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Gothic Gothicism: Norse terror in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries.

A primary vehicle for the literary Gothic in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries was past superstition. The extent to which Old Norse tradition provided the basis for a subspecies of literary horror has been passed over in an expanding critical literature which has not otherwise missed out on cosmopolitan perspectives. (1) During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Norse literary tradition was translated into English in a series of more of less free adaptations. In turn, these adaptations inspired a not insignificant number of original compositions. (2) These latter tended to focus on references to soothsayers, ghosts, incantations, gory imagery and the eagerness for a bloody death.

Gothic was originally an ethnic definition describing (primarily in a historical perspective) what we today would term 'Germanic'. When Horace Walpole used 'Gothic' in the subtitle to his 1766 edition of The Castle of Otranto, he ignored the distinct ethnic meaning of the term, as well as its connotations of Germanic paganism, to exploit the secondary associations it had with all things medieval and archaic, and thereby also the irrational and superstitious. (3) But the ethnic sense remained in force. (4) The relatively limited repertoire of horrible images that British writers picked from the Norse tradition intersected with the contemporary fashion for terror writing. In this way, the ethno-cultural heritage of the Gothic past was effectively Gothicized.

In this article, I aim to bring critical attention to the use of Gothic/Norse terror in English writing from the late 1760s to the early nineteenth century. The central question is how writers negotiated Gothic superstition as part of their own past. A number of studies have detailed how the literary Gothic was intensely concerned with defining and delimiting national, religious and ethnic identities through invoking their opposites: the culturally abject. For instance, Ian Duncan provides a consciously stereotyped formula for the Gothic novel: it was 'to be set not just in the past but in the foreign past, and in historically and culturally enemy territory', often 'Catholic--French, Spanish or Italian--marking Catholicism as a spiritual orientalism in British Protestant imagination'. (5) Roman Catholicism was part of Britain's past, its religious excesses exorcised with the Reformation and the rise of Enlightenment reason.

My point of departure is that Gothic superstition provided another past for British writers to examine. But, in many ways, 'Gothic Gothicism' was less of an abject Other. Whereas writers of the literary Gothic showed Catholic oppression of human nature as resulting in a sickly effeminacy on which horrors of all kinds could pray, the Odinic religion called for a confrontation with the horror as a test of heroic manliness. Thus, the terrible religion of Odin provided a more wholesome dish of terror. A focus on interest in 'Gothic Gothicism' presents a new perspective which is intended to complicate the map of Gothic literature.

Gothic, Norse and English

To understand why Norse superstition provided an interesting route for writers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it is necessary to look at how the idea of the Gothic past was negotiated in ethnic discourses. The religion of Odin was seen to be constitutive of all pre-Christian Gothic Europe. The Germanic god Odinn was worshipped as Woden by the Anglo-Saxons before their conversion to Christianity. However, significant narrative records of the pagan religion are found only in Icelandic manuscripts, which Scandinavian antiquarians of the seventeenth century had made available in Latin translations. Citations appear in the works of English seventeenth-century scholars such as Robert Sheringham, Aylett Sammes and William Temple. (6) But the first small anthology devoted specifically to Norse poetry was Thomas Percy's Five Pieces of Runic Poetry Translated from the Islandic Language (1763). In the preface, Percy discusses 'Runic' (i.e., Old Norse) poetry as representative of Gothic (Germanic) culture and poetics generally. Christianity had early blotted out Gothic tradition over most of Europe, but the Scandinavians retained their paganism 'longer than any other of the Gothic tribes', thereby enabling its survival into the age of manuscript culture. (7)

Much of what was known about Norse (and, by extension, Gothic) culture and poetry in the eighteenth century came through the works of Paul-Henri Mallet, a Genevan professor in Copenhagen, who wrote Introduction a l'histoire du Danemarch (1755, 1763) and Monuments de la mythologie et de la poesie des Celtes, et particulierement des anciens Scandinaves (1756). In the latter work, Mallet translated important extracts from Eddic and Skaldic poetry into a modern European language for the first time. Mallet emphasized how the Odinic religion had been imported to the British Isles with Hengist and Horsa, who were traditionally said to be Jutes (from the now-Danish peninsula of Jutland). Thus, when Thomas Percy translated Mallet's works into a two-volume English edition in 1770, it was published under the title Northern Antiquities: or, A Description of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws of the Ancient Danes, and Other Northern Nations; Including Those of Our Own Saxon Ancestors. (8)

In political discourses, the Gothic past was synonymous with the heroic fight against despotic power. Mallet quotes Montesquieu's praise of 'the ancient Germans' in this respect at several important junctures. Mallet begins his history with the statement that the northern peoples had defeated the 'yoke of Rome', which had banished 'all elevation of sentiment, all things that were noble and manly'. (9)

The manners and religion of the Anglo-Saxons in the pre-Christian era was often discussed through reference to Norse poetry. James Macpherson, for example, in his An Introduction to the History of Great Britain and Ireland (1771; revised editions, 1772, 1773), discusses Anglo-Saxon paganism primarily through information derived from Latin translations of Icelandic manuscripts. Macpherson was known primarily as a champion of Celtic Highland literature, through his purported translations of the third-century Gaelic bard Ossian. But, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, he would not remain the only one. The Celtic traditions of vernacular poetry (Irish, Welsh and Scottish Highland) were collected, translated and presented as unique national treasures vying for superiority and originality. (10) There can be little doubt that the discovery of these national poetic pasts provided an impetus for the promotion of Gothic poetry. Thomas Gray, whose Norse Odes, published 1768, were an inspiration for most subsequent literary experiments into Gothic/Norse horror, wrote in letters of how he had 'gone mad about' the Ossian poems, especially their ghostliness and songs of 'other worlds'. (11)

Confusion between Gothic and Celtic pasts was widespread, and some writers used Norse tradition as applicable to pre-Christian Britain generally. This is the case in Ann Radcliffe's long poem Salisbury Plains-Stonehenge, published posthumously in 1826. (12) It is a dark story of the strange chalk plateau of Salisbury Plain as a place cursed by evil forces. The plot revolves around the dragon-like monster, Warwolf, a 'tyrant daemon', who will not obey the good god Odin and instead draws his powers from the evil Loke and Hela, the mistress of the Norse underworld. However, Warwolf is defeated by a courageous druid (a Celtic priest), chanting runic incantations (Norse) over his head. Radcliffe's ethnically confused poem dreams up an etiology for the Stonehenge megaliths (which have no relation to Norse culture): they are Warwolfs petrified fangs. In presenting the story of a heroic druid, Radcliffe was influenced by William Mason's drama Caractacus (1759), a legend of patriotic druidic resistance to the Roman invasion, a drama she quotes six times in her novels. (13) But Radcliffe replaces druidic defeat over evil with ideas of Odin's 'famed song of Peace' and 'deeds of Balder good' ransacked from Paul-Henri Mallet's work.

Some English antiquarians used the Gothic/Norse lore in direct competition to Celtic literature. (14) The Ossianic tradition came under attack from the lowland Scot John Pinkerton, who led a partly racist diatribe against Celtic culture in his An Enquiry into the History of Scotland (1789). One of his many anti-Celtic claims was that the Gothic poets embraced the idea of death and the horror of the end of the world (Ragnarok), while the Celtic bards were given to whinging:
   The Celtic poetry, as that of a weak and dispirited people might be
   expected to be, is almost wholly melancholic in a supreme degree.
   All the mock Ossian is full of deaths, misery, and madness. The
   Gothic poetry is the exact reverse of this, being replete with that
   warm alacrity of mind, cheerful courage, and quick wisdom, which
   attend superior talent. Death, which is such a whining and dreadful
   affair in Celtic poetry, is in the Gothic a matter of laughter.

Pinkerton's praise of the ancient Goths being allied with the terror of death refers to the poem Thomas Percy was the first to translate into English in full as 'The Dying Ode of Regnar Lodbrog'. This was a Skaldic composition, purportedly composed ex tempore as the ninth-century legendary Danish king was succumbing to deadly venom in a Northumbrian snake pit. In the first 23 stanzas, Regnar recounts his many heroic and bloody exploits on the battlefield. In the remaining six stanzas, he contemplates death with joyful expectation, convinced that he, like other brave warriors who die at the hands of an enemy, would be transported to an honourable seat in Odin's Valhalla (literally, 'Hall of the Slain'). There, warriors will enjoy fighting all day in preparation for the last battle against evil forces, and at night Valkyries, Norse female deities, wait on them with cups of mead. With these desirable prospects, Regnar's exit line is: 'I die laughing'. This was quoted time and again as the epitome of Gothic heroism. (16) Another oft-quoted example came from the same poem. Regnar consoles himself that, in Valhalla, he will soon be drinking beer 'out of the skulls of our enemies'. This was a truly horrific image of heroic hardiness that became a standard reference in Norse-related discourses. The fact that the image was based on a mistranslation came to attention in the early nineteenth century, but the image was too potent to let go, so it continued to reverberate in poetic compositions. (17)

Gothicism, the idea of an ancient libertarian tradition, was seen as part of a pan-European tradition, which effective disqualified it from becoming a factor in what some historians, most notably Linda Colley and Gerald Newman, have described as the Francophobe and anti-Catholic strain in British culture: antipathies constitutive of British nationalism. (18) Nonetheless, British claims of exclusiveness to the Gothic ideals of liberty were often heard. It was felt that Britain had preserved Gothic virtues and ancient laws to a higher degree than southern Europe, since the nations there had succumbed to Catholic tyranny. Ethno-Gothic origins could at times be evoked as a countermeasure to Catholicism. From the time of the Reformation, the Gothic tribes' defeat of the Roman Empire gave rise to a typology that correlated the secular victories with the idea that the Germanic people had defeated decadence and tyranny. (19)

Some backing for this was found in the poetry. In Regnar's Death Song, the reference to celebrating a 'mass of weapons' was generally seen as a sneer on the Catholic rite. In a note to the translation printed in Five Pieces of Runic Poetry, Thomas Percy explained that the Scandinavians' 'piratical expeditions into the southern countries' had given them a notion of Christian practices there, which was 'by no means a favourable one: they considered it as the religion of cowards'. (20) The anti-Catholic subtext of this reference to 'southern countries' was made explicit by John Pinkerton, who wrote that 'Ragnar Lodbrog's expression of a mass of weapons shews the greatest contempt of the then Christian superstition, and its professors'. Pinkerton went on to consider 'the severe wisdom' of the uncivilized Scandinavians as an antidote to 'the absurd superstition, and foolish reading of clergy, during the darker ages'. (21)

Speculating in Norse horror was advantageous in terms of opening up a resource of horrific imagery suited for literary exploitation. But it was also ideologically difficult to handle. On the one hand, it was invigorating to look back to an ancestral past that was heroically allied with 'the terrible', rather than shying away from it. On the other hand, the magic incantations and ghosts in Norse tradition were symbolic of mankind's superstitious yoke over which Protestant reason had triumphed. Focussing on a select number of case studies, we will examine this tension.

Norse Odes

The starting point for 'Gothic Gothicism' was Thomas Gray's 'The Fatal Sisters. An Ode' and 'The Descent of Odin. An Ode', both composed in 1761, but not published before 1768. The former is based on the poem Darradarljod, included in chapter 156 of Njals Saga (c. 1280), which recounts a horrible vision experienced by a native of Scottish Caithness. The latter is based on the mythological poem Vegtamskvida from the Poetic Edda. The English title 'The Fatal Sisters' refers to the Valkyries, whom Gray describes in the headnote as 'female divinities, servants of Odin (or Woden,) in the Gothic mythology'; they are the 'Chusers of the Slain' on the battlefield. Gray relocates the scene in Caithness from a bower, where women work, to a more ominous 'opening in the rocks', where the spectator observes these deities working on a horrible loom. They are seen weaving the fates of warriors participating in the battle of Clontarf, which took place near Dublin in 1014:
   See the griesly [sic] texture grow!
   ('Tis of human entrails made,)
   And the weights, that play below,
   Each a gasping warrior's head (ll. 9-12) (22)

With the translation of the two odes, Gray wanted to delineate a pedigree of poetic imagery for a vernacular tradition of English verse. In the advertisement to 'The Fatal Sisters', Gray explained that the paraphrases of superstitious horrors had been composed as part of an aborted plan to write a history of English poetry. The project would have included 'specimens of the Style that reigned in ancient times among the neighbouring nations or those who had subdued the greater part of this Island, and were our Progenitors'. (23)

An undated entry in Gray's Commonplace Book, entitled 'Gothic', refers to the poem as 'The Song of the Weird Sisters, or Valkyries'. (24) This is important, since it links the poem to a native tradition for the literary exploitation of superstitious beliefs. Early Shakespeare criticism had pointed out that a garbled representation of the Norse Valkyries had survived from the Viking Age in Scottish superstition. This was supposedly the origin of the Weird Sisters in Macbeth. (25)

It is now well-known that Gray added to the Latin version of the poem a considerable amount of sanguinary detail. (26) But the extent to which Gray connected his Norse Odes with the theme heroism has been neglected in critical responses. Gray gave his source for both poems as the translations by Danish antiquary Thomas Bartholin in Antiquitatum Danicarum de causis contempts a Danis adhuc gentilibus mortis (1689; Danish Antiquities on the Pagan Danes' Disdain of Death). (27) Everything included in this quarto of 736 pages worked towards substantiating the claims of the ancestors' extreme heroism, as indicated by its title. Relying heavily on Icelandic literary sources, Bartholin intended the work to increase the reputation of the Danes abroad, as well as to bolster the bravery of the soldiers fighting in Denmark's many wars. (28) Nonetheless, Bartholin's book was generally read as a standard work on the pan-European Gothic tradition.

Gray had already used the image of the Fatal Sisters in his poem 'The Bard' (1757), about Edward I's alleged massacre of the bards upon his conquest of Wales in 1282. The Norse deities are here misplaced to a Celtic context, appearing as a 'grisly band' of 'avengers of their native land', who will 'weave' a terrible fate for Edward's bloodline (ll. 49-50). It is clear that Gray invests the image as a symbol of national heroic resistance. In chapter ten, Bartholin gave an account of how poetry was used to support and embolden the heroic efforts of the Norse warriors. (29) Inspired by this, Thomas Percy, Gray's contemporary, saw a connection between the courage displayed on the battlefield and the use of poetic metaphors: 'That daring spirit and vigour of the imagination, which distinguishes the northern warriors, naturally inclined them to bold and swelling figures'. (30) Thus, the terrible sublime of Norse poetry was seen as in some ways inseparable from a conception of the heroic. The literary historian Thomas Warton commented on Norse poetics that it was 'a national science', an 'epidemic enthusiasm', in which both kings and warriors partook. The sublime imagery served as encouragement for heroic deeds. This was part of an ancient Gothic poetic tradition, which received 'a tincture of horror' in the hands of Norse poets, when exposed to the influence of an inhospitable Scandinavian climate. (31)

In reviving Gothic/Norse poetry, Gray appears to have had other motives than merely documenting a national history of poetry. Past horrors were unleashed upon the present with the hope that its cultural power could be recovered through retrospection. When he elsewhere spoke of the Norse influence on European history, it was in connection with its ability to counteract effeminacy, luxury and the acceptance of tyranny. Despite the Northern barbarism and violence, Gray appears to have considered the Northern irruptions a felix culpa in the history of civilisation's progress. So it is presented in a draft note to the unfinished poem 'The Alliance of Education and Government':
   Those invasions of effeminate Southern nations by the warlike
   Northern people, seem (in spite of all the terror, mischief, and
   ignorance which they brought with them) to be necessary evils; in
   order to revive the spirit of mankind, softened and broken by the
   arts of commerce, to restore them to their native liberty and
   equality, and to give them again the power of supporting danger and
   hardship; so a comet, with all the horrors that attend it as it
   passes through our system, brings a supply of warmth and light to
   the sun, and of moisture to the air. (32)

If we look for thematic coherence in Gray's literary production, I will suggest that he in Bartholin's thesis on the Northerners' enthusiast zeal found the origin of the patriotic spirit he had eulogized in his commercial breakthrough poem 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard' (1751). Among the heroes to whose deeds the present owes thanks, Gray included the Civil War champions John Hampden, John Milton and Oliver Cromwell. Their patriotism may have been uncontainable and brought devastation to the nation, but the havoc that followed in the wake of their misguided heroics would eventually steer English history onto a new path of liberty and equality.

Gothic Heroic Romance

The heroic is a theme in the first Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto (1764). In the preface to the 1766 edition, Horace Walpole explains that his intention had been to draw on the supernatural fantasies of the medieval romances and combine them with the species of modern romantic fiction. (33) Ellen Brink has argued that the ethos of old chivalrous romances is a spectre looming over Manfred's house, as the Castle of Otranto is haunted by the ghost of the brave warrior Alfonso the Good. Walpole presents the manly heroism of the old romances as a code Manfred (the usurper of a noble title) is not able to take up. The symbolic collapse of the heroic code is the arrival of a giant sword, which needs a hundred men to carry it. The young men who seem to 'faint under the weight of it' exemplify the failure of carrying the heroic past into the present. (34) The sword has a gnomic inscription which indicates the rightful heir to title and estate. Students of the Germanic Middle Ages will readily see that Walpole's sword is modeled on the magic blades of medieval romances. One such sword, known to eighteenthcentury antiquarianism, was Tyrfing, which Thomas Warton pointed to as having influenced English medieval romances. (35) We will later attend to this legendary sword and how it became a benchmark for the heroic, but it is first useful to make a note of the intensity with which definitions of heroism came under pressure in literary productions at this time.

James Watt, writing on the Gothic mode, has documented how patriotic and loyalist romances emerged in the years following the American Revolution. Some of these dealt with legendary medieval themes in verse. A common thread was that the proud military and chivalric associations of the heroic Middle Ages were brought into focus. (36) The generic title 'romance' was often used by novelists in the literary Gothic mode. This provides an interesting scope for comparison, since the extent to which the medieval chivalrous romance could be traced to an influence from sagas and Skaldic poetry was widely discussed at the time. Clara Reeve, the author of the Walpole-inspired The Old English Baron (1778), summed up the Scandinavian origin thesis in her thesis The Progress of Romance (1785), albeit without wholly endorsing it. (37)

In this connection, it is instructive to refer to Richard Hole's Arthur, or the Northern Enchantment: A Poetical Romance (1789). In the preface, Hole explains that the poem's 'mixture of Scandinavian manners with the ideal ones ... of chivalry' makes sense because 'they were originally the same'. (38) Hole's romance was, like Walpole's novel, intended as 'an imitation of the old metrical Romance', those 'old Gothic fables' (iv). Hole saw Gothic heroism as fed by the terrifying superstitions of the Odinic religion. In a key scene, Urda (the Norse Norn who was said to spin the fate of men) appears to the group of invading Norse warriors in a 'phantom' shape surrounded by 'Black vapors, such as clothe the wintry night', shaking the 'flaming lance distain'd with gore' to instill the Germanic invaders of Britain with a heroic nerve (118-19). As Hole explains in the preface, the sublime Norse image of the Valkyries are accommodated to that of the lowlier witches in Macbeth, fitting it to 'our British system of Demonology' (vii-viii). This shows both an interest in Gothicizing Gothic culture, as well as showing it as a national heritage.

Hole was genuinely interested in how an image of heroism was negotiated in national literature. This is most clear in his posthumously published essay on the character of Odysseus, in which he urges that Odysseus 'exemplary affection' must not be judged from a modern standpoint of divine revelation but according to the religious principles which prevailed in Homer's day. (39) In his Arthur, the Gothic warriors' religious beliefs are exposed as fanatical and misguided and yet they underwrite the celebrated penchant for heroism. Also in 1789, Hole published an English paraphrase of a passage from the late thirteenth-century Njals Saga, which he entitled 'The Tomb of Gunnar'. The poem was adapted from Bartholin's Latin translation. We hear of how the ghost of Gunnar, a famous warrior of outstanding prowess, awakens in his tomb, chanting a 'loud-resounding song'. When Hogner, Gunnar's son, arrives with his friend Sarhedine (versions of the saga-names Hogni and Skarphedinn), Gunnar's song appears to be a poetic clarioncall to martial fortitude: 'Unmanly flight the brave despise/ Conquest of death is the warrior's prize!' (40) Hole may have seen this as a dramatization of past heroic virtues speaking to a new age through the medium of verse.

An altered version of Hole's poem was published in the collection Poems Chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall (1792). Hole's contribution was printed here alongside a number of other Norse translations concerned with the heroic (including Regnar's Death Song). These shared space with several patriotic contributions and alarmist pieces. The collection was edited by the later prolific anti-Jacobin Richard Polwhele. Gothic heroics could evidently be enlisted as part of loyalist discourses.

However, at a time of war with revolutionary France, the Gothic belligerency also came in for critique, as it can be seen in Joseph Cottle's nationalist epic Alfred (1800). The plot of the first Book takes place in ninth-century Denmark, where the Danish prince Ivar, son of Regner Lodbrog, has returned from England to enlist men for an invasion with the purpose of revenging the murder of his father. In an early note, Cottle admires the Gothic hope for a heroic death as enabling 'the Scandinavians to produce the changes in Europe which it [sic] did, and finally to triumph over Rome herself'. (41) But Cottle's hero is Alfred the Great, represented as essentially a pacifist king, who is forced into defending England against her aggressive invaders. In the introduction, Cottle writes that the Norse beliefs in dark magic were included to contrast with the Christianity of King Alfred.

Although Cottle's objective was to promote the simple beauty of true, intuitive Christianity, he was well aware that the thrilling horrors of the Norse mythology were needed to spice up an otherwise bland epic. In the preface, he conceded that the first Book (concentrating on Danish superstitions) was hard to integrate with the rest of the poem, but he insisted that it was j ustified on account of the 'peculiar scope to the imagination that the wildness of Gothic superstitions afforded' (iv).

Cottle makes the connection between Gothic religion and heroics throughout, but he employs his extensive readings in translations of Norse texts in the service of punishing a failure to observe the heroic code. Ivar suffers a series of terrible visions after having killed an unarmed mariner in irritation that this man refuses to act as his guide across the water. The pageant of supernatural happenings, which will lead Ivar to pledges never to kill an unarmed man on his rampage of Britain, are modeled on images already known to an English readership. Ivar's horrible vision of awakening a dead volva (i.e. a Norse prophetess claiming magic powers) is described as follows:
A coffin black

   Slow rising from the yawning sepulchre
   He [Ivar] saw the Sorceress. In her narrow bed
   Senseless she lay oppress'd with death-like sleep
   A pall she had, the snows of ages! ...
   The prince approach'd but when he mark'd her face
   Her still and livid visage and her eye
   That through the thin eye lid half appear'd. (ll. 322-30)

This scene is clearly inspired by the wakening of the volva in the poem Vegtamskvida, which Joseph's brother, Amos, had earlier translated as 'The Song of the Traveller' in his English translation of the Poetic Edda. (42) The poem about Odin's conversation with the dead seeress in the underworld was first made famous by Thomas Gray as 'The Descent of Odin'. Gray clearly indicated that this was translated from Bartholin's work on Gothic heroism. Cottle re-uses the motif here not as sign of heroism but as a punishment for violating natural laws.

Returning to his comrades, Ivar describes the happenings as a 'sudden fit' caused by an overheated brain (ll. 627-30). The idea of an offender being cursed with 'sights of shadowy forms, and things unknown' (l. 616) is a standard plot of the literary Gothic. But the resemblance to S. T. Coleridge's tale of crime against nature and subsequent supernatural punishment in The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere needs specific attention. Cottle had befriended Coleridge and, in his profession of bookseller, he published the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, in which The Rime appeared for the first time. Cottle transfers Coleridge's dark tale to a medieval romance fright story of 'huge punishment/ And freezing dread' with a similar ethical purpose.

Tomb Dialogues

Scenes in Norse tombs were popular. The collection of Poems Chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall, mentioned above, also included the Icelandic poem 'The Incantation of Herva'--sometimes known as 'The Waking of Angantyr' which is about heroically acquiring possession of Tyrfing, a sword with radiating properties, protected by a ghost. The poem formed part of the Hervarar saga ok Heidreks. Hervar, a shieldmaiden (skjaldmwr, a woman taking up arms) awakens the ghost of her father, Angantyr, in his tomb to demand Tyrfing as her rightful heritage. The stubborn ghost refuses to give the sword to her, since it was cursed, but finally hands it over.

The poem was first translated into English by the Oxford philologist George Hickes in 1703. This was part of an attempt to show the continuation of ancient Gothic tradition in Anglo-Saxon poetry. Hickes printed the poem alongside the Old English fragment known as The Battle of Finnsburh, where a similar magic sword with lightning properties is mentioned, thereby indicating their common Gothic heritage. (43) It was frequently translated into English with at least ten independent translations during the eighteenth century and many more extracts and reprints in the periodical press. Certainly, the popularity of the poem was due to its setting in a tomb, playing upon the fascination with graveyards, ghosts and claustrophobic spaces that were to become regular furniture in the literary Gothic. So was the theme of females rebelling against their tyrannical fathers. Anna Seward, associated with bluestocking sensibilities, provided a free translation entitled 'Herva, at the Tomb of Angantyr. A Runic Dialogue'. (44) Seward was well capable of writing in a dark contemplative mode on themes of death and Gothic architecture, but the necromancy of this ghostly scene was a departure into darker territory. She makes the scene significantly more horrific than the original, Gothicizing the Gothic through adding much gloomy colouring. In a note, Seward belittles 'the expressions in Dr Hicks' prose' as having 'a vulgar familiarity, injurious to the sublimity of the original conception'. Clearly, a new source for literary exploitation was discovered, which was not be bogged down by antiquarian fidelity to the source.

The poetic potential of Norse literature was felt among many writers. In 1801, Walter Scott had considered an edition consisting of 'something of an abridgement of the most celebrated Sagas, selecting the most picturesque Incidents & translating the Runic Rhymes'. (45) The project as a whole was abandoned, but it did result in one published piece, an extensive summary of the thirteenth-century Icelandic Eyrbyggja Saga for the anthology Illustrations of Northern Antiquities (1814), co-edited with Henry Weber and Robert Jamieson. Scott held Jamieson in high esteem for his discovery of the kinship between Scandinavian and Scottish story, 'a circumstance which no antiquary had hitherto so much as suspected'. (46) Not least the borderland between England and Scotland--old Danelaw territory--was rich in legends, romances and folklore that were assigned Scandinavian origins. (47)

This perspective is taken up in relation to the national past in Scott's medieval tale The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805). Scott explains in the introductory notes to the poem that he drew on the 'customs and manners which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland' (i.e., old Danelaw territory), which he has worked into a poetical framework akin to 'the Ancient Metrical Romance'. Scott's annotation to the lines 'Ransacked the graves of warriors old,/ Their faulchions wrenched from corpses' hold' explains to the reader, with a reference to Tyrfing, that 'northern warriors were usually entombed with their arms, and their other treasures'. Scott further adds that
   the ghosts of the northern warriors were not wont tamely to suffer
   their tombs to be plundered; and hence the mortal heroes had an
   additional temptation to attempt such adventures; for they held
   nothing more worthy of their valour than to encounter supernatural
   beings. (48)

Scott here alludes to Bartholin's analysis in Book II, Chapter ii, of the Gothic warriors' confrontation with ghosts as the most heroic endeavour to be undertaken.

To add fuel to the competition between the revivalisms of Gothic and Celtic cultures in Britain, Macpherson symbolized the conflict between the Scandinavian invaders and the native Highland Caledonians as a battle between Fingal (the chief hero of the Ossian poems) and the spirit of Loda (the Gaelic name for Odin). Fingal defeats the cruel spirit and drives it away: 'The spirit of Loda shrieked, as, rolled into himself, he rose on the wind'. (49) In regard to this scene, the English literary scholar Thomas Warton noted that '[n]othing could aggrandise Fingal's heroism more highly than this marvellous encounter'. However, from his reading of Bartholin and other antiquarians on the Norse tradition, Warton had become convinced that Fingal's struggle with ghosts had been taken over wholesale from the lore of Scandinavians. He accused the Caledonians of having copied 'an essential part of Runic belief' from Scandinavian tribes migrating into Scotland. The charge of copying was also extended to Ossian's use of enchanted swords, for which Warton finds the original in the saga tales concerning Tyrfing. (50) Hence, if Warton accepted Ossianic tradition as genuine (which was rare among English critics in the 1770s), he ultimately bolstered the ancientness and priority of Gothic culture.

Walter Scott and the Norse Past

Nathan Drake was a pioneer critic of horror fiction, whose ambivalent attitude to using Gothic folklore is instructive. He mentions that the 'Gothic and Celtic superstitions indeed possess imagery peculiarly appropriate to the higher efforts of lyric composition', singling out 'the thrilling horror of Gray's celebrated odes' and referring to Richard Hole one of the writers who has mined the 'most wild yet terrific mythology' of the Edda. (51) However, Drake had earlier expressed some scepticism towards such antiquarian efforts. Although he finds it unlikely that literary exposition can do damage in an enlightened age, he does mention the tragic case of William Collins (1721-59), author of Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands. According to Drake, Collins was 'in some measure, a convert to the imagery he drew' and subsequently suffered 'mental irregularities'. (52) The many annotations that usually accompanied Norse-inflected works served mainly to explain unfamiliar mythology, but in part also to provide writers with enough antiquarian credibility to avoid accusations of superstitious enthusiasm. Joseph Cottle would late in his life distance himself from his representation of Danish superstition by referring to it as 'the sport of his youthful fancy', for which he had acted as the mouthpiece 'with pain'. (53)

Walter Scott was interested in examining how superstitions had exerted an influence on Scottish history. But he tended to debunk the supernatural claims of his texts, through scholarly annotation. As one critic has argued, Scott gives the reader irregularity whilst remaining regular himself. (54) An example of Scott's antiquarian eager is the extensive apparatus of annotations he provided for The Lay of the Last Minstrel, from which was quoted the above. When Scott concluded his Norse-inspired ballad Harold the Dauntless (1817), published anonymously in six cantos, it was with a stanza apologizing for having 'scorn'd to add a note' from scholarly authorities on Norse poetry. (55) Scott signals an ironic distance to his material by using the mock-style of an old metrical romance. In the verse introduction to the poem, he even speaks of the whole poem as a fantasy dreamt up in an idle hour. Nonetheless, Harold the Dauntless provides an interesting example of negotiating the heritage of Norse heroism within a history of national religious history. Harold is the son of the Viking lord Witikind, who has settled in northern England. Witikind dies, having converted to Christianity, and will not find rest until his son has repented his pagan way of life. Witikind's shade appears twice (in disguise) to urge his son to convert. The poem contains what is essentially a catalogue of the horrors associated with the Norse tradition, including magic incantations, dark forests and demonic spirits. Harold, upon returning to England, meets the new Bishop of Durham, who plots to disinherit him from his father's lands. (56) Harold accepts the Bishop's challenge to spend one night in the accursed Castle of Seven Shields. There, he confronts the terrible spirit of Odin, 'the Evil Power,/ Adored by all his race!', which rules over the region. (57) Like the young Fingal in James Macpherson's Ossian poetry, Harold defeats Odin. But, unlike in the poem of Fingal, this is not an indication of the young warrior's future martial prowess. Rather, it is the beginning to his acceptance of Christianity, which constitutes the poem's resolution. Harold's faithful page, Gunnar, turns out to be the maiden Eivir (her mother having cast a spell that made everyone think she was a boy). Eventually, Harold takes sacrament at St Cuthbert's in Durham, where he is baptized and married on the same day.

In Harold the Dauntless, Scott shows his ambivalent attitude to the Norse martial past. Harold finally defeats his own paganism and turns gradually from 'bersarker' towards Christian virtues of forbearance. Scott's romance of a once Danish-dominated part of Britain telescopes a history of how notions of chivalry, bravery and honour were harmonized with ideals of Christian virtues. This should be seen in relation to his Essay on Chivalry, first published in 1818 (the year after Harold the Dauntless). In this thoroughly researched essay (written as an appendix for the Encyclopaedia Britannica), Scott discusses the advantage of the chivalric code to medieval social life. He calls attention to the 'Scandinavian legends and Sagas' for their representation of 'deeds of those warriors' who 'certainly followed the principal and most characteristic employment of its [chivalry's] profession ...'. (58) Scott's essay traces the historical incorporation of pagan bravery and Nordic respect for women into a Christian culture of chivalry. It is essentially the same historical progress he indicates in the narrative of Harold's conversion. The poem, as well as the essay, ultimately suggests that the heroic strength of Gothic/Norse culture has been incorporated into the national spirit, and served a purpose once its fanatical and violent barbarism was curbed.

Matthew Lewis and Danish Horrors

Walter Scott provided antiquarian material to Matthew 'Monk' Lewis's collection Tales of Wonder (1800 [imprint 1801]), a two-volume edition with 60 ballads. This included several Norse-related pieces. 'The Sword of Angantyr' appears in a much expanded version. Lewis's direct source for the poem was Johann Gottfried Herder's Volkslieder (1778-9). If Herder's ambition was to rediscover the true and authentic voice of national character through folklore (the collection was later re-titled Stimmen der Volker in Liedern, 'the people's voice in ballads'), Lewis had little interest philological accuracy. Rather, he celebrated his own literary exploitation of the material for a public hungering for horror. His headnote to 'The Sword of Angantyr' is indicative of his approach to translation: 'I have taken great liberties with it, and the catastrophe is my own invention'. (59) This is exemplified in the lines Lewis gives to Hervor when demanding Angantyr to hand over the magic blade:
   Give the sword of mystic power,
   Which the dwarf and spectre-band
   Bathed in blood at midnight hour;
   Or, in Odin's hall of cheer,
   Never shall ye more repose,
   Never more drink mead and beer
   From the skulls of slaughter'd foes (37).

The interpolation of a reference to quaffing mead from enemy skulls is not in the original, but included as part of Lewis's general attempt to construct from his imitations a lexicon of Norse horrors. Lewis's use of Scandinavian material shows the extent to which Norse poetry could be exploited for its thrills.

From Herder, Lewis also took another Skaldic heroic poem: 'King Hacho's Death Song' and four Danish ballads: 'Elvers's Hoh', 'The Erl-King', 'The Erl-King's Daughter', and 'The Water King'. The second volume included unaltered versions of Gray's Norse odes. 'The Water-King' first appeared in Lewis's Gothic tour de force The Monk (1796). It is an adaptation of Herder's German version of a Danish ballad. (60) Lewis swells the English imitation to twice the length of the source, adding a new beginning and conclusion. The poem is in effect a mock-romance about a water daemon, using magic to disguise himself as a 'gallant knight'. He rides up to St Mary's Church (Lewis's embellishment), where he cajoles a 'lovely maiden' into marrying him. He then carries her away on his steed, back to his element, the water. In Lewis's version, the themes of abduction and drowning (only hinted at in the original) are expanded to constitute a long melodrama of terror. We now hear of how 'she shrieks but shrieks in vain' as the 'billows dash/ And o'er their hapless victim wash'.

We should probably see the original of 'The Water-King' as a folklore dramatization of how Christian lives can be disrupted by older pagan gods of the kind associated with natural forces or phenomena. (61) But, in The Monk, the balled is made to fit the attack on superstitious and sexually repressive Catholicism, a main target throughout The Monk. 'The Water-King' functions to distill the essence of the situation with the young nun Agnes, who is believed to be held captive inside the convent of St Clare, Spain. Here, Agnes has broken her 'vows of Chastity' and become pregnant. Responsible for her situation is Don Raymond, whom Agnes accuses of being an 'infamous Seducer'. Don Raymond sends his faithful page, Theodore, to perform the song outside the convent, so that Agnes may hear it. Theodore explains to the nuns that the moral of the ballad he is about to sing is the danger 'for young Women to abandon themselves to their passions'. (62) The Water-King, an elemental spirit, becomes a symbol of the elementary desires, which, when banished by restrictive Catholicism, will return as a destructive force.

Lewis uses Gothic folklore to unmask the religious fraud of Catholicism. The wisdom of the 'folk' may here be seen to disrupt Catholic oppression in a way that foreshadows the angry mob attacking and ravaging St Clare later in the novel. But there was a potential danger in fighting superstition with more of the same. Lewis's general strategy in The Tales of Wonder, where 'The Water-King' was re-printed with other ballads of 'elemental spirits', is to defuse allegations that he was a convert to the non-rational, especially through the introduction of irony. (63)

An example of irony in the collection is 'The Cloud-King', a supernatural ballad about a daemon roaming the skies over Denmark and Norway. This was entirely Lewis's own composition, providing readers with an ironic counter to the Scandinavian pieces in the collection based on genuine sources. The Cloud-King also seduces a young maiden and carries her away, but, he finally has to let her go. Because, unlike the maiden in 'The Water-King', this young woman shows ingenuity enough to expose his false promises: she demands to know a 'truer' than her seducer's vow of giving her the 'truest'. In a concluding note, Lewis explains the simple logic of this mock-ballad: the maiden 'would infallibly have been devoured by the daemon, had she not luckily understood the difference between the comparative and superlative degrees'. (64) Despite the relatively low level of grammatical knowledge required to avoid seduction here, Lewis seems to tell his readers that literacy (connected with the Reformation, Enlightenment and the rise of modern Reason) will save us from being 'devoured' by superstition. Such ironic additions were interpolated among original ballad material shows the author's distance from his material. At the same time, it makes clear the extent the interest in folklore and pagan past was linked with ideological agendas.


I have argued that Gray invested his Norse translations with an ideological purpose. In this respect, it is interesting to gauge Horace Walpole's reaction to Gray's horrors. Walpole had previously published Gray's poetry through his press at Strawberry Hill. In the Norse odes, he found that there was 'so much of the terrible'. (65) But his initial reaction was to dismiss the poems on the grounds that they were irrelevant: 'who can care through which horrors a Runic savage arrived at all the joys and glories they could conceive, the supreme felicity of boozing ale out of the skull of an enemy in Odin's hall?' (66) Walpole clearly identified the link that the two poems had to the discussion of national heroism, although the identification came through a reference to Regnar's Death Song which does not appear in either of the two odes. Walpole failed, however, to see Norse superstition as anything but a fossil curiosity with little relevance for modern Britain.

However, a number of writers' interest in Gothic heroics and mythology show that relevance could be found. At the cusp of the Victorian age, Thomas Carlyle blamed Thomas Gray for having distorted the important and necessary reception of Gothic/Norse poetry in Britain. In his lecture on Odin, which constituted the first of his six lectures On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic (delivered May 1840; published 1841), he lamented that Gray provided for generations of readers a 'gloomy palace of black ashlar marble, shrouded in awe and horror', falsely erected on a much more nuanced, noble and heroic tradition. (67) By this time, Carlyle had seen Gray's poems become part of the furniture in the shop of horrors traded in what he sceptically looked at as a popular book market. Charles Maturin, for example, paid tribute to 'The Descent of Odin' by citing it in the beginning of his Gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). (68) Carlyle's own attempt at retrieving meaning from the poetic tradition of Britain's ancestors was part of the effort to revive the Gothic heritage within an ethnic-national context, which has been discussed above.

Carlyle shows a natural scepticism towards the support of heroism 'under poor cramped incipient forms' of pagan superstition, and yet the Odinic religion is deemed relevant 'as the creed of our fathers; the men whose blood still runs in our veins, whom doubtless we still resemble in so many ways'.69 Carlyle sought to incorporate the Gothic past into a teleology of civility. Hence, if pagan superstition encouraging heroism was a 'childlike way' of early society, it betokens 'what a giant of a man this child would yet grow to'. Odin's call to bravery should be heeded at a time when the Napoleonic wars were still fresh in memory (Napoleon is praised as a hero in the sixth lecture); it is a 'half-dumb stifled voice of the long-buried generations of our own Fathers, calling out of the depths of ages to us, in whose veins their blood still runs' (26). Carlyle addressed his audience with a call to consider the usefulness of Gothic morality: 'The first duty for a man is still that of subduing Fear ... we cannot act at all till then ... Odin's creed, if we disentangle the real kernel of it, is true to this hour' (28).

Carlyle owes a debt to the discourses examined above. It was increasingly realized in the course of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that Gothic heroism seemed to hold a heuristic power for the present, in so far as it was carefully constrained and contextualized. However, 'Gothicized Gothicism' remained an unstable genre. The Gothic tradition may have provided for a more stimulating handling of terror than it was possible for writers to do with Catholic anti-heroes, but exponents were still keen to distance themselves from past supernaturalism. The national-ideological efforts to recuperate a heroic past were vitiated by the all too ready suitableness of Gothic superstition for literary exploitation in the Gothic mode.

Robert W. Rix University of Aalborg


(1) The attention to the wide international influences and themes in Gothic literature is reflected in Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (eds), The Routledge Companion to Gothic (London and New York: Routledge, 2007). For useful critical contributions with a multicultural perspective (sans Scandinavia), see also the essays in R. B. Anolik and D. L. Howard (eds), The Gothic Other: Racial and Social Constructions in the Literary Imagination (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004). No recent work has detailed the use of Norse horror in Romantic writing, but some aspects of it (primarily aesthetic) were discussed in Margaret Omberg's Scandinavian Themes in English Poetry, 1760-1800 (Stockholm: Alamquist and Wiksell International, 1976), pp. 62-85.

(2) An older but still valuable survey of these compositions is Frank Edgar Farley, Scandinavian Influences in the English Romantic Movement (Boston, MA: Harvard University, 1903).

(3) See, however, the letter to Horace Mann, 28 August 1760, in The Letters of Horace Walpole, ed. P. Cunningham (London: R. Bohn, 1861), Vol. 3, p. 335, where Walpole refers to a homecoming to the castle at Strawberry Hill as a return to 'my own Woden and Thor, my own Gothic Lares'. For a discussion of the term 'Gothic' in relation to ideas of the Germanic past, see Mark Madoffs 'The Useful Myth of Gothic Ancestry' (1978), reprinted in Gothic: Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies, eds F. Botting and D. Townshend (London: Taylor & Francis, 2004), pp. 27-37.

(4) To avoid unnecessary confusion, in this article, 'Gothic' will be capitalized when used as an ethno-cultural marker, distinguishing it from 'gothic' (lower case), which now commonly is used to refer to a literary work of terror.

(5) Ian Duncan, Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 24.

(6) See Judy Quinn and Margaret Clunies Ross, 'The Image of Norse Poetry and Myth in Seventeenth-Century England', in Northern Antiquity: The Post-Medieval Reception of Edda and Saga, ed. A. Wawn (Enfield Lock, Middlesex: Hisarlik Press, 1994), pp. 189-210.

(7) Five Pieces of Runic Poetry Translated from the Islandic Language, trans. T. Percy (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1763), p. [ii].

(8) Paul-Henri Mallet, Northern Antiquities: or, A Description of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws of the Ancient Danes, and Other Northern Nations; Including Those of Our Own Saxon Ancestors (London: T. Carnan, 1770), 2 vols. For Hengist and Horsa, see ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 63, 229.

(9) Mallet, Northern Antiquities, Vol. 1, p. liii.

(10) For a recent analysis of the various trends in translating vernacular traditions in the eighteenth century, see Gauti Kristmannsson, Literary Diplomacy. The Role of Translation in the Construction of National Literatures in Britain and Germany, 1750-1830, (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2005), 2 vols, esp. Vol. 1.

(11) Gray's references to Ossian are discussed in R. R. Agrawal, The Medieval Revival and Its Influence on the Romantic Movement (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1990), p. 179.

(12) Ann Radcliffe, Gaston de Blondeville: or The Court of Henry III... with Some Poetical Pieces (London: H. Colburn, 1826), Vol. 4, pp. 109-61.

(13) For Radcliffe's reading, see Rictor Norton, Mistress of Udolpho: The Life of Ann Radcliffe (London: Leicester University Press, 1998), p. 119.

(14) See my 'Thomas Percy's Antiquarian Alternative to Ossian', Journal of Folklore Research, 46.2 (2009): 197-229.

(15) John Pinkerton, An Enquiry into the History of Scotland Preceding the Reign of Malcolm III, or the Year 1056, (London: George Nicol; and John Bell, Edinburgh, 1789), Vol. 1, p. 389.

(16) Regnar's Death Song became the Norse poem most often translated into English during the eighteenth century. For a list of translations of Norse poems and extracts appearing in periodical journals, see Amanda J. Collins's appendix in Margaret Clunies Ross, The Norse Muse in Britain 1750-1820 (Trieste: Edizioni Parnaso, 1998), pp. 258-78.

(17) The image derived from the Latin version printed in the Danish antiquary Ole Worm's Literatura Runica (1651), on which all English translations relied. However, the Old Norse kenning bjugvidum hausa (literally, 'the curved wood of heads') is simply a substitution for drinking vessels made from animal bone. See C.C. Rafn, Nordiske fortids sagaer, efter den udgivne islandske eller gamle nordiske grundskrift (Copenhagen: Poppske Bogtrykkeri, 1829-30), Vol. 1, p. 286.

(18) For the use of Gothic tradition in British perspectives, see Colin Kidd, British Identities before Nationalism: Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World, 1600-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 211-49.

(19) For the idea Gothic culture as an antonym of the Roman Church, see Samuel Kliger, The Goths in England: A Study in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952), pp. 84-99. For further discussion of these discourses in the eighteenth century, see Howard D. Weinbrot, Britannia's Issue: The Rise of British Literature from Dryden to Ossian (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 66-73.

(20) Five Pieces, pp. 32-3, note.

(21) John Pinkerton, An Enquiry into the History of Scotland Preceding the Reign of Malcolm HI, or the Year 1056 (London: J. Nichols et. al., 1789), 2 vols, Vol. 2, pp. 281-2.

(22) Poems by Mr Gray, A New Edition (London: J. Dodsley, 1768), p. 77.

(23) Ibid., p. 73.

(24) See William Powell Jones, Thomas Gray: Scholar (New York: Russell & Russell, 1965), p. 103.

(25) Shakespeare's early eighteenth-century editor Lewis Theobald had identified the Weird Sisters with 'the Fates of the northern nations; the three hand maids of Odin. This assertion was repeated by William Warburton and quoted by Richard Hurd in Essay on Chivalry and Romance (London: A. Millar et al., 1762), pp. 54-5.

(26) For a recent discussion of the additions, see Alison Finlay, 'Thomas Gray's Translations of Old Norse Poetry', in Old Norse Made New, eds David Clark and Carl Phelpstead (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2007), pp. 1-18.

(27) For the Latin versions, see Thomas Bartholin, Antiquitatum Danicarum de causis contempts a Danis adhucgentilibus mortis (Hafnia, 1689), pp. 617-24 and 632-40.

(28) See Olafur Haldorsson, 'Arne Magnusson', in Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline, ed. H. Damico (New York and London: 1998), Vol. 2 pp. 34-6.

(29) Bartholin, Antiquitatum, pp. 152-83, esp. pp. 154, 164-5.

(30) Five Pieces, [p. vii].

(31) Thomas Warton, Of the Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe, in The History of English Poetry, from the Close of the Eleventh to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century (London: J. Dodsley et al., 1774-1781), 3 vols, Vol. 1, p. xxx.

(32) Gray thought 'commerce first opens and polishes the mind, then corrupts and enervates both that and the body'. For both quotations, see Gray's English Poems, ed. D. C. Tovey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), p. 29.

(33) Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, A Gothic Story (London: W. Bathoe, 1766), p. xiv.

(34) Ellen Brinks, Gothic Masculinity: Effeminacy and the Supernatural in English and German Romanticism (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2003), p. 11.

(35) Thomas Warton, Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser, Vol. 1 (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1762), p. 64.

(36) James Watt, Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre, and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 42-69.

(37) See Clara Reeve, The Progress of Romance, through Times, Countries, and Manners, (Dublin: Price, Exshaw, et al., 1785), Vol. 1 pp. xv-xvi.

(38) Richard Hole, Arthur; or, The Northern Enchantment. A Poetical Romance, in Seven Books (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1789), p. xii.

(39) Richard Hole, An Essay on the Character of Ulysses Delineated by Homer (London, 1807), p. 9.

(40) 'The Tomb of Gunnar, Imitated from an Ancient Islandic Fragment, preserved by Bartholin', Gentleman's Magazine, October 1789, p. 937.

(41) Joseph Cottle, Alfred: An Epic Poem, in Twenty-Four Books (London: Longman and Rees, 1800), p. iii.

(42) For A. S. Cottle's version, see Icelandic Poetry: The Edda of Saemund (Bristol, 1797), pp. 215-39.

(43) George Hickes, Linguarum vett. septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archxologicus, vol. 1 (Oxford: Theatro Sheldoniano, 1703-5), pp. 192-5. Battle of Finnsburh is a 48-line fragment of Old English poetry, which now survives only in Hickes's transcription, after the fire in the Lambeth Palace library.

(44) Anna Seward, Llangollen Vale, with Other Poems (London: G. Sael, 1796), pp. 24-38.

(45) Letter of 27 March 1801 to George Ellis, in The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. Herbert Grierson (London: Constable, 1932-7), Vol. 12, p. 178.

(46) Walter Scott, 'Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry, and on Various Collections of Ballads of Britain, particularly Those of Scotland', in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border: Consisting of Historical and Romantic Ballads (Edinburgh: Longman et al., 1821), [separate pagination] 3 vols, Vol. 1, pp. 1-83, at p. 74.

(47) See Thomas Percy's essay 'On Ancient Metrical Romances', pp. lii-liv, appended to Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (London: F. & C. Rivington, 1794), Vol. 3.

(48) Poetical Works ... Scott (1851), p. 70. For this assertion, Scott refers to Bartholin's work, specifically Book I, chapters 2, 9, 10, and 13.

(49) Fingal, An Ancient Epic Poem (London: T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, 1762), pp. 199-200.

(50) Warton, Dissertation, p. lii.

(51) Nathan Drake, Literary Hours: or, Sketches, Critical, Narrative, and Poetical, Fourth Edition (London: Longman et al, 1820), Vol. 2, p. 22.

(52) Nathan Drake, Literary Hours; Or, Sketches, Critical, Narrative, and Poetical, Third Edition (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1804), Vol. 1, pp. 63, 65, 72.

(53) Cottle, Alfred (1850), pp. xvi-xvii.

(54) Peter Murphy, Poetry as an Occupation and an Art in Britain 1760-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 143.

(55) Poetical Works ... Scott, p. 534.

(56) The seat of the Lindisfarne bishopric was transferred to Durham in 882 ce (with the remains of St Cuthbert) to escape Danish attacks. The story is described in Scott's The Border Antiquities of England and Scotland (London: Longman et al., 1814), pp. 144-5.

(57) Ibid., Canto VI, 13, p. 533.

(58) Essay on Chivalry, in The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Walter Scott (Edinburgh: R. Cadell, 1834), Vol. 6, pp. 1-126, at pp. 7-8.

(59) Tales of Wonder, ed. M. Lewis (London, 1801), Vol. 1, p. 34.

(60) The Danish original was printed in the Danish collector Anders S0rensen Vedel's It Hundrede udvaalde Danske Viser (1591; One Hundred Selected Ballads), expanded by Peder Syv with another 100 ballads in 1695, going through eight re-printings in the eighteenth century.

(61) Syndy M. Conger, Matthew G. Lewis, Charles Robert Maturin, and the Germans: An Interpretative Study of the Influence of German Literature on Two Gothic Novels (Salzburg: Ayer Publishing, 1980), p. 44.

(62) M. G. Lewis, Ambrosio, or the Monk: A Romance, Fourth, Revised Edition (London: J. Bell, 1798), 3 vols, Vol. 3, pp. 14-16.

(63) For a discussion of these strategies, see Douglass H. Thomson, 'Mingled Measures: Gothic Parody in Tales of Wonder and Tales of Terror, Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, 50 (2008),, accessed 28 February 2010. Walter Scott, who contributed genuine ballad material to Lewis's collection, expressed misgivings about the editor's parodic antics, finding that it was filled 'with attempts at comedy which might be generally accounted abortive'. See 'Essay on the Imitations of the Ancient Ballad', in The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (Edinburgh: A. and C. Black, 1851), pp. 554-71, at p. 567.

(64) Lewis, Tales of Wonder, Vol. 1, pp. 77-8.

(65) Letter to William Mason, 2 February 1784, in Letters, Vol. 8, p. 458.

(66) Letter to George Montague, 12 March 1768, in Letters, Vol. 5, p. 91.

(67) Thomas Carlyle, 'The Hero as Divinity. Odin', in On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1841; New York: John Wiley, 1866), p. 31. Like Gray and others, Carlyle argued (32) that the 'Norse mythos' had influenced English vernacular literature.

(68) Line 10 is quoted: 'eyes that glow and fangs that grin'; Charles Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 10.

(69) Carlyle, 'The Hero as Divinity', p. 14. Carlyle does not rest satisfied with a general Gothicism, but promotes 'Scandinavian Paganism' as particular interesting by virtue of the fact that 'our English blood ... in good part is Danish, Norse; or rather, at bottom, Danish and Norse and Saxon have no distinction, except a superficial one'; 'Spiritually as well as bodily', the Norsemen and their poets were 'our progenitors' (17-18).

Address for correspondence

Robert W. Rix, Assistant Professor, Department of Culture and Global Studies, University of Aalborg, Kroghstraede 3, DK-9220 Aalborg, Denmark. E-mail:
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