The ‘Lancashire novelist’ and the Lancashire witches

Jeffrey Richards

in The Lancashire Witches

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780719062032
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700150 | DOI:
The ‘Lancashire novelist’ and the Lancashire witches

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter highlights the movement from contemporary stories about the Lancashire witches to those of later generations, in the form of W. Harrison Ainsworth's phenomenally popular novel of 1849, “The Lancashire Witches,” bringing the Lancashire witches to a modern audience. The exposition of the complex plot explains how Ainsworth wove into the historical sources appealing material about Lancashire identity and merry England, adding ingenious sub-plots and Gothic motifs, and peopling the whole with memorably realized characters. Ainsworth's decision to expand his Gothic panorama to embrace the dissolution of Whalley Abbey at one end and the visit of James I to Hoghton Tower at the other was not only dramatically successful but also historically percipient. In the Victorian age, as in the Jacobean, the Lancashire witches were made to serve narrative purposes other than their own.

Keywords: Lancashire novelist; Lancashire identity; Gothic motifs; Whalley Abbey; merry England

Chapter.  10404 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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