Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction

Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction

Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction

Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction

Synopsis

An unusual grouping of writers, this insightful study includes some, like Henry James, who are indisputably leaders of the "canon" regardless of genre, and others, like Algernon Blackwood, who wrote almost exclusively in the supernatural; all, however, were clearly masters of this genre. The seven chapters, respectively on J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Henry James, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Walter de la Mare, and Marjorie Bowen, each examine plot, character, mood, and setting in a traditional sense, sparked by personal observations and unique comparisons. Each is preceded by a biographical sketch and documented by bibliography and notes. For some, these chapters may be the fullest accounts ever published. All demonstrate the happy combination of a scholar's insights and a fan's enthusiasm.

Excerpt

This book is in no sense a history of fiction dealing with the supernatural but rather a comparatively detailed account of the work in this genre produced by seven selected writers. All except Henry James were British, and since he lived all his later life in England, set the scene of many of his stories there, and died a British subject, I hope he will feel at home with the others.

One of my subjects, M. R. James, devoted all his creative energies to the supernatural, and the vastly more prolific Algernon Blackwood came very close to doing the same. Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Machen, and Walter de la Mare also made substantial investments here, though the proportion is higher with Machen than the others. Finally, though Henry James and Marjorie Bowen did most of their work elsewhere, both still made extensive and important contributions in this area.

I have chosen my mystic seven primarily because I was interested in them, but my choices have not been (quite arbitrary. Le Fanu, I suppose, interests me less than the others, but the Victorian terror tale could hardly have expected to avoid serving as a point of departure for such a book as this, and he was, by general consent, the outstanding Victorian Master in kind. No explanation surely is needed as to why Henry James could not possibly have turned up missing in a book of mine; not only is he as unmistakably representative of the "modern" approach to the supernatural as Le Fanu of the Victorian, but his preeminence here is as unchallengable as in such other mansions of fiction as he chose to inhabit. Compared to him, the other James . . .

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