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to moment, each scene standing out clear in colour and sharp in
outline; but from first to last the perspective of the whole is
kept steadily in view. No part is disproportionate or
inappropriate. The arresting overture describing the swift and
sudden approach of the Red Death, the gay, thoughtless security
of Prince Prospero and his guests within the barricaded abbey,
the voluptuous masquerade held in a suite of seven rooms of seven
hues, the disconcerting chime of the ebony clock that momentarily
stills the grotesque figures of the dancers, prepare us for the
dramatic climax, the entry of the audacious guest, the Red Death,
and his struggle with Prince Prospero. The story closes as it
began with the triumph of the Red Death. Poe achieves his
powerful effect with rigid economy of effort. He does not add an
unnecessary touch.

In _The Cask of Amontillado_ - perhaps the most terrible and the
most perfectly executed of all Poe's tales - the note of grim
irony is sustained throughout. The jingling of the bells and the
devilish profanity of the last three words - _Requiescat in
pace_ - add a final touch of horror to a revenge, devised and
carried out with consummate artistry.

Poe, like Hawthorne, loved to peer curiously into the dim
recesses of conscience. Hawthorne was concerned with the effect
of remorse on character. Poe often exhibits a conscience
possessed by the imp of the perverse, and displays no interest in
the character of his victim. He chooses no ordinary crimes. He
considers, without De Quincey's humour, murder as a fine art. In
_The Black Cat_ the terrors are calculated with cold-blooded
nicety. Every device is used to deepen the impression and to
intensify the agony. In _The Tell-Tale Heart_, so unremitting is
the suspense, as the murderer slowly inch by inch projects his
head round the door in the darkness, that it is well-nigh
intolerable. The close of the story, which errs on the side of
the melodramatic, is less cunningly contrived than Poe's endings
usually are. In _William Wilson_, Poe handles the subject of
conscience in an allegorical form, a theme essayed by Bulwer
Lytton in one of his sketches in _The Student, Monos and
Daimonos_. He probably influenced Stevenson's _Dr. Jekyll and Mr.

In _The Pit and the Pendulum_, Poe seems to start from the very
border-line of the most hideous nightmare that the human mind can
conceive, yet there is nothing hazy or indefinite in his analysis
of the feelings of his victim. He speaks as one who has
experienced the sensations himself, not as one who is making a
wild surmise. To read is, indeed, to endure in some measure the
torture of the prisoner; but our pain is alleviated not only by
the realisation that we at least may win respite when we will,
but by our appreciation of Poe's subtle technique. He notices the
readiness of the mind, when racked unendurably, to concentrate on
frivolous trifles - the exact shape and size of the dungeon; or
the sound of the scythe cutting through cloth. Mental and
physical agonies are interchanged with careful art.

Poe's constructive power fitted him admirably to write the
detective story. In _The Mystery of M. Roget_ he adopts a dull
plot without sufficient vigour and originality to rivet our
attention, but _The Murders of the Rue Morgue_ secures our
interest from beginning to end. As in the case of Godwin's _Caleb
Williams_, the end was conceived first and the plot was carefully
woven backwards. No single thread is left loose. Dupin's methods
of ratiocination are similar to those of Conan Doyle's Sherlock
Holmes. Poe never shirks a gory detail, but the train of
reasoning not the imagery absorbs us in his detective stories. In
his treasure story - _The Gold Bug_, which may have suggested
Stevenson's _Treasure Island_ - he compels our interest by the
intricacy and elaboration of his problem.

The works of Mrs. Radcliffe, Lewis, and Maturin were not unknown
to Poe, and he refers more than once to the halls of Vathek. From
Gothic romance he may perhaps vivid that they make the senses
ache. Like Maturin, he even resorts to italics to enforce his
effect. He crashes down heavily on a chord which would resound at
a touch. He is liable too to descend into vulgarity in his choice
of phrases. His tales consequently gain in style in the
translations of Baudelaire. But these aberrations occur mainly in
his inferior work. In his most highly wrought stories, such as
_Amontillado_, _The House of Usher_, or _The Masque of the Red
Death_, the execution is flawless. In these, Poe never lost sight
of the ideal, which, in his admirable review of Hawthorne's
_Twice-Told Tales_ and _Mosses from an Old Manse_, he set before
the writer of short stories:

"A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale ...
having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain
unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then
invents such incidents - he then combines such
events - as may best aid him in establishing this
preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend
not to the outbringing of this effect, he has failed in
the first step. In the whole composition there should
be no word written of which the tendency direct or
indirect is not to the one pre-established design."

While he was writing, Poe did not for a moment let his
imagination run riot. The outline of the story was so distinctly
conceived, its atmosphere so familiar to him, that he had leisure
to choose his words accurately, and to dispose his sentences
harmoniously, with the final effect ever steadily in view. The
impression that he swiftly flashes across our minds is deep and


This book is an attempt to trace in outline the origin and
development of the Gothic romance and the tale of terror. Such a
survey is necessarily incomplete. For more than fifty years after
the publication of _The Castle of Otranto_ the Gothic Romance
remained a definitely recognised kind of fiction; but, as the
scope of the novel gradually came to include the whole range of
human expression, it lost its individuality, and was merged into
other forms. To follow every trail of its influence would lead us
far afield. The Tale of Terror, if we use the term in its wider
sense, may be said to include the magnificent story of the
Writing on the Wall at Belshazzar's Feast, the Book of Job, the
legends of the Deluge and of the Tower of Babel, and Saul's Visit
to the Witch of Endor, which Byron regarded as the best ghost
story in the world. In the Hebrew writings fear is used to endow
a hero with superhuman powers or to instil a moral truth. The sun
stands still in the heavens that Joshua may prevail over his
enemies. In modern days the tale of terror is told for its own
sake. It has become an end in itself, and is probably appreciated
most fully by those who are secure from peril. It satisfies the
human desire to experience new emotions and sensations, without
actual danger.

There is little doubt that the Gothic Romance primarily made its
appeal to women readers, though we know that Mrs. Radcliffe had
many men among her admirers, and that Cherubina of _The Heroine_
had a companion in folly, The Story-Haunted Youth. It is remotely
allied, as its name implies, to the mediaeval romances, at which
Cervantes tilts in _Don Quixote_. It was more closely akin,
however, to the heroic romances satirised in Mrs. Charlotte
Lennox's _Female Quixote_ (1752). When the voluminous works of Le
Calprenède and of Mademoiselle de Scudéry were translated into
English, they found many imitators and admirers, and their vogue
outlasted the seventeenth century. _Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus_,
out of which Mrs. Pepys told her husband long stories, "though
nothing to the purpose, nor in any good manner," is to be found,
with a pin stuck through one of the middle leaves, in the lady's
library described by Addison in the _Spectator_, Mrs. Aphra Behn,
in _Oroonoko_ and _The Fair Jilt_, had made some attempt to bring
romance nearer to real life; but it was not until the middle of
the eighteenth century, when the novel, with the rise of
Richardson, Fielding, Smollett and Sterne, took firm root on
English soil, that the popularity of Cassandra, Parthenissa and
Aretina was superseded. Then, if we may trust the evidence of
Colman's farce, _Polly Honeycombe_, first acted in 1760, Pamela,
Clarissa Harlowe and Sophia Western reigned in their stead. For
the reader who had patiently followed the eddying, circling
course of the heroic romance, with its high-flown language and
marvellous adventures, Richardson's novel of sentiment probably
held more attraction than Fielding's novel of manners. Fielding,
on his broad canvas, paints the life of his day on the highway,
in coaches, taverns, sponging-houses or at Vauxhall masquerades.
Every class of society is represented, from the vagabond to the
noble lord. Richardson, in describing the shifts and subterfuges
of Mr. B - and the elaborate intrigue of Lovelace, moves within a
narrow circle, devoting himself, not to the portrayal of
character, but to the minute analysis of a woman's heart. The
sentiment of Richardson descends to Mrs. Radcliffe. Her heroines
are fashioned in the likeness of Clarissa Harlowe; her heroes
inherit many of the traits of the immaculate Grandison. She adds
zest to her plots by wafting her heroines to distant climes and
bygone centuries, and by playing on their nerves with
superstitious fears. Since human nature often looks to fiction
for a refuge from the world, there is always room for the
illusion of romance side by side with the picture of actual life.
Fanny Burney's spirited record of Evelina's visit to her vulgar,
but human, relatives, the Branghtons, in London, is not enough.
We need too the sojourn of Emily, with her thick-coming fancies,
in the castle of Udolpho.

The Gothic Romance did not reflect real life, or reveal
character, or display humour. Its aim was different. It was full
of sentimentality, and it stirred the emotions of pity and fear.
The ethereal, sensitive heroine, suffering through no fault of
her own, could not fail to win sympathy. The hero was pale,
melancholy, and unfortunate enough to be attractive. The villain,
bold and desperate in his crimes, was secretly admired as well as
feared. Hairbreadth escapes and wicked intrigues in castles built
over beetling precipices were sufficiently outside the reader's
own experience to produce a thrill. Ghosts, and rumours of
ghosts, touched nearly the eighteenth century reader, who had
often listened, with bated breath, to winter's tales of spirits
seen on Halloween in the churchyard, or white-robed spectres
encountered in dark lanes and lonely ruins. In country houses
like those described in Miss Austen's novels, where life was
diversified only by paying calls, dining out, taking gentle
exercise or playing round games like "commerce" or "word-making
and work-taking," the Gothic Romances must have proved a welcome
source of pleasurable excitement. Mr. Woodhouse, with his
melancholy views on the effects of wedding cake and muffin, would
have condemned them, no doubt, as unwholesome; Lady Catherine de
Bourgh would have been too impatient to read them; but Lydia
Bennet, Elinor Dashwood and Isabella Thorpe must have found in
them an inestimable solace. Their fame was soon overshadowed by
that of the Waverley Novels, but they had served their turn in
providing an entertaining interlude before the arrival of Sir
Walter Scott. Even at the very height of his vogue, they probably
enjoyed a surreptitious popularity, not merely in the servants'
hall, but in the drawing room. Nineteenth century literature
abounds in references to the vogue of this school of fiction.
There were spasmodic attempts at a revival in an anonymous work
called _Forman_ (1819), dedicated to Scott, and in Ainsworth's
_Rookwood_ (1834); and terror has never ceased to be used as a
motive in fiction.

In _Villette_, Lucy Snowe, whose nerves Ginevra describes as
"real iron and bend leather," gazes steadily for the space of
five minutes at the spectral "nun." This episode indicates a
change of fashion; for the lady of Gothic romance could not have
submitted to the ordeal for five seconds without fainting. A more
robust heroine, who thinks clearly and yet feels strongly, has
come into her own. In _Jane Eyre_ many of the situations are
fraught with terror, but it is the power of human passion,
transcending the hideous scenes, that grips our imagination.
Terror is used as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. In
_Wuthering Heights_ the windswept Yorkshire moors are the
background for elemental feelings. We no longer "tremble with
delicious dread" or "snatch a fearful joy." The gloom never
lightens. We live ourselves beneath the shadow of Heathcliff's
awe-inspiring personality, and there is no escape from a terror,
which passes almost beyond the bounds of speech. The Brontës do
not trifle with emotion or use supernatural elements to increase
the tension. Theirs are the terrors of actual life.

Other novelists, contemporary with the Brontës, revel in terror
for its own sake. Wilkie Collins weaves elaborate plots of
hair-raising events. The charm of _The Moonstone_ and the _Woman
in White_ is independent of character or literary finish. It
consists in the unravelling of a skilfully woven fabric. Le Fanu,
who resented the term "sensational" which was justly applied to
his works, plays pitilessly on our nerves with both real and
fictitious horrors. He, like Wilkie Collins, made a cult of
terror. Their literary descendants may perhaps be found in such
authors as Richard Marsh or Bram Stoker, or Sax Rohmer. In Bram
Stoker's _Dracula_ the old vampire legend is brought up to date,
and we are held from beginning to end in a state of frightful
suspense. No one who has read the book will fail to remember the
picture of Dracula climbing up the front of the castle in
Transylvania, or the scene in the tomb when a stake is driven
through the heart of the vampire who has taken possession of
Lucy's form. The ineffable horror of the "Un-Dead" would repel us
by its painfulness, if it were not made endurable by the love,
hope and faith of the living characters, particularly of the old
Dutch doctor, Van Helsing. The matter-of-fact style of the
narrative, which is compiled of letters, diaries and journals,
and the mention of such familiar places as Whitby and Hampstead,
help to enhance the illusion.

The motive of terror has often been mingled with other motives in
the novel as well as in the short tale. In unwinding the
complicated thread of the modern detective story, which follows
the design originated by Godwin and perfected by Poe, we are
frequently kept to our task by the force of terror as well as of
curiosity. In _The Sign of Four_ and in _The Hound of the
Baskervilles_, to choose two entirely different stories, Conan
Doyle realises that darkness and loneliness place us at the mercy
of terror, and he works artfully on our fears of the unknown.
Phillips Oppenheim and William Le Queux, in romances which have
sometimes a background of international politics, maintain our
interest by means of mystifications, which screw up our
imagination to the utmost pitch, and then let us down gently with
a natural but not too obvious explanation. A certain amount of
terror is almost essential to heighten the interest of a novel of
costume and adventure, like _The Prisoner of Zenda_ or _Rupert of
Hentzau_, or of the fantastic, exciting romances of Jules Verne.
Rider Haggard's African romances, _She_ and _King Solomon's
Mines_, belong to a large group of supernatural tales with a
foreign setting. They combine strangeness, wonder, mystery and
horror. The ancient theme of bartering souls is given a new twist
in Robert Hichens' novel, _The Flames_. E.F. Benson, in _The
Image in the Sand_, experiments with Oriental magic. The
investigations of the Society for Psychical Research gave a new
impulse to stories of the occult and the uncanny. Algernon
Blackwood is one of the most ingenious exponents of this type of
story. By means of psychical explanations, he succeeds in
revivifying many ancient superstitions. In _Dr. John Silence_,
even the werewolf, whom we believed extinct, manifests himself in
modern days among a party of cheerful campers on a lonely island,
and brings unspeakable terror in his trail. Sometimes terror is
used nowadays, as Bulwer Lytton used it, to serve a moral
purpose. Oscar Wilde's _Picture of Dorian Gray_ is intended to
show that sin must ultimately affect the soul; and the Sorrows of
Satan, in Miss Corelli's novel, are caused by the wickedness of
the world. But apart from any ulterior motive there is still a
desire for the unusual, there is still pleasure to be found in a
thrill, and so long as this human instinct endures devices will
be found for satisfying it. Of the making of tales of terror
there is no end; and almost every novelist of note has, at one
time or another, tried his hand at the art. Early in his career
Arnold Bennett fashioned a novelette, _Hugo_, which may be read
as a modernised version of the Gothic romance. Instead of
subterranean vaults in a deserted abbey, we have the strong rooms
of an enterprising Sloane Street emporium. The coffin, containing
an image of the heroine, is buried not in a mouldering chapel,
but in a suburban cemetery. The lovely but harassed heroine has
fallen, indeed, from her high estate, for Camilla earns her
living as a milliner. There are, it is true, no sonnets and no
sunsets, but the excitement of the plot, which is partially
unfolded by means of a phonographic record, renders them
superfluous. H.G. Wells makes excursions into quasi-scientific,
fantastic realms of grotesque horror in his _First Men in the
Moon_, and in some of his sketches and short stories. Joseph
Conrad has the power of fear ever at the command of his romantic
imagination. In _The Nigger of the Narcissus_, in _Typhoon_, and,
above all, in _The Shadow-Line_, he shows his supreme mastery
over inexpressible mystery and nameless terror. The voyage of the
schooner, doomed by the evil influence of her dead captain, is
comparable only in awe and horror to that of _The Ancient
Mariner_. Conrad touches unfathomable depths of human feelings,
and in his hands the tale of terror becomes a finished work of
The future of the tale of terror it is impossible to predict;
but the experiments of living authors, who continually find new
outlets with the advance of science and of psychological enquiry,
suffice to prove that its powers are not yet exhausted. Those who
make the 'moving accident' their trade will no doubt continue to
assail us with the shock of startling and sensational events.
Others with more insidious art, will set themselves to devise
stories which evoke subtler refinements of fear. The interest has
already been transferred from 'bogle-wark' to the effect of the
inexplicable, the mysterious and the uncanny on human thought and
emotion. It may well be that this track will lead us into
unexplored labyrinths of terror.


[1: Frazer, _Folklore of the Old Testament_, I. iv. § 2.]

[2: _Cock Lane and Common Sense_, 1894.]

[3: _Spectator_, No. 12.]

[4: _Spectator_, No. 110.]

[5: Boswell, _Life of Johnson_, June 12th, 1784.]

[6: _Tom Jones_, Bk. xvi. ch. v.]

[7: Letter to Dr. Moore, Aug. 2, 1787.]

[8: Ashton, _Chapbooks of the Eighteenth Century_, 1882.]

[9: Advertisement to _Cloudesley_, 1830.]

[10: Preface to _Mandeville_, Oct. 25, 1817.]

[11: Letters, vii. 27.]

[12: _The Uncommercial Traveller_.]

[13: _Odyssey_, xi.]

[14: April 17, 1765.]

[15: Nov. 13, 1784.]

[16: June 12, 1753.]

[17: _Remarks on Italy_.]

[18: Aug. 4, 1753.]

[19: _Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay_, vol. ii. Appendix
ii.: _A
Visit to Strawberry Hill in 1786_.]

[20: Jan. 5, 1766.]

[21: July 15, 1783.]

[22: March 26, 1765.]

[23: Nov. 5, 1782.]

[24: It has been pointed out (Scott, _Lives of the Novelists_,
that in Lope de Vega's _Jerusalem_ the picture of Noradine
from its panel and addresses Saladine.]

[25: Cf. Wallace, _Blind Harry_.]

[26: _Preface_, 1764.]

[27: Ch. XX.]

[28: Ch. XXXIV.]

[29: Ch. lxii.]

[30: Jan. 27, 1780.]

[31: _Letters_, April 8, 1778, and Jan. 27, 1780.]

[32: _Poetical Works_, ed. Sampson, p. 8.]

[33: Translated _Blackwood's Magazine_, 1820 (Nov.). Cf. Scott,
_Bridal of Triermain_.]

[34: _E.g. Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay_, June 18, 1795;
Mathias, _Pursuits of Literature_, 14th ed. 1808, p. 56;
_Lives of the Novelists_; Extracts from the _Diary of a
Lover of
Literature_ (1810); Byron, _Childe Harold_, iv. xviii.;
Thackeray, _Newcomes_, chs. xi., xxviii.; Brontë, _Shirley_,
xxvii; Trollope, _Barchester Towers_, ch. xv., etc.]

[35: Family Letters, 1908.]

[36: Reprinted, Romancist and Novelist's Library.]

[37: _Journeys of Mrs. Radcliffe_, 2nd ed., 1795, vol. ii. p.

[38: _Noctes Ambrosianae_, ed. 1855, vol. i. p. 201.]

[39: Lecture on _The English Novelists_.]

[40: _Life and Correspondence of M. G. Lewis_, 1839, i. 122.]

[41: _Life and Correspondence_, July 22nd, 1794.]

[42: Essay on _The State of German Literature_.]

[43: Southey, Preface to _Madoc_.]

[44: _Life and Correspondence_, Feb. 23, 1798.]

[45: Letter to John Murray, Aug. 23rd, 1814.]

[46: _Monthly Review_, June, 1797.]

[47: No. 148.]

[48: Cf. Musaeus: _Die Entführung_.]

[49: _Marmion_, Canto ii. Intro.]

[50: Reprinted, Romancist and Novelist's Library, vol. i. 1839.]

[51: _Essay on German Playwrights_.]

[52: _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_ (1809).]

[53: Many of these were issued by B. Crosby, Stationers' Court.]

[54: _Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers_, 1856, p.

[55: Trans. from the German of Christian August Vulpius.]

[56: Cf. Thackeray, "Tunbridge Toys" (Roundabout Papers).]

[57: _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_.]

[58: _Gentleman's Magazine_, 1825; and memoir prefixed to the
of _Melmoth the Wanderer_, published in 1892.]

[59: Prose Works, 1851, vol. xviii.]

[60: _Letters and Memoir_, 1895, vol. i. p. 101.]

[61: _Life_ (Melville), 1909, vol. i. p. 79.]

[62: _Letters_, 2nd Series, 1872, vol. i. p. 101.]

[63: Gustave Planche, _Portraits Littéraires_.]

[64: Cf. Stevenson's _Bottle-Imp._]

[65: _Edinburgh Review_, July 1821.]

[66: Conant, _The Oriental Tale in England_, pp. 36-38.]

[67: Conant, _The Oriental Tale in England_, pp. 36-38.]

[68: Letter to Henley, Jan. 29, 1782.]

[69: _Life and Letters_, Melville, 1910, p. 20.]

[70: _Life and Letters_, 1910, p. 20.]

[71: _Memoirs, Journal and Correspondence of Thomas Moore_, 1853,
vol. ii. p. 197.]

[72: Nov. 24, 1777, _Life and Letters_, p. 40.]

[73: Austen Leigh, _Memoir of Jane Austen_.]

[74: Letter to William Godwin, Dec. 7, 1817.]

[75: _William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries_. Kegan
1876, vol. i. p. 78.]

[76: Preface to _Fleetwood_, 1832.]

[77: Preface to _Fleetwood_, 1832.]

[78: Preface to _Fleetwood_, 1832, p. xi: "I read over a little
book entitled _The Adventures of Mme. De St. Phale_, I
over the pages of a tremendous compilation entitled _God's
Revenge against Murder_, where the beam of the eye of
omniscience was represented as perpetually pursuing the
guilty... I was extremely conversant with _The Newgate
Calendar_ and _The Lives of the Pirates_. I rather amused
with tracing a certain similitude between the story of
Williams_ and the tale of _Bluebeard_;" and Preface to
_Cloudesley_: "The present publication may in the same
sense be
denominated a paraphrase of the old ballad of the Children
the Wood."]

[79: Scott, Introduction to _The Abbot_, 1831.]

[80: _William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries_, 1876, vol.
p. 304.]

[81: _Caleb Williams_, ch. x.]

[82: _William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries_, vol. i.

[83: _Political Justice_, bk. ii, ch. ii.]

[84: _William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries_, vol. i.
330-1; Preface to 1st edition, 1799.]

[85: _Hermippus Redivivus_; or _The Sage's Triumph over Old Age
the Grave_ (translated from the Latin of Cohausen, with
annotations), 1743. Dr. Johnson pronounced the volume "very
entertaining as an account of the hermetic philosophy and as

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