Hero and Leander

Hero and Leander: Or, the Lovers of the Hellespont. An Ancient Tragic Romance 

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Ann Lemoine and J. Roe
Publication Year: 1806
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 8.4 cm x 11.5 cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.H456 1806

Material History

HERO and LEANDER: or, THE Lovers of the Hellespoint. An Ancient Tragic Romance is a chapbook with 36 pages, measuring 11.5 cm wide and 8.4 cm long. The book is presented as a chapbook, so there is no front cover. The full title is on the top of the page once the first page opens, where there is a frontispiece on the lefthand side of the book, with only a shortened title—HERO and LEANDER—presented. On the first page of chapter one of the book, there is also the shortened title on the top of the page. There is no author’s name on the title page, but the title on the title page follows the printer’s and publishers’ names, locations, and prices. The book was printed in London by T Maiden, Sherbourn-Lane. The printer’s name, J. Roe, is shown on the title page, frontispiece, and the final page.  

The book’s binding appears to have remnants of decorated but worn-out leather, yet it has been rebounded with paper. Also, when opening the book, there are regular needle holes in each page, showing that this book had once been bound differently. Interestingly, the printing number starts with a U instead of A, showing that it might be printed with other parts. It appears that the book used to be a part of a bigger collection. 

There are few decorations and colors within the book, since chapbooks used to be cheap and convenient, and thus not always elaborately embellished. The frontispiece is black and white, and a woman dressed in a white gown and a man dressed in armor sit on a garden bench. They are holding hands with each other, indicating the book’s plot. There are two names, WG Deli, and IHill Le, under the painting, as well as the printer’s name, J. Roe, and the year 1806.  

The book’s paper is yellowed, brittle, thin, and delicate when flipping the pages. The texture of the paper is rough. However, there is no other damage except stains on a few pages. The book is in fairly good condition, considering the age and the cost when the book was printed.  

The text is closely set, and the font is small. The printing is wonky on the first few pages. The first page and the fifth page are tilted. This problem never appears later in the book. Also, there are a few pages—for example, the fifth page—where the ink leaks and messes with the text because of the cheaper paper printers used to produce chapbooks. However, the characters are still recognizable, so it does not affect reading. No additional markings show any previous ownership of this book.  

Textual History

HERO and LEANDER: or, THE Lovers of the Hellespoint. An Ancient Tragic Romance is adapted from the famous Greek myth of Hero and Leander. There are many adaptations of this tale taking forms as diverse as poems, operas, and dramas, and Brian Mordoch argues that many “of the majors cultures in Europe have over the centuries produced at least one large-scale version of literary importance” (Mordoch 6). The core of Hero and Leander’s story contains three constant components: the distance between Hero and Leander, Hero guides Leander to the place that she lives using lights, and the final failure and deaths (Mordoch 7). As Mordoch points out, the original tale leaves many questions unanswered, for example, how the lovers fell in love with each other and the reason behind swimming (7). Hero and Leander, the chapbook discussed here, answers these questions in its version and even changes the frequently consistent components— Leander dies of drowning in the sea due to the severe weather, and no light is mentioned in this chapbook. 

The publisher of Hero and Leander is Ann Lemoine, an extraordinarily productive and successful publisher during her period. She published at least ninety-nine gothic tales of terror and was famous for her gothic romances (Potter 45). After her husband, Henry Lemoine, was imprisoned due to overdue debts, she began her career as a publisher in 1795 and was the first female chapbook publisher (Bearden-White 46). She published over four-hundred chapbooks between 1795 and 1820, most of which were gothic, but also included other genres such as jokebooks and adventure stories (Bearden-White 49). Between 1803 and 1807, Lemoine published seventy-six gothic chapbooks, including Hero and Leander, which was published in 1806 (Potter 48). Her collaboration to publish chapbooks with Thomas Hurst started in 1796 and ended in 1802. Then, she collaborated with John Roe, who became her first associate, beginning in 1803. After she collaborated with a well-known printer, Thomas Maiden, her published chapbooks obtained a consistent style and layout. Hero and Leander was a signal product in Ann Lemoine’s publishing career: it was published under the collaboration of John Roe and Ann Lemoine and printed by Thomas Maiden. She gave up the traditional engraving frontispiece but started using separate and full pages for illustrations. These detailed illustrations on the front page are from a scene in the story, which can also be seen in Hero and Leander (Bearden-White 61–2).  

Something worth noticing in the publications of Ann Lemoine is a compilation called Popular Tales, Lives, and Adventures,published around 1805 to 1806, completed in forty-eight numbers at three pence each (Potter 53). This complication is owned by thirteen libraries worldwide, and all of them report that the table of contents lists six volumes, but only four are presented, meaning that two volumes are missing in the collection. Sixteen chapbooks are missing from the compilation. The layout and style of the frontispiece are very similar to the ones in Hero and Leander (“Popular Tales, Lives, and Adventures”). Considering the publication date, price, consistent style, and the evidence that Hero and Leander once belonged to a larger collection, it is possible that Hero and Leander was originally part of this compilation.  

There is a dearth of information about Lemoine and Roe’s 1806 chapbook of Hero and Leander. There do not appear to have been advertisements or reviews in newspapers or any other editions. The author of this chapbook remains unknown. Copies of this edition of Hero and Leander are not available on either GoogleBooks or HathiTrust as of 2024. Only two libraries worldwide own this chapbook: the University of Virginia and the Free Library of Philadelphia.  

Narrative Point of View

Hero and Leander is narrated by an anonymous third-person narrator who never appears in the text. The relationship between the narrator and the characters in the story remains undefined. With some description of the emotions and internal thoughts of characters, the narrator tends to focus on the plots as well as some dialogue between the characters. The conversations between characters are presented as long paragraphs with poetic and archaic style, whereas the narration is not as outdated. However, the narrator tends to use long sentences with a surfeit of punctuation. 

Sample Passage:  

Hero, who had impatiently expected him all night, looked out early in the morning; and by the cruel and too rigid fate of the destinies, she saw Leander’s body floating upon the waves under her window. She cried out in a most lamentable manner; and calling upon his name, leaped out of the window before Amphilia could prevent her, and perished. (Hero and Leander 36) 

The third-person narration, as seen in the passage, provides an omniscient point of view so that the motives and emotions behind the actions of Hero are incorporated briefly into the story but not elaborated upon. For example, Hero transitions from feeling “impatiently” expectant in the first sentence to “lamentable” in the second sentence above. Yet the main focus remains the actions of Hero, with each new sentence marking a shift in the unfolding of event after event. The long sentences and the frequent use of semicolons provide a sense of continuity, tracing each step in the progression of the story. 


The chapbook Hero and Leander relays a tragic Greek love story. Leander is a General of forces famous for outstanding triumphs, and Hero is a beautiful girl with noble blood living in the castle of Sestos on the banks of the Hellespont, which separates Europe from Asia. Hero and Leander meet upon Leander’s triumphant return, and they are attracted to each other without knowing yet that this attraction is mutual. Leander soon returns to the castle of Abysdos in Asia, where his parents welcome him. However, Leander is so attracted to Hero that he decides to travel to Europe to meet Hero privately without bringing any attendants. At the same time, Hero, who does not know that Leander has fallen in love with her, inquires about Leander from Amphilia, her attendant who also raised her.  

Leander, landing on a distant shore from the castle of Sesto, hears cries from a valley and discovers a wounded man who informs Leander that pirates attacked Prince Armelius and asks Leander to help him. With great virtue and courage, Leander defeats the pirates and successfully rescues Prince Armelius and his daughter, whom the pirates took away. Leander discovers that the daughter of Prince Armelius is Hero, yet Hero does not recognize Leander due to the blood that covers his face. After she recovers from great shock and seeks information about her rescuer, she is told that he withdraws himself at night, and so he remains unidentified. Since Leander wants to keep this trip private and is confused about how to approach Hero in a better way, he stays at a house in the valley anonymously. 

Thanks to Leander, Prince Armelius and Hero manage to get home, where they are welcomed with prizes, awards, and a tournament for tilt, in which the tournament prize is a diadem. Knowing the news, Leander decides to present himself in the tournament and win the prize with a new armor with loving messages on the shield. Prince of Persepolis is also on the list. He enamors Hero, and he is also the one that Prince Armelius wants to marry Hero to . Even though he is also bathed in honors, his temper is haughty. In the tournament, Leander still covers his face, which prevents him from showing his authentic identity. He overthrows Persepolis twice and wins the prize, but becomes disabled in the process. Leander gifts the diadem to Hero, and because of his performances in the tournament, both Hero and Prince Armelius believe that he is the rescuer in the woods. 

Jealous of the valor of Leander, Persepolis sends men to kill him, but Leander thwarts the assassination, leaving one assailant to report back. Concurrently, Hero finds out the message Leander leaves in the diadem, in which he confesses his love to Hero and his identity as Leander the whole time. Hero writes a letter back, expressing her admiration and appreciation for Leander and letting Amphilia deliver the letter. In the woods, after discovering the bloody evidence of the battle between Leander and assassins, Amphilia encounters a monster and is almost killed. Fortunately, Leander hears the roar and rescues her. Amphilia delivers the letter and suggests Leander keep his courtship with Hero private due to his jealousy of Persepolis. She also arranges a secret meeting for them in a garden where Hero used to spend her evenings. During the conversation, Leander also tells Amphilia about the treachery of Persepolis. 

Amphilia then returns to Hero and tells her everything about her journey—including the monster and the grass stained with blood. At first, Hero is immersed in sorrow because she thinks Leander has died by the monster, while Amphilia calms her down and finishes her story. Amphilia tells Hero the excitement of Leander when he read her letter, reveals that Leander is the person who saves lives of Hero and her father, and informs her about the treachery of Persepolis. She takes Hero in disguise to the garden, where Leander waits for her in the lodge. Leander kneels on the ground and finally discloses his love and admiration to Hero face to face. In the arbor, they exchange their mutual affection and agree that Leander should present himself at the castle of Sestos the next day so that Armelius can judge Leander.  

Hero retires to the Castle of Sestos with Amphilia, leaving Leander in the lodge, fretting about how Armelius will decide between Persepolis and him. While Leander awaits in Sestos, Hero tries to reveal their love to her father but is told to marry Persepolis. Denying the treachery of Persepolis, Armelius insists that the story is out of envy. Upon the refusal of Hero, Armelius becomes outraged and threatens to disinherit her. 

Hero decides to tell Leander the whole story in the letter, which makes Leander determined to present himself in front of Armelius. When Armelius recognizes that Leander is the person who saved them from the pirates, he becomes exceptionally joyful, shows him around the castle, and promises Leander that he can take whatever he wants. Leander proposes that he wants to take Hero, but Armelius rejects his proposal due to his prior commitment to Persepolis. Discovering that he cannot convince Hero, Armelius confines Hero in a little tower that juts into the sea and forbids anyone from approaching her except Amphilia. Leander ascends to the tower with the help of Amphilia. There, Leander proposes that Hero leave Sestos to Abydos as she cannot foresee her future besides misery continuing in Sestos. Agreeing to his plan, Hero waits for Leander to return with a vessel for their escape the next night. 

At night, a sudden storm causes the vessel to be driven to the sea. Leander, who does not want to disappoint Hero, still jumps into the ocean and hopes that he can find the vessel. However, the hazardous weather causes him to be dashed among the rocks on the coast and lose his life. Discovering the floating body under her window, Hero jumps out of the window and perishes. Armelius, realizing the tragic consequences of his demands, is immersed with remorse and grief, causing his death.  


Bearden-White, Roy. How the Wind Sits: The History of Henry and Ann Lemoine, Chapbook Writers and Publishers of the Late Eighteenth Century. Laughing Dog Press, 2017. 

Hero and Leander: Or, the Lovers of the Hellespont. An Ancient Tragic Romance. Printed by T. Maiden, for Ann Lemoine, 1806. 

Murdoch, Brian. The Reception of the Legend of Hero and Leander. Brill, 2019. 

Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021. 

“Popular Tales, Lives, and Adventures.” David Miles Books, Antiquarian Booksellers Association, www.davidmilesbooks.com/book/14847/popular-tales-lives-and-adventures/. Accessed 2 Apr. 2024. 

Researcher: Xin Jin

How to cite this page:

MLA: “Hero and Leander.” Project Gothic, University of Virginia, 2024, https://gothic.lib.virginia.edu/access-the-archive-2/hero-and-leander/