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Tales of Wonder CoverMATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS. TALES OF WONDER, VOLUME 1. Edited and annotated by Brett Rutherford. Never reprinted in its original form since its 1805 second edition, and never before presented in full in an annotated, scholarly edition, Tales of Wonder is a landmark in Gothic literature and Romantic poetry. Here we are treated to a ghost/vampire tale first penned around 300 BCE; a Runic funeral song from the tenth century CE; a meeting between the Saxon invader of England and a Roman ghost; a Nordic warrior woman’s incantation to raise her father from the dead; Goethe’s blood-curdling multi-voiced “Erl-King” and fatal water nymphs; the monk and nun who try (unsuccessfully) to save their witch mother from the Devil; a proud painter's encounters with Satan; a doomed romance set in the horrific landscape of the War of the Spanish Succession; and the cursed forest ride of “The Wild Huntsmen.”
This edition, annotated by Brett Rutherford, traces the literary origins of the poems and the stories behind them, connecting them to the long line of eccentric antiquarian scholars who collected classical, Runic, English and Scottish manuscripts or folk material. The poems here also reveal the late-18th century British project of constructing a pagan pre-history for England, building a poetic connection to Nordic legends and bringing Wotan/Odin and the gods, monsters and fairies of the forest into competition with Biblical and Greco-Roman lore. This volume includes early poems by Sir Walter Scott and Robert Southey, as well as poems by M.G. Lewis, Goethe, Herder, Bürger, Mickle, Bunbury, and Leyden. The originals of these poems and ballads are from Greek, Latin, Icelandic, Danish and German, as well as English and Scottish supernatural ballads.
For the poetry lover, and the fan of supernatural literature, this collection offers a year-round Halloween treat of entertaining and alarming poems to read aloud ... bedtime stories for very bad children.

REVIEWED BY JOHN LAURITSEN: "Despite often coming across references to "Monk" Lewis's collection, Tales of Wonder (TOW), I had only read a few of the "tales" -- literary ballads -- before acquiring this truly wonderful set from Yogh & Thorn Books. Now I've spent several hours engrossed in the guilty pleasures of supernatural sex and violence -- men led to their doom by female fiends -- women, by male fiends -- and all kinds of people encountering, and usually succumbing to, malevolent spirits.

"Editor Brett Rutherford is a scholar, a poet, and a craftsman. These books are beautifully produced, printed on good, ivory-toned book paper. They are completely reset from the original 1801 London edition, with outstanding typography: the text typeface, Aldine, is beautiful and very readable -- titles are set in the dramatic, neo-medieval typeface, Morris Troy. The covers are strikingly attractive, with an elegant simplicity.

"Upon its publication in 1801, the second volume of TOW was criticized for including tales that had been published before and were familiar to readers. It was nicknamed "Tales of Plunder". However, Rutherford argues that two centuries later, very few readers will have seen any of the tales, and will regard none of them as warhorses. Therefore, he has "chosen to edit and annotate all 60 poems that were in Lewis's 1801 first edition, and to treat them to the same degree of exploration of sources and points of interest about the poets and translators.

"Rutherford's introductions to both volumes provide as much scholarly background as one could wish, and are written with enthusiasm. His annotations, as true footnotes, provide a wealth of information, and show fine judgment in explaining archaic words for the modern reader.

"Rutherford also enhances individual poems with additional material. This was especially welcome with regard to two poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "The Erl-King" and "The Fisherman." While most of the tales are not great poetry, the two by Goethe really are, and when set to music by Schubert, they rank among the greatest of German Lieder. Following Lewis's translation of "The Erl-King", Rutherford adds a translation by Sir Walter Scott, and Goethe's original German. Both Lewis and Scott translate the poem into English ballad form, which they do pretty well, although they occasionally stray far from the literal meaning of the German.

"Lewis's translation of "The Fisherman" is quite successful, and enjoyable in its own right. Rutherford illustrates the poem with the very erotic painting, "The Fisherman and the Siren" (1857), by Sir Frederick Leighton, who had met Goethe. The original German of Goethe is also included.

"I highly recommend this two-volume set. It belongs in university libraries and in the private collections of Romantics scholars, not to mention everybody who loves good, scary ballads.

A Yogh & Thorn Book. Published October 2010; revised, corrected version published March 2012 to coordinate with the release of Volume II (see below). Paperback ISBN 0922558612. 245 pp., 6 x 9. $16.95. CLICK HERE to order from AMAZON. Or, CLICK HERE to purchase the PDF ebook for $5.00 via Payhip.

Tales of Wonder 2 coverMATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS. TALES OF WONDER, VOLUME 2. Edited and annotated by Brett Rutherford. This second volume continues the mayhem with Ben Jonson's song for 13 witches, a clutch of famous Scottish ghost ballads, a journey to an Irish cave that opens into Purgatory, a Russian prince's date with Death after 300 years of bliss in the Land of Felicity, the dangers of lingering at Tam Lin's well, the mysterious death of King Arthur, and the most terrifying horseback ride in all literature, Bürger's "Lenora." Information about the poets, source texts and alternative versions enrich the reader's experience of these thrilling Gothic narratives in verse. Poets include Robert Burns ("Tam O'Shanter" with 187 annotations!), Ben Jonson, Richard Glover, David Mallet, Thomas Parnell, John Dryden, Thomas Lisle, Thomas Gray, Thomas Percy, Robert Southey, M.G. Lewis, Robert Lambe, and William Taylor of Norwich. The book includes more than 500 informative annotations, maps, illustrations, and an extensive bibliography. No other edition of Tales of Wonder contains these additional materials. A Poet's Press/ Yogh & Thorn Book. Published March 2012. Paperback ISBN 0922558620. 294 pages, 6 x 9 inches, $16.95. CLICK HERE to order from Amazon. Or, CLICK HERE to purchase the PDF ebook for $5.00 via Payhip.


Version 24 Updated February 20, 2024

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