguous Increase Micklegift, who changes sides with astonishing facility; mind you, even the prime villain is converted to Royalism by the end. No effort is made to probe the reasons for the Civil Wars, and their chief result, we would gather from this novel, was a certain inconvenience to the loyal gentry, and a general shift to a less becoming mode of dress! If a somewhat mechanical effort, yet the basic storytelling virtues are still all present in Ovingdean Grange.