The fifth 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, The Rose and the Key, the novelette Spalatro, From the Notes of Fra Giacomo, and the short stories The Bridal of Carrigvarah and The White Cat of Drumgunniol.
All volumes are available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket for collectors.
“The old man motioned to me to sit down in one of the great antique chairs by the table, which was covered with golden plates, and dishes, and cups. You will readily believe me when I tell you that I had no desire to eat. I took advantage then of my host’s abstemiousness to avoid partaking of his viands, and this was the first and the last supper at which I ever sate where not one dish was invaded or even uncovered.<br>
“‘Well,’ said my entertainer, ‘as you will not eat, you needs must drink: if you will imitate my vices, copy at least my solitary virtue.’ So saying he drew towards himself one of the cups which stood upon the table, and shoved another to me. ‘Old men have a right to be selfish,’ said he, ‘and, therefore, wishing myself many repetitions of this evening, and that out of this casual reencounter may arise a lasting union between us, young man, with all my soul I pledge you.’ Long and deep was the draught with which the old man drained to its last the golden goblet; as he raised the cup to his lips I raised mine to do him honour, and as I did so I thought I heard someone mutter over my shoulder—‘That is not wine.’<br>
“I glanced round but there was no one from whom the sounds could have proceeded. I raised the cup once more, the crimson liquid foamed up towards my lips, a slight sensation of giddy sickness passed over me as I lifted the vessel, and the same voice, real or imagined, whispered sharply in my ear the startling words—‘But the blood, which is the life of it, thou shalt not eat.’ Horrified I dropped the cup upon the floor, and whatever was the liquor which it contained, it was every drop shed upon the ground. The old man when this happened was still engaged in his deep potation, and did not perceive the accident, or if he did, he certainly did not pretend to do so. He wiped his mouth and rose from the table; he motioned me to be still, and kneeling upon the ground with his face toward the hidden part of the chamber, he continued apparently in long and earnest devotion, stretching his hands forth with many gestures of vehement entreaty.<br>
“As he did so, the surface of the cloudy barrier became agitated, strange lights and shadows flitted over it; sometimes tracing in the eddying vapours wild ghastly features, which vanished almost as soon as they appeared, and sometimes dimly showing monstrous shapes, and now and then more faintly-traced forms of surpassing grace—all gliding and wheeling, appearing and melting away, separating and mingling like the endless shiftings of a wondrous dream. At length there came a low and marvellously sweet sound of far-off music, like holy choirs singing a wild requiem over the dead; the sound stole floating along, sometimes broken and disordered, as though the untutored wind swept at random through the chords of a thousand-stringed instrument, then again, coming with perfect harmony and unspeakable melody over the senses, until once more the music would lose itself in the wild burst of the wailing wind.<br>
“Still, however, minute after minute these fitful wanderings of the melody grew less and less, and the music breathed on, louder and more clear, in sweet but unearthly order. As these wondrous sounds rose on the ear, I beheld in the cloudy curtain, at first so dimly traced that my eye lost it every moment, but gradually becoming more fixed and discernible, the shadowy semblance of a female form, wrapt in a thin mantle, and as it seemed of beauty more than human. This form, at first traced only in the faintest discernible shadow, grew gradually more and more clearly defined, until at length the outline became fixed, and the colours, and lights, and shadows, after some uncertain flittings to and fro, clearly developed themselves, and thus little by little, without my being able to remember at which point the transition had taken place, I beheld what had first been no more than the lightest shadow upon a fleeting vapour now stand before me in corporeal substance—a model of preternatural loveliness in limb and feature, but pale and bloodless as the dead.<br>
“The old man arose, and stepping sadly and reverently to her, he took the small hand which hung languidly by her side, and led her slowly towards the table. The beautiful form moved lightly over the floor, but seemingly without more volition or purpose of its own than belongs to a mere automaton; the lips pale as marble, the eyes fixed and glittering, and every muscle of the perfect face still as death. He led her to a chair, and placing her in it, he took one of the large golden goblets, like that which he himself had just emptied, full of the dark red liquid, and putting its brim to her lips he poured every drop of its contents down her throat; he laid the vessel again in its place, and withdrawing to a little distance, he folded his arms, bowed his head downwards like one in deep dejection, and silently awaited the result.