The Ingoldsby Legends, volume I and II
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The Ingoldsby Legends, volumes I and II

Introduction to the Web edition


    Richard Harris Barham wrote these mild and humorous satires in the 1st half of the 19th century. Many of them were initially published along with material by Charles Dickens in Bentley's Miscellany.
    Be warned, this stuff is not "PC". Although there are no overt profanities left uneclipsed, the author's jests include racist remarks and often make fun of religion. It's sometimes difficult to tell where satire ends and unconscious anti-Catholicism or anti-Semitism begins. The "N word" is used; but Barham seems to think it derived from "nigardly" rather than color, thereby compounding the felony in an attempt to reduce it to a misdeminor. Place the work in time, an age of many faults and much progress in human relations. Barham, aka. Ingoldsby, lets his characters speak as they would in life, oblivious of insult and ignorant of their own prejudices. Dickens did the same, used his stories to improve the lives of the poor and harbored unaware worse social failings than he exposed. That's as much as anything the chief quality of the work. These people are still among us; indeed, we are they. Your grandkids will doubtless think you are as much an ass as the fellow here who thinks a Jew a heathen and a saint a jerk. They'll love you anyway.
    Few know Ingoldsby now, and that's a reason for bringing him back. These stories and poems have been a "secret gold mine" to many writers. Among these pages, you will find the original of the "Dog named 'BINGO'" song, the story that Disney used for the Sorcerer's Apprentice scene in Fantasia (with beer changed to bathwater) and a major tributary, if not the very font, of Aleister Crowley's humor (Crowley cites "A Lay of St. Dunstan" as "Ingoldsby's tale of Lay-Brother Peter and the Beer" in his Gospel According to St. Bernard Shaw.)
   This further advice: Open a separate browser window to Google and be prepared to search names or strange words you come across in reading Ingoldsby. You can learn a great deal of British history in that way, and develop a better vocabulary with which to obfuscate your friends on all occasions. Enjoy!

Although the 19th century original text and illustrations are now PD
This web version is based on the 1855 tenth edition and is
Copyright © 2006 & 2007
as to format by Bill Heidrick


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