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Haunted House Fiction: Victorian Ghost Stories, An Oxford Anthology

October 11, 2017

This book’s introduction illuminates the question:  What makes a Victorian ghost story Victorian? 

The five criteria followed for The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories remain applicable on the whole to the principles of selection followed in this volume:

  1. Each story should reveal to the reader a spectacle of the returning dead, or their agents, and their actions. 
  2. There must be a dramatic interaction between the living and the dead, more often than not with the intention of frightening or unsettling the reader. 
  3. The story must exhibit clear literary quality…there must be a definable "Englishness" about the story.
  4. And finally, the story must be relatively short.

There follows a lively discussion of the ghost story, and particularly insofar as it conforms to the Victorian form, which is inherently limited in form and dynamic potential, this being perceived as a strength of the genre, as well as a weakness.

And what a  pantheon of authors in this volume! Sheridan LeFanu, Charles Dickens, Henry James, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Riddell, George Macdonald, Rudyard Kipling, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood—and a score of others make this a volume of favorites, to be read over and over again. A significant addition to any ghost story collection, this anthology makes for many a spooky night of reading.

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