The Ingoldsby Legends
AuthorThomas Ingoldsby
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreHumorous verse and prose short stories
PublisherR. Bentley & Son
Publication date
1840, 1842, 1847
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages3 vols.

The Ingoldsby Legends (full title: The Ingoldsby Legends, or Mirth and Marvels) is a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poems written supposedly by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, actually a pen-name of an English clergyman named Richard Harris Barham.


The legends were first printed during 1837 as a regular series in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany and later in New Monthly Magazine.[1] They proved immensely popular and were compiled into books published by Richard Bentley in 1840, 1842 and 1847. They remained popular during the 19th century, when they ran through many editions. They were illustrated by artists including George Cruikshank, John Leech and John Tenniel;[2] and Arthur Rackham (1898 edition).

As a priest of the Chapel Royal, with a private income,[3] Barham was not troubled with strenuous duties, and he had ample time to read, and to compose his stories and poems. Although the "legends" are based on folklore or other pre-existing sources, chiefly Kentish,[4] such as the "hand of glory", they are mostly humorous parodies or pastiches.


Barham introduces the collection with the statement that "The World, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh".[4]

The best-known poem in the collection is "The Jackdaw of Rheims", which is about a jackdaw that steals a cardinal's ring and is made a saint under the name Jem Crow.[5][6] The village pub in Denton, Kent, was renamed The Jackdaw Inn in 1963.

A popular prose story is that of "Grey Dolphin", a horse who helps save the life of his master, Sir Ralph de Shurland, by swimming to obtain a royal pardon for Sir Ralph's murder of a priest; but is then beheaded after a "hag" predicts that he will be the cause of Sir Ralph's death. Three years later, Sir Ralph encounters Grey Dolphin's skull and kicks it contemptuously, only for a tooth to pierce his foot and cause an infection, from which he dies – so fulfilling the prophecy. The tale is based on the traditional Isle of Sheppey legend of Sir Robert de Shurland, combined with another local legend of a drowned seaman buried but then exhumed at Chatham, and with the addition of much imaginative detail.[7] In an introductory note added to the story in 1840 (and writing as "Thomas Ingoldsby"), Barham claims descent from Sir Ralph de Shurland, and a right to bear the Shurland coat of arms alongside his own, which he does on the volume's title page.[8]

The collection also contains one of the earliest transcriptions of the song "A Franklyn's Dogge", an early version of the song "Bingo".

Many of the tales include brief jocular and derisory references to an antiquary named "Mr Simpkinson": this was a satirical version of the real-life antiquary John Britton.[9]

List of chapters

A Saint, from the "Jackdaw of Rheims", by Briton Rivière, 1868

The chapters comprise:[10]

Allusions and references in other works

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See also


  1. ^ Ian Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (London 1995) p. 472
  2. ^ Samuel, Raphael (1994). Theatres of Memory. Vol. 1. London: Verso. p. 447. ISBN 0860912094.
  3. ^ Ian Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (London, 1995), p. 57.
  4. ^ a b Samuel, Theatres of Memory, vol. 1, p. 443.
  5. ^ Dickens, C.; Ainsworth, W. H.; Smith, A. (1837). Bentley's Miscellany. Vol. 1. Richard Bentley. pp. 529–532. Retrieved 1 August 2022. they canoniz'd him by the name of Jem Crow!, text online with "Jim Crow".
  6. ^ "The Jackdaw of Rheims by Richard Harris Barham. Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. 1895. A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895".
  7. ^ Harris, Oliver D. (2023). ""Grey Dolphin" and the Horse Church, Minster in Sheppey: the construction of a legend". Archaeologia Cantiana. 144: 97–123.
  8. ^ Ingoldsby, Thomas (1840). The Ingoldsby Legends. Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley. pp. i, 64, 93.
  9. ^ Harper, Charles G. (1904). The Ingoldsby Country: literary landmarks of the "Ingoldsby Legends". London: A. & C. Black. pp. 19–20.
  10. ^ Ingloldsby contents
  11. ^ McGivering, John (2008). ""The Dog Hervey" Notes on the text". Readers' Guide. The Kipling Society. Retrieved 6 August 2019.