Unleashing the Literary Beast - A Close Look at Clemence Housman's The Were-Wolf

Unleashing the Literary Beast - A Close Look at Clemence Housman's The Were-Wolf 


Hello fellow bibliophiles and welcome back to our literary journey. Today, we will be diving into a classic tale of supernatural intrigue and horror by British author Clemence Housman - The Were-Wolf. This timeless work, published in 1896 by John Lane at the Bodley Head, is accompanied by evocative illustrations by the author's brother, Laurence Housman. In this blog, we will explore the context of The Were-Wolf, its historical significance, and the brilliance of its illustrations.

The Were-Wolf: An Overview

At its core, The Were-Wolf is a Gothic horror novella, blending elements of folklore and supernatural suspense. The story is set in a small Scandinavian village, where the inhabitants are beset by a mysterious and malevolent creature. This creature, a werewolf, is feared and despised by the villagers who must find a way to vanquish the shape-shifting monster before it claims more victims. As the villagers struggle against this relentless force, they must also confront the darker aspects of their own nature and the insidious power of fear.

Context and Historical Significance

The Were-Wolf was published during the late Victorian era, a time when the Gothic genre was experiencing a resurgence. While the novel drew on earlier werewolf folklore, it also represented a significant departure from previous portrayals of the creature. Housman's werewolf, White Fell, is a complex, multifaceted character, embodying both menace and beauty. In doing so, The Were-Wolf deftly straddles the line between horror and enchantment, offering readers a richly nuanced perspective on the werewolf myth.

This narrative shift reflects a broader transition in the late 19th-century, as attitudes toward supernatural beings were evolving. The Were-Wolf is an important milestone in the development of werewolf fiction, helping to pave the way for later authors, such as Algernon Blackwood and Montague Summers, to expand upon the genre.

The Illustrations of Laurence Housman

One of the standout aspects of The Were-Wolf is the inclusion of Laurence Housman's atmospheric illustrations. These haunting and evocative images capture the essence of the story, serving to heighten its eerie atmosphere. From stark, snow-covered landscapes to intimate portrayals of the werewolf's victims, Housman's artistry transports the reader into the heart of the story.

The collaboration between the Housman siblings - Clemence as the author and Laurence as the illustrator - demonstrates a unique artistic partnership, one that enriches the narrative and contributes to the book's lasting appeal.


The Were-Wolf by Clemence Housman is a captivating work of Gothic horror that remains as compelling today as it was when it first appeared on the literary scene. With its rich narrative, unforgettable characters, and stunning illustrations by Laurence Housman, The Were-Wolf is a must-read for anyone interested in the werewolf genre or the broader history of Gothic fiction. In its exploration of the duality of human nature, and its ability to weave folklore and supernatural horror into a single, seamless tale, The Were-Wolf has earned a well-deserved place in the annals of literary history. So, my fellow book lovers, next time you find yourself wandering through a moonlit forest, or in the depths of a winter's night, be sure to pick up a copy of The Were-Wolf and allow Clemence Housman to transport you to a world of mystery, intrigue, and terror.

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