A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part One)

Barbara Steele

The Lancashire Novelist Largely because of a popular fascination with the occult, The Lancashire Witches is the only one of Ainsworth’s novels to have remained consistently in print to this day, often shelved alongside the work of Dennis Wheatley and Montague Summers (both of whom it undoubtedly influenced). The novel is also one of the… Continue reading A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part One)

A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part Two)

Barabara Steele

The Mark of Satan The heart of all good witchcraft stories is the compact with the Devil, the model for which is concisely provided by the Inquisitors Sprenger and Kramer in their Malleus Maleficarum: Now the method of profession is twofold. One is a solemn ceremony, like a solemn vow. The other is private, and… Continue reading A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part Two)

Finding Jack Vincent

A London Street Scene

As a child growing up in the 1970s, I possessed a passion for morbid nineteenth century popular literature. I had inherited this trait from my mother, a Catholic turned Spiritualist with a taste for gothic film and fiction. I was thus always dimly aware of the name ‘Jack Vincent’ through the cheap paperback anthologies of… Continue reading Finding Jack Vincent

‘The Phantom Steed’: The Outlaw Narrative of Rookwood

Tom Mix as Dick Turpin

During the fourth book of Ainsworth’s gothic novel Rookwood (1834), in a chapter entitled ‘The Phantom Steed,’ the highwayman Dick Turpin becomes aware of a ghostly horseman riding by his side in the midnight mist during his fabled ride to York. Book IV is in fact called ‘The Ride to York,’ and is the dramatic… Continue reading ‘The Phantom Steed’: The Outlaw Narrative of Rookwood

‘A Wrappage of Traditions’: Scott, Ainsworth and Nineteenth Century Narratives of British National Identity

THE ENGLISH think they know who they are.  It is nowadays often remarked that the English have lost their collective sense of national identity, while devolved government has strengthened that of the Welsh, the Northern Irish and, especially, the Scots.  ‘Being English,’ begins the preface to Jeremy Paxman’s excellent study The English: A Portrait of… Continue reading ‘A Wrappage of Traditions’: Scott, Ainsworth and Nineteenth Century Narratives of British National Identity

William Harrison Ainsworth: The Life and Adventures of the Lancashire Novelist

Introduction: The Victorian Critical Heritage The years have not been kind to the memory of the Manchester-born Victorian author William Harrison Ainsworth (1805 – 1882), a prolific English novelist once held in such high regard that many of his contemporaries viewed him as a natural successor to Sir Walter Scott. Ainsworth’s romances were hugely popular… Continue reading William Harrison Ainsworth: The Life and Adventures of the Lancashire Novelist

The Book of Stone: Ainsworth’s Gothic History of England

In 1840 William Harrison Ainsworth, the author of the infamous Jack Sheppard, emerged from the storm of the ‘Newgate Controversy’ with his critical reputation in tatters and his public popularity soaring. Outraged at being included in the ‘Newgate School,’ Dickens had quickly dissociated himself from his close friend Ainsworth and it was commonly believed that… Continue reading The Book of Stone: Ainsworth’s Gothic History of England

The ‘Design of Romance’: Rookwood, Scott and the Gothic

In a preface added to Rookwood for the edition of 1849, Ainsworth describes in some detail the construction of his famous romance (1). Like his first novel Sir John Chiverton (1826, written in collaboration with J.P. Aston), the inspiration for Rookwood came initially from the gothic charge which the author associated with an ancient building:… Continue reading The ‘Design of Romance’: Rookwood, Scott and the Gothic