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The Best Ghost Stories Paperback – 7 Feb 1998

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 467 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; Reprint edition (7 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486204154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486204154
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.8 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 510,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

Joseph Sheridan LeFanu (1814-1873) is regarded by many critics as the greatest master of the English ghost story. A product of the decaying Anglo-Irish culture of the early and middle nineteenth century, he sums up in his work better than any of his contemporaries the fears and dreads that may haunt the sensitive individual.
The reasons for his preeminence are many. He was a remarkable craftsman, whose work has been admired by critics as varied as V. S. Pritchett and H. P. Lovecraft, Henry James and M. R. James. More imaginative and more perceptive than his contemporaries who worked in the same form, he achieved depths and dimensions of terror that still remain otherwise unexplored. And although he was Victorian in his dates, he was in many respects un-Victorian in his writing: his ideas looked both backward to the great supernatural tradition of Romantic fiction and forward to the modern age.LeFanu's work, unfortunately, has not been as well known generally as it should be. A few of his better stories have appeared often enough in anthologies, but much of his very best work has lain hidden, because of its inaccessibility. His contemporaries were more interested in his detective novels (including the unmatchable "Uncle Silas") and his realistic novels than in his supernatural work, with the result that many of his stories were neither reprinted in England nor ever printed at all in America.
The present collection contains such favorites as "Carmilla," "The Familiar," "Green Tea," and "Schalken the Painter," as well as much otherwise unobtainable work. There is, for example, the magnificent nouvelle "The Haunted Baronet," (reprinted for the first time from the fabulously rare "Chronicles of Golden Friars," which survives in perhaps less than a dozen sets), material from "The Purcell Papers," the practically unknown essay-story "An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House," and nine other first-rate stories.


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I think this is the first collection of JSLF stories I've seen. But it isn't complete. They missed out "Wicked Captain Walshawe", which was one of his most amusing ghost tales. The Golden Friars stories are presented with their prologues, which are shaved off in separate anthologies.
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To my reckoning, only M.R. James can rightfully claim the share the thrown held by Sheridan Le Fanu for pure chilling of the spine across such a prolonged period. Many a ghostly inclined author has their odd classic, but James and Le Fanu scare consistently and to maximum effect. For my money though, Le Fanu has the edge...

Including all the ghost stories (but not the adventure story) from 'In a Glass Darkly', this volume also adds most of the best stories from 'Madam Crowls Ghost and Other Stories'. There is a lot of variation here. Le Fanu isn't concerned so much with haunted houses, but haunted people and the effect that being haunted has on a person. The tales are often strange, making great use of folklore which is never explained, so there's a lot of reading in between the lines that you have to do, and it's from there that the scares frequently occur.

The best story of the lot is Schalken The Painter, which tells of a painter whose love, Rose Velderkaust, is wedded to some evil chappy by her Uncle for money. She escapes, and finds her way home in a state of hysteria and rambling about the dead not being one. Notable is that her bride's limbs were seemingly `guided and directed by a spirit unused to the management of bodily machinery'. Where she vanishes to, why, and what exactly is the significance of the rippling water is never explained. It's the not knowing that makes these tales so frightening. There's a lot of psycho-sexual stuff going on in the ghost story genre, but what raises Le Fanu above his peers, including M.R. James, is that he seems to be totally in command of it. He knew EXACTLY what he was on about when he wrote lesbian vampire romp Carmilla, and it's his accute awareness and mastery of his material that makes him a true genius.
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Format: Paperback
Perhaps it is sacrilegious to mark a work by Le Fanu with anything less than 5 stars, but there were stories in this collection that had compelled me to run away from this book time-and-again. The contents of this collection are:

(*) Introduction by E.F. Bleiler

1) Squire Toby's Will
2) Schalken the Painter
3) Madam Crowl's Ghost
4) The Haunted Baronet
5) Green Tea
6) The Familiar
7) Mr. Justice Harbottle
9) Carmilla
10) The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh
11) An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street
12) The Dead Sexton
13) Ghost Stories of the Tiled House
14) The White Cat of Drumgunniol
15) An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House [non-fiction]
16) Sir Dominick's Bargain
17) Ultor de Lacy

(*) Sources

To be honest, the book earns most of its stars by virtue of "Carmilla" alone, with strong contributions from "Schalken the Painter", "Madam Crowl's Ghost", and "Green Tea" (excluding the ramblings of Dr. Martin Hesselius, which have been aptly described by competent persons as "psudoscientific flummery"), and because of its reasonable price, for which Dover Publications deserve heartfelt praise. As far as the other stories are concerned, quoting from Billy Wilder's unforgettable "Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" I have to state that they were not "my cup of tea".
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By A Customer on 11 Jun. 1998
Format: Paperback
LeFanu is one of the top-tier ghost-story writers. Although M.R. James reigns supreme over that particular domain, LeFanu is one of its princes (as is Oliver Onions, though I don't believe that the same can be said for the curiously overrated H.P. Lovecraft). This particular collection will be a joy to any and all enamored of classic ghost stories -- despite unmistakable redundancies and Lefanu's fondness for excessively oratund language.
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The product was packaged well, arrived on time and as expected, but I found the novel itself difficult because of the time it was set and the style of writing
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