B. M. Croker (1849-1920)

06 B. M. Croker

“Why was I conscious of a beating heart, accompanied by a scarcely defined, but undeniable dread?” “The Red Woollen Necktie” (1896)

B. M. Croker (c.1849-1920) was a popular and bestselling author who enjoyed a highly successful career from 1880 until her death forty years later. Her novels, mostly set in India, her native Ireland, and England, were witty and fast moving. Bithia Mary Sheppard was born in Co. Roscommon, the only daughter of a Church of England clergyman, and married John Stokes Croker (1844-1911), an officer in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, in 1870. The newlyweds left for Madras, India immediately after the marriage; they later lived in Bengal, and a hill-station in Wellington (where many of her stories were written). On Colonel Croker’s retirement in 1892, they went to live in Co. Wicklow, and finally settled in Folkestone. She died at a nursing home in London, after a short and sudden illness, on 20 October 1920. Although Croker wrote numerous ghost stories during her career, they were only collected in 2000 as “Number Ninety” and Other Ghost Stories.


Bending to EarthBending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

Irish women have long produced literature of the gothic, uncanny, and supernatural. Bending to Earth draws together twelve such tales. While none of the authors herein were considered primarily writers of fantastical fiction during their lifetimes, they each wandered at some point in their careers into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays.

Names such as Charlotte Riddell and Rosa Mulholland will already be familiar to aficionados of the eerie, while Katharine Tynan and Clotilde Graves are sure to gain new admirers. From a ghost story in the Swiss Alps to a premonition of death in the West of Ireland to strange rites in a South Pacific jungle, Bending to Earth showcases a diverse range of imaginative writing which spans the better part of a century.

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B. M. Croker (1849-1920)

L. T. Meade (1844-1914)

“She stands there at the foot of the bed; she wears a hood, and her face is yellow. She has been dead a long time.” “The Woman with the Hood” (1897)

L. T. Meade (1844?-1914) was the pen name of Elizabeth Thomasina Toulmin Smith, née Meade. She was born in Bandon, Co. Cork and started writing at the age of seventeen, quickly establishing herself as one of the most prolific and bestselling authors of the day. In addition to her books for young people, she also penned mystery stories, sensational fiction, romances, historical, and adventure novels; part of this tremendous output was co-written with other authors, such as Robert Eustace (1854-1943). Her most notable works include A World of Girls (1886), Light o’ the Morning (1899), The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (1899), and The Sorceress of the Strand (1903). Meade also edited Atalanta, a popular girls’ magazine, in which she published H. Rider Haggard, R. L. Stevenson, and Katharine Tynan. She died in Oxford on 27 October 1914. Although now much of her writing is largely unread, her stories are occasionally reprinted as examples of early crime fiction.


Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

Irish women have long produced literature of the gothic, uncanny, and supernatural. Bending to Earth draws together twelve such tales. While none of the authors herein were considered primarily writers of fantastical fiction during their lifetimes, they each wandered at some point in their careers into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays.

Names such as Charlotte Riddell and Rosa Mulholland will already be familiar to aficionados of the eerie, while Katharine Tynan and Clotilde Graves are sure to gain new admirers. From a ghost story in the Swiss Alps to a premonition of death in the West of Ireland to strange rites in a South Pacific jungle, Bending to Earth showcases a diverse range of imaginative writing which spans the better part of a century

Read an Extract from the Introduction to Bending to Earth.

L. T. Meade (1844-1914)

Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921)

“The lonely graveyard is far away, an’ the dead man is hard to raise—” “Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time” (1865)

Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921), Lady Gilbert, was born in Belfast on 19 March 1841. In 1891 she married the eminent Irish historian and archivist Sir John T. Gilbert (1829-1898). In addition to her two-volume Life of Sir John T. Gilbert (1905), Mulholland produced a long line of novels mostly set in rural Ireland, often drawing on local folklore, and featuring strong female characters, including The Wicked Woods of Toberevil (1872), Banshee Castle (1895), and The O’Shaughnessy Girls (1911). Many of her supernatural tales, originally appearing in Charles Dickens’s All the Year Round and Irish Monthly, were collected in The Haunted Organist of Hurly Burly (1880). A further selection of her ghostly tales appears under the title Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time & Other Strange Stories (2013). Mulholland died at her home Villa Nova in Blackrock, Dublin, on 21 April 1921.


Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

Irish women have long produced literature of the gothic, uncanny, and supernatural. Bending to Earth draws together twelve such tales. While none of the authors herein were considered primarily writers of fantastical fiction during their lifetimes, they each wandered at some point in their careers into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays.

Names such as Charlotte Riddell and Rosa Mulholland will already be familiar to aficionados of the eerie, while Katharine Tynan and Clotilde Graves are sure to gain new admirers. From a ghost story in the Swiss Alps to a premonition of death in the West of Ireland to strange rites in a South Pacific jungle, Bending to Earth showcases a diverse range of imaginative writing which spans the better part of a century.

Read an Extract from the Introduction to Bending to Earth.

Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921)

Charlotte Riddell (1832-1906)

“The terror of it instead of unchaining my voice laid an icy hand upon my mouth and kept me still and silent.” – “The De Grabrooke Monument” (1879)

Charlotte Riddell (1832-1906) was born Charlotte Eliza Lawson Cowan in Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim on 30 September 1832. She moved to London in 1855 where she started her career as a writer. There, in 1857, she married engineer and inventor Hadley Riddell. By 1867 she was the editor and co-proprietor of the St. James’s Magazine (previously edited by Anna Maria Hall). From 1857 until 1902, Riddell published more than thirty volumes, mostly novels but also short story collections. Although her realist fiction was popular during her lifetime, today she is primarily remembered for her ghost stories. She wrote five supernatural novellas, including The Uninhabited House (1875) and The Haunted River (1877), and her collection Weird Stories (1882) is now considered a classic of the genre. Riddell’s husband died in 1881, and in 1886 she left London for nearby Middlesex. Suffering from ill health and financial difficulties, she was awarded a Society of Authors pension in 1901. Riddell died on 24 September 1906 and is buried in St. Leonard’s Churchyard, Heston.


Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

Irish women have long produced literature of the gothic, uncanny, and supernatural. Bending to Earth draws together twelve such tales. While none of the authors herein were considered primarily writers of fantastical fiction during their lifetimes, they each wandered at some point in their careers into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays.

Names such as Charlotte Riddell and Rosa Mulholland will already be familiar to aficionados of the eerie, while Katharine Tynan and Clotilde Graves are sure to gain new admirers. From a ghost story in the Swiss Alps to a premonition of death in the West of Ireland to strange rites in a South Pacific jungle, Bending to Earth showcases a diverse range of imaginative writing which spans the better part of a century.

Read an Extract from the Introduction to Bending to Earth.

Charlotte Riddell (1832-1906)

Lady Jane Wilde (1821-1896)

“And no one knew how the flowers came into her dead hand.” –  “The Child’s Dream” (1887)

Lady Jane Francesca Wilde (1821?-1896), born in Dublin, was a poet, folklorist, nationalist, and feminist who wrote under the name “Speranza”. Her earliest writings were published in The Nation, a pro-independence weekly newspaper; much of this nationalist poetry was collected in Poems (1864). She married the surgeon and writer Sir William Wilde in 1851 and had three children with him, among them Oscar Wilde. By the end of the 1860s Lady Wilde was hosting the most celebrated literary salon in Dublin at her home in Merrion Square, where Bram Stoker was a frequent guest. After her husband’s death, she joined her sons in London. Based on material collected by William Wilde in the west of Ireland, Lady Wilde produced two formidable volumes: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland (1887) and Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland (1890). Living in relative poverty, she continued to write for magazines such as Pall Mall Gazette, Tinsley’s, and Burlington Magazine until her death on 3 February 1896.


Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

Irish women have long produced literature of the gothic, uncanny, and supernatural. Bending to Earth draws together twelve such tales. While none of the authors herein were considered primarily writers of fantastical fiction during their lifetimes, they each wandered at some point in their careers into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays.

Names such as Charlotte Riddell and Rosa Mulholland will already be familiar to aficionados of the eerie, while Katharine Tynan and Clotilde Graves are sure to gain new admirers. From a ghost story in the Swiss Alps to a premonition of death in the West of Ireland to strange rites in a South Pacific jungle, Bending to Earth showcases a diverse range of imaginative writing which spans the better part of a century.

Read an Extract from the Introduction to Bending to Earth.

Lady Jane Wilde (1821-1896)

Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881)

01 Anna Maria Hall

“Granny, did you know why your friend ventured so fearlessly into the ghost’s territories?”  – “The Dark Lady” (1847)

Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881), who wrote under the name Mrs. S. C. Hall, penned numerous collections, novels, and plays in which she often depicted sympathetic portraits of Ireland and its people. She was born Anna Maria Fielding in Anne Street, Dublin, on 6 January 1800. At the age of fifteen she moved to London where, in 1824, she married journalist and editor Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889). During her career, she contributed articles, sketches, and stories to several periodicals edited by her husband, including The Amulet and The Art Journal; she also briefly edited St. James’s Magazine. Hall is primarily remembered for her regional works, which include Sketches of Irish Character (1829), Lights and Shadows of Irish Life (1838), and Ireland: Its Scenery and Character (1841-43; co-written with her husband). She was also a member of the Irish temperance movement and a fervent supporter of women’s rights. She died on 30 January 1881.


Bending to Earth

Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

Irish women have long produced literature of the gothic, uncanny, and supernatural. Bending to Earth draws together twelve such tales. While none of the authors herein were considered primarily writers of fantastical fiction during their lifetimes, they each wandered at some point in their careers into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays.

Names such as Charlotte Riddell and Rosa Mulholland will already be familiar to aficionados of the eerie, while Katharine Tynan and Clotilde Graves are sure to gain new admirers. From a ghost story in the Swiss Alps to a premonition of death in the West of Ireland to strange rites in a South Pacific jungle, Bending to Earth showcases a diverse range of imaginative writing which spans the better part of a century.

Read an Extract from the Introduction to Bending to Earth.

Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881)

On Designing A.E.’s Selected Poems

Selected PoemsOccasionally I like to write about how a Swan River book can come together. Back in 2015, I wrote a short piece on how we assembled our edition of Lafcadio Hearn’s Insect Literature, a beautiful book that is now unfortunately out of print. (Though you can still read about how we put it together!)

This time I’d like to write a little about Selected Poems by A.E. (George William Russell, 1867-1935), which we published in April 2017 to coincide with the bicentenary of the great poet’s birth.

A few years prior to the bicentenary, I realised there was no proper edition of A.E.’s work in print. Sure, a few cheap print-on-demand volumes of his mystical writings are floating about, but let’s face it, the content of those sort of things can be dodgy at the best of times, often going unedited and rarely even proofed or decently typeset. Caveat emptor. And given that A.E.’s work is no longer fashionable in the Irish literary world, I knew that a new edition done right would be up to Swan River.

img_0040I can remember the precise moment I decided to reprint A.E.’s work. My house isn’t too far from Mount Jerome Cemetery, in south Dublin, where A.E. was laid to rest on 17 July 1935. As I was stooped down to remove clumps of moss and other debris from the chipped stone atop his grave, the thought entered my mind: in 2017 I would reprint something by Ireland’s foremost mystical poet. But what? Would I create my own selection? Ask a contemporary poet to complete such a task? Or maybe I would reissue a prose work, such as his thin short story collection The Mask of Apollo (1905). I did not ponder this question for long. A definitive answer arrived a few weeks later.

1st jacketOver the years I have amassed quite the collection of first editions of A.E.’s work. Shortly after that visit to his resting place I found a first edition copy of Selected Poems, originally published in autumn 1935, just a few months after its author died. This particular copy of Selected Poems still had its original dust jacket, on which were inscribed the words: “If I should be remembered, I would like it to be for the verses in this book. They are my choice out of the poetry I have written.” It would appear A.E. himself had given me the answer. I decided then and there to honour the will stated so clearly before me.

The painting of A.E. on the cover of Selected Poems is by the husband of Constance Markiewicz: Count Casimir Dunin Markiewicz (1874-1932). The original is held by the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, and just so happened to be on display at the time I was working on this project. So I wandered up one weekend to have a look. After I had seen the painting, it struck me that perhaps we could re-interpret the 1935 jacket, reproducing Count Markiewicz’s painting, but of course this time in colour. The gallery kindly obliged, and so the project began to take shape.

img_1611Next I asked Meggan Kehrli, Swan River’s long-time designer, to lift the typeface of the title, author’s name, and inscription from the cover of the first edition jacket. We did this trick for both Insect Literature and Longsword, and it works pretty well. Although most readers won’t necessarily notice this subtle design choice, I like knowing it’s there. Of course you can compare the two covers above to see both their similarities and differences.

On the title page we reprinted the “Sword of Knowledge”. This emblem, a downward-pointing winged sword designed by the poet, is emblazoned on the free front end papers of Cuala Press’s multiple A.E. volumes. The keen-eyed will notice that it is also carved into the lower right-hand corner of the poet’s tombstone.  It only seemed appropriate to include it on our title page as well.

Finally there was the question of the printed paper case — that’s the image that’s printed onto the boards underneath the dust jacket. It’s become a feature of all Swan River books that this image is different from that on the jacket cover, allowing readers to discover something beneath the jacket of each of our books.  Given that A.E. also produced a wealth of beautiful paintings depicting his visionary experiences, I started the search to find the perfect picture.

4071.jpg

Again, I didn’t have to search too long before I found what I was looking for at the National Gallery of Ireland. There they had one of A.E.’s paintings given the rather uninspired posthumous title “A Landscape with a Couple, and a Spirit with a Lute”. Of course the painting depicts exactly that — but for the purposes of our project it spoke of so much more. It was perfect. The golden figure, with its radiant headdress and lute, appearing before an awestruck pair, seems to me the very embodiment of Song, an extension of the mysticism A.E. also sought to express in his writing.

IMG_1604Just as A.E.’s poetry and prose were glimpses behind the veil, so too did I want a scintillating image beneath our purposefully staid dust jacket — so that each reader here too could glimpse behind the veil, turning the cover into a sort of interactive metaphor. In the photo at the left you can see the book with the jacket both on and off.

Needless to say, Selected Poems by A.E. is a book that I’m quite proud of, and I hope you like it too.

After that visit to Mount Jerome, the book just sort of came together. The elements I required materialised as I needed them, and the finished volume was published on 10 April 2017 — just in time for the poet’s 150th birthday. This project was, for me, an exceedingly special one. I would like to think that A.E. himself would be proud of this book.

If you’d like to read more about A.E., including who he was and why he is an important contributor to Irish literature, I wrote another piece about him that you can read here.

I also wrote an essay called “Hidden Aeons: Searching for a Literary Relic” detailing how George William Russell found is pseudonym and true self.

And of course, if you’d like to by a copy of Selected Poems, you can do so here.

 

On Designing A.E.’s Selected Poems