Tag Archives: literature

Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Maturin

Melmoth_the_Wanderer_1820

Charles Robert Maturin’s classic Gothic novel is a sprawling epic about a man who sells his soul to the Devil, wandering the earth in search of another poor unfortunate to take on his burden. The complicated tale-within-a-tale structure unfolds the plot through a series of haunting episodes in which various protagonists describe their encounters with the elusive Melmoth.

Maturin

Commonly held to be the last gasp of the first phase of European Gothic, the novel really does have it all – live burials, the horrors of the inquisition, Faustian pacts, mysterious manuscripts, lunatics, damsels in distress and banditti aplenty. Not, perhaps, what you’d expect from the pen of an Irish clergyman (even if the deliciously OTT condemnation of Catholicism makes some sense given Maturin’s Hugenot background and Protestant affiliations). The Church seems to have agreed – leading to an ironic situation in which writing was simultaneously the bar to Maturin’s advancement in the Church and the means by which he supported his wife and family.

Until recently, a properly formatted, unabridged electronic version of the novel did not exist – so kudos to whoever produced the fantastic transcription at Project Gutenberg Australia, on which this version is based!

An inquisition torture chamber

An inquisition torture chamber

Melmoth the Wanderer [Kindle]

Melmoth the Wanderer [Epub]

Melmoth the Wanderer [PDF]

The Inquisition holds court...

The Inquisition holds court…

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.

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

madeleine dahlgren

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

Schongauer_Anthony

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

Elizabeth_Gaskell_1832

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.

Haunted-house-1859

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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The Lancashire Witches (1848) by William Harrison Ainsworth

Witches 7William Harrison Ainsworth’s fictionalised account of the Pendle Witch trials, which occurred in his native Lancashire during the 16th century, adds a number of overtly supernatural elements. As a result, the novel had a significant impact on the traditional appearance of the witch in the popular imagination, including the trademark black clothes and pointed hat.

Witches 8

The novel is based on Thomas Potts’s The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (1603), an edition of which had recently been edited by Ainsworth’s friend, the antiquary James Crossley. Crossley’s edition of Potts’s book is available to download here.

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The illustrations on this page are by John Gilbert.

The Lancashire Witches [Kindle]

The Lancashire Witches [Epub]

The Lancashire Witches [PDF]

Witches 4

A Sheaf of Yule Log Stories (1888) by Rev. A. D. Crake

Yule Log Tales 1

Published in 1888, this is a collection of children’s stories, mostly on a supernatural theme, ‘edited’ by the Rev. A.D. Crake, Chaplain of All Saints’ C of E School, Bloxham and later Vicar of St Peter’s, Havenstreet, Isle of White. In a framing narrative, the author recalls a happy childhood Christmas with his extended family in the English Lakes region. Every evening, the older members of the company would entertain the younger with a suitably exciting or creepy tale as they gathered around the Christmas fire. As this description might suggest, the tales, although often supernatural, are very tame as horror stories. At the same time, however, the narrator’s nostalgic sense of time and place is charming and, on occasion, moving, making the volume a quaint and entertaining read for the festive period. 

Dolmen in the snow  *oil on canvas  *61 x 80 cm  *1807

This is probably the last update before January 2014 – so a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

A Sheaf of Yule Log Stories [Kindle]

A Sheaf of Yule Log Stories [Epub]

A Sheaf of Yule Log Stories [PDF]

Yule Log Tales 2

Told After Supper (1891) by Jerome K. Jerome

told1 told2

“It was Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve at my Uncle John’s; Christmas Eve (There is too much ‘Christmas Eve’ about this book. I can see that myself. It is beginning to get monotonous even to me. But I don’t see how to avoid it now.) at No. 47 Laburnham Grove, Tooting! Christmas Eve in the dimly-lighted (there was a gas-strike on) front parlour…”

Jerome K. Jerome’s parody of the Victorian ghost story is set on Christmas Eve (as the quotation above may have made clear!) and involves the increasingly discruntled narrator’s attempts to turn a series of tales told by his family and friends into a traditional collection of popular chillers – only to be confounded by unforeseen and disappointingly prosaic obstacles.

Filled with nearly a hundred illustrations by Kenneth M. Skeaping, the original volume is a thing of beauty and is available to view online at the Internet Archive.

Told After Supper [Kindle]

Told After Supper [Epub]

Told After Supper [PDF]

told1 told2

 

The Castle and the Abbey – A Christmas Tale (1846)

Back Entrance of Caldicot Castle, South Wales, engraved by J. Greig published 1811 by Edward Dayes 1763-1804

This little-known Gothic novel was published anonymously at Maidstone in 1846 by J.V. Hall and Son (presumably for the Christmas market). A curious mixture of the Gothic narratives of Ann Radcliffe and the ‘silver fork’ novels so popular in the 1840s, it tells the story of a persecuted heroine whose happy marriage to the handsome young heir of Beaulieu Abbey is threatened by the appearance of the terrible spectre of the Black Monk. Meanwhile, her companion and childhood friend, Cecilia Herbert, has to deal with the sufferings of her mad half-sister. Eventually, the supernatural elements of the novel are rationalised in Radcliffian fashion – but not before a sensational family secret has been revealed.

The Castle and the Abbey [Kindle]

The Castle and the Abbey [Epub]

The Castle and the Abbey [PDF]

BeaulieuAbbey7

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]