Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 8, 2017


Weird Tales -- English anonymous edited, possibly by William Paterson (1888)

In the 1880s, London publisher William Paterson issued a series of books known as Nuggets for Travellers.  There were at least eighteen volumes in the series: four in the Tit Bits of Humour series (English, Irish, Scottish, and American), three in the Jests and Anecdotes series (Irish, Scottish, and American), five in the Classic Tales -- Serious and Lively (Voltaire, Goldsmith & Brooks, Marnportel, Hawkesworth. and Johnson, Mackenzie & Sterne), one by Thomas Crofton Croker titled Love Tales:  Irish, and five in the Weird Tales series (English, Scottish, Irish, American, and German).  At least some appear to have been republished by Dent in the 1890s and at least the Weird Tales series was republished by Paterson in 1922).  All the volumes are quite rare, but four of the Weird Tales series are available online at Hathi Trust.

Weird Tales -- English was #5 in the Nuggets for Travellers series and contained a dozen stories, five from anonymous sources:

  • "The Pythagorean:  A Tale of the First Century" by A. Stewart Harrison. "Reprinted by kind permission of Messrs. Bradbury, Evans & Co."  
  • "The Old Man's Tale About the Queer Client" 1836) by Charles Dickens. (No attribution given.)
  • "In Defense of His Right" by Daniel Defoe.  (No attribution given)
  • "Sixteen Days of Death."  (No author credited; no attribution given.)
  • "Adventure in a Forest" by [Tobias] Smollett.  (No attribution given, but the story features Ferdinand Fanthom so I assume it is from The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fanthom, 1853)
  • "Cader Idris:  The Chair of Idris" by John [Berwick] Harwood.  "Reprinted by kind permission of Messrs Bradbury, Evans & Co."
  • "A Skeleton in the House" by Edmund Yates.  "One of the earliest productions of this popular author's pen, it having been written about 1858, while he was still in his twenties.  Reprinted by his kind permission."
  • "A Night with a Madman."  (No author credited; "reprinted by kind permission of the proprietors of Chambers's Journal.")
  • "The Poisoned Mind." (No author credited; "reprinted by kind permission of Messrs. Bradbury, Evans & Co.")
  • "A Dire Prediction." (No author credited; no attribution given.)
  • "The Postponed Wedding."  (No author credited; no attribution given.)
  • "[The] Haunted House of Paddington" (1841) by Charles Ollier.  (No attribution given.)

The stories run the gamut of 19th century sensationalism:  women in danger, cannibalism, ghosts, murder, legends, and curses.  A man must switch positions with a corpse in order to survive.  A young woman's life is ruined because of a premonition and then she has a premonition far worse.  An ancient legend causes the unexplained death of a girl.  A man and his lover are chained together to die.  A greedy step-mother plots to gain her husband's wealth only to meet a mysterious specter.  A journalist on vacation in Devon comes across a ghost.  A young man sacrifices himself so that his mates can feed on his body.  Gruesome stuff, indeed.

Some of the tales are a bit clunky and some of the dialog is flowery, or tortured, or both. but for the most part these twelve stories a very readable, imbued with a sense of time and place, as well as with a sense for the macabre.  A few of the stories have a sly humor interspersed with the horror.

This collection may well be too old-fashioned for some tastes.  For me, it was interesting and enjoyable read.  You can decide for yourself.  The link below takes you to the Hathi Trust site which contains this volume, as well as three other volumes in the Weird Tales series.

1 comment:

  1. I've never seen any NUGGETS FOR TRAVELERS series, but now that you've alerted us to them, I'll be looking for them!