In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Andrew Lang

  • Introduction
  • General
  • Letters
  • Editions
  • Contemporary Accounts and Reminiscences
  • Literary Relationships
  • Literary Criticism and Journalism
  • Folklore, Mythology, and Anthropology
  • Science, Religion, and Belief
  • Scottish History

Victorian Literature Andrew Lang
by
Andrew Teverson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0171

Introduction

Andrew Lang (b. 1844–d. 1912) was a Scottish poet, novelist, journalist, scholar and story anthologist active in the late Victorian and Edwardian period. He wrote in diverse fields and was highly intertextual in his thought and creative practice, making it difficult to compartmentalize his extensive literary output. Early in his career his principal ambition was to be a poet, and whilst a fellow at Merton College, Oxford University, he focused primarily on poetry, publishing works of his own as well as poetry in translation. Following the poor reception of his epic poem Helen of Troy (1882), however, his attention shifted to other forms of writing. Lang left Oxford in 1875 to marry Leonora Blanche Alleyne and settle in Kensington, London. In London he embarked on a career as a professional writer and journalist, producing regular columns for The Daily News, The Academy and The Saturday Review, and later a literary column for Longman’s Magazine titled “At the Sign of the Ship” which appeared monthly for nineteen years (1886–1905). Lang made a name early on as a classicist and translator, producing a prose version of Homer’s Odyssey with Samuel Henry Butcher in 1879, a volume that would remain in use in schools for decades. In this period Lang also embarked on several influential works of scholarship, publishing his collection of essays on anthropology and folklore, Custom and Myth, in 1884, and his two volume Myth, Ritual and Religion in 1887. Lang’s first work for children, The Princess Nobody, appeared in 1884, and marked the start of a productive decade of writing for children, in which he completed the majority of his children’s novels and began editing the successful series of fairy tale anthologies starting with The Blue Fairy Book in 1889 and The Red Fairy Book in 1890. This series, which Lang worked on in collaboration with his wife and a circle of translators and contributors, eventually ran to twelve volumes, with thirteen spinoff anthologies on various themes. In later years, however, Lang distanced himself from these publishing ventures, and his focus shifted to biography, history, literary criticism, and writings on psychical research. When Lang died of heart failure 20 July 1912 at Banchory in Scotland he was among the best known and most influential public intellectuals working in Britain.

General

A coherent critical literature on the life and work of Lang has been slow to develop. The first comprehensive study of Lang’s life and work was Green 1946, and this remains the best monograph available. Only two other book-length critical analyses of Lang’s work have been published to date. These are de Cocq 1968 and Langstaff 1978, both of which are useful for their critical assessments of Lang’s writing, though they are dated in some respects and need to be read alongside more recent critical evaluations of Lang. Hensley and Hillard 2013 is an important development in Lang studies, since it is the first collection of critical writings in which a range of scholars endeavor to establish a consensus about his work and his significance. Hensley and Hillard 2013 is also notable as one of the flagship contributions to the critical reassessment of Lang’s significance that took place around the centenary of his death in 2012 (for other contributions to this reassessment see Wheeler-Barclay 2010 and Lecourt 2018 under Science, Religion, and Belief; Lecourt 2018 also includes a brief critical response to Hensley and Hillard 2013). For scholars embarking on a study of Lang, Donaldson 2004 provides the best short overview of his life and work; while Calkins 1990 offers an effective survey of Lang’s critical and scholarly preoccupations. The Andrew Lang Site maintained by Sharin Schroeder is also an excellent source of information, including comprehensive bibliographies of Lang’s works and links to available internet resources. Green 1965 is of lasting value as an account of the publication history of Lang’s writings.

  • The Andrew Lang Site.

    Outstanding resource for scholars of Lang’s work created and maintained by Sharin Schroeder. The site includes critical materials on Lang’s life and works, links to key texts, and extensive bibliographical information. A particular aim of the site is to recover and catalogue Lang’s periodical writings.

  • Calkins, Roger W. “Andrew Lang (31 March 1844–20 July 1912)” In Modern British Essayists, First Series. Dictionary of Literary Biography 98. Edited by Robert Beum, 204–213. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1990.

    Short overview of Lang’s life and work focused upon his activities as an essayist and scholar.

  • de Cocq, Antonius Petrus Leonardus. Andrew Lang: A Nineteenth Century Anthropologist. Tilburg, The Netherlands: Zwijsen, 1968.

    Critical study of Lang focused on his anthropological thinking. Includes chapters on Lang’s life and times, an analysis of his writing in the context of 19th-century anthropology, and assessments of his work on the paranormal, myths, and religion.

  • Donaldson, William. “Andrew Lang (1844–1912).” In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by H. G. C. Matthew and Brian Howard Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/ref:odnb/34396

    Concise and informative introduction to Lang’s life, work and thought. Includes short surveys of his major writings and principal areas of activity. Available as an online resource to subscribers.

  • Green, Roger Lancelyn. Andrew Lang: A Critical Biography with a Short-Title Bibliography of the Works of Andrew Lang. Leicester, UK: Edmund Ward, 1946.

    Authoritative book-length treatment of Lang’s life and work, though it is now dated in some respects, especially in light of recent scholarly treatments that have sought to question conventional humanistic approaches to Lang’s writing. Using published and archival sources, as well as personal communications with individuals who knew Lang, Green traces Lang’s biography from his “Border boyhood” to his death, offering critical reflections on his diverse literary preoccupations.

  • Green, Roger Lancelyn. “Andrew Lang, ‘The Greatest Bookman of His Age’. .” The Indiana University Bookman 7 (April 1965): 10–72.

    Useful for those interested in the material history of Lang’s oeuvre. Green surveys Lang’s interest in book collecting, and provides extensive information about the publication history of Lang’s writings focused upon rarity and collectability. Appears in a special edition of a journal marking the transfer of the Darlington collection of Lang’s books and manuscripts from the Indiana State Library to the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

  • Hensley, Nathan, and Molly Clark Hillard, eds. Special Issue: The Andrew Lang Effect: Network, Discipline, Method. Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 64 (October 2013).

    Journal edition devoted to the work of Lang. Contributors reassess Lang’s significance by focusing upon his status as a facilitator of multiple intersecting networks of late Victorian cultural production. Drawing on theoretical work in relational sociology, Hensley’s introduction argues that conventional literary criticism has failed to grasp Lang’s importance because of its focus on authors and texts, rather than on the relative positions of writers in a field of relations.

  • Langstaff, Eleanor de Selms. Andrew Lang. Twayne’s English Author Series 241. Boston: Twayne, 1978.

    Book-length study of Lang’s work with chapters on each main area of his oeuvre. Langstaff seeks to understand Lang’s activities in relation to broader cultural and critical movements of his period, and so presents him as a thinker and writer who is a product of his age. Langstaff sediments some critical assumptions about Lang that have been challenged by later commentators.

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