Tag Archives: edwardian

Tales of Terror (1899) by Dick Donovan

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Dick Donovan was a pseudonym of James Edward Preston Muddock – though he was better known as Joyce Emerson Preston Muddock. A well-travelled journalist, he wrote prolifically in a number of genres. The vast majority of his output were sensational detective stories in which “Dick Donovan” was the main character. So popular did this Glaswegian detective prove that Muddock issued later works under this pseudonym. Other works include the horror novel, The Shadow Hunter (1887), the ‘lost world’ novel The Sunless City (1905) and two volumes of supernatural tales.

Muddock’s life was the equal of any of his own fictions. During his travels as a journalist, he visited several continents, experienced the Indian Rebellion first hand, met cannibals and mined gold in Australia. He also married three times and fathered ten children! These and more details of Muddock’s life and career can be found in this article by Bruce Durie.

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Tales of Terror (1899) was Muddock’s second collection of macabre stories, after Stories Weird and Wonderful (1889). Not all of the stories are supernatural. “‘Red Lillie'” is a sensational story about a lover’s promise; “With Fire and Death” is a gruesome (and very one-sided) account of the Indian Rebellion of 1857; while “The Pirate’s Treasure” is a pretty straightforward tale of piratical adventure. The majority of the stories do have a supernatural content, however, ranging from the vampire narrative “The Woman With the ‘Oily Eyes'”, to the traditional ghost stories of “The Corpse Light” and “The Spectre of Rislip Abbey”, the bloody Gothic horror of “The Cave of Blood”, and the folklore of “The Dance of the Dead”. Appropriately for the time of year, the collection also includes “The White Raven” – an effective ghost story set at Christmas.

Tales of Terror [Kindle]

Tales of Terror [Epub]

Tales of Terror [PDF]

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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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.

Uncollected Stories by Sabine Baring-Gould

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Here’s a treat, if I do say so myself. Six stories by Sabine Baring Gould, most of which first appeared in the periodical Hurst Johnian. The stories were well-nigh unobtainable for many years (even the British Library doesn’t have copies of these particular issues of the journal) until they were reprinted by Sarob Press in 1999 as part of Margery of Quether and other weird stories. This volume too is now out of print, but Richard Morgan of Sarob Press has very kindly consented to my preparing an ebook of the otherwise uncollected stories in that volume. This means that all of Baring-Gould’s known supernatural fiction is now available on this blog – to view more titles by him, click here.

EDIT: As it turns out, there is at least one more uncollected Baring-Gould story, ‘The Witch-Finder’, which I’ll add to the ebook when I get a chance!

Uncollected Stories [Kindle]

Uncollected Stories [Epub]

Uncollected Stories [PDF]

The rather unfortunately named Brown Willey, which features in the story 'Crowdy Marsh'

The rather unfortunately named Brown Willey, which features in the story ‘Crowdy Marsh’

A quick note on the texts:

I’ve scanned most of the stories from the Scarob Press edition, which uses the texts of the original periodical publications. In the case of ‘The Fireman’ and ‘The Old Woman of Wessel’, I’ve used the texts available on Wikisource. As far as I can tell, this version of ‘The Old Woman of Wessel’ is the text of the original periodical publication – but the text of ‘The Fireman’ seems to be from a later American reprint of the story, which may be pirated from Baring-Gould’s original. There are only minor differences, however, none of which materially affect the meaning or significance of the text.

Christmas Ghost Stories

 winter landscape (1811)

The first of four festive ebooks I’ve prepared for the blog, this is a collection of Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories with a Christmas (or at least a wintery) setting. There’s nothing startlingly new here – all of these tales have been widely anthologised before – but they’re just the thing for the darkest nights of the year.

Enjoy – and feel free to share with friends!

Christmas Ghost Stories [Kindle]

Christmas Ghost Stories [Epub]

Christmas Ghost Stories [PDF]

 

 

Spook Stories by E.F. Benson

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E.F. Besnon was a prolific writer of fiction across several genres, from the ‘new woman’ novel, Dodo (1893) to the waspish social comedy of the Mapp and Lucia series. He also wrote several popular collections of ‘spook stories’, including the two collected here: Spook Stories (1928) and More Spook Stories (1934) – both volumes are included in the download below.

These were the only two of Benson’s supernatural collection to include the phrase ‘spook stories’ in the title, although Benson used this term to refer to all of his supernatural output. Even so, this blanket appellation hides the diversity of his supernatural fiction, which ranges from the comic, to the genuinely chilling. Pastiche is also a keynote here, with one of the stories, ‘The Hanging of Alfred Wadham’, being an obvious parody of the Catholic stories of Benson’s brother Robert, whose Mirror of Shalott can be downloaded elsewhere on this site.

Spook Stories / More Spook Stories [Kindle]

Spook Stories / More Spook Stories [Epub]

Spook Stories / More Spook Stories [PDF]

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Dracula’s Guest (1914) by Bram Stoker

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Stoker’s posthumous collection of uncollected tales includes a ‘deleted scene’ from his best known novel Dracula (1897), in which Jonathan Harker has a close encounter with a werewolf. The collection also contains ‘The Judge’s House’, a highly regarded haunted house mystery heavily influenced by the work of Stoker’s fellow Irishman Sheridan Le Fanu. The collection’s Wikipedia page contains details of the stories’ original periodical publication, where known.

Dracula’s Guest [Kindle]

Dracula’s Guest [Epub]

Dracula’s Guest [PDF]

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Critical edition:

Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories, edited by Kate Hebblethwaite (Penguin, 2006)

Biography:

Lisa Hopkins, Bram Stoker: A Literary Life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Critical studies (selected):

Carol A. Senf, Bram Stoker (Gothic Texts: Critical Revisions (University of Wales Press, 2010)

Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, edited by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller (McFarland, 2008)

David Glover, Vampires, Mummies and Liberals: Bram Stoker and the Politics of Popular Fiction (Duke University Press, 1996)

Carnacki, the Ghost Finder (1913) by W.H. Hodgson

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Cover of the 1913 edition

William Hope Hodgson’s tales of the occult detective Carnacki first appeared as a five-part series in The Idler in 1910. This was followed by a further story (‘The Thing Invisible’) in The New Magazine in 1912. In 1913, all six tales were collected in book form as Carnacki, the Ghost Finder. This ebook edition includes the original 1913 volume, together with three further stories which were included in the 1947 edition of the collection as well as the revised version of ‘The Thing Invisible’ from 1948. For more on the textual history of the stories, as well as Florence Briscoe’s original illustrations from The Idler, visit Marcus L. Rowland’s website.

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Illustration by Florence Briscoe, illustrating a scene from ‘The Gateway of the Monster’

The stories are narrated by Carnacki, a detective specialising in alleged hauntings and other sinister or seemingly impossible goings-on – aided only by his encyclopaedic knowledge of ancient lore and the application of his trusty ‘electric pentacle’. Although the stories are narrated by Carnacki, the ghost-hunter’s narrative is relayed to readers at second hand via an un-named frame narrator – one of several of the detective’s close friends, who gather periodically at Carnacki’s home at Cheyne Walk on the Chelsea embankment to hear an account of his latest case.  Carnacki’s open-minded approach to the supernatural is particularly refreshing in that it is uniquely double-edged – never ruling out a supernatural explanation, he is nevertheless equally determined to find a rational explanation if one exists. Consequently, first-time readers never know for sure at the beginning of the tale whether the events narrated will prove to be genuine manifestations or clever hoaxes.

Carnacki the Ghost Finder [Kindle]

Carnacki the Ghost Finder [Epub]

Carnacki the Ghost Finder [PDF]

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Cover of the 1947 edition

Wandering Ghosts (1903) by F. Marion Crawford

F. CRAWFORD COVER

Francis Marion Crawford was a prolific and popular author of fiction on both sides of the Atlantic at the turn of the last century, producing countless novels and short stories as well as several plays and a number of historical works about Italy. Crawford was an American citizen, but was widely travelled, having been born to an artistic American family in Italy and attending school in India. Today, he is perhaps best known for his supernatural fiction, his reputation resting largely on this collection of tales published in 1903.

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The collection contains his most-anthologised story, ‘The Upper Berth’, which can also be downloaded elsewhere on this blog, where it can be read in the context of its original publication as part of The Broken Shaft, T. Fisher Unwin’s Christmas Annual for 1885. Also in the collection is Crawford’s unsettling vampire story, ‘For the Blood is the Life’.

Wandering Ghosts [Kindle]

Wandering Ghosts [Epub]

Wandering Ghosts [PDF]

F. CRAWFORD frontispiece

Frontispiece to the first edition, illustrating a scene from ‘The Screaming Skull’

 

A Mirror of Shalott (1907) by R.H. Benson

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R.H. Benson’s supernatural fiction has been accused of being nothing more than thinly-veiled Catholic propaganda. This is only half true. For while his ghost stories present and promote an ontology that is rigidly Catholic,  it would be churlish to dismiss them as nothing more than mere dogma. In this second collection of uncanny tales, for example, the stories succeed through a carefully heightened sense of unease and mounting horror. Despite the underlying religious certainty, several of the tales also skilfully evoke the ‘cosmic’ horror of the weird fiction tradition, revealing an unseen world in which uncontrollable forces, immeasurably more powerful and more ancient than humanity, are locked in a constant struggle. As well as a writer of essays and fiction, Benson was an ordained Catholic priest and the stories take the form of ‘tales told at a symposium’ of priests, who pool their experiences of the supernatural in order to see if a consensus can be reached regarding the ‘point’ of these experiences in a divine schema. Unsettlingly, such a point is not immediately apparent and the narrators are left only with their faith in a merciful deity working ultimately for the benefit of humankind.

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Benson at the time of publication

Another intriguing feature of this collection is Benson’s determination to bring the process of oral storytelling to the fore and to emphasise its relationship to the impact of the stories on the listeners present. All three of the Benson brothers had been present at M.R. James’s ghost story readings, but Robert Benson’s tales differ from James’s in that they make the immediate (although, admittedly invented) context of the tales’ reception an intrinsic part of the tale itself and of its effect. This is an appropriate device given that the ‘ghost’ in many of the tales is not a visible spectre, but rather a malevolent atmosphere, doubt or dread – a lingering emotional response that has somehow become untethered from the events that originally inspired it and has taken on a life of its own…

A Mirror of Shalott [Kindle]

A Mirror of Shalott [Epub]

A Mirror of Shalott [PDF]

The collection first appeared in 1907 and this text is based on a 1912 reprint, which corrects several errors in the original printing and changed the subtitle slightly: the original subtitle was ‘tales told at an unprofessional symposium’.