William Harrison Ainsworth: The Lancashire Witches

(943 words)
  • Stephen Carver (Independent Scholar)

The Lancashire Witches is set on and around Pendle Hill in early-Seventeenth-century Lancashire, with an introduction set in 1536. The Cistercian monk, Borlace Alvetham, is falsely accused of witchcraft by his rival, Brother John Paslew, and condemned to a lingering death. Alvetham escapes by selling his soul to Satan and returns as the warlock, Nicholas Demdike, during the Pilgrimage of Grace, to witness the execution of the now Abbot Paslew for treason. Paslew dies cursing Demdike's daughter and “that infant and her progeny became the Lancashire Witches.” The remainder of the narrative is set about a century later, when the ancient witch, Mother Demdike, wields tremendous supernatural power over the area, her evil family …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to read about membership. All our articles have been written recently by experts in their field, more than 95% of them university professors.

Citation:
Carver, Stephen. "The Lancashire Witches". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 July 2001
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=386, accessed 20 December 2014.]