Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick, eds., Tales of Terror from Blackwood's Magazine. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-19-282366-3 (paperback). Price: £5.99/$11.95.Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick, eds., The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 0-19-283291-3 (paperback). Price: £5.99/$9.95.[Record]

  • Rebecca E. Martin

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  • Rebecca E. Martin
    Pace University

These companion volumes admirably serve several purposes and will be of interest to a wide audience. Edited with outstanding introductions by Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick, Tales of Terror from Blackwood's Magazine and The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre provide ready access to thirty-one stories important for their influence on later authors such as Dickens and Poe, for illustrating one line of mutation from the Gothic to sensation fiction, and for demonstrating the important role played by early nineteenth-century magazines as outlets for this type of short fiction. The distinction made in the volumes' titles between "terror" and the "macabre" is unimportant; the tales are basically interchangeable, though the Blackwood's stories rely less on the supernatural for their thrills (James Hogg's "The Mysterious Bride" is the one exception) than do the tales of the macabre. The more significant distinction between the volumes is that Tales of Terror from Blackwood's Magazine restricts itself to the single periodical published in Edinburgh and selects tales solely from the period between 1817 and 1832, while the other ranges among five magazines published in London or Dublin between 1819 and 1838, the New Monthly Magazine, the Dublin Literary Gazette, the Metropolitan, Fraser's, and the Dublin University Magazine. With its ability to present the best from a broader range of choices, The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre has the higher entertainment and artistic value, but between the two volumes a balance is obtained between scholarly illustration and the reading pleasures many of these tales still offer. If it is still available, Peter Haining's edition of Gothic Tales of Terror (1972), could be added to the mix to introduce similar fiction (and two stories that appear in the later volumes) published not in magazines but in collections during the same period. Haining's edition has the virtue of offering short works by Gothic greats such as Walpole, Maturin, Lewis, the less great, such as Thomas Prest, and the influential, such as Barbauld (represented by the fragment, "Sir Bertrand"). The two new volumes successfully demonstrate the growing interest of the period in extreme experiences and emotional states that could be conveyed most forcefully in the short form in which all the author's efforts may work toward a single astonishing or terrifying end, a technique that comes to its fullest fruition in the tales of Poe. At least four of the stories in Tales of Terror from Blackwood's Magazine, "The Man in the Bell," "Buried Alive," "The Iron Shroud," and "The Thunder-Struck and The Boxer," are probable or confirmed influences on Poe's work. Many others would fit comfortably as tales embedded in Gothic novels either to convey the tragedy of tainted romance, the horrors of the conflicted mind, or the continuing threat posed by the sins of the fathers: a tale of a deadly love triangle as told by a Capuchin monk; of a single moment of indecision or indiscretion rewarded with a lifetime of pain; of a madman's philosophical argument to a priest on the question of divine and human judgment and ultimate culpability on the eve of his execution; or of familial sins of the past coming alive to destroy the present and the future. A special word of praise must be reserved for William Carleton's "Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman" (1830) appearing in The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre. This story, set among men involved in sectarian violence in Ireland, powerfully conveys through its first-person narration the pity, horror and senselessness of the violence that it depicts. The construction of the final scenes …