Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Woodley Lane Ghost and Other Stories (1899) by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

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This collection of short stories was published posthumously in 1899, at the behest of Dahlgren’s husband. The ebook I’ve provided here contains only those stories with a macabre or supernatural interest – the full collection contains no fewer than twenty-four stories, most of which fall outside the remit of this blog. Readers can, however, read the full collection at the Hathi Trust website. For information about Dahlgren’s life and her other work, see the biographical and bibliographical notice that accompanies her manuscript holdings at Georgetown University

Happily for lovers of supernatural fiction, the macabre or uncanny stories are probably the best in the collection. The title story is a tale of occult religious practices that blemish the life of a young Doctor’s wife; ‘Who Was She?’ concerns an inn haunted by the mysterious figure of a weeping woman, while ‘A Murder Mystery’ is a bizarre cross between A Tale of Two Cities and ‘Babes in the Wood’, with possible shades of Titus Andronicus. ‘The Fatal Boots’ is a macabre reflection on coincidence and destiny (a perennial preoccupation of Dahlgren’s). ‘My First Patient’ is a wonderfully hokey take on mesmerism, while ‘Earth-Bound’ concerns the otherworldly implications of a jealous husband’s spiteful final vow.

The Woodley Lane Ghost and Other Stories [Kindle]

The Woodley Lane Ghost and Other Stories [Epub]

The Woodley Lane Ghost and Other Stories [PDF]

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The Romance of a Demon (1892) by Thomas Malyn

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This short novel was published in 1892 by the London firm of Digby, Long and Co. Apparently written as an attempt to discredit Theosophy, Buddhism and other esoteric religions, it tells the entertaining story of Duncan Derroll and his discovery of the occult practices that have brought disaster upon the family of his beloved Carrie Rimmon.

I stumbled across this book at the British Library last year. It’s extremely rare, being only viewable as an electronic scan even at the BL itself. I’ve transcribed the present text manually from the print on demand version issued by the British Library (I’ve checked with the library’s permissions department and apparently this doesn’t breach any copyright rules).

I’ve also made limited enquiries about the author, Thomas Malyn. Assuming this isn’t a pseudonym, The Romance of a Demon appears to have been Malyn’s only published work. I’ve identified two possible ‘Thomas Malyns’ who may be the author. One was a Chemist Manager based in Caerphilly and the other was a schoolteacher from Essex. The latter seems the most likely candidate, so here’s all I’ve discovered about Thomas Malyn. He was born in Essex c.1848, but spent some years lodging with Henry Browson and his wife at Legbourne in Lincolnshire, whilst working as a schoolteacher. By 1891, his occupation is given as ‘certificated schoolmaster’ and he has returned to Essex (residing at Braintree). He also entered the Freemasons in 1871, but appears to have left by the mid-1880s. By 1911, he had become a Headmaster, but I haven’t been able to find out which school/s he taught at. He appears to have married twice, once to Jane and, in 1893, to Margaret. He died in 1937.

Then again, the writer may well have been an obscure Chemist Manager from Caerphilly. Who can say? If anyone knows anything about the mysterious ‘Thomas Malyn’, I’d absolutely LOVE to hear from you!

The Romance of a Demon [Kindle]

The Romance of a Demon [Epub]

The Romance of a Demon [PDF]

John Long (1864-1935), whose firm, Digby, Long and Co., published the novel.

John Long (1864-1935), whose firm, Digby, Long and Co., published the novel.

Gothic and Supernatural Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Best known for her realistic stories of life in the fictional English village of Cranford, as well as her grittier tales of the experiences of working class families in industrial Manchester, Gaskell was also a master of the ghostly and the Gothic. Her supernatural stories are superior examples of the sentimental ghost tale so typical of the Victorian period, while her Gothic stories combine a taste for the macabre with a deeply-felt sympathy for the extremes of female experience.

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Included in this collection is Gaskell’s first published piece, ‘Clopton Hall’, a brief but atmospheric account of her impressions of an old ancestral house together with a prefatory note from the Knutsford edition of her work. ‘Disappearances’ is a disquieting account of the mysterious circumstances relating to several cases of missing persons. Two of the tales appeared as part of the linked series of stories forming extra Christmas numbers of Charles Dickens’s periodicals Household Words and All the Year Round (‘The Scholar’s Story’ and the ballad ‘The Squire’s Story’ appeared in A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire, while ‘The Ghost in the Garden Room’, later republished as ‘The Crooked Branch’, appeared in The Haunted House). Also included is Gaskell’s novella of the Salem witch trials, Lois the Witch.

My own personal favourite is ‘The Grey Woman’, a three-part story serialised in All the Year Round concurrently with part of Dickens’s Great Expectations. The story relates the experiences of a young wife forced to flee her husband’s home upon the discovery of a terrible secret. The fast-paced story is an effective combination of the female Gothic of the Romantic period with the adventure chase narratives perfected by John Buchan fifty years later!

The Grey Woman and Others [Kindle]

The Grey Woman and Others [Epub]

The Grey Woman and Others [PDF]

Critical edition:

Gothic Tales, edited by Laura Kranzler (Penguin, 2000)

The texts in this collection are based on HTML versions prepared for the Gaskell WebMy grateful thanks to Professor Mitsu Matsuoka for permission to use these.

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