Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 4, 2012


MORE GREAT TALES OF HORROR edited by "Marjorie Bowen"

Marjorie Bowen was just one of at least five pseudonyms used by Gabrielle Margaret Vere Campbell Long (1886-1952) in a career that spanned over four and a half decades and included at least 160 books and plays.  Scattered among her many historical novels, biographies, histories, essays and plays were a number of supernatural and non-supernatural horror novels and stories, including the often reprinted story The Crown Derby Plate.

     She had a lifelong interest in the weird and the supernatural, one that waswell displayed in only two books that she edited:  Great Tales of Horror (1933) and More Great Tales of Horror (1935).  Critic and author Brian Stableford has called the anthologies "two of the best and most wide-ranging representatives of horror fiction."  I'm trying to obtain a copy of the first book and I'm fortunate to have the second book in front of me now.

     Subtitled "being a collection of strange stories of amazement, horror and wonder," More Great Tales of Horror contains 26 items, many from rare sources, and most written before 1840.  (One of the four Sheridan Le Fanu stories in the anthology was first printed in 1870 but was based on an earlier story he had published in 1838.)  Many of the stories had appeared in 18th and 19th century magazines and miscellania anonymously or as by "unknown" writers.  Some are folk tales; some are presented as fact.  Some involve the supernatural; some involve grue.  At least two of the stories were translated by Bowen from the original French.

     The contents are as follows:
  • Laird of Cassway by James Hogg.  The first of two stories in the book by Hogg, also known as The Ettrick Shepherd. Hogg was a good friend of Sir Walter Scott and the author of the classic novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.  Most of Hogg's works are now readily available online.
  • The Room with the Arras by W. W. Fenn.  The first of three stories taken from Fenn's collection Woven in Darkness.  The author was William Wilthieu Fenn (d. 1906), a blind writer and lecturer who is often confused with another W. W. Fenn -- William Wallace Fenn (1862-1932), a theologian who also penned a collection of fantasy stories, 'Twixt the Lights.  Even my friend Google confuses the two.
  • The Coffin Maker by Nikolai Poushkin, at least that's how they spell the name here.  Another story that is now available online.
  • Wicked Captain Walshawe of Wauling by Sheridan Le Fanu.  Le Fanu, of course, is considered the grandfather of the modern supernatural story.  He is represented with four stories in the anthology, all of which are now available online.
  • Wooden Woman by Allan Cunningham.  Cunningham was a 19th century poet who also wrote "oral treasures" from his native Scotland.  Wooden Woman is one of three such in the volume.
  • The Fatal Hour.  An anonymous story translated from the French by Bowen.
  • Elie Anderson's Revenge, an anonymous story from The Odd Volume (1830).
  • The Haunted Mill by Mrs. Catherine Crowe (circa 1799-1876).  One of three stories in the book from Mrs. Crowe's The Night Side of Nature, an exceedingly popular book of supernatural stories, culled from all the world, many of which were claimed to have been true.  (Mrs. Crowe evidently was sincere in her belief of the supernatural; when she was found naked one night in Edinburgh in the 1850s, she insisted that spirits must have taken her clothes.  Imagine her surprise when she was treated for mental illness.)  All of Mrs. Crowe's supernatural collections, as well as some of her gothic romances, are available online.
  • The Laird of Cool's Ghost is a reprint from an anonymous 18th century chapbook.
  • The Sexton's Adventure by Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • Ezra Penden by Allan Cunningham.
  • The Sutor of Selkirk is another anonymous story from The Odd Volume.
  • The Hand on the Latch by W. W. Fenn.
  • The Laird of Wineholm by James Hogg.
  • A Vision of Tom Chuff by Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • Fairy Bride is a traditional fairy tale.  By Anonymous, of course.  [Which reminds me that some day I should do a Forgotten Book post on Willard Espy's biography of that prolific author, Anonymous.]
  • Black Joe o' the Bow by James Smith is another old Scottish story.  One thing about these old stories:  their authors have never heard of political correctness.  This tale begins, "In the days no sae very lang syne, when the auld west Bow o' Edinburgh was in the deadthaw o' its glory, there lived an auld blackymore named Joe Johnson."
  • A Ghost in a Prison by Mrs. Catherine Crowe.
  • The Accursed Portrait is an anonymous story, originally written in German, but now translated by Bowen from from an early 19th century French version.
  • Infernal Major Weir is by Robert Chambers, LL.D.  Chambers,  along with his brother William, was a bookseller, publisher, and author; Bowen credits the brothers with collecting and preserving many of the stories and legends of Scotland.
  • Spectre Lovers by Sheridan Le Fanu.
  • The Murder Hole is another traditional story by our friend Anonymous.
  • Perling Joan by John Gibson Lockhart, Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law.
  • Ghost on the Chain Pier by W. W. Fenn.
  • Resurrection Men by D. M. Moir is another tale of grue from Scotland, laced with a special sense of humor.
  • Ghost with a Golden Casket by Allan Cunningham.
     This one is recommended for anyone interested in the development of ghost and horror stories, and who is not put off by flowery verbiage, some pseudo-reasoning, and/or written dialects.

     For those who are interested, here is the listing for Bowen's first anthology, as taken from Donald H. Tuck's The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (1974):

          Great Tales of Horror  (J. Lane, London, 1933, 415 pp., 7/6; 1935, 3/6)
               Weird, 29 stories (many are also in The Great Weird Stories [Neale], 1929): "The Gray
          Chamber," Anon.; "The Murder of Squire Langton," M. Bowen; "Sir Dominick Sarsfield," J. S.
          Le Fanu; "The Queen of Spades," A. Pushkin; "The Two Sisters of Cologne," Anon.; "The Witch
          (St. John's Eve)," Gogol; "The Ghost of a Head," Anon.; "The Great Keinpatz Experiment," A. C.
          Doyle; "The Woman's Ghost Story," A. Blackwood; "The Doppleganger," "The Dead Bride," Anon.;
          "The Tapestried Chamber," Sir W. Scott; "Almodoro's Cupid," W. W. Astor; "The Skull," Anon.;
          "The Magic Mirror," G. MacDonald; "The Red Room," H. G. Wells; "In Letters of Fire," G. Leroux;
          "The Legend of Dunblanc," Anon.; "The Shining Pyramid," A. Machen; "A Night in the Old Castle,"
          G. P. R. James.

     There appears to be more familiar stories in the first volume, but it stll looks worth checking out.


     For more of today's Forgotten Books, go to Patti Abbott's wonderful blog, pattinase.

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