Victorian Ghost Stories & Supernatural Fiction

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Victorian Ghost Stories & Supernatural Fiction

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1edwinbcn
May 4, 2012, 11:49am

058. The Virgin of the Seven Daggers. Excursions into fantasy
Finished reading: 20 April 2012



The British Victorian author Violet Paget (1856–1935) was considered an authority on Italian Renaissance art and aesthetics, along with Walter Pater and John Addington Symonds. She was born in France to English parents, and spent most of her life in Italy, living in Florence for many years. Using the pseudonym Vernon Lee, she published a number of works on aesthetics, such as Euphorion: Being Studies of the Antique and the Mediaeval in the Renaissance and Renaissance Fancies And Studies Being A Sequel To Euphorion.

Beside this body of non-fiction and essays on art and travel, she published several novellas and short story collections of ghost stories and supernatural fiction. The Virgin of the Seven Daggers. Excursions into fantasy, published by Penguin Books in 2011 is a representative selection from her fiction.

The first in the collection is Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady, which originally appeared in 1895. This is a rather long (60 pp.) brooding story about a young prince who becomes obsessed by a mermaid or snake-like woman featured on a tapestry in his room. His obsession eventually drives him insane. Most stories are set in Italy and feature ghosts or out-of-body experiences. The last story in the collection, The Virgin of the Seven Daggers is set in Spain.

Most stories have a slow start, and do not really become interesting until in the final pages. However, the twist at the end is in most cases surprising and original, though not very frightening. The scene of most of the stories is very Italianate. Descriptions are very elaborate, and some turns of the authorial voice in the stories seemed to suggest that the stories were written to be read aloud to the family. Perhaps, these stories could best be enjoyed as an audio-book.


2SassyLassy
May 4, 2012, 2:30pm

Reading out loud to others, or being read to, was something many Victorian families enjoyed, so I like your idea that that is what these stories were for. Thanks for the notice of the Penguin series. I haven't read many Victorian ghost stories, but being a fan of both Victorians and supernatural fiction, I will look for the series.