One of the most fascinating groups of fairy tales known throughout the world concerns the seduction of a mortal by a fairy who either lures him to her domain or comes to his world to woo and live with human beings.  The fairy, whom Keats called La Belle Dame sans Merci, began to appear in the works of such well-known artists as Henrich Heine, Aubrey Beardsley, and Gerald de Nerval.

In this volume Barbara Fass [Leavy] presents a sweeping survey and analysis of the fairy-mistress theme in romantic literature, concentrating on the literature of three countries - France, England and Germany -- whose writers were profoundly concerned with defining their roles as artists in a world that seemed to grow increasingly hostile or indifferent to art.

La Belle Dame sans Merci was often the muse of the romantic artist, and he frequently could not decide whether she was a demon whose realm spelled the death of his social consciousness or pentient who anxiously awaited salvation through the medium of his art.

The tradition of the fairy mistress culminated in the fiction of Thomas Mann, who more than any other writer fully realized how she could be used to express the plight of the romanticist.


"Barbara Fass ... deals with a theme particularly relevant to my enterprise, the fatal woman, in several countries."
          Peter Gay

"Fass's discussion is ... lively and unusually well-informed and interspersed with insights that are independent and stimulating."
          Journal of English Language Notes

"It is a stimulating book."
          Walter Evert, University of Pittsburgh

A "far-ranging and learned book."
          The Waltham (Mass.) News-Tribune

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