Judith Paris by Hugh Walpole (1931)

This novel was on the catalogue as ‘adventure fiction’, but a bit of a misfile there methinks. More a romantic family saga…

Review by Pat P:

I have read Judith Paris by Hugh Walpole, 1931, dedicated to John Galsworthy.  It is part of a historical saga about a family called Herries.  The saga extends over two centuries, 18th-19th. I have not read the other novels in the Herries series, but I gather from his “prefatory letter” to Galsworthy that it is less linear than Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga.  Judith’s mother was a gypsy who married a Herries, the eponymous hero of Rogue Herries.  Evidently Walpole had been asked to write a sequel to this work, which became Judith Paris. The story begins with the death of Rogue Paris and his wife.  Both parents perished in a hard winter at their small farm in Westmoreland, in the Lake District.  The new-born baby Judith rescued by some nearby Herries relatives who are minor gentlefolk.  She gets a little education in her uncle’s household, but grows into a wild, self-willed nature-loving child.  She is small and has fiery red hair.  She falls in love with a French smuggler and gambler, runs away and marries him.

The marriage is depicted as passionate and unexpectedly successful thanks to Judith’s feistiness and intelligence, her domestic and business talents, and her inheritance, the sheep-farm.  She manages the farm while Georges Paris is away; he continues with his smuggling, always returns and does not sell the farm over her head, as he could legally have done.  They have no children, to her regret.

After Georges’ trade is ruined by the French Revolution he sets up in London as a gambler, where he is joined by Judith.  They visit other branches of the Herries family who have made good in the late 18th century and are part of the nobility.  The pair live in London on the fringes of good society, always on the edge of financial disaster as Georges depends on his gambling talents for their support.  Georges is of course the adventurer type, and Judith accepts this, though she is more connected with respectable society via other branches of the Herries family.

The novel is in four parts, 757 pages in the edition I used, printed 1958.  In Part II irreconcilable differences begin to surface.  Georges will not modify his behaviour to please Judith.  He explains himself as follows (p.236).

“I am bad,” he began.  “I always told you that I was.  I have never had – what do you say? – any fine sense of morality.  I am not at all like your Sir Charles Grandison.  I despise the sentiments; they are for women.  I have the devil of a temper and I have never tried to check it.  My mother had it also.  For myself I think that if you understand my temper it is very agreeable. It makes a change.”

“Do you love me?” asked Judith suddenly.  She asked not at all from sentiment, but because whether he did or not was a practical question of importance.

“No,” he said. “No, Judith, I do not.  I love nobody.  I don’t know what it is to love anybody if by love you mean to be in a fever, to give up what you want, to run hurrying to the feet of the beloved.  I have never been in a fever about any person except to sleep with a woman, and then it is quickly over.  No, I do not love you.” (263-267)

The reference is to the 18th century novel by Samuel Richardson Sir Charles Grandison: A Man of Sentiment.  Richardson wrote this novel after his two best-selling epistolary novels about sentimental love in women, Pamela and Clarissa.

Walpole kills off Georges Paris at the end of Part II, whereas Judith’s adventures continue for another two parts.  Walpole writes romantic history.  He says so clearly in his prefatory letter:

“I can see that the Herries family offers, in its history, subject-matter for every kind of historian.  But my view of the Herries in these volumes is frankly a romantic one.”

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5 thoughts on “Judith Paris by Hugh Walpole (1931)

    • He does! Also, I think sagas and series were popular in the period. Walpole’s certainly were – I read that Judith Paris sold 20,000 in its first week of publication in 1931! I must read a Walpole myself soon – he was such an important literary figure in the 1920s and 30s, and like the Frankaus very rarely read now.

  1. Linking two of your posts, in Nella Last in the 1950s, Nella is reading The Herries Chronicle for comfort. A lot of Walpole’s work was very sentimental but has a charm about it. The three Jeremy books are a good example.

  2. Pingback: The Man with Red Hair by High Walpole (1925) | Reading 1900-1950

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