Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, February 26, 2016


Evening Tales for the Winter, Being a Selection of Wonderful and Supernatural Tales edited by Henry St. Clair (1856)

My forgotten book this week is an expansion of an earlier anthology which was one of the first (if not the first) American collection of supernatural stories.  One of the first supernatural anthologies in English was published in 1812:  Henry Weber's Tales of the East, a collection of oriental romances that Weber compiled while he ws Walter Scott's literary assistant.  This was followed by various collections of Germanic romances from several ddifferent hands.  The tradition continued in an earlier version of Evening Tales for the Winter which appeared in 1835, the two-volume Tales of Terror, or, The Mysteries of Magic, which was subtitled "translated from the Chinese, Turkish, and German."  That book proved to be popular and went through four editions until 1856, when St. Clair added a third volume of stories and published it under the current title.  The actual sources of many of these stories appear to be unknown and very little appears to be of either Chinese or Turkish origin, but it did provide a concentrated collection of thrills for the Nineteenth Century reader and paved the way for other, more ambitious anthologies.

What was a concentrated collection of thrills for the reader of more than a century and a half ago may seem like weak tea to the modern reader and, indeed, many of these tales are dull.  But there is also a spark of adventure in many of them and a frisson of excitement in some of the supernatural tales.  Altthough this book lays claim to an early supernatural collection, many of the stories are of the  mundane world.  All  but three of the stories are anonymously written, most likely for the journals and the magazines of the time.  ISFdB lists the author of all uncredited stories here as St. Clair himself but that is most likely a mistake.

The longest story in the book is also the most confusing.  "The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century" appears to have taken place in the Eighteenth Century.  It begins with a very effective ghost story related by one man to his friend.  The friend then says that he coincidently had an experience that should shed llight on that story, and then relates another effective ghost story that has no connection whatever with the first.  The anonymous author clearly lost control of this tale.  And, though the title promises us an astrologer, none  appears.  There is one wizard, however, and perhaps that is close enough to an astrologer, but the word astrologer never appears in the text and our wizard appears only in the second story related.

The stories:

Volume One

  • The Magic Dice, An Awful Narration
  • The Gored Huntsman 
  • The Nikkur Holl
  • Der Freischutz; or, The Magic Balls (by A. Apel, a translation of an 1810 story)
  • The Story of Judar
  • The Boarwolf
  • The Cavern of Death
  • The Mysterious Bell
  • The Dervvise Alfournan
  • Hassan Assar, or, The History of the Caliph of Bagdat
Volume Two
  • The Astrologet of the Nineteenth Century
  • The Flying Dutchman
  • The Tiger's Cave
  • Peter Rugg, the Missing Man (by William Austin, a classic American tale first printed in 1824)
  • The Haunted Forest
  • The Lonely Man of the Ocean
  • The Hungarian Horse Dealer
  • The Wrecker of St. Agnes
Volume Three
  • Old Adventures
  • Love and Authorship
  • The Magdalen
  • An Old House in the City
  • Nina Dalgarooki
  • Sir Hurry Skurry:  A Character
  • Marie Marnet
  • The Prophecy (by The Rev. H. Cauntner, from The English Annual for 1835)
  • My Two Aunts
Some interesting reading, some dull reading, some good writing, some sloppy writing, a mixed bag indeed.  Recommended for interested in this sort of thing and for its historic value.  The book is readly available online at UPenn's Online Books Page.  Print-on-demand copies are also available from the usual sources


  1. I can't seem to avoid horror/supernatural/ghost/vampire/zombie stuff these days! Yuk.

  2. Ever grumpier Rick! While I was reminded of reading the early WEIRD TALES stories in that pirated anthology a few years back...crude vigor and certainly a certain Shock of the (Then) New in many of the stories...