Tag Archives: Poetry

Legendary Tales (1830) by H. Fox Talbot

William_Henry_Fox_Talbot,_by_John_Moffat,_1864

This collection of stories in verse and prose was published in London in 1830 by James Ridgeway. Most of the pieces contain supernatural elements and all of them are in the tradition of the Gothic “first wave” of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Talbot translated or adapted them from various sources which had themselves collected them from the folklore of various European countries. The fashion for such stories is attested in Talbot’s correspondence (which you can read at the excellent website from which much of this biographical information is drawn) in which he states that he has written them to be published specifically to coincide with the London “season”.

Talbot was born in 1800. His father was William Davenport Talbot, who died when his son was only months old. Talbot’s mother, Elisabeth Theresa, remarried in 1804 to Captain Charles Fielding, who came to occupy in Talbot’s affections the place of his biological father.

Talbot is a well-known figure to historians of nineteenth-century culture, but not for his literary ventures (Legendary Tales is his only literary work). Rather, he is known as a pioneer of photography. While he was not the first to create a method of producing light-fast and permanent photographic images, Talbot is credited with the invention of the negative-positive process of reproducing pictures – that is, the method by which one negative is used to produce several positive reproductions. The image below, of a window of the family estate at Lacock Abbey, taken in 1835, is the earliest known surviving camera negative.

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In 1844-46, Talbot was also responsible for the first commercially-published photo-illustrated book – The Pencil of Nature, which is both a book of photographs, and a book about the process and art of photography, then a cutting-edge science.

While Talbot is well-known as a pioneer of photographic reproduction, his volume of Gothic tales relies on the mind’s eye in its evocation of the supernatural sublime and is an enjoyable reminder of the fashionable tastes of early-nineteenth-century society.

Legendary Tales [Kindle]

Legendary Tales [Epub]

Legendary Tales [PDF]

I have made very few edits to the text and have largely retained the original’s somewhat erratic use (or non-use) of speech marks and the convention of capitalising random nouns. In some cases, adjusting the settings of the e-reader display from ‘portrait’ to ‘landscape’ will ensure that poems with longer lines display correctly.

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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.

Matthew_Gregory_Lewis_by_Henry_William_Pickersgill

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.

glenfinlas

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

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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.