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C. WHITTINGHAM, TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.

TO RICHARD

DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM AND CHANDOS

K. G. ETC. ETC. ETC.

THIS WORK IS INSCRIBED IN TOKEN OF RESPECT

AND REGARD

BY THE AUTHOR

PREFACE.

THE Mythology of the ancient Scandinavians, respecting which so much curious information has been brought to light, of late years, by the researches of many distinguished writers, in Germany, Denmark, and Sweden,1 has hitherto excited but little attention in this country, although the subject is well calculated to awaken our interest, not only as the source of most of our popular superstitions, from whence the favourite authors of our early childhood and of our maturer age have drawn their witches, their fairies, their dwarfs, their giants, and their ghosts; but in an historical point of view also,

More especially Suhm, Schoning, Nyerup, Grundtvig, Thorlacius, Rafn, Finn Magnussen, Müller, Grater, Abrahamsen.

2 This observation applies peculiarly to Shakspeare. The ghost in Hamlet, the witches and apparitions in Macbeth, the fairies in the Midsummer's Night's Dream and Tempest,

for a short retrospect will suffice to shew, that the religion of Odin must have exercised a great and lasting influence on the character and institutions of the inhabitants of Great Britain. The Jutes, Anglians and Saxons, who in the course of the fifth and sixth centuries, effected the conquest of the greatest part of this island, were worshippers, and their principal leaders reputed descendants of Odin. In process of time these heathen invaders were converted to Christianity, but the old worship died away by degrees and slowly, and not without leaving permanent traces on the manners and habits of their descendants. England had scarcely begun, under Egbert, to recover from the troubles of the Heptarchy, when her Christian inhabitants were once more engaged in a struggle for existence with their kinsmen, followers of Odin, and were compelled, despite the genius and courage of Alfred, to divide the land with them, and that for no brief period of

are closely painted after their Scandinavian originals. From whence Shakspeare derived his information is less certain, perhaps in part from Saxo Grammaticus, in whose history he might have found the tale of Hamlet.

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