This book’s introduction illuminates the question: What makes a Victorian ghost story Victorian?
The five criteria followed for The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories remain applicable on the whole to the principles of selection followed in this volume:
- Each story should reveal to the reader a spectacle of the returning dead, or their agents, and their actions.
- There must be a dramatic interaction between the living and the dead, more often than not with the intention of frightening or unsettling the reader.
- The story must exhibit clear literary quality…there must be a definable "Englishness" about the story.
- And finally, the story must be relatively short.
There follows a lively discussion of the ghost story, and particularly insofar as it conforms to the Victorian form, which is inherently limited in form and dynamic potential, this being perceived as a strength of the genre, as well as a weakness.
And what a pantheon of authors in this volume! Sheridan LeFanu, Charles Dickens, Henry James, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Riddell, George Macdonald, Rudyard Kipling, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood—and a score of others make this a volume of favorites, to be read over and over again. A significant addition to any ghost story collection, this anthology makes for many a spooky night of reading.