A factually based novel centred around the Lancashire Witch Trials.
The novel is based on the true story of the Pendle witches, who were executed in 1612 for causing harm by witchcraft. Modern critics such as David Punter consider the book to be Ainsworth’s best work.
The subject of the Pendle witches was suggested to Ainsworth by antiquarian and long-time friend James Crossley, President of the Chetham Society.
During 1846 and 1847 Ainsworth visited all of the major sites involved in the story, such as Pendle Hill and Malkin Tower, home of the Demdikes, one of the two families accused of witchcraft.
He wrote the story in 1848, when it was serialised in the Sunday Times newspaper.