- Series: Oxford World's Classics
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199538875
- ISBN-13: 978-0199538874
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.6 x 5.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Late Victorian Gothic Tales (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition
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The characters in Roger Luckhurst's excellent selection are variously assailed by mummies, bewitched by revived pagan goddesses, and doomed to inexorable decline by the misdeeds of their ancestors. Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Roger Luckhurst is Senior Lecturer in English at Birkbeck College.
Top Customer Reviews
In contrast with earlier gothic fiction, I would have to say that the late gothic period was more concerned with intellectual horror. It was finer in this way. For example, in a story from the first wave of gothic fiction, the reader would have found the ghost or supernatural element scary enough in itself. A late victorian gothic tale would add an intellectual dimension to the ghost story in that the writer would attempt to explore what a ghost is and represents. Whereas an earlier gothic tale would have found the actions of a madman abhorrent enough, the story Vaila, by MP Shiel, explores the origins and nature of madness through several generations of an old and accursed family.
Expect very finely wrought pieces of horror literature. The anthology is limited to victorian writers from Britain, and I thought this was its failing as it could have included writers like Edith Wharton and Willa Cather, who were themselves authors of very great ghost stories. The late victorian gothic was also strongly influenced by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and yet he is also missing from this anthology. Nonetheless, this book will be full of treats for real fans of the gothic.
Ratings for each story:
Vernon Lee [Violet Paget], Dionea - 7/10. Starting off with one of the gals. The narrator of this story is particularly interesting since he is obsessed with the female form and the old Greek gods and he's a doctor, to boot. Gothic narrators are so perverse and cool. Dionea is pretty badass too. The ending made me shiver, but the story as a whole was a bit underwhelming. Points for capitalizing on racial fear (Dionea is a woman of color, of course).
Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime - 9/10. Not a shocking or gruesome tale, but Wilde's style is effortlessly enjoyable and brilliant. The dark humor makes the whole story, because if this had been written in a tragic key, I doubt it would still be memorable. I also dig that pun in Savile's name (savile - civil, eh, eh?)
Henry James, Sir Edmund Orme - 7/10. A creepy and subversive ghost story, especially if you consider what is left out of the text. As a whole, it's perfectly serviceable, nothing impressive, but that subtext - oh, man, that subtext. I did not so much enjoy it as I kept wondering about it for days (again, watch out for perverse narrator).
Rudyard Kipling, The Mark of the Beast - 7/10. The real horror in this story is, of course, the racial Other. Not to spoil much, but two white men have to torture an Indian leper. Yeah.
B.M. Croker, The Dak Bungalow at Dakor - 6/10. Damn it, this is our only other female author and her story is a dud. Honestly, it might be the weakest of the bunch, solely because it does not go beyond "Indians murder white men, bungalow is haunted". I mean, I suppose you could infer that the murder at the center of the tale is an indirect sin of colonialism, but the writing and framing of the story do not encourage deeper readings. Not very thrilling either. Sorry, Bithia.
Arthur Conan Doyle, Lot No. 249 - 7/10. I would have given it more points, but this mummy story is quite anti-climactic. The set-up is ingenious. A brilliant but mad student of Oriental languages finds a mummy and manages somehow to revive it and use it to harm his enemies. However, the ending is too clean-cut and dry and our main protagonist saves the day without any lasting moral or emotional repercussions. Still, a fun read.
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case of Lady Sannox - 8/10. Now this is how you do it. This is a climactic ending I really did not expect. Doyle plays with expectations perfectly. It's short and sweet, but absolutely chilling.
Grant Allen, Pallinghurst Barrow - 7/10. A pretty inventive take on the ghost story. Actually, I think it's a ghost-fairy story, which is quite something. And it's legitimately scary. Except, once again, the protagonist has a bit of an easy escape at the end.
Jean Lorrain, Magic Lantern - 8/10. A very short story written by a French dandy. Nothing much happens, in fact it's a kind of meta-text on the genre and a detailed description of society's modern monsters. But the language and the humor are delicious. And it is quite creepy.
Jean Lorrain, The Spectral Hand - 7/10. A pretty routine ghost story, where the specter is more benevolent than anything else. Nothing much happens except, y'know, the signs of death are everywhere; we just don't pay attention.
Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan - 10/10. Holy S***. Everything I heard about this story, the praise and the rich commentary - all warranted. This is a hell of a journey, intensely creepy, downright blood-curdling, but at the same time, enchanting and even melancholy. This is what Dionea was striving to be, in terms of mythological horror. I will say I wanted more out of that ending, but given the format of the story, I suppose it fits perfectly and leaves you wanting more.
M.P. Shiel, Vaila - 7/10. Probably the most frustrating tale of the bunch. It's a story of natural and supernatural horror, Shakespearean revenge...and the dangers of building your home by the sea. The language is to die for, I mean this man has somehow swallowed and refined several English and French dictionaries. That being said, this is Gothic at its most unrelenting and unpleasant. It's not a story you'll enjoy, but it is haunting and upsetting all the same. I just need more fun in my Gothic, so I can't give it more points. Tedious, but remarkable, if that makes sense.