Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

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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Madam Crowl’s Ghost and Other Stories (1923) by Sheridan Le Fanu

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This is a posthumous collection of ghost stories by Sheridan Le Fanu which, at the time of publication, remained uncollected since their original appearance in various Victorian periodicals, most notably the Dublin University Magazine and Charles Dickens’s All the Year Round. The collection was edited by M.R. James, upon whose fiction Le Fanu was a great influence. As well as selecting the stories, James also provided an introductory note, a bibliography and a brief bibliographic introduction to each story in the collection. The original title was ‘Madam Crowl’s Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery’, but I’ve shortened it here in order that it might better fit the screen of an e-reader.

Madam Crowl’s Ghost [Kindle]

Madam Crowl’s Ghost [Epub]

Madam Crowl’s Ghost [PDF]

James’s collection led to a revival of interest in Le Fanu studies and he would no doubt have been pleased to know that an open access journal dedicated to the author is published twice yearly.

Most of Le Fanu’s short fiction can be read online here. More of James’s own thoughts on Le Fanu’s writing can be found in his unpublished lecture on the author, available at the Ghosts & Scholars website.

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