A classic of Victorian supernatural fiction, this collection contains some of the best of Riddell’s ghost stories. Although it does not contain her complete supernatural writings, it was her only published collection of exclusively supernatural fiction. A bibliography of her supernatural writings can be found at the excellent Guide to Supernatural Fiction.
Born in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1832, Charlotte Elizabeth Cowan was a prolific writer of novels and short stories and her income from writing helped to maintain her married life with the civil engineer Joseph Hadley Riddell, who was often in debt. When Riddell died in 1880, Charlotte became the first pensioner of the Society of Authors, who paid her £60 a year from 1901 until her death from cancer four years later. Charlotte Riddell began writing under the pseudonym F.G. Trafford, but subsequently adopted the Victorian convention of publishing under her husband’s name as Mrs J.H. Riddell.
The stories themselves tend to belong to the sentimental Victorian ghost story tradition, in which ghosts are seldom malevolent but rather are intent on rectifying some unfinished business, such as exposing an injustice or attempting a reconciliation. What distinguishes them is a fine capacity for description – both of landscape and of individual characters, which are vividly evoked and are often as compelling in themselves as the supernatural problems that beset them. More information on Riddell can be found at Michael Flowers’s dedicated website and at the useful Wikipedia page.