Category Archives: Poetry

Tales of Terror and Wonder by M.G. Lewis and Others

NPG D12778; 'Tales of wonder!' by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey

This is a compendium of late-eighteenth-century Gothic ballads, published in 1887 and comprising the contents of two collections: the anonymous Tales of Terror (1801) and M.G. Lewis’s collection, Tales of Wonder (1800). The style and subject matter of the poems will be familiar to all readers of Gothic literature from this period, being full of maidens in distress, brave knights, medieval trappings, ecclesiastical ruins and an array of ghosts, demons, goblins and sprites. Some of the pieces are not for the faint-of-heart – the word ‘gore’ appears twenty times across the two collections! Indeed, Lewis’s writing approaches knowing self-parody at times and his approach is often as blackly comic as it is horribly gruesome. There is more than a hint of this in the image above – James Gillray’s cartoon “Tales of wonder!” (1802) – which lampoons the presumed reading public to which Lewis (pictured below) catered. For an insightful analysis of the cartoon, see the first chapter of E.J. Clery’s The Rise of Supernatural Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 1995). The illustration at the bottom of the post depicts a scene from Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Glenfinlas’, which Lewis included in Tales of Wonder.


Textually, these volumes have proved notoriously problematic for scholars. Henry Morely, who edited this compilation for his ‘Universal Library’ series provides an introduction which, while charming in its biographical details, is entirely spurious in its description of the tales’ bibliographical history. I have used Morley’s texts, which are by far the most conveniently available in the public domain, but have corrected the dates of the individual collections. For a useful discussion of the tales and their publishing history, see Douglass H. Thomson’s annotated edition of Sir Walter Scott’s related Apology for Tales of Terror (1799), with which the anonymous Tales of Terror (1801) is often confused, as well as Thomson’s essay on the tales, ‘Mingled Measures: Gothic Parody in Tales of Wonder and Tales of Terror.

Tales of Terror and Wonder [Kindle]

Tales of Terror and Wonder [Epub]

Tales of Terror and Wonder [PDF]

Critical edition:

Lewis, M.G., Tales of Wonder, edited by Douglass H. Thomson (Broadview Press, 2009)

If anyone knows of a critical edition of Tales of Terror, I would love to hear from you, so that I can add the details to this post – see the contact form at the top of the blog.


The Ingoldsby Legends (1840-47) by R.H. Barham


The Reverend Richard Harris Barham was born in Canterbury in 1788 and educated at St Paul’s School and Brasenose College, Oxford. Ordained as a curate in 1813, he also served as a minor canon of St Paul’s Cathedral and as a priest at King’s College Chapel. He died in 1845. His Ingoldsby Legends are a series of comic poems and tales published in three ‘series’ in Bentley’s Miscellany during the 1830s and 1840s and collected in three volumes in 1840, 1842 and (posthumously) 1847. They were written under the pseudonym of Thomas Ingoldsby. Enormously popular throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, the poems and tales are witty pastiches of medieval literature and gothic romance, which draw playfully on Barham’s antiquarian knowledge.

The Ingoldsby Legends (1840-47) [Kindle]

The Ingoldsby Legends (1840-47) [Epub]

I have based this ebook on the HTML version at The Ex-Classics Web Site, a site well worth a visit, not least because it contains all the illustrations for the novel by George Curikshank and others. An illustrated edition is also available at the excellent eBooks at Adelaide. PDF editions are also available from those sites. Finally, I feel I should warn readers in advance of Barham’s use of the racist ‘n’ word, which I’ve preserved for purposes of literary and historical interest but (needless to say) definitely don’t endorse.