The Joss: A Reversion (1901)

Richard-Marsh-Portrait

Best known for The Beetle (1897), Richard Marsh was a hugely prolific fin de siècle writer whose output includes several highly entertaining works characteristic of the late-Victorian mode of the Gothic. This novel, first published in 1901, begins with a haunted house and ends with a truly bizarre story of an Englishman’s transformation or, as the subtitle has it, his ‘reversion’. The nature of this horror is revealed gradually through multiple narrators, initially focussing on Mary Blyth, whose unfair dismissal from her job as a draper’s assistant turns out to be one of the least terrible events in what transpires to be the most horrific week of her life!

The novel deals in typical fashion with characteristic late-Victorian fears about racial degeneration and contamination by a foreign other. The setting too is highly characteristic, depicting London as a labyrinthine metropolis at the heart of Empire, in which mystery lurks behind the façade of every building and down every dark alley – the London of Bram Stoker, Arthur Machen, Conan Doyle and Stevenson – and is a must-read for any fans of the period’s Gothic tales.

The Joss: A Reversion [Kindle]

The Joss: A Reversion [Epub]

The Joss: A Reversion [PDF]

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At a Winter’s Fire (1899) by Bernard Capes

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Bernard Cape (1854-1918) was a prolific writer in various genres, but is best remembered today for his highly effective supernatural fiction. Capes took full advantage of the boom in periodical literature which made it possible, for the first time on a large scale, for people to become full-time professional writers – an occupation that had previously been, on the whole, an avocation for those already possessing a private income. He died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. Largely forgotten in the following decades, his ghost stories were rediscovered by anthologists in the 1970s.

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Wikipedia has interesting bibliographical information on Capes and many of his works are available via the Internet Archive. The always useful Supernatural Fiction Database has information on Capes’s supernatural fiction. His complete supernatural fiction was published by Ash Tree Press in 1998 as The Black Reaper ed. Hugh Lamb. This is long out of print in physical form, but can be bought on Kindle and at other e-bookstores. Below are formatted texts of Capes’s most famous anthology, At a Winter’s Fire (1899). Enjoy, and have a merry Christmas!

At a Winter’s Fire [Kindle]

At a Winter’s Fire [ePub]

At a Winter’s Fire [PDF]

Hauntings (1890) by Vernon Lee

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Vernon Lee was the pseudonym of  Violet Paget (1856-1935). She is best remembered today for her ghost stories and her essays on aestheticism. Indeed, the latter heavily informs the former, and her celebrated supernatural fiction is highly wrought, unashamedly decadent and dripping with the atmosphere of Renaissance Europe, which she so successfully captured in her non-fictional work. Born to expatriate parents, Paget spent most of her life on the continent, mainly in Italy where she lived for most of her life in a villa just outside Florence. She was a pacifist, a New Woman, an advocate of female same-sex passion, a democrat and an aesthete who developed a theory of aesthetics founded upon the idea that to consume a work of art is to develop an an intensely empathic connection with it. Her ideas were thus at the forefront of fin de siècle thinking – and make for a unique and memorable collection of stories.

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The increasing interest in Paget’s supernatural fiction in recent in recent years is evidenced by the long-overdue publication of her complete supernatural tales (Ash Tree Press, 2002) and a scholarly edition of Hauntings (Broadview Press, 2006). The latter remains her best-known collection and is presented here as perfect reading for Hallowe’en!

Hauntings [Kindle]

Hauntings [Epub]

Hauntings [PDF]

Textual note: the text is based on the Project Gutenberg HTML version, with the formatting altered slightly to reflect the layout of the first edition.

Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James

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Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936), Biblical scholar, antiquary and mediaeval historian is also, quite possibly, the twentieth century’s most influential writer of ghost stories. His tales of leisured Edwardian gentleman-academics whose narrow-minded investigations bring them into contact with nameless horrors from the past are flat-out classics of the genre and their reputation was enhanced by several highly-regarded BBC television adaptations in the 1970s – adaptations that echoed the stories’ original conception as tales to raise a chill around the Christmas fire.

And yet, James never intended to publish his stories in book form. Despite having submitted his first two compositions, ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’ and ‘Lost Hearts’ for publication in journals during the 1890s, his stories were by and large written solely for the entertainment of his academic colleagues and students. On Christmas Eve, James would emerge from his study clutching his hand-written manuscript, ready to address the acquaintances who had gathered in his rooms to hear this latest tale of terror read aloud over their late-night tipple. It was only with the death of a close friend, whom James had invited to illustrate the tales as a distraction from a final illness, that the tales gained a wider audience. James McBryde, the promising artist in question, died at a tragically young age and James decided to publish a selection of the ghost stories complete with McBryde’s illustrations as a posthumous tribute to his young friend. The stories were very well-received, however, and although James’s academic achievements hardly went unrecognised, it is for his ghost stories that he is best remembered today.

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converted PNM file whistlemcbryde

Five volumes of James’s ghost stories were published during his lifetime: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925) and Collected Ghost Stories (1931) – the latter contained the entire contents of the previous four volumes, together with a few further pieces: ‘There Was a Man Dwelt By a Churchyard’, ‘Rats’, ‘After Dark in the Playing Fields’, ‘Wailing Well’ and ‘Stories I Have Tried to Write’. A further three completed stories remained uncollected during James’s lifetime: ‘The Experiment’, ‘The Malice of Inanimate Objects’ and ‘A Vignette’. I have included all of these in the edition for this blog (see below) along with a selection of James’s writings on the ghost story genre. I got the latter from the always splendid ebooks@adelaide.

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A number of unpublished drafts were also left extant on James’s death. These haven’t been included in the ebook below for copyright reasons, but you can read them at the Ghosts & Scholars website – Rosemary Pardoe’s outstanding online resource for all things Jamesian. The drafts are ‘The Game of Bear’, ‘Merfield House’, ‘The Fenstanton Witch’, ‘Marcilly-le-Hayer’ and ‘John Humphreys’ (an early version of ‘Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance’). Rosemary Pardoe’s notes on these stories are also available. Three other related pieces by James have not been included, but can also be read online. These are the early story, ‘A Night in King’s College Chapel’, James’s scholarly article, ‘Twelve Medieval Ghost Stories’ and his children’s novel The Five Jars (1920).

Here are the download links for the ebook edition of Collected Ghost Stories I’ve prepared for this blog:

Collected Ghost Stories [Kindle]

Collected Ghost Stories [Epub]

Collected Ghost Stories [PDF]

Finally, readers might be interested to know that, in collaboration with Jane Mainley-Piddock and James Mussell, I am currently organising the first ever academic conference dedicated solely to James’s ghost stories. Information, including a call for papers, is available here.

Collected Ghost Stories of John Kendrick Bangs

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John Kendrick Bangs (1862-1922) was an American writer, mainly of humorous fiction, and editor of the popular Harper’s Weekly, as well as the New Metropolitan Magazine. In 1904, he became the editor of Puck, a successful American humour magazine.

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Amongst his prolific output are many volumes of supernatural novels and stories, mainly in keeping with his predilection for humour and parody. His short supernatural fiction appeared in three story collections, pictured above and published between 1894 and 1901. Facsimiles of the fully illustrated first editions can be seen here and here. The illustrations from Over the Plum-Pudding can be seen here.

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“I thought a mile was the proper distance” [Illustration from ‘The Flunking of Watkins’s Ghost’]

 Collected Ghost Stories [Kindle]

Collected Ghost Stories [Epub]

Collected Ghost Stories [PDF]

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John Kendrick Bangs, shortly before his death in 1922

 

The Death Mask and Other Ghosts (1920)

Theo Douglas was the pen-name of British writer Mrs Henrietta Dorothy Everett (1851-1923). This volume contains almost all of Everett’s  ghost stories. Much of her work had supernatural of fantastic elements – some of them very bizarre indeed – but it is for her short fiction that she is best remembered today and was admired at the time by fellow-writer of supernatural tales, M.R. James.

Modern reprints have added two uncollected stories to the original collection (‘The Pipers of Mallory’ and ‘The Whispering Wall’). The edition below is transcribed from the first edition, but I may add these stories at a later date.

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The Death Mask [Kindle]

The Death Mask [Epub]

The Death Mask [PDF]

 

Black Spirits and White (1895) by Ralph Adams Cram

“In ‘The Dead Valley’ the eminent architect and mediævalist Ralph Adams Cram achieves a memorably potent degree of vague regional horror through subtleties of atmosphere and description.”

H.P. Lovecraft

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Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) was a noted architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings. Born in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire in December 1863, Cram was apprenticed to the architects Rotch and Tilden in Boston, before moving to Rome to study classical architecture. In 1887, he converted to Roman Catholicism. He designed or co-designed the Cathedral of St John the Divine and Saint Thomas Church (both in New York city) but is probably best known as the architect of Princeton University, a major example of his passion for the Gothic Revival in architecture.

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Appropriately, given his penchant for the Gothic in architecture, Cram’s only major foray into fiction is the highly regarded collection of horror stories, Black Spirits and White (1895), whose name derives from Macbeth Act IV, Scene i. Of particular note is the final story in the collection, ‘The Dead Valley’, whose memorable climax was singled out by H.P. Lovecraft as a favourite moment in the history of supernatural fiction.

Black Spirits and White [Kindle]

Black Spirits and White [Epub]

Black Spirits and White [PDF]