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Gothic Tales [Paperback]

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
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Book Description

14 Aug 2000 Penguin Classics
Elizabeth Gaskell's chilling Gothic tales blend the real and the supernatural to eerie, compelling effect. 'Disappearances', inspired by local legends of mysterious vanishings, mixes gossip and fact; 'Lois the Witch', a novella based on an account of the Salem witch hunts, shows how sexual desire and jealousy lead to hysteria; while in 'The Old Nurse's Story' a mysterious child roams the freezing Northumberland moors. Whether darkly surreal, such as 'The Poor Clare', where an evil doppelgänger is formed by a woman's bitter curse, or mischievous like 'Curious, if True', a playful reworking of fairy tales, all the stories in this volume form a stark contrast to the social realism of Gaskell's novels, revealing a darker and more unsettling style of writing.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (14 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014043741X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437416
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester's Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister's wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success.

Two years later she began writing for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Brontë. After Charlotte's death in March 1855, Patrick Brontë chose his daughter's friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature.

Elizabeth Gaskell's position as a clergyman's wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man.

Her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

Product Description

About the Author

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) wrote her first novel, MARY BARTON, in 1848 as a distraction from her sorrow at the death of her only son in infancy. It won the attention of Dickens and was followed by 5 other full-length novels as well as numerous short stories and novellas.

Laura Kranzler has written on Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf and has published a novel.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I am not in the habit of seeing the Household Words regularly; but a friend, who lately sent me some of the back numbers, recommended me to read 'all the papers relating to the Detective and Protective Police',1 which I accordingly did - not as the generality of readers have done, as they appeared week by week, or with pauses between, but consecutively, as a popular history of the Metropolitan Police; and, as I suppose it may also be considered, a history of the police force in every large town in England. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different side to Mrs Gaskell 26 Mar 2009
For anyone interested in seeing a different side to the writer who produced 'Cranford' and 'Wives and Daughters' I would heartily recommend this collection of stories which show a darker side to her imagination. They range from straightforward hauntings to ancient curses and witch hunts in 17th century Salem. There is even a pastiche of fairy tales in here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a writer! 26 Aug 2011
By bookelephant TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I am only not giving this five stars because, the the nature of a book of short stories, there are inevitably one or two stories which do not quite appeal (for myself this is particularly the case for "Lois the Witch" a hugely skilful but stifling evocation of the Salem witch trials.
However overall the skill which this collection evidences is breathtaking. In particular they all read as if Mrs Gaskell were telling you the stories round the fireside herself - you can practically hear her voice, and the pictures of what she described come to you as they do in the best of those Hallowen spook-fests. Also breathtaking to a conventional Gaskell fan is the evidence of a different side to her talent - dark and whimsical by turns. A real treat!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply incredible! 17 Aug 2009
By CoffeeGurl - Published on
North and South is one of my favorite classics. The dark, tragic and romantic tale of a young clergyman's daughter's sudden move to the industrial parts of Northern England captivated me from beginning to end, especially after watching BBC's 2004 four-part series adaptation. Wives and Daughters is another favorite. It is lighter than North and South, yet it is nevertheless heartbreaking and tragic in certain areas, a cannot-put-down dramedy that contains various storylines and social topics. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Elizabeth Gaskell had written a collection of gothic short stories. I've become an avid reader of the genre, and it can always be appreciated when you get to read one from a classic author.

"Disappearances" sets the perfect tone. Gothic is all over the rather morbid storyline. "Curious, If True" is also a perfect gothic, especially because it deals with characters from fairy tales. "The Old Nurse's Story" is the proverbial ghost story, as is "The Poor Clare." "The Doom of the Griffiths" centers on an ancient family curse that now haunts the new generation. But my two favorite stories are "Lois the Witch" and "The Grey Woman."

"Lois the Witch" takes place in Salem. Lois Barclay travels from England after she loses her parents. She wants to find her New England relatives, the Hicksons, a Puritanical family, with tragic results. It takes place during the Salem Witch Trials, so you can imagine the rest. "The Grey Woman" takes place in eighteenth century Germany. A young miller's daughter marries an aristocratic man. She thinks she has made a perfect match, but little does she know that her husband is not what he seems. These two are rather unique gothic stories. I love the historical language as well as the spookiness of them.

First published in 1850-1860, the stories found in Gothic Tales are memorable and wonderful. I couldn't put this collection down. Elizabeth Gaskell has once again impressed me with her versatile style and beautiful writing. She had been friends with Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. She'd had her own fame, though in a smaller degree. In my opinion, she deserves as much recognition as Dickens and the Brontes. So, if you haven't read Gaskell, what are you waiting for? This collection would be a great way to start.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent short gothic stories by the pen of Mrs. Gaskell the Victorian novelist 16 Aug 2010
By C. M Mills - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mrs. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810-65) was a great novelist. She wrote among other classic novels: "North and South"; "Wives and Daughters"; "Cranford" (recently serialized on Masterpiece Theatre); "Mary Barton" and "Sylvia's Lover." Less known is her work in the short story genre. She wrote many pieces for the periodical Household Words edited by Charles Dickens, the Cornhill magazine and other Victorian periodicals. She was also the wife of the Rev. William Gaskell a Unitarian clergyman in Manchester; a mother; traveler and one of the earliest and best biographers of Charlotte Bronte who was her dear friend.
Gothic Tales is a collection of eerie tales compiled in a new Penguin Revised edition. Nine stories are included in the collection which are:
Disappearances-a short article on unusual disappearances no one has been able to explain.
The Old Nurse's Story-The tale of a young girl who is pursued by a ghost who looks like her.
The Squire's Story-The story of Mr Hearn a highwayman.
The Poor Clare-The tale of Bridget and her daughter Mary. Mary disappears and Bridget seeks to find her but not before putting a curse on Mr Gisbourne who had shot her dog.Bridget's curse results in her grandchild Lucy's shadowing by a fearsome "Other." In her later years Bridget becomes a religious nun in the Clare order.
Lois the Witch is the longest and best of the stories in the collection. It recounts the tale of an English girl who is hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. This nearly 100 page novella reminds us of the same type of tale spun by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is it the only piece in the collection which is set in America.
The Crooked Branch is the story of a quaint old couple who have a son who becomes a criminal. He returns to the family farm where he participates in a robbery.
Curious, If True is a delightful story of a man who wanders in a French forest. Arriving one night he finds a castle inhabited by fairy tale characters.
The Grey Lady is an excellent story of a German woman who marries a French nobleman who turns out to be a murderer. Her exciting escape with the assistance of a faithful servant makes for good reading.
Mrs. Gaskell deserves to be better known among readers. She writes in a clear and easy to understand style knowing best how to tell a story. I always enjoy her works! These little gothic tale gems are worth your time and money!
the Doom of the Griffiths-Resembles the Oedipus story of Sophocles in which a son kills his father.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Surprise 7 Dec 2008
By Steven J. Meader - Published on
This book was a great, and very pleasant surprise. I did not know that she wrote short stories, and I really enjoyed reading her "gothic" stories. I have always liked her as a writer, and this book is noiw a wonderful new addition to my colection.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, Creepy 22 Jan 2011
By Kim Maddalozzo - Published on
Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite writers and I have enjoyed all of her books that I have read so far. She is so unrecognized, and it is such a shame because her work is so good. She has such a talent for creating believable characters and strong story lines. I truly adore her work. On the other hand, I have never been a fan of short stories because I feel that readers never get a real chance to connect with the characters and it is harder to establish a plot, development and keep the pace going without it feeling rushed. So I picked this book up to complete my collection of her work and hoped for the best. I have to say that I loved it. All of the stories in the book are worth reading with just the right amount of character development, suspense, horror and just plain creep factor. I have to say that my favorite story is the Old Nurse's Tale, I could not put the book down until the story was completed and I felt like my hair was standing on end the whole time. I think the mixture of creepy cold old home with tragic family secrets was brilliant and suspenseful. I would recommend this book to any fan of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels or any lover of Victorian Gothic Tales or novels, it is truly a book that belongs in any of these libraries.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOTHIC TALES, GASKELL, KRANZLER 17 Jan 2011
By C. Bilderback - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Can't stop watching DVD of North & South so started ordering Gaskell books. This one is terrific so no doubt will love reading N&S. However wish somebody would tell Laura Kranzler (Intro. & Note) her pg. 350 #26 Magdalen note is not correct. Mary Magdalene was healed of evil devils St. Luke 8:2, Thomas Nelson Bible 1975. The true condition goes along perfectly with "The Poor Clare" story. There are many Marys in the New Testament but this one was not called a prostitute. Unfortunately church leaders have given her that reputation. Enjoyed the other Kranzler notes & will read as much Gaskell as I can get my hands on.
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