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Tales of Innocence

16 Jan

I was mortified to note recently, looking back on my posts about ghost stories and writers, that I have neglected to do a piece on any of the numerous and brilliant female authors of supernatural fiction. To remedy this oversight I should mention that it is no exaggeration to say that at least fifty per cent of quality examples of the genre were penned by women. This is especially true of the nineteenth century, which began with the classic Gothic novels The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Most of the greatest female writers of the Victorian era contributed marvellous tales to famous magazines like Dickens’ Household Words and All the Year Round. This great tradition has endured triumphantly from the Edwardian era up to the present day, not only with specialists in the genre but also with other mainstream writers who experimented rarely, but successfully, with the form. It was a woman, the American Edith Wharton, who famously put into words the measure of a ghost story’s success: ‘… if it sends a cold shiver down one’s spine, it has done its job and done it well’.

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