The first 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 novels The Haunted Baronet and The Evil Guest, the novella Carmilla, a novelette A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family and ten short stories: A Debt of Honour; An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street; An Adventure of Hardress Fitzgerald, a Royalist Captain; An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House; Billy Malowney’s Taste of Love and Glory; Borrhomeo the Astrologer; Catherine’s Quest; Devereux’s Dream; Doctor Feversham’s Story and The little Red Man.
All volumes are available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket for collectors.
“Yes, I must have slept a good while; for I don’t think I have been ten minutes awake. How my dream began I don’t know. I remember only that gradually it came to this: I was standing in a recess in a panelled gallery; it was lofty, and, I thought, belonged to a handsome but old-fashioned house. I was looking straight towards the head of a wide staircase, with a great oak banister. At the top of the stairs, as near to me, about, as that window there, was a thick short column of oak, on top of which was a candlestick. There was no other light but from that one candle; and there was a lady standing beside it, looking down the stairs, with her back turned towards me; and from her gestures I should have thought speaking to people on a lower lobby, but whom from my place I could not see.<br>
“I soon perceived that this lady was in great agony of mind; for she beat her breast and wrung her hands every now and then, and wagged her head slightly from side to side, like a person in great distraction. But one word she said I could not hear. Nor when she struck her hand on the banister, or stamped, as she seemed to do in her pain, upon the floor, could I hear any sound. I found myself somehow waiting upon this lady, and was watching her with awe and sympathy. But who she was I knew not, until turning towards me I plainly saw Janet’s face, pale and covered with tears, and with such a look of agony as—O God!—I can never forget.”<br>
“Pshaw! Mary darling, what is it but a dream! I have had a thousand more startling; it is only that you are so nervous just now.”<br>
“But that is not all—nothing; what followed is so dreadful; for either there is something very horrible going on at Mardykes, or else I am losing my reason,” said Lady Haworth in increasing agitation. “I wakened instantly in great alarm, but I suppose no more than I have felt a hundred times on awakening from a frightful dream. I sat up in my bed; I was thinking of ringing for Winnefred, my heart was beating so, but feeling better soon I changed my mind. All this time I heard a faint sound of a voice, as if coming through a thick wall. It came from the wall at the left side of my bed, and I fancied was that of some woman lamenting in a room separated from me by that thick partition. I could only perceive that it was a sound of crying mingled with ejaculations of misery, or fear, or entreaty.<br>
“I listened with a painful curiosity, wondering who it could be, and what could have happened in the neighbouring rooms of the house; and as I looked and listened, I could distinguish my own name, but at first nothing more. That, of course, might have been an accident; and I knew there were many Marys in the world besides myself. But it made me more curious; and a strange thing struck me, for I was now looking at that very wall through which the sounds were coming. I saw that there was a window in it. Thinking that the rest of the wall might nevertheless be covered by another room, I drew the curtain of it and looked out. But there is no such thing. It is the outer wall the entire way along. And it is equally impossible of the other wall, for it is to the front of the house, and has two windows in it; and the wall that the head of my bed stands against has the gallery outside it all the way; for I remarked that as I came to you.”<br>
“Tut, tut, Mary darling, nothing on earth is so deceptive as sound; this and fancy account for everything.”<br>
“But hear me out; I have not told you all. I began to hear the voice more clearly, and at last quite distinctly. It was Janet’s, and she was conjuring you by name, as well as me, to come to her to Mardykes, without delay, in her extremity; yes, you, just as vehemently as me. It was Janet’s voice. It still seemed separated by the wall, but I heard every syllable now; and I never heard voice or words of such anguish. She was imploring of us to come on, without a moment’s delay, to Mardykes; and crying that, if we were not with her, she should go mad.”<br>
“Well, darling,” said Lady Walsingham, “you see I’m included in this invitation as well as you, and should hate to disappoint Janet just as much; and I do assure you, in the morning you will laugh over this fancy with me; or rather, she will laugh over it with us, when we get to Mardykes. What you do want is rest, and a little sal volatile.”<br>
So saying she rang the bell for Lady Haworth’s maid. Having comforted her sister, and made her take the nervous specific she recommended, she went with her to her room; and taking possession of the arm-chair by the fire, she told her that she would keep her company until she was asleep, and remain long enough to be sure that the sleep was not likely to be interrupted. Lady Haworth had not been ten minutes in her bed, when she raised herself with a start to her elbow, listening with parted lips and wild eyes, her trembling fingers behind her ears. With an exclamation of horror, she cried,<br>
“There it is again, upbraiding us! I can’t stay longer.”<br>
She sprang from the bed, and rang the bell violently.<br>
“Maud,” she cried in an ecstasy of horror, “nothing shall keep me here, whether you go or not. I will set out the moment the horses are put to. If you refuse to come, Maud, mind the responsibility is yours—listen!” and with white face and starting eyes she pointed to the wall. “Have you ears; don’t you hear?”