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The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories Paperback – 24 Apr 2003
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Review from previous edition The Oxford editors have tried to be comprehensive, to map out the development of the Victorian ghost story from c.1850. As a result, they have given us some gems. (Daniel Easterman, Books)
They have produced a thoroughly eclectic sampling of the era. (Evening Standard)
splendid collection...Just the thing for long dark evenings. (Andrew Langley, Bath & West Evening Chronicle)
the genuine article, not an anthology that crumbles at a touch ... This is an anthology far larger than its 500 pages, for it will have readers hastening to a decent library to follow up the authors here sampled. (Daily Telegraph)
the perfect literary shop of horrors (The Observer)
finely produced (Times Literary Supplement)
you'll want nothing more than morning to come darned quick (SHE)
Cox and Gilbert's canny rummagings into the spooky annals of a century or so ago unearth some relishable lesser-known blood-curdlers ... Victorian Ghost Stories contains a tremendous clutch of tales and, as the era nears its end, they tighten their gruesome grip. (Sunday Times)
Gripping tales perfect for reading aloud. (Independent on Sunday)
In the midst of life we are in death' had real meaning for the Victorians, so perhaps it's not surprising that they excelled at ghost stories. Here are 35 of the best of them. (Books)
a fat collection of some 31 tales, with a knowledgeable and useful introduction ... What is most fascinating about these stories is the indirect picture of Victorian life they give ... this mammoth Oxford volume illustrates the richness of that lamented literary harvest. (Financial Times)
About the Author
Michael Cox is Editor of A Dictionary of Writers and Their Works, and The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century Ghost Stories. R. A. Gilbertis a well-known antiquarian bookseller.
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Top customer reviews
Along with the stories are a comprehensive list of all ghost story collections published during the half century of years following 1840, full source details for the 35 stories and an introduction by editor Michael Cox.
Highlights for me include:
The Old Nurse's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell. It's probably the best written ghost story here with superb characterisation, lush prose and as a ghost story endlessly imitated even today.
An Account Of Some Strange Disturbances In Aungier Street by J.S.Le Fanu. One of his best and the veteran of countless anthologies.
The Open Door by Charlotte Riddell. Not particularly scary but a well written example of its type and introducing a rare detective element.
The Captain of the Pole-star by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Eery arctic tale coloured by Doyle's own experience of life on a steam-whaler.
The Kit-bag by Algernon Blackwood. Only Blackwood could imbue such an innocent inanimate object with such a deep sense of malevolent dread.
The only ones I'd have left out would be:
An Eddy On The Floor by Bernard Capes which although suitably macabre is also a shade too long compared to the other entries and probably the least accessible due to its convoluted syntax.
Miss Jeromette And The Clergyman - a very weak effort by Wilkie Collins.
The Tomb of Sarah by F.G.Loring - Nice story but very much a vampire tale.
Reading these in order shows how the genre developed. It's a genre that in the Victorian era was very much designed to be read aloud at the fireside after dinner and ever associated with mid winter and Christmas. It goes through phases of doomed love triangles, vengeful victims, tragic victims of accident defeating mortality to see their loved ones a final time, portentous warnings, cursed objects and places, spiritualism, tragic reenactments etc.
There will probably never be a definitive collection of ghost stories. The editor could easily have selected 35 alternate stories and still pleased this reader as much. I wouldn't have it any other way.
There are a few which are slow and dull but there are others which left me reeling! I'm extremely fond of this book and fully intend (at some point) to read them all at least once.
A gripping collection.