Charles Godfrey Leland

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Leland, Charles Godfrey (1824-1903)

Versatile American writer and folklorist who researched traditional witchcraft lore. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 15, 1824. He graduated from Princeton University and also studied at Heidelberg and Munich, after which he lived in Europe for a number of years. Leland became well known for his humorous dialect verse The Breitmann Ballads (1871) and for his research in gypsy lore and language. He first discovered and elucidated Shelta Thari, the secret language of the tinkers.

From 1886 onward, Leland was friendly with Maddalena, a Florentine fortune-teller and hereditary witch from Tuscany. She communicated to him the traditional witchcraft lore, which he published in Aradia; or, The Gospel of the Witches (1899; Weiser, 1974). The book played a prominent part as a source book in the modern revival of Wicca, or witchcraft, since the 1960s. Leland, a genial giant of a man, seemed fascinated by anything occult or mysterious. He died in Florence, Italy, March 20, 1903.


Leland, Charles Godfrey. The Alternate Sex; or, The Female Intellect in Man, and the Masculine in Woman. London: P. Wellby, 1904.

. Aradia; or, The Gospel of the Witches. 1899. Reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974.

. A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant. London: Ballantyne Press, 1889. Reprint, Detroit: Gale Research, 1967.

. The English Gipsies and their Language. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1872. Reprint, Detroit: Gale Research, 1968.

. The Gypsies. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882.

Leland, Charles Godfrey, and Albert Barrére. Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune-Telling. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1963. Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1971.

. Memoirs. 1893. Reprint, Detroit: Gale Research, 1968.

. The Mystic Will. New York: Hero Publishers, 1972. Pennell, Elizabeth. Charles Godfrey Leland. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1906.

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Charles Godfrey Leland (lē´lənd), pseud. Hans Breitmann (häns´ brītmän), 1824–1903, American author, b. Philadelphia, grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 1845, studied at Heidelberg, Munich, and Paris. While editor of Graham's Magazine in 1857, he printed in it his German dialect poem, "Hans Breitmann's Party," which became so popular that he wrote others. In 1869 he published Hans Breitmann's Ballads. He founded and edited the Continental Monthly in Boston in 1862 to further the Union cause. After other journalistic ventures he devoted himself to traveling and studying languages and folklore. Leland wrote more than 50 books, including The English Gypsies (1873), Algonquin Legends (1884), and Legends of Florence (1895–96). In the 1880s he also successfully introduced industrial and craft arts into American schools.

See his memoirs (1893); E. R. Pennell, Charles Godfrey Leland (2 vol., 1906, repr. 1970).

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