The final volume of an eight book collection from 'the grandfather of the ghost story'
Whilst many highly regarded writers have created collections of strange and supernatural fiction and several other authors are now primarily known for their literary efforts within this genre, the author of this large collection surely stands alone. Not only is his body of supernatural and gothic fiction extremely substantial, he wrote ghost and horror fiction if not exclusively then certainly as the subject matter of the overwhelming majority of his considerable literary output. His authorship of novels and stories of the other worldly began from the first part of the nineteenth century making him one of the earliest specialist exponents of the genre in the 'modern' period. He is widely regarded as a master of his craft, and it is certain that once he had set out to create a thrill or chill in the minds of his reader one was sure to follow! J. Sheridan Le Fanu was without doubt the premier writer of ghostly fiction during the Victorian age and his influence on the genre can be seen in the work of his peers and those who followed after. An Irishman, in 1861 Le Fanu became the editor of the 'Dublin University Magazine' and this gave his fiction ready access to the public. 'The House by the Churchyard' and 'Wylder's Hand' were originally published in the magazine. This special Leonaur edition of Le Fanu's weird and supernatural fiction runs to 8 substantial volumes and is possibly the most comprehensive collection of his work yet assembled. It includes his highly regarded novels and a plethora of shorter works designed to provoke fear and horror among his dedicated aficionados.
This volume contains the novel A Lost Name, the novelette The Last Heir of Castle Connor, and six short stories: The Phantom Fourth; The Quare Gander; The Secret of the Two Plaster Casts; The Spirit’s Whisper; The Vision of Tom Chuff and Some Gossip About Chapelizod.
All volumes are available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket for collectors.
I was alone in that back drawing-room. Why? what did I want there? I was soon to learn. I felt the chill invisible presence near me; and the voice said, “Search!”<br>
The room belonged to the common representative class of back drawing-rooms in “apartments” of the better kind. The only one unfamiliar piece of furniture was an old Indian cabinet; and my eye naturally fell on that. As I stood and looked at it with a strange unaccountable feeling of fascination, again came the voice—“Search!”<br>
I shuddered and obeyed. The cabinet was firmly locked; there was no power of opening it except by burglarious infraction; but still the voice said, “Search!”<br>
A thought suddenly struck me, and I turned the cabinet from its position against the wall. Behind, the woodwork had rotted, and in many portions fallen away, so that the inner drawers were visible. What could my ghostly monitor mean—that I should open those drawers? I would not do such a deed of petty treachery. I turned defiantly, and addressing myself to the invisible as if it were a living creature by my side, I cried, “I must not, will not, do such an act of baseness.”<br>
The voice replied, “Search!”<br>
I might have known that, in my state of what I deemed insanity, resistance was in vain. I grasped the most accessible drawer from behind, and pulled it toward me. Uppermost within it lay letters: they were addressed to “Captain Cameron,”—“Captain George Cameron.” That name!—the name of Julia’s husband, the man with whom she had eloped; for it was he who was the object of my pursuit.<br>
My shuddering fit became so strong that I could scarce hold the papers; and “Search!” was repeated in my ear.<br>
Below the letters lay a small book in a limp black cover. I opened this book with trembling hand; it was filled with manuscript—Julia’s well-known handwriting.<br>
“Read!” muttered the voice. I read. There were long entries by poor Julia of her daily life; complaints of her husband’s unkindness, neglect, then cruelty. I turned to the last pages: her hand had grown very feeble now, and she was very ill. “George seems kinder now,” she wrote; “he brings me all my medicines with his own hand.” Later on: “I am dying; I know I am dying: he has poisoned me. I saw him last night through the curtains pour something in my cup; I saw it in his evil eye. I would not drink; I will drink no more; but I feel that I must die.”<br>
These were the last words. Below were written, in a man’s bold hand, the words “Poor fool!”<br>
This sudden revelation of poor Julia’s death and dying thoughts unnerved me quite. I grew colder in my whole frame than ever.<br>
“Take it!” said her voice. I took the book, pushed back the cabinet into its place against the wall, and, leaving that fearful room, stole down the stairs with trembling limbs, and left the house with all the feelings of a guilty thief.<br>
For some days I perused my poor lost Julia’s diary again and again. The whole revelation of her sad life and sudden death led but to one conclusion,—she had died of poison by the hands of her unworthy husband. He had insured her life, and then——<br>
It seemed evident to me that Mary Simms had vaguely shared suspicions of the same foul deed. On my own mind came conviction. But what could I do next? how bring this evil man to justice? what proof would be deemed to exist in those writings? I was bewildered, weak, irresolute. Like Hamlet, I shrank back and temporized. But I was not feigning madness; my madness seemed but all too real for me. During all this period the wailing of that wretched voice in my ear was almost incessant. O, I must have been mad!<br>
I wandered about restlessly, like the haunted thing I had become. One day I had come unconsciously and without purpose into Oxford Street. My troubled thoughts were suddenly broken in upon by the solicitations of a beggar. With a heart hardened against begging impostors, and under the influence of the shock rudely given to my absorbing dreams, I answered more hardly than was my wont. The man heaved a heavy sigh, and sobbed forth, “Then Heaven help me!” I caught sight of him before he turned away. He was a ghastly object, with fever in his hollow eyes and sunken cheeks, and fever on his dry, chapped lips. But I knew, or fancied I knew, the tricks of the trade, and I was obdurate.