More Werewolves

GermanWoodcut1722

Below are links to two further significant werewolf books, both from the nineteenth century.

The first is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Were-Wolves, being an account of a terrible superstition (1865). This was my first brush with werewolf literature and I found it an engaging place to start. The work of a hugely prolific author, historian, antiquarian, folklorist and hymn-writer (most famously ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’), Baring-Gould’s is a level-headed and fascinating look at the werewolf tradition in European folklore. The book also takes in the related phenomenon of lycanthropy, culminating in a shocking account of the atrocities committed by the Gilles de Retz. The Book of Were-Wolves is sometimes unfairly dismissed as too dry and scholarly for the modern reader, but Baring-Gould’s linking of legend with accounts of historically-verifiable happenings is effectively achieved and the effect is often unnerving. At the same time, his determination to see the werewolf not as some ‘superphysical’ entity forgotten by modern science, but as a potent feature of the collective memory of myth is a compelling approach to the subject. It can be downloaded in multiple formats from Project Gutenberg.

The second work on the agenda is Clemence Housman’s The Were-Wolf (1896). Housman was the sister of the poet and classicist A.E. Housman and the author Laurence Housman. As well as being a writer, she was an active campaigner for woman’s suffrage. I had hoped to prepare an ebook edition of Housman’s book for download from this blog but, since it’s still in copyright in the UK, I won’t be able to do this. However, since this is one of the earliest examples of the werewolf novel, it would be a shame not to draw attention to the online version at Project Gutenberg. This edition is fully illustrated and available to download in multiple formats!

Werwolf

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “More Werewolves

  1. Pingback: ‘Margery of Quether’ (1891) and A Book of Ghosts (1904) by Sabine Baring-Gould | Mystery and Imagination

  2. Alex

    I have to say that I prefer Summer’s treatment of the werewolf to Baring-Gould. Both did have the advantage over later individuals of writing in a more open intellectual environment, but Summers was an occultist at heart, while Baring-Gould seemed to lack the same spark.

    Reply
    1. stylesofdying Post author

      You’ve intrigued me now. I’ll have to look up Summers’ writing on the subject. Summers is an author whose works I’ve yet to explore, but am very keen to. I bet both writers are more rigorous that Elliot “someone told me the story in a pub so it must be true” O’Donnell though!

      Reply
  3. Alex

    The Reverend Summers approached everything from a position of what could be called either great credulity or great faith, taking a very 16th century Catholic Doctrinal view on the question, which was his right as a priest without a parish (despite some slander, he was fully entitled to his holy orders and the title of reverend). Today, of course, and even in the 20s and 30s, the Catholic Church takes no official stance, but Summers had a respect for the older authorities. Following in their footsteps, and within the bounds his intense belief allowed him, he wrote with consistent and scholarly research, rarely accepting personal words unless he could verify them himself.

    He traveled a fair bit all over western and eastern Europe. I have to warn you now that his study on lycanthropy is not his study on vampires or witchcraft; it’s one, rather slim, volume. I didn’t feel he had the same interest in the topic that he demonstrated in his other works, but he writes with his characteristic verve, regardless. Dover Press has released a digital edition and I have the print one at home.

    I was going to suggest as a resource his ‘Gothic Quest’, but all the copies I’ve seen have been exorbitantly expensive. If you can find a copy of his Supernatural Omnibus, he wrote an excellent introduction; if you like, I can send you my copy of it.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s