The Rise of the Vampiric Wandering Jew: A Sinister German-English Co-Production



British Gothic literature’s cabalistic semiotics and its increasingly demonic Wandering Jew figure were not entirely home-grown products. The idea that secret societies and secret sciences were spectres haunting Europe was also disseminated by way of the German Terror-novel, otherwise known as the Schauerroman. Between 1794 and 1796, translations of several German Schauerroman treating the subject of secret societies became known in England. Four of the most important were Johann Christian Friedrich von Schiller’s The Ghost-Seer, or Apparitionist, Cajetan Tschink’s Victim of Magical Delusions, or the Mystery of the Revolution in P—l, a magico-political tale, Marquis Grosse’s Genius, and Benedicte Naubert’s Herman of Unna.1 The genesis of this fictional genre in Germany was not surprising given Frederick the Great’s tolerance towards secret societies during his reign as the King of Prussia (1740–86). His support stood in stark contrast to the tyranny of other governments. As a result, Germany ‘seethed with societies, where prophets appeared who practised animal magnetism, professed to raise the dead, or to live a thousand years upon a tea’ (Tompkins: 283). While J.M.S. Tompkins characterizes Germany as ‘a fruitful bed for these fantastic ideas’, she points out that ‘even in England, where elemental spirits and natural magic were not taken very seriously, the disturbed atmosphere of the revolutionary period caused the idea of a grand political conspiracy to take root, though in shallow soil’ (282–3).


Secret Society Secret Science Roman Catholic Priest Sexual Excess Blood Libel 
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Copyright information

© Carol Margaret Davison 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WindsorCanada

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