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I am deep in The Essay currently, and working on a section about literary references. One I'm finding interesting is the heroine meeting the hero when he is on a horse - astride the mighty stallion, pulsing with power etcetc. Both Woolf and Holtby use it in the books I'm working on (Orlando and South Riding) but in interestingly different ways.

Can anyone think of any other examples, before 1928? I know about Jane Eyre, and there's another good one in Sense and Sensibility, but I'd like a few others if possible, especially in popular literature.

I might promise to be your slave forever if you can find me other examples, but I'd probably be lying. I'm off to look at TV Tropes, so if I'm not back soon, send a search-party....

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sartorresartus From: sartorresartus Date: January 10th, 2013 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is there not one in 'Return of the Native'? And I'm not sure but there might be one in Tess.
megan_peta From: megan_peta Date: January 10th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's been a VERY long time since I read it, but Wuthering Heights? Is that the right time frame? The situation seems really familiar.
altariel From: altariel Date: January 10th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can I signal boost this on my journal?
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Please do! It's for an essay due on Monday, and I'm trying to tidy up the section on intertextuality in Orlando and South Riding, and I'd like to be able to point at more than Jane Eyre, which Holtby's character directly references anyway. It's such a cliché of romantic fiction that I know there must be other examples, but they have all popped out of my head. And the S&S example, I now realise, was in the film only. :-(
altariel From: altariel Date: January 10th, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Posted. I also thought The Sheik must have something, but see the brilliant oursin is there already.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
She is amazingly good at such things, as at so much else. Thank you.
oxfordia From: oxfordia Date: January 10th, 2013 01:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course I'm not spot on but for a cynical reversal of the all-powerful male rider, there is DHL's St Mawr (Ah! Animal consciousness!). Rico is Lou's husband (see copy/paste below, courtesy of Gutenberg).

'In the inner dark she saw a handsome bay horse with his clean ears pricked like daggers from his naked head as he swung handsomely round to stare at the open doorway. He had big, black, brilliant eyes, with a sharp questioning glint, and that air of tense, alert quietness which betrays an animal that can be dangerous.

"Is he quiet?" Lou asked.

"Why--yes--my Lady! He's quiet, with those that know how to handle him. Cup! my boy! Cup, my beauty! Cup then! St. Mawr!"

Loquacious even with the animals, he went softly forward and laid his hand on the horse's shoulder, soft and quiet as a fly settling. Lou saw the brilliant skin of the horse crinkle a little in apprehensive anticipation, like the shadow of the descending hand on a bright red-gold liquid. But then the animal relaxed again.

"Quiet with those that know how to handle him, and a bit of a ruffian with those that don't. Isn't that the ticket, eh, St. Mawr?"

"What is his name?" Lou asked.

The man repeated it, with a slight Welsh twist--"He's from the Welsh borders, belonging to a Welsh gentleman, Mr. Griffith Edwards. But they're wanting to sell him."

"How old is he?" asked Lou.

"About seven years--seven years and five months," said Mr. Saintsbury, dropping his voice as if it were a secret. "Could one ride him in the Park?"

"Well--yes! I should say a gentleman who knew how to handle him could ride him very well and make a very handsome figure in the Park."

Lou at once decided that this handsome figure should be Rico's. For she was already half in love with St. Mawr.
oursin From: oursin Date: January 10th, 2013 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
And there's also Gerald forcing his mare to face the train under Gudrun's gaze in Women in Love:
Whilst the two girls waited, Gerald Crich trotted up on a red Arab mare. He rode well and softly, pleased with the delicate quivering of the creature between his knees. And he was very picturesque, at least in Gudrun's eyes, sitting soft and close on the slender red mare, whose long tail flowed on the air. He saluted the two girls, and drew up at the crossing to wait for the gate, looking down the railway for the approaching train. In spite of her ironic smile at his picturesqueness, Gudrun liked to look at him. He was well-set and easy, his face with its warm tan showed up his whitish, coarse moustache, and his blue eyes were full of sharp light as he watched the distance.

The locomotive chuffed slowly between the banks, hidden. The mare did not like it. She began to wince away, as if hurt by the unknown noise. But Gerald pulled her back and held her head to the gate. The sharp blasts of the chuffing engine broke with more and more force on her. The repeated sharp blows of unknown, terrifying noise struck through her till she was rocking with terror. She recoiled like a spring let go. But a glistening, half-smiling look came into Gerald's face. He brought her back again, inevitably.

The noise was released, the little locomotive with her clanking steel connecting-rod emerged on the highroad, clanking sharply. The mare rebounded like a drop of water from hot iron. Ursula and Gudrun pressed back into the hedge, in fear. But Gerald was heavy on the mare, and forced her back. It seemed as if he sank into her magnetically, and could thrust her back against herself.

'The fool!' cried Ursula loudly. 'Why doesn't he ride away till it's gone by?'

Gudrun was looking at him with black-dilated, spellbound eyes. But he sat glistening and obstinate, forcing the wheeling mare, which spun and swerved like a wind, and yet could not get out of the grasp of his will, nor escape from the mad clamour of terror that resounded through her, as the trucks thumped slowly, heavily, horrifying, one after the other, one pursuing the other, over the rails of the crossing.

gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
That could be useful - thanks.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Trust you to find a DHL link! Thanks.
oxfordia From: oxfordia Date: January 10th, 2013 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Lou gets her husband a horse and he's unable to ride it so she leaves him.

Can't believe I forgot the scene for Women in Love. I obviously need to read it again.
oursin From: oursin Date: January 10th, 2013 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's just too late - 1932 - but in Have His Carcase Harriet Vane feels strangely moved by the thought of Lord Peter on horseback.

I suspect that the novels of Ethel M Dell would provide a rich hunting ground, and of course the famous popular cultural referent involving men mastering horses in the 1920s would be EM Hull's The Sheik (1919).

On a higher cultural level, I'm trying to recollect whether there are any Grandcourt/Gwendolen scenes in Daniel Deronda that don't also involve her being mounted and an excellent horsewoman.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a really common trope, I know. I've been pointed at a very useful article which might lead me to a useful book, but I am currently in Hitchin, staying with a friend and will not be able to get to the university library until Saturday.

It's only a minor point, but it's a useful one because Woolf and Holtby use the same thing, both clearly in an ultra-intertextual way, so it makes a useful chunk of the essay - but I must have the citationz!!!

Thank you.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 10th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is there any way I can be of help? I'm very sorry if I missed out a citation.

gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bless you for coming here to reply. It's not that you missed out a citation - I really enjoyed your post - it's just that the tutor doesn't like web citations and requires "real book" references as far as possible. Thanks to the wonderful people here and on FB I have now collected together enough material so I can discuss Woolf's silly incident and Holtby's metatextual take on it.

Thank you so much.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 10th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
No problem! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

I'm probably about to ride off at a complete tangent, but in case it's of any help, I had a vague recollection of horse/horse-riding metaphors being used to describe literature in the 1920s and 1930s so I went off to have a look and located an online edition of Rebecca West's essay on "The Tosh Horse", 1922, New Statesman, Sept. 16th. Reprinted in Fleet Street: An Anthology of Modern Journalism. Ed. W. W. Cobbett and Sidney Dark. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1932. 188-193. It's not got anything about horse-riding heroes: it's about authors who ride the "tosh horse". Virginia Woolf also used a horsey metaphor to describe attitudes towards life and literature:

In "Middlebrow" Woolf defined the highbrow as "the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea," and a lowbrow as "a man or woman of thoroughbred vitality who rides his body in pursuit of a living at a gallop across life." As for middlebrows, they are not capable of riding at all, and the sight of them on horseback is ridiculous. Horses represent both art and sexuality. (Marcus 267)

Marcus, Jane. "'No More Horses': Virginia Woolf On Art And Propaganda." Women's Studies 4.2/3 (1977): 265-290.

An online version of "Middlebrow" can be found here: According to Melba Cuddy-Keane, it was "a letter she wrote, but never sent, to the editor of the New Statesman and Nation in 1932" (16)

You should be able to download an excerpt of Cuddy-Keane's book containing those details at

And in all probability that has absolutely no relevance to the subject of your essay at all. I had fun finding the quotes, though, so I hope you don't mind.

gillo From: gillo Date: January 11th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really need to find a way to fit that into my essay! Thank you again. My tutor misses a great deal by deriding the intellectual potential of the internet.
beer_good_foamy From: beer_good_foamy Date: January 10th, 2013 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Doesn't Don Quixote try this at one point? Which means people were already joking about it in the 17th century...

At this moment it so happened that a swineherd who was going through the
stubbles collecting a drove of pigs (for, without any apology, that is
what they are called) gave a blast of his horn to bring them together,
and forthwith it seemed to Don Quixote to be what he was expecting, the
signal of some dwarf announcing his arrival; and so with prodigious
satisfaction he rode up to the inn and to the ladies, who, seeing a man
of this sort approaching in full armour and with lance and buckler, were
turning in dismay into the inn, when Don Quixote, guessing their fear by
their flight, raising his pasteboard visor, disclosed his dry dusty
visage, and with courteous bearing and gentle voice addressed them, "Your
ladyships need not fly or fear any rudeness, for that it belongs not to
the order of knighthood which I profess to offer to anyone, much less to
highborn maidens as your appearance proclaims you to be." The girls were
looking at him and straining their eyes to make out the features which
the clumsy visor obscured, but when they heard themselves called maidens,
a thing so much out of their line, they could not restrain their
laughter, which made Don Quixote wax indignant, and say, "Modesty becomes
the fair, and moreover laughter that has little cause is great silliness;
this, however, I say not to pain or anger you, for my desire is none
other than to serve you."
executrix From: executrix Date: January 10th, 2013 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Look Up! Look Down!

Unfortunately the Old Spice commercial is post-1928...

I am much too lazy to look it up but I suspect that part of Arthur Donnithorne's attraction for poor Hetty in Adam Bede was that he *owned* a horse. This is probably also true of various Trollopian cads with working-class girlfriends.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Look Up! Look Down!

The Old Spice commercial has been claiming my brain, it's true. Hmm. Donnithorne would be a good one if true, as I am arguing Holtby has a debt to Eliot and well as Bronte in South Riding. Thanks.
executrix From: executrix Date: January 10th, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

This Roan Shall Be my T'roan

Now I'm brooding about whether Jane saving Rochester when he falls OFF his high horse (prefiguring her saving him when he's Eyeless in Gaza) is more or less subversive than Buffy being a Slayer rather than a Slayee and Darla being a predator rather than a victim.

BTW Hotspur uses being on horseback to avoid paying any attention to Kate, but of course they're married.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This Roan Shall Be my T'roan

Do you think he had a real horse on stage? Hotspur the Old Spice man?

executrix From: executrix Date: January 10th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This Roan Shall Be my T'roan

Aspects of Shakespearean staging are always controversial, but I suspect it was probably a wood prop horse that could just be folded up and hauled offstage like a Chair of State or Desdemona's bed.

On tour, if they were in an inn yard then they could easily hustle a real horse on and off, and they MUST have had some for transport.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This Roan Shall Be my T'roan

Henry IV i is a bit late for an inn-yard, possibly? I suppose one could have been brought through the tiring house. I wonder how a contemporary audience would have responded to a prop-horse when they were watching a chronicle play with REAL FIGHTINGZ in it.
executrix From: executrix Date: January 10th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This Roan Shall Be my T'roan

Hank the Cinq has a built-in out for Insufficiency of Real Fightingz (and, come to think of it, has Invisible Horseez).
gillo From: gillo Date: January 10th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This Roan Shall Be my T'roan

But sinews like a tiger pwn horsies? At least when stiffened.

Pondering - is the Chorus in Hal Five a response to whining about horsies and fightingz in his dad's plays?
xrseyre From: xrseyre Date: January 11th, 2013 08:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Popular? Hmmm. Leslie Charteris wrote, very early, "The White Rider". I *think* the hero is introduced doing what the title indicates (long time since I read it). But it's exactly 1928.
gillo From: gillo Date: January 11th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting - not quite what Woolf and Holtby were thinking about, I suspect. Thanks.
yvonnet From: yvonnet Date: January 11th, 2013 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.

And that all ended in tears :(

Excuse me I have to do the dishes/have a small fantasy about the young Franco Nero xx
gillo From: gillo Date: January 11th, 2013 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Trust you! Franco Nero was quite pretty back then, mind. They unaccountably left Shalott out of the film, though.
yvonnet From: yvonnet Date: January 11th, 2013 09:08 am (UTC) (Link)
BTW I don't think Willoughby was on a horse when he first met Marianne. I think Emma Thompson put that in!
gillo From: gillo Date: January 11th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I looked it up - he was out with dogs and gun, and definitely on foot. :-(

I've found several really useful examples, though.

Have you seen the Hollywood costumes exhibition at the V&A? Do you fancy going together? I still have free entry for two.
yvonnet From: yvonnet Date: January 12th, 2013 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
No I haven't and yes I'd like to. I have 2 for 1 on my Waterstones card but have no one to make a pair with. Billy no mates, me!( Big Bad Beck not interested!)
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Name: gillo
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