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Marjorie Bowen – Great Tales Of Horror

Posted by demonik on September 8, 2007

Marjorie Bowen (ed.) – Great Tales Of Horror  (Bodley Head, 1933)

Great Tales Of Horror - Marjorie Bowen

Preface – Marjorie Bowen

Anon – The Grey Chamber
Marjorie Bowen – The Murder Of Squire Langton
J. S. Le Fanu – Sir Dominick Sarsfield
Alexander Pushkin – The Queen Of Spades
Anon – The Two Sisters Of Cologne
Gogol – The Witch (St. John’s Eve)
Anon – A Ghost Of A Head
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – The Great Keinplatz Experiment
Algernon Blackwood – The Woman’s Ghost Story
Anon – The Doppelganger
Anon – The Dead Bride
Sir Walter Scott – The Tapestried Chamber
W. W. Astor – Almodoro’s Cupid
Anon – The Skull
George Macdonald – The Magic Mirror
H. G. Wells – The Red Room
Gaston LeRoux – In Letters Of Fire
Anon – The Legend Of Duneblane
Arthur Machen – The Shining Pyramid
G. P. R. James – A Night In An Old Castle

This anthology is notable for, not only some splendid stories, but a truly weird running order. If you read the stories as they appear in the book, you go from gothic to contemporary to Victorian, back and forth through the centuries. It is a very long way  from The Dead Bride to The Shining Pyramid, although, as Bowen points out in her preface:

“It will be observed that the main, perhaps the sole, difference is one of technical skill and an increased knowledge of the spiritual and mental sources of poor Gertrude with her withered garland, and Graf Hugues with his clanking bones”.

Bowen was one of the filthy five heavily criticised by Peter Penzoldt in his The Supernatural In Fiction (Humanities, 2nd edition, 1955), a study also notable for outing Arthur Machen as a wanker on the grounds of  The Novel Of The White Powder which, Penzoldt argues, reveals Machen’s deep-rooted guilt over masturbation and it’s inevitable punishment.

“Before I conclude, some mention should be made of the worst type of horror tale: that containing descriptions of sadism. These stories may appear with or without the element of the supernatural, but in any case it is never more than a pretext for introducing the cheapest kind of horror. The Most famous example is probably Kipling’s The Mark Of The Beast with its realistic descriptions of torture. Others are Thomas Burke’s The Bird, Carl Tanzler von Cosel’s  Helena’s Tomb, Mark Channing’s The Feet and Marjorie Bowen’s disgusting stories in The Bishop Of Hell.  How such tales can be constantly republished in the face of the laws against pornographic literature is an unsolved mystery.”

The “disgusting” Bowen collection includes The Crown Derby Plate, The HousekeeperThe Fair Hair Of AmbroiseFlorence FlanneryThe Bishop of HellThe Grey Chamber, The Avenging of Ann Leete and Kecksies  – many of which can be found in collections of Best Ghost/ Best Horror stories edited by Aickman, Danby, Chetwynd-Hayes …

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