A Novel Excerpt by William Harrison Ainsworth
William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) was a writer best known for his gothic/historical novel Rookwood, published in 1834, and his Newgate novel Jack Sheppard, published in 1839. He was trained to be and often worked as an attorney, and over the course of his career he wrote more than 40 novels. During his lifetime, Ainsworth was one of the better known novelists of the Victorian period, though his reputation has greatly declined since his death in 1882.
An Explanation of the Document
Ainsworth’s Gothic novel concerning English witchcraft, The Lancashire Witches (1849), was one of his better-known efforts during the 19th-century, although many of his other works, such as Rookwood, are heavily laden with Gothic motifs as well. The Ainsworth document in the Frellsen Fletcher Smith Collection is a signed, handwritten version of paragraph one, chapter one, from The Lancashire Witches, though the purpose of the document is a mystery since it does not appear to be from the original manuscript. The paragraph as it appears in the published work (which is identical to the document here save the chapter title) appears below.
- Dr. Rick Simmons, Department of English, Louisiana Tech University
CHAPTER I.—THE BEACON ON PENDLE HILL
There were eight watchers by the beacon on Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Two were stationed on either side of the north-eastern extremity of the mountain. One looked over the castled heights of Clithero; the woody eminences of Bowland; the bleak ridges of Thornley; the broad moors of Bleasdale; the Trough of Bolland, and Wolf Crag; and even brought within his ken the black fells overhanging Lancaster. The other tracked the stream called Pendle Water, almost from its source amid the neighbouring hills, and followed its windings through the leafless forest, until it united its waters to those of the Calder, and swept on in swifter and clearer current, to wash the base of Whalley Abbey. But the watcher's survey did not stop here. Noting the sharp spire of Burnley Church, relieved against the rounded masses of timber constituting Townley Park; as well as the entrance of the gloomy mountain gorge, known as the Grange of Cliviger; his far-reaching gaze passed over Todmorden, and settled upon the distant summits of Blackstone Edge.