Tag Archives: british

Ghostly Tales (1896) by Wilhelmina FitzClarence

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Wilhelmina FitzClarence (1830-1906), Countess of Munster lived a fairly standard peeress’s life – despite being an illegitimate granddaughter to William IV of England. As a young girl she travelled widely in Europe, eventually marrying her first cousin William in 1855. The couple lived in Brighton and had nine children.Wilhelmina’s first novel, Dorinda (1889), about a female art-thief, was praised by Oscar Wilde for its characterisation, although her second novel, social satire A Scotch Earl (1891), was less well-received. She also wrote numerous short stories and articles for periodicals, and published an autobiography in 1904.

Ghostly Tales (1896) consists of stories in a supernatural and/or Gothic vein and some (as in Isabella Banks’ Through the Night, which it in many ways resembles) are supposed to be drawn from stories recounted by its author’s family and friends. This is reflected in the milieu of the tales’ protagonists – the grand European tour, the marriage market and aristocratic country and town life. Although the collection contains several stories which fit easily into the traditional Victorian ghost story genre (most notably ‘The Ghost of My Dead Friend’) the volume contains a wide breadth of ‘weird’ or uncanny phenomena – from religious visions and animal telepathy to the narrator’s unsettling encounter with a mentally disturbed young man.

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Ghostly Tales [Kindle]

Ghostly Tales [Epub]

Ghostly Tales [PDF]

A facsilmile edition, containing a number of illustrations, can be downloaded for free from from the British Library.

Ghost Stories from the “Argosy” by Mary E. Penn

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Mary E. Penn is an enigmatic figure – nothing whatsoever is known about her other than the fact that she wrote several stories for late-Victorian periodicals, most notably The Argosy, a monthly miscellany associated with the sensation novelist Ellen Wood (not to be confused with the American periodical of the same name). Penn’s fiction encompassed supernatural and criminal themes and the last story definitely attributed to her appeared in 1897. More details about Penn and her stories can be found here.

In 1999, Richard Dalby resurrected Penn’s ghost stories for inclusion in his Mistresses of the Macabre series, published by Sarob Press. In the Dark and Other Ghost Stories (the second in the series) featured seven stories definitely attributed to Penn, and one which was published anonymously, but which Dalby ascribes to Penn on stylistic grounds. For this edition I’ve used the texts as published in The Argosy, most issues of which are available online. A linked index to each volume can be found here and is well worth having a browse for more hidden gems of Victorian genre fiction.

Ghost Stories from the “Argosy” [Kindle]

Ghost Stories from the “Argosy” [Epub]

Ghost Stories from the “Argosy” [PDF]

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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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.

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]

 

The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe

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At last, the first lady of the Gothic makes a long-overdue debut on the blog. The last of her novels to be published in Ann Radcliffe’s lifetime, The Italian: or the Confessional of the Black Penitents was written in response to Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796). Whereas Lewis’s novel employed a panoply of demons, ghosts and gore that bordered on camp, Radcliffe’s more subtle account of the machinations of the evil Father Schedoni puts into practice her preference for terror (the sublime stimulation of the nervousness or anxiety that foreshadows horrific events) over horror (the abject revulsion that inevitably greets the horrific reality of catastrophes and abominations directly observed). Presented in the form of an assassin’s confession, the resultant psychological drama is amongst the best the genre (and Radcliffe) has to offer.

The Italian [Kindle]

The Italian [Epub]

The Italian [PDF]

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The Phantom Ship (1839) by Captain Frederick Marryat

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Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848) was an experienced and highly-regarded naval officer, who had fought with distinction in the Napoleonic wars, during which career he also invented a maritime flag signalling system, which bears his name and is still widely used. As if this weren’t enough, he was also a prolific writer of fiction, wildly popular during the nineteenth century and hugely influential in the adventure genre. He is perhaps best known today for his children’s novels, Mr Midshipman Easy (1836) and The Children of the New Forest (1847).

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The Phantom Ship (1839) is his only overtly supernatural novel. It is based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman – a ghostly vessel cursed to sail around the Cape of Good Hope for all eternity. The novel is a sort of sequel to the legend, in which Philip Vanderdecken, the son of the ship’s Dutch captain, battles to save his father from the curse. One particularly memorable section involves an insert story featuring a werewolf, which has been widely anthologised as ‘The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains’.

The Phantom Ship [Kindle]

The Phantom Ship [Epub]

The Phantom Ship [PDF]

Kalee’s Shrine (1886) by Grant Allen and May Cotes

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This intriguing, but little-known ‘imperial Gothic’ novel begins in dramatic fashion when an anglo-Indian infant is made a votary of Kalee, vengeful goddess of the Thugs. Years later, the baby has grown into beautiful Olga Trevelyan. But it soon transpires that Kalee’s nefarious influence still lurks in Olga’s unconscious mind, waiting to be reawakened.

V0045118 Kali trampling Shiva. Chromolithograph by R. Varma.

As with many an ‘imperial Gothic’ novel, the theme of reverse colonisation – the fear that England’s subjugated realms might possess the strength to fight back and overthrow the imperial centre – looms large. For me, the theme of mesmerism, an ancient supernatural force embodied in a threatening foreign other, and a peaceful English seaside setting is also heavily redolent of Dracula. I don’t know if Stoker had read Allen’s novel, but it wouldn’t surprise me! Unlike Stoker, however, Allen’s staunch sense of the rational (he had begun life as an evolutionary biologist) leads him to obfuscate the supernatural element, inventing a number of pseudo-scientific explanations that cast doubt on the paranormal elements of the book. Even so, the tale ends on an unsettling note of ambiguity, which implies that even if modern science is strong enough to combat effects of supernatural evil, it may not be able to explain it away.

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Nothing is known of ‘May Cotes’, beyond the fact that she was the young woman (possibly Anglo-Indian) who first came up with the original idea for the story. She contacted the folklorist and historian Andrew Lang, who suggested she collaborate with Grant Allen. Allen himself was a prolific author of fiction, particularly famous for his New Woman novel The Woman Who Did (1895) and for speculative works like The British Barbarians (1895) – both of which appeared as part of John Lane’s infamous ‘Keynotes’ series of 1890s fiction. Kalee’s Shrine (1886) is little-read today, but deserves to be rediscovered – especially by readers interested in late-Victorian or imperial forms of the Gothic.

Kalee’s Shrine [Kindle]

Kalee’s Shrine [Epub]

Kalee’s Shrine [PDF]

EDIT: A recent update to Allen J. Hubin’s definitive bibliography of crime fiction reveals more information about the elusive May Coates.