Read Rookwood by William Harrison Ainsworth Paul Curran Online


A rich and complex Gothic-Romance centring on the murky deeds of an ancient family. It is a wonderfully atmospheric piece that combines narrative, poetry, song, and descriptive writing to great effect. The character of Dick Turpin that we know today - the dashing highwaymen and unmatched horseman - can be said to stem directly from this novel, as the most famous part of thA rich and complex Gothic-Romance centring on the murky deeds of an ancient family. It is a wonderfully atmospheric piece that combines narrative, poetry, song, and descriptive writing to great effect. The character of Dick Turpin that we know today - the dashing highwaymen and unmatched horseman - can be said to stem directly from this novel, as the most famous part of the book (often published on its own in the past), Turpin’s Ride To York, is devoted to him. Although seemingly little known to a modern audience, Ainsworth’s "Rookwood" gave the world the image of the highwayman with which we are all so familiar. (Summary by paulc)...

Title : Rookwood
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 3723014
Format Type : MP3 Audio
Number of Pages : 261 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Rookwood Reviews

  • Kevin
    2019-03-25 11:48

    In between the cheesier pulp fiction that I really love, I thought it a good idea to soak up some classics via Librivox or Audible while I'm doing mundane work around the house. So far it has worked out splendidly. I'm not sure if this book is a classic. It's largely been forgotton and most likely not great literature, but it's certainly outside of my comfort zone -- from another time, place and mindset altogether. What a strange amalgamation it is! I confess I would probably never have finished such a rambling tome if left to reading it on my own, but somehow listening to the audio is far more palatable. It's a huge help listening to a talented volunteer Librivox reader full of enthusiasm for the work and with a highly skilled delivery far better than my own mental reading voice.The story has lots of elements you've seen elsewhere: the obligatory forced marriage of course, a ghost maybe, a family curse, a disinherited son, lots of skullduggery, intrigue and chase scenes, and best of all a notorious wise cracking highwayman who must surely have been the inspiration for Monty Python's Dennis Moore skits. Oh - and song! All the characters break into song about once every two or three pages it seems, not too dissimilar from Tolkien in that respect, though most of the songs here are borderline silly with improbable rhyme schemes a la Gilbert and Sullivan.So this is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bit of variety entertainment. I wonder if it is typical of novels written in the early 19th century. I can see why it was so popular in its time, trying as it does to pack many genres and even other forms of entertainment in all at once. So if one part Edgar Allen Poe, one part Daphne du Maurier, one part Hammer Horror, two parts Errol Flynn, two parts Sir Walter Scott, two more parts Lerner and Loewe, and one part Monty Python sounds appealing you might give this genre-bender a try.

  • Thom Swennes
    2019-03-19 16:30

    Qua sera sera ..... First published in 1834, Rookwood is the first novel of the little known but reasonably prolific author William Harrison Ainsworth. I have never read a book that serves as a better example of the evolution of the written novel. In the 19th Century fewer people were literate but those that were had a better command and fuller vocabulary than a century later. In this, as in all novels of this time, the author paints intricate and exacting portraits with a copious perfusion of descriptive adjectives as opposed to those of today that tend to paint in broad and bold strokes of explicit language and action.Rookwood is an old and distinguished English dynasty and also the name of the family manor. The inherent rights of Luke Bradley haven’t been honored. Ainsworth introduces a cavalcade of characters which include a mummified mother, Jack Palmer, Ronald Rookwood and a score of other minor characters with no single protagonist to take the lead. If I would have to choose a heroine it would undoubtedly be Black Bess (Dick Turpin’s trusty steed). Now that I have mentioned that well known highwayman I think many history and historical fiction lovers would cringe at the poetic license exercised by the author. Many fictions feats of daring are attributed to this criminal of note. The reader encounters a copious libation of prose, song and poetry that serves well to slow down the action and confuse the story. Despite these criticisms I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it to all readers interested in Victorian literature and aren’t overly concerned with accuracy.

  • Roth
    2019-02-27 17:30

    It took me a while to get into this, mainly because I wasn't expecting it to be quite so ridiculous. The plot centres on schemes of various parties as they lay claim to a large inheritance. Most of the characters are hilariously awful people, and a much romanticised Dick Turpin features heavily, because of course he does. The narrator was excellent, but Hainsworth's fussy and overly wordy style didn't grab me.

  • Adam Stevenson
    2019-03-14 17:48

    What a thrilling, ridiculous, overblown book this is.First off, it is a genius idea to mix the Gothic and Newgate novels for the simple reason that they don’t have any reason belonging together. One is a phantom, arial text full of ghosts, curses and shifting reality whilst the other is a deeply earthy, earth-bound text with material worries, slang and moments of down and dirty life. The only thing that really connects the two is moonlight.The Dick Turpin stuff invades the book, makes the Rookwood family drama stand and deliver and even makes off with it for the ride to York. If this is the story of the family history and struggle, then Turpin doesn’t need to be there. His owning of a marriage certificate becomes null and void when the lands don’t go with the title and his assistance of Luke is ultimately fruitless. There really is no need for him or the canting crew like the Knight of Malta - but that’s what makes it so fun, the gothic plot is already overloaded with high-blown ridiculousness, let’s have an earthy hero gallop in to mix stuff up. (Also, I am aware how strange it is that Ainsworth should decide that Dick Turpin of all people should be his gallant highwayman - he was more of a home invasion man at any rate).I also adored the gothic stuff. As Dick Turpin was the Newgate face, then Peter Bradley was the gothic. As one had jolly songs of cheating death, the other revelled in it. I think the Rookwoods were under seven curses. There were at least three ghosts. There was a sarcophagus with a built in booby trap. Minor characters were struck by lightning as mood music. Desiccated human arms were liberally tossed about. People were married in caves where saints starved and whipped themselves to death. Many wives were murdered. Many revenges were attempted. And I loved it. The marriage scene in the underground vault being the most overdone and demented things I have ever read.While not as good a writer as Dickens, Ainsworth can spin a tidy phrase and find a telling detail. He can also overload with details (often at some unusual times) yet somehow I found it often working. I was never unclear with this book, that’s for certain. I can’t wait to see if his other books are quite so fun.

  • Herman Gigglethorpe
    2019-02-24 14:40

    I should have dropped Rookwood as soon as I read the author's preface about how he took inspiration from Ann Radcliffe. As they say in every terrible horror short story, "curiosity got the best of me".Ainsworth is a slightly better writer than Radcliffe, so the nature descriptions and gratuitous poetry go on for a few pages at a time rather than 20 or so. You can practice the art of skipping pages here before going on to the more bloated Gothic novels. The narration is ornate even compared to other 19th century novels, and quoting a sample sentence from Rookwood would probably take at least a paragraph. He doesn't take it to Bulwer-Lytton extremes, but Ainsworth prose would make even the most charitable reader want to break out the red pen and start crossing out lines. The dialogue is probably worse than the narration. In addition to copying Radcliffe, Ainsworth copies Shakespeare. The result is much closer to William Ireland's "Vortigern and Rowena" instead of the real thing. Nobody says "why" when "wherefore" is an option, and many other things that probably no one said in the 1730s, such as "Hist!". (Although I admit to liking "Hist!") No one says "forsooth", even though this is exactly the kind of book where people would say that.The plot is about a possible curse on the Rookwood family that forces the first wife of every male Rookwood to die violently. It has a strange variant of a love triangle where one of the characters wants the other side to win--so that she can die and the other girl can marry Luke curse-free. Sir Luke Rookwood has mood swings that would make Romeo roll his eyes. Characters faint like in any Radcliffe novel, especially Eleanor. Dick Turpin and his horse Black Bess are the best part of the novel, and the ride to York is probably Ainsworth's invention rather than fact. Readers will mourn the death of the horse far more than any of the human characters. After reading this, I'm considering doing something called the "orb test" for any future Kindle book. The rules are simple: Search for the word "orb", and if it is ever used to mean "eye", you know you're reading a bad book.

  • Emily Hunger
    2019-03-05 18:33

    Ridiculous, but fun, and not without its charms. Ainsworth's "melodrama" (as he himself describes it) is often tempered by the writer's sense of humor and seeming awareness of some of its quirks. For example, by the fourth or fifth time a dismal character is invited to sing a cheerful song and ends up spouting a morbid verse about being buried alive, the other characters in the scene begin to react with an almost modern [.....] All in all, the story focuses more on plot and less on characters, though it can be argued that the many curses running through the narrative achieve their power by compelling characters to fulfill them. Curse fulfillment or prophecy fulfillment is often laughed off--"I would never do that!" etc.--only to end up being realized, perhaps through the agency of the curse itself, which could save this story from being too frustrating in terms of character behavior.Interestingly, there are few true villains here, and I often found myself wondering who I should be rooting for, since the group supporting the only truly "good" characters often serves as antagonists to the highwayman Dick Turpin, whose glorified criminal career the writer fully embraces, even so far as to jokingly ask why the second sons of modern (~1830s) families don't attempt a cushy career as a highwayman and return criminality to its former gentlemanly nature.

  • P Dreadful
    2019-03-14 18:27

    A typical Gothic fiction, Rookwood is a good read if you can stomach the songs, the poetry and the flowery language. It features underground vaults, mummified corpses tumbling out of tombs, paranormal summons, damsels in great distress, a sinister gypsy crone, adultery, death by lightening and creepy prophecies. As for the characters, I liked and wanted Luke Bradley to acquire the Rookwood title, but when he discarded Sybil without a thought (because Eleanor was prettier), I detested him. From a naive lovesick boy, he rapidly turned into a typical villainous person. Dick Turpin (turns out that he did exist) and his cronies were annoying. Turpin himself was all too eager to fall in with Luke's schemes, which was not very believable. The female characters acted foolishly, for most part. 3.5 stars.

  • Jolie
    2019-03-12 12:27

    Fantastically performed audio book – but very much a Gothic pulp fiction romance.

  • Nicholas Whyte
    2019-03-02 10:42 sprawling, verbose epic was written, according to the author, in 24 hours - NaNoWriMo-ers, eath your hearts out. It is a tale of family secrets, skullduggery and revenge, with added Dick Turpin, and the highlight is Turpin's epic ride from London to York near the end of the book, which is told rather well even though it barely fits with the rest of the plot.The most annoying thing about the book is the habit most of the characters have of bursting into song or reciting poetry without the slightest provocation. The second most annoying thing is the unbelievable verbosity of style - the river Don is described as "lutulent" when Turpin crosses it, and I have no idea what that word means. (NB this is the river Don of Doncaster rather than Aberdeen, Toronto or Rostov-na-Donu.)Ainsworth says in his introduction that he wanted to write a Mrs Radcliffe novel; I haven't read any of those, though I did rather bounce off Northanger Abbey which was a send-up of the genre. I was struck by the uneasy handling of heroism, virtue and social order. It begins with young Peter Bradley discovering that he is really the heir to the Rookwood estate, and appparently being set up as the hero; but he slips rather casually into the role of villain as the book progresses, without any decent signalling of the transition. The gypsies are individually quaint but collectively sinister. Ainsworth wants Turpin and the highwaymen to be heroes, and his pursuers buffoons, but can't quite deliver. The book's one memorable line is when Turpin and friends are drinking in a London tavern just before the ride to York. Turpin proclaims, "May each of us meet with the success he deserves," to which one of his fellow-highwaymen replies, "Egad! I hope not! I'm afraid, in that case, the chances would be against us." My actual reason for reading Rookwood is that it appears in Jacqueline Rayner's Doctor Who audio play, The Doomwood Curse, in which the Sixth Doctor and Charley Pollard are drawn into a world which seems to be based on Ainsworth's novel - particularly recommended because of India Fisher's bravura performance, and you don't need to know anything at all about Rookwood to enjoy the play.

  • Nancy Oakes
    2019-02-24 10:50

    Sometimes I'm in the mood for a good, old-fashioned gothic story, and this is one that I picked up based on a recommendation from someone. It's more like gothic romance (see wikipedia for the definition of "romance" under literary genres if you don't know what I mean...not to be confused with the "bucaneer gets the broad" type romance). There are actually 2 stories at work here that mesh...the first is the gothic part, the story of the Rookwoods, a noble family which seems destined for nothing but doom. Young Luke is the grandson of the sexton, whose daughter had a dalliance with the Rookwood lord who has just died at the beginning of the story. Lord Rookwood left behind a wife and a son, but Luke's grandfather passes on to Luke that his mother had actually at one point been married to the last lord. Luke wants to claim his title and marry Sybil, a gypsy girl. But wait! Piers Rookwood's son, Ranulph, is home from the continent, where he has fallen in love with a fair beauty, Eleanor Mowbray. The plot thickens as Lady Rookwood tries to keep the legal evidence of Luke's claim from falling into his hands. The second story (which I read someplace had actually been published as a separate adventure) concerns the highwayman Dick Turpin, who outwits his pursuers through clever use of disguise and the speed of his black steed, Bess. The story of his ride to York is amazing...a definite no-miss. Very much a glorification of the criminal -- Turpin's sense of honor and fairness makes him somewhat of a hero even though he's got a price on his head.Part ghost story, part gothic, part romance, this book does not have a dull moment and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in this genre.

  • Surreysmum
    2019-02-26 12:47

    [These notes were made in 1986; I read this in the Routledge, 1898 edition:]. One of the earliest of Ainsworth's productions, and - in its genre, that of the Radcliffean Romance - certainly one of his best. Mind you, it's a Radcliffean romance with a distinctly Ainsworthian twist, since Dick Turpin plays a major part in the action. His only concession to the prevailing gloom-and-shivers atmosphere is to conceal his identity for a while, and his attitude to the inevitable highwayman's end, a cheery bravado, is in distinct contrast to the horror of death evinced by other characters. The main characters - a lucky hero and a doomed one - are not only brothers but entwined in an amazingly contorted set of family relationships, family secrets and family crimes for generations past - there being a curse of wife-murder on the whole lot of them. The book opens spectacularly enough with a charnel-house scene, during which Luke Rookwood, our doomed hero, takes to carrying around his dead mother's hand! Luke is eventually caught between a fair lady (Eleanor) and a dark lady (a gypsy named Sybil), and the dark lady dies - and so does Luke, by kissing a poisoned lock of her hair! Ranulph, the 'good' hero, ends up with Eleanor, the curse of the house apparently removed, and all of his pesky blood-relatives conveniently removed from the scene by melodramatic deaths. I greatly enjoyed this one - it was fun. The highwayman's cant was a little tedious, but otherwise the thing was very well-written.

  • Sylvester
    2019-02-25 15:41

    This was a grab-bag of characters - no main protagonist here. It's gothic alright, people trapped in sepulchers, girls being forced into marriage with bad men, nasty aristocrats, battles over inheritance, family secrets - and those weren't the good parts! The stuff about the highwaymen was the best. Real highwaymen, as it turns out (Ainsworth wrote about real life criminals) - Dick Turpin and Thom King. And, contrary to some of the other reviewers, I loved all the ballads and songs. A lot of credit for my enjoyment should go to Paul Curran, the reader for Librivox, who was excellent, and read the book with all the enthusiasm and relish with which it was so obviously written. Ainsworth didn't go halfway. It's no wonder he was so popular in his day - apparently he outsold "Oliver Twist" for a bit. "Dick Turpin's Wild Ride" was my favorite by far, and I recommend that chapter to anyone who loves a rollicking, brash character set loose. I enjoyed "Rookwood" very much - thanks Mr. Curran, I don't think it would have been as good without you.

  • CC
    2019-03-26 12:52

    This is a true 'romance' in the classical sense of the word; love is a lynchpin of the plot, but moreso the travails and curses upon the doomed family of Rookwood. Interspersed with their dealings are the adventures of noble highwayman, Dick Turpin, who becomes the most compelling and lovable character among the lot. The descriptions and sense of poetry within the book are gorgeous, the language verbose and florid but not stifling. GOOD stuff.

  • Luis Rolando Durán
    2019-03-04 16:26

    Un lindo paseo por las aventuras del forajido justiciero y querido por todo el mundo. Dick Turpin es una de esas figuras que convence con su vida en búsqueda de la justicia y los valores. Apenas para los tiempos que corren.

  • Quirkyreader
    2019-03-07 18:39

    I read this book as part of my Forgotten Fiction series. My raking and following review say it all:

  • Julian Kirkman-Page
    2019-03-16 14:46

    The best of ainsworth. This is the one where he invents black bess, the famous horse of Dick Turpin that everyone thinks is genuine. Great thumping read, especially the ride to York.

  • Betsie Bush
    2019-03-18 16:41

    Paul Curren's recording of Rookwood brings this book alive. A remarkable adventure-romance... humorous, touching, exhilarating.

  • Stephen Basdeo
    2019-03-12 12:27

    One of the best novels I have ever read. Though you end up not caring about the main characters and focusing simply on Dick Turpin.

  • David B
    2019-03-25 13:34

    This book is just too fucking long and meandering, and life is too short.