Victorian ghost storiesBy Michael Cox
The Victorians excelled at telling ghost stories. In an age of rapid scientific progress the idea of a vindictive past able to reach out and violate the present held a special potential for terror. Throughout the nineteenth century fictional ghost stories developed in parallel with the more general Victorian fascination with death and what lay beyond it. Though they were as much a part of the cultural and literary fabric of the age as imperial confidence, the best of them still retain their original power to surprise and unsettle. The editors map out the development of the ghost story from 1850 to the early years of the twentieth century and demonstrate the importance of this form of short fiction in Victorian popular culture. As well as reprinting stories by supernatural specialists such as J. S. Le Fanu and M. R. James, this selection also emphasizes the key role played by women writers - Elizabeth Gaskell, Mrs Craik, Rhoda Broughton, and Charlotte Riddell, among many others - and offers one or two genuine rarities for the supernatural fiction enthusiast to savour. Other writers represented include Charles Dickens, Henry James, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and R. L. Stevenson. The editors also provide a fascinating introduction, detailed source notes, and a chronological list of ghost stories collections from 1850 to 1910.