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The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories
Synopses & Reviews
With their evocative settings amid mists and shadows, in ruinous houses, on lonely roads and wild moorlands, in abandoned churches and over-grown gardens, ghost stories have long exercised a universal fascination. Responding to people's overwhelming attraction to anything frightening, this marvelous anthology of some of the very best English ghost stories combines a serious literary purpose with the simple intention of arousing a pleasurable fear of the doings of the dead.
As the first volume to present the full range and vitality of the ghost fiction tradition, this selection of forty-two stories, written between 1829 and 1968, demonstrates the tradition's historical development, as well as its major themes and characteristics. Though the genre reached its peak in the nineteenth century, it enjoyed a second flowering between the two World Wars and even now still attracts dedicated practitioners and readers. The anthology includes stories by Walter Scott, M. R. James, Bram Stoker, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, T. H. White, and many others.
According to Edith Wharton, we can judge the success of a story by what she called its "thermometrical quality; if it sends a cold shiver down the spine, it has done its job and done it well." A host of writers have taken up the challenge of succeeding at this most demanding form of literary art, including both "specialists" such as J.S. Le Fanu and Algernon Blackwood, and other writers such as Henry James and H.G. Wells, for whom ghost stories constituted only a portion of their literary output. Stressing the important contribution women writers have made to the genre, the collection also offers eight stories by women, ranging from Amelia Edward's "The Phantom Ghost" (1864) to Elizabeth Bowen's "Hand in Glove" (1952).
About the Author
Michael Cox is a publisher and the author of a biography of M.R. James (also available as an Oxford Paperback). He has edited a selection of James's ghost stories for the World's Classics series.
R.A. Gilbert is a well-known antiquarian bookseller and an authority on the history of esoteric thought in the nineteenth century.
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