William Godwin, St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century

Graham Allen (University College Cork)
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St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century

is Godwin’s most popular novel after

Caleb Williams

. As a follow-up to that seminal text of the revolutionary decade of the 1790s,

St. Leon

might at first appear somewhat unexpected. The story revolves around Reginald St. Leon and how he comes to acquire the Philosopher’s Stone and the

elixir vitae

, the legendary arts of, respectively, making gold from common materials and the gift of rejuvenating youth, and, thus, of immortality. The novel, in other words, is far more directly Gothic in its subject matter and indeed in its formal features than

Caleb Williams

, a novel which had employed Gothic techniques only in order to mount a thorough critique of the state of contemporary British society (“things as they are”). It might therefore seem…

2602 words

Citation: Allen, Graham. "St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 26 January 2005 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=1888, accessed 15 June 2024.]

1888 St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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