With eighty-eight distinct editions and some 450,000 licensed copies in print, The Ingoldsby Legends of Richard Harris Barham (writing as Thomas Ingoldsby) was among the most beloved and most quoted works of nineteenth-century English literature. Long out of print, it is now available in a fully annotated two-volume edition, complete with over a hundred illustrations by John Tenniel, George Cruikshank, George Du Maurier, John Leech, Arthur Rackham and others.
“For inexhaustible fun that never gets flat and scarcely ever simply uproarious, for a facility and felicity in rhyme and rhythm which is almost miraculous, and for a blending of the grotesque and the terrible ... no one competent to judge and enjoy will ever go to Barham in vain.” - George Saintsbury, A History of Nineteenth Century Literature
“In the growth of English short fiction Barham’s work looms larger yet. Many a good story and tale are scattered through the corpus of English fiction prior to the 1830s, but it is not, I think, an exaggeration to claim Barham as the first consistent English writer of the true short story.” - Wendall V. Harris, British Short Fiction in the Nineteenth Century
“Richard Barham was a genuine poet, who exerts a peculiar spell. A man of some property in Kent, a minor canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, an amateur but learned antiquary, he wrote mainly to amuse himself, and his verse has a spontaneity of unexpected rhyming and reckless imagination that makes it different from anybody else’s ... Barham was gifted with some special genius which makes his meters and rhyming as catching as music, so that they run in your head after reading.” - Edmund Wilson, “The Devils and Canon Barham”
“Popular phrases, the most prosaic sentences, the cramped technicalities of legal diction, and snatches of various languages are worked in with an apparent absence of all art or effort; not a word seems out of place, not an expression forced, whilst syllables the most intractable find the only partners fitted for them throughout the range of our language. These Legends have often been imitated, but never equalled.” - Walter Hamilton, Parodies of the Works of English and American Authors
“Barham brought exceptional qualities to the development of his particular art. He was a wit, and his initial success was won by his startling originality. Not only did he adapt the Gallic spirit and conte to the exigencies of the English language: his blending of saints and demons, ghosts and abbots, monkish legend and romance, antiquarian lore and classical knowledge, murder and crime, with his own freakish and whimsical sense of humour, his lightning leaps from grave to gay, his quaint verbal quips, his wealth of topical allusion and most bizarre rhymes - all combined to secure him immediate attention and resultant fame.” - Stewart Marsh Ellis, Mainly Victorian