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The Ingoldsby Legends

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The Ingoldsby Legends
Title page for The Ingoldsby Legends (1893 edition)
AuthorThomas Ingoldsby
GenreHumorous verse and prose short stories
PublisherR. Bentley & Son
Publication date
1840, 1842, 1847
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages3 vols.

The Ingoldsby Legends (full title: The Ingoldsby Legends, or Mirth and Marvels) is a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poems written supposedly by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, actually a pen-name of an English clergyman named Richard Harris Barham.



The legends were first printed during 1837 as a regular series in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany and later in New Monthly Magazine.[1] They proved immensely popular and were compiled into books published by Richard Bentley in 1840, 1842 and 1847. They remained popular during the 19th century, when they ran through many editions. They were illustrated by artists including George Cruikshank, John Leech and John Tenniel;[2] and Arthur Rackham (1898 edition).

As a priest of the Chapel Royal, with a private income,[3] Barham was not troubled with strenuous duties, and he had ample time to read, and to compose his stories and poems. Although the "legends" are based on folklore or other pre-existing sources, chiefly Kentish,[4] such as the "hand of glory", they are mostly humorous parodies or pastiches.



Barham introduces the collection with the statement that "The World, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh".[4]

The best-known poem in the collection is "The Jackdaw of Rheims", which is about a jackdaw that steals a cardinal's ring and is made a saint under the name Jem Crow.[5][6] The village pub in Denton, Kent, was renamed The Jackdaw Inn in 1963.

A popular prose story is that of "Grey Dolphin", a horse who helps save the life of his master, Sir Ralph de Shurland, by swimming to obtain a royal pardon for Sir Ralph's murder of a priest; but is then beheaded after a "hag" predicts that he will be the cause of Sir Ralph's death. Three years later, Sir Ralph encounters Grey Dolphin's skull and kicks it contemptuously, only for a tooth to pierce his foot and cause an infection, from which he dies – so fulfilling the prophecy. The tale is based on the traditional Isle of Sheppey legend of Sir Robert de Shurland, combined with another local legend of a drowned seaman buried but then exhumed at Chatham, and with the addition of much imaginative detail.[7] In an introductory note added to the story in 1840 (and writing as "Thomas Ingoldsby"), Barham claims descent from Sir Ralph de Shurland, and a right to bear the Shurland coat of arms alongside his own, which he does on the volume's title page.[8]

The collection also contains one of the earliest transcriptions of the song "A Franklyn's Dogge", an early version of the song "Bingo".

Many of the tales include brief jocular and derisory references to an antiquary named "Mr Simpkinson": this was a satirical version of the real-life antiquary John Britton.[9]

List of chapters

A Saint, from the "Jackdaw of Rheims", by Briton Rivière, 1868

The chapters comprise:[10]

  • "The Spectre of Tappington"
  • "The Nurse's Story: the Hand of Glory"
  • "Patty Morgan the Milkmaid's Story: 'Look at the Clock!'"
  • "Grey Dolphin: a legend of Sheppey"
  • "The Ghost"
  • "The Cynotaph"
  • "The Leech of Folkestone: Mrs Botherby's Story"
  • "The Legend of Hamilton Tighe"
  • "The Witches' Frolic"
  • "A Singular Passage in the Life of the Late Henry Harris, Doctor in Divinity"
  • "The Jackdaw of Rheims"
  • "A Lay of St Dunstan"
  • "A Lay of St Gengulphus"
  • "The Lay of St Odille"
  • "A Lay of St Nicholas"
  • "The Lady Rohesia"
  • "The Tragedy"
  • "Mr. Barney Maguire's Account of the Coronation"
  • "The 'Monstre' Balloon"
  • "The Execution: A Sporting Anecdote"
  • "Some Account of a New Play"
  • "Mr Peters's Story: the Bagman's Dog"
  • "Introduction to the Second Series"
  • "The Black Mousquetaire: a legend of France"
  • "Sir Rupert the Fearless: a legend of Germany"
  • "The Merchant of Venice: a legend of Italy"
  • "The Auto-Da-Fé: a legend of Spain"
  • "The Ingoldsby Penance!: a legend of Palestine and West Kent"
  • "Netley Abbey: a legend of Hampshire"
  • "Fragment"
  • "Nell Cook: a legend of the Dark Entry – the King's Scholar's story"
  • "Nursery Reminiscences"
  • "Aunt Fanny: a legend of a shirt"
  • "Misadventures at Margate: a legend of Jarvis's Jetty"
  • "The Smuggler's Leap: a legend of Thanet"
  • "Bloudie Jacke of Shrewsberrie: a legend of Shropshire"
  • "The Babes in the Woody; or, the Norfolk Tragedy"
  • "The Dead Drummer: a legend of Salisbury Plain"
  • "A Row in an Omnibus Box: a legend of the Haymarket"
  • "The Lay of St Cuthbert; or the Devil's Dinner-Party: a legend of the North Countree"
  • "The Lay of St Aloys: a legend of Blois"
  • "The Lay of the Old Woman Clothed in Grey: a legend of Dover"
  • "Raising the Devil: a legend of Cornelius Agrippa"
  • "Saint Medard: a legend of Africa"
  • "Preface to the Third Series"
  • "The Lord of Thoulouse: a legend of Languedoc"
  • "The Wedding-Day; or, The Buccaneer's Curse: a family legend"
  • "The Blasphemer's Warning: a lay of St Romwold"
  • "The Brothers Of Birchington: a lay of St Thomas à Becket"
  • "The Knight and the Lady: a domestic legend of the reign of Queen Anne"
  • "The House-Warming!!: a legend of Bleeding-Heart Yard"
  • "The Forlorn One"
  • "Jerry Jarvis's Wig: a legend of the Weald of Kent"
  • "Unsophisticated Wishes"
  • "Miscellaneous Poems"

Allusions and references in other works

  • In Winston Churchill's The Second World War, when describing the scientific report of the German beams to direct Luftwaffe bombing, given by R. V. Jones of Scientific Intelligence, he quotes from "The Dead Drummer": "now one Mr Jones comes forth and depones …"
  • In Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts, Chapter 11 "The Marches of Hungary", p. 312, on seeing a remarkably dressed old Hungarian soldier or official in a coach near the Danube in 1934, complete with brown fur and gold chain around his shoulders, a medal around his neck, and a scimitar across one knee: "('Twould have made you crazy' – the lines suddenly surfaced after years of oblivion – 'to see Esterhazy / with jools from his jasey / to his diamond boots.' Yes, indeed.)" [A jasey is a wig.]
  • In H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain describes himself as non-literary, claiming to have read regularly only the Bible and the Ingoldsby Legends. Later in the novel he quotes a poem that he attributes incorrectly to The Ingoldsby Legends, its actual source being Sir Walter Scott's epic poem Marmion.
  • In Henry James's 1888 essay "From London", his stay at Morley's Hotel[clarification needed] (and the recollection of the four-poster bed) brings to mind "The Ingoldsby Legends", he 'scarce knows why'.
  • The narrator in H. G. Wells' short story "The Red Room" (1894) refers to making up rhymes about the legend "Ingoldsby fashion" to calm himself.
  • In Sarah Grand's 1897 novel The Beth Book, the narrator and main character, Beth, mentions the Ingoldsby Legends as a favourite of her childhood, and recites a passage from "The Execution" that appears in the collection.
  • In J. Meade Falkner's 1903 novel The Nebuly Coat, Lord Blandamar amuses his wife by reading a new edition of the Ingoldsby Legends after dinner.
  • In E. Nesbit's The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), the children consult the Ingoldsby Legends when they want to improvise a magic ritual.
  • Rudyard Kipling's short story "The Dog Hervey" (1914), collected in A Diversity of Creatures (1917), references the dog Little Byngo from "A Lay of St Gengulphus".[11]
  • Dorothy L. Sayers has characters quote from The Ingoldsby Legends in her novels Whose Body?, Five Red Herrings, The Nine Tailors, and Gaudy Night.
  • In Anthony Powell's 1968 The Military Philosophers, Nick Jenkins mentions reading The Ingoldsby Legends when he needs relaxation from Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.
  • In Chapter 7 of Half Magic by Edward Eager, Katherine reads from The Ingoldsby Legends.
  • Edmund Wilson references the Ingoldsby Legends in Memoirs of Hecate County when he states that his friend, "staggered in tonight like the jackdaw of Rheims, cursed by bell and book, —". The two main characters then discuss the Ingoldsby Legends.
  • Kentish folk band Los Salvadores song "Smugglers' Leap" is based on the story of the same name featured in the Ingoldsby Legends.
  • P. G. Wodehouse refers to The Ingoldsby Legends in his novel A Prefect's Uncle (1903), comparing his title character to the lady in the earlier work "who didn't mind death, but who couldn't stand pinching".
  • Ngaio Marsh refers to The Ingoldsby Legends in Death in a White Tie. Troy tells about coming across Lord Tomnoddy and the hanging and the "extraordinary impression" it had on her. She also makes references in Surfeit of Lampreys, the second time (Chapter 19 Part 4) with reference to The Hand of Glory. She also makes brief mention of the work in Death and the Dancing Footman.
  • It has been said that the oldest documented usage of the phrase "two shakes of a lamb's tail" can be found within this compilation. Evidences are found within the stories The Babes In The Wood; Or, The Norfolk Tragedy, A Row In An Omnibus (Box): A Legend Of The Haymarket, and The Lay Of St Aloys: A Legend Of Blois.
  • In Angela Thirkell's novel Miss Bunting (1946) the Ingoldsby Legends are referred to repeatedly (along with Butler, Byron and W. S. Gilbert) for comic effect as the Mixo-Slavian maid must study them very seriously in her cultural classes as examples of English humour.

See also



  1. ^ Ian Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (London 1995) p. 472
  2. ^ Samuel, Raphael (1994). Theatres of Memory. Vol. 1. London: Verso. p. 447. ISBN 0860912094.
  3. ^ Ian Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (London, 1995), p. 57.
  4. ^ a b Samuel, Theatres of Memory, vol. 1, p. 443.
  5. ^ Dickens, C.; Ainsworth, W. H.; Smith, A. (1837). Bentley's Miscellany. Vol. 1. Richard Bentley. pp. 529–532. Retrieved 1 August 2022. they canoniz'd him by the name of Jem Crow!, text online with "Jim Crow".
  6. ^ "The Jackdaw of Rheims by Richard Harris Barham. Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. 1895. A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895".
  7. ^ Harris, Oliver D. (2023). ""Grey Dolphin" and the Horse Church, Minster in Sheppey: the construction of a legend". Archaeologia Cantiana. 144: 97–123.
  8. ^ Ingoldsby, Thomas (1840). The Ingoldsby Legends. Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley. pp. i, 64, 93.
  9. ^ Harper, Charles G. (1904). The Ingoldsby Country: literary landmarks of the "Ingoldsby Legends". London: A. & C. Black. pp. 19–20.
  10. ^ Ingloldsby contents
  11. ^ McGivering, John (2008). ""The Dog Hervey" Notes on the text". Readers' Guide. The Kipling Society. Retrieved 6 August 2019.