In Legends of New England, Whittier, whose own family had been a good source of folk narratives, chose the kinds of tales he thought most useful for literary treatment: narratives of specter ships and warriors, doomed lovers, Indian atrocities, animals with strange powers, frontier massacres, demonic assemblies, and haunted houses. They also happened to represent an important segment of New England’s legend tradition. All told, Whittier assembled eighteen stories, seven in prose sketches and eleven in verse, in most cases giving the historical context of the legend. Although he would develop the point more fully in The Supernaturalism of New England (see Item 7952), Whittier here implies that there was considerable interplay between Indian and white traditions in New England. As W.K. McNeil points out, “Legends of New England, like Supernaturalism, is ultimately important to literary specialists and folklorists because it indicates the type of subject matter with which much of Whittier’s later literary efforts would be concerned, calling attention to folklore as source material for creative works.”
Clearfield Company is delighted to make this extremely scarce work of John Greenleaf Whittier available to students of folklore and American literature alike.