on 5 August 2006
Here follows an overview of the contents of this volume, for your convenience:
The Queer Chair (The bagman's story) from The Pickwick Papers - extremely funny.
A Madman's Manuscript from The Pickwick Papers - one of the stories that influenced Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.
The Goblins who Stole a Sexton from The Pickwick Papers - the predecessor of A Christmas Carol.
The Ghosts of the Mail (The story of the bagman's uncle) from The Pickwick Papers - another funny story.
The Baron of Grogzwig from Nicholas Nickleby - a story that influenced Edgar Allan Poe's The Devil in the Belfry.
A Christmas Carol - no comment needed.
The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain - a haunting story about the value of suffering.
To be Read at Dusk - a pair of stories concerning dreams and visions.
The Ghost in the Bride's Chamber from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices - a story about a ghost that is doomed to walk the earth for evermore.
The Haunted House - a pair of stories about a house that is haunted by the narrator's own self.
The Trial for Murder (To be taken with a grain of salt) - a story about a murdered man who comes back to see justice done.
The Signalman - No comment needed.
on 25 August 2008
It's a somewhat uneducated cliché to say 'the old stuff ain't as scary', in an era where horror literature is far more explicit. I'm not an advocate of this school of thought however, proffering to be chilled by the likes of Le Fanu and James rather than grossed out. Dicken's ghost stories are, as the title suggests, stories about ghosts, but do not buy this under the misconception that they are all concocted purely to scare you, for they frequently have designs of a more esoteric nature than that.
'A Christmas Carol' is a morality tale, full of Dickens' often slated sentimentalism, which I nonetheless found infinitely enjoyable. Meanwhile 'The Ghosts Of The Mail' is almost like an adventure story, the likes of which we might expect from Washington Irving. Dickens seems determined to use the ghost story format to explore as many different emotions as possible, so some tales are comical, some sad, and yes some scary. One certainty is that all of the tales contained herein are very entertaining. Dickens' command of prose was, and still is, unmatched and he makes even the slightest details a source of great enjoyment with his profound sense of wit.
As such, I would label this a book of entertaining ghost stories rather than scary ghost stories, though there are exceptions to the rule. 'The Ghost In The Brides Chamber' is very chilling, not to mention rather sinister, and the frequently anthologised 'The Signalman' deserves its frequent 'contender for most chilling tale ever' accolade with absolute worthiness. Both of these tales share much in common with the works of Sheridan Le Fanu in their sense of escalation and presentation of inter-personal relationships, which is a charming comparison if ever there was one.
I'd say this is quite an essential collection, but I think it will appeal to fans of Dickens and/or 19th century literature in general first, ghost story enthusiasts second. It's not as intensely psychological or subtly chilling as many of the canonical authors in this genre, but the tales are so varied in style and effect that I don't consider this to be a negative criticism. What you have here is a collection of well written stories that never fail to being a smile upon ones face, and in light of that I'd thoroughly recommend this book.
The Christmas season wouldn't be complete without a good ghost story or two, and in this collection we get twenty. The centrepiece is, of course, the novella length A Christmas Carol, and we also get what is probably Dickens' next best-known ghost story, The Signalman, which is perhaps the most chilling tale in the book. The other stories range from several very short ones through to another novella-length one, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.
"When twilight everywhere released the shadows, prisoned up all day, that now closed in and gathered like mustering swarms of ghosts. When they stood lowering, in corners of rooms, and frowned out from behind half-opened doors. When they had full possession of unoccupied apartments. When they danced upon the floors, and walls, and ceilings of inhabited chambers, while the fire was low, and withdrew like ebbing waters when it sprang into a blaze."
The joy of Dickens' ghost stories is that they are truly family reading - not one of them would be unsuitable for reading aloud to a mixed age group. Many of them were first published in one of Dickens' periodicals, All the Year Round or Household Words and were very much intended for the whole family. Others (The Queer Chair, The Goblins who Stole a Sexton, etc.) are taken from the novels, mainly Pickwick Papers, and these are usually more humorous than scary. In fact, humour runs through the majority of the stories, with The Signalman and The Portrait Painter's Story being the main exceptions.
As with any collection, the quality of the stories varies a bit, but even Dickens' less good tales stand up well. The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain is, like A Christmas Carol, a morality tale; this time reminding us that sorrow and trouble are part of what makes us human, and with a strong social message about the dangers of allowing the continuance of an underclass excluded from things the rest of us take for granted - a message that relates almost as much to today's society, sadly. This story also contains who must surely be the most annoying of all Dickens sickly-sweet heroines, Mrs. Swidger, a woman so indefatigably happy she brings out all of my homicidal tendencies (which, I hasten to assure you, I restrict to fictional characters).
"So she rolled out the crust, dropping large tears upon it all the time because he was so cross, and when she had lined the dish with crust and had cut the crust all ready to fit the top, the Captain called out, 'I see the meat in the glass!' And the bride looked up at the glass, just in time to see the Captain cutting her head off; and he chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it to the baker's, and ate it all, and picked the bones."
NB This is not a recipe for Christmas dinner.
In the shorter stories, Dickens often takes the opportunity to mock the spiritualism that was becoming so popular in the Victorian era, turning much of his humour on the mediums and table-rappers. There is also a recurring theme which suggests that Dickens believed many apparitions and hauntings owed as much to alcoholic spirits as the other kind. Overall this is a jolly little collection, filled with madness, murder, revenge and other such traditional Christmas fare; and, whether chilling or humorous, all written with Dickens' masterly story-telling skills. Whether you read one a night throughout the Christmas season, or splurge and read the whole thing over a few evenings, it's guaranteed to ensure that you Have a Dickens of a Christmas!
on 6 February 2012
It could have been 1867. Low lights, candles, and the speaker at the desk at the front of the hall as the `ghost stories of Dickens` were read aloud. We laughed, cried, held our breath - the book held the audience spellbound. `Why don`t we read stories aloud anymore?` asked some people. This is the ideal book to start your own reading circle. Thanks.
on 29 October 2009
This is a series of extracts from Dickens and is useful for younger readers in isolating certain passages and stories. Check carefully if you already have the books the extracts come from.
on 4 December 2012
Having begun to read this collection last December, I resumed this Yuletide, as Dickens's ghost stories as the title of one printed here demand 'To Be Read at Dusk', ideally at Christmas before an open fire.
This worthy collection is mainly drawn from works published in Household Words, The Keepsake and All the Year Round. Stories are themed on premonitions, insanity, childhood fears and revenge.
Particularly prominent besides the classic 'A Christmas Carol', which nevertheless rewards countless rereads, constantly surprising the reader with previously unperceived detail is the atmospheric and eerie 'The Signalman' which is strongly redolent of the horrors of the railway depicted in Dombey and Son.
In 'The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton' Dickens's is arguably experimenting with some of the themes which were to subsequently appear in A Christmas Carol, five years later. The misanthropic central character is presented with a phantasmagoria of scenes, conjured from apparently nowhere to illustrate his misdemeanours, before later undergoing a redemption and return to the human fold.
'A Child's Dream of a Star' is an ethereal and spiritually uplifting story of life and death. In 'Captain Murderer and The Devil's Bargain' the author brilliantly explores the origins of many childhood fears and their propagation by unscrupulous or sadistic adults. 'To be Read at Dusk' is a chilling tale of premonition and kidnap. The compelling 'The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain' clearly represents Dickens's attempt at recapturing the publishing success of A Christmas Carol, in which he emphasises the need to experience and remember suffering in order to develop spiritually.
This Wordsworth Edition does lack the accompanying appendix of notes, to be found in more expensive collections but this should not deter the experienced reader of Dickens and it does provide in one volume some of the less well known pieces of his work.
`Is it haunted,' I asked .....`Well,' cried the landlord, in an outburst of frankness that had the appearance of desperation - `I wouldn't sleep in it.'
Ghost Stories (Collector's Library) throughout Charles Dickens career he often turn his hand to writing short pieces of ghostly fiction traditionally during Christmas. This beautiful book collector's edition is an enchanting way to renew or form a relationship with this author's works. The books small around A5 in size, well made with red cloth and then paper cover, gold page edges and a fine paper and print. Illustration inside are selected originals.
We have a mix of stories here from his first successful pieces of work from the Pickwick Papers you will find five ghost stories all are included in this collection. Other stories some remain chilling but not all. For me the shortest of stories were the ones I loved the most, but Dickens usual traits are everywhere, style, wit, biting irony, humorous incidents and moral observation keeping them all entertaining and some creepy in just the right places. Stand outs for me The Madman's Manuscript, The Ghost in the Bride's Chamber, The Trail for Murder and The Signalman. Although, I will have to say the ghost who won the most descriptive hideous award would be in Baron Koeldwetout's Apparition. Short Stories and a short summary below of expectation.
The Queer Chair - From The Pickwick Papers - Humours Story of nightmare elements.
A Madman's Manuscript - Loved this, ten pages of madness - From The Pickwick Papers
The Goblins who Stole a Sexton - From The Pickwick Papers - Feels like an early draft of A Christmas Carol. Goblins in their lair.
The Ghosts of the Mail - From The Pickwick Papers - Fantasy time-travel and adventure
Baron Koeldwetout's Apparition - An excerpt from Nicholas Nickleby
The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain - It is the fifth and last of Dickens' Christmas novellas. Dickens again playing around with elements that later went into A Christmas Carol.
To be Read at Dusk - two part tale, one a supernatural riddle, the other deals with the warning spirit of a twin brother.
The Ghost in the Bride's Chamber - from the lazy tour of two idle apprentices - a story about a ghost that is doomed to walk the earth for evermore.
The Haunted House - Dickens invites a group of authors to stay in a haunted house. Two stories by Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell penned a story in Dickens style but its not here.
The Trial for Murder - (a. k. a. "To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt") Revenge from beyond the Grave.
The Signalman - Dickens wrote this tale, also known as "No. 1 Branch Line, the Signalman," after being himself involved in a train wreck in which he (and, apparently, his mistress) narrowly escaped injury - an incident that haunted him for the rest of his life.
Christmas Ghosts - Light-heart and festive the author summarises his favourite stories.
The Lawyer and the Ghosts - Dickens has fun with the notions of ghosts, irony by raising the question.
Four Ghost Stories - A Quartet ;D
The Portrait-Painter's Story - They say art should imitate life, strange one this!
on 4 June 2014
A fascinating and lesser known side of Charles' Dickens work is his flair for ghost stories.
Dickens showed a fascination with ghosts and the macabre and was a masterpiece of this wonderful genre.
Most well known is his ghostly parable-'A Christmas Carol', of the visit to the bitter and tight fist ed miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, by three ghosts which started the tradition of 'the ghost story at Christmas'.
Other Christmas ghost stories by Dickens in this volume include ' the weird and wonderful 'Christmas Ghosts' and 'The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton'.
And another story of redemption by ghosts is 'The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain'.
From the gruesome 'Captain Murderer and the Devil's Bargain' to the brilliantly humorous 'The Lawyer and the Ghost' and 'The Queer Chair'.
There is the strange twist in the adventure 'The Ghosts of the Mail' and an examination of insanity and villainy in 'A Madman's Manuscript'.
Eerie stories of revenge, bizarre coincidences and the macabre from a pioneer in modern ghost stories, written in beautiful and penetrating English, while after one a half centuries still guarantees to thrill and chill.
Like most collections of short stories, a bit of a maixed bag, though the positives predominate. The shorter stories (10-15 pagers) are best, esp. A Madman's Manuscript, The Ghost in the Bride's Chamber, Trial for Murder, and The Signalman, all of which are very atmospheric and quite creepy.
A Christmas Carol remains a timeless classic, and deserves to be the most famous ghost story in Western literature. The other longer ones I found disappointing: Haunted Man and Ghost's Bargain, a long one weighing in at 77 pages, I just found tedious and gave up on quite quickly. The Haunted House also was dull and lacking in atmosphere
on 5 May 2001
yep thats right. This book does really have the best ghost stories that send a shiver down your spine!if your a fan of ghost stories then this is the one for you!