The Green Book 18

Editor’s Note

Buy a copy of The Green Book 18

This issue is another selection of profiles from our tentatively named Guide to Irish Writers of Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic Literature. The keen-eyed will spot one name that might seem out of place: Harry Clarke (1889-1931). Clarke, of course, was not a writer, but an artist who worked in watercolour, pen and ink, and stained glass. As an illustrator, Clarke put his indelible mark on literature of the macabre and fantastic. His best-known illustrations are those accompanying Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1919/23), though his illustrations for Andersen, Perrault, and Swinburne also bear hallmarks of the strange. So too do goblins and grotesques leer from the corners of his stained glass work. Writing in The Irish Statesman on Clarke’s illustrations for Goethe’s Faust, the poet A.E. was clearly taken with the artist’s power:

“Nothing in these drawings represents anything in the visible world: all come from that dread mid-world or purgatory of the soul where forms change on the instant by evil or beautiful imagination, where the human image becomes bloated and monstrous by reason of lust or hate, the buttocks become like those of a fat swine, and thoughts crawl like loathsome puffy worms out of their cells in the skull. Shapeless things gleam with the eye of a snake . . . Here the black night is loaded with corrupt monstrosities, creatures distorted by lusts which obsess them, which bloat out belly or thighs, suck in the forehead, make the face a blur of horrid idiocy or a malignant lunacy. We shiver at the thought that creatures like these may lurk in many a brain masked from us by the divine image.” (14 November 1925)

It is all the more pitiable that Clarke never illustrated an edition of Dracula—he was unable to come to an agreement with Bram Stoker’s estate. What we are left with is not only a remarkable body of work, but also hints to what might have been: other unrealised projects include Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and Huysmans’ À Rebours.

Clarke is rightfully listed in Jack Sullivan’s Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), and so I felt, given his impact on macabre literature, it was only proper to feature a profile of this remarkable artist among our own pages. Naturally, you’ll find a Clarke illustration on the cover of this issue, and his “Mephisto” can be found on the cover of Issue 6.

This issue also features profiles on George Croly—whose Salathiel may well have borne influence on Stoker’s Dracula (see also “Who Marvels at the Mysteries of the Moon” in The Green Book 14)—and a much-anticipated entry on Fitz-James O’Brien, who is surely a pillar of Irish genre fiction; while Yeats and Lady Gregory invoke in their words the long shadow of the Celtic Twilight. As always, I hope you’ll discover writers who might be lesser known, like the Banims and the Barlowes, or those whose contributions to genre might be unexpected, such as the Longfords and Iris Murdoch. Whatever the case, I hope you find new and exciting avenues to explore.

Brian J. Showers
Rathmines, Dublin
1 August 2021


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Contents
“Editor’s Note”
    Brian J. Showers

“George Croly (1780-1860)”
    Paul Murray

“Michael and John Banim (1796-1874/1798-1842)”
    James Doig

“Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881)”
    James Doig

“James William Barlow (1826-1913)”
    Jack Fennell

“Fitz-James O’Brien (1828-1862)”
    Richard Bleiler

“Lady Gregory (1852-1932)”
    James Doig

“Jane Barlow (1856-1917)”
    Jack Fennell

“W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)”
    R. B. Russell

“Harry Clarke (1889-1931)”
    R. B. Russell

“Christine and Edward Longford (1900-1980/1902-1961)”
    Reggie Chamberlain-King

“Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)”
    Miles Leeson

“Notes on Contributors”

The Green Book 18

Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women

An Extract from the Introduction by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers

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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.


There is a latent urge among literary scholars to define grand traditions in literature that sweep through the centuries. Joining the dots between one author’s influences on the work of another writer a generation thence makes for a tantalising and occasionally illuminating game. For some, these distinguished pedigrees are absolutely vital. Such contexts can give better understanding to the evolution of literary movements, the development of genres, and affinities between various coteries of writers.

Consider how much ink has been expended in an effort to prove whether or not Bram Stoker, author of Dracula (1897), had read or was definitively influenced by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (1871-2). Sometimes connections can be delightfully subtle, such as recognising the spine of Lord Dunsany’s The Gods of Pegana (1905) in a photograph of C. S. Lewis posing before a bookshelf in his study. But establishing a conscious tradition — one author knowingly working in the wake of another in an unbroken chain — can be a difficult and frequently tenuous task. This is especially true when genre is concerned, where delineations are often already nebulous.

If a novel or short story displays only scant elements of a particular school of literature, it is granted the prefix “proto”; the author, usually long dead at the time of the pronouncement, may well find herself surprised by such an inclusion. The best one can do in some cases is make an informed speculation — though the peril here is that these assertions can transform over time, without further erudition, into assumed fact.

2019-01-25 Final PosterThe present volume is subtitled “Strange Stories by Irish Women”, and its authors populate the better part of the nineteenth century. One might rightfully wonder if such a joined-up tradition can be delineated, and if the tales in this anthology constitute part of a literary continuum. In his essay on Irish literature for Supernatural Literature of the World (2005), Peter Tremayne makes the helpful observation that “Practically every Irish writer has, at some time, explored the genre for the supernatural is part of Irish culture.” Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find an Irish author who did not, at some point, include elements of the fantastic in their work — be it supernatural, folkloric, surrealist, or something else. Naturally, this makes broad declarations a particularly challenging endeavour.

What we are more certain about is that the writers included in Bending to Earth were not considered during their lifetimes to be chiefly writers of fantastical fiction. Yet they each at some point in their careers wandered into more speculative realms — some only briefly, others for lengthier stays. Some of them, like Katharine Tynan, Ethna Carbery, and Dora Sigerson Shorter, were known primarily as poets. Others, such as L. T. Meade, and Clotilde Graves deliberately wrote for more general popular markets; while the likes of Lady Wilde and Lady Gregory — perhaps now the most commonly known — linger in the Irish national psyche for their explorations of legends and folklore.

And then there are writers whose posthumous reputations have been sustained through the years solely on the merits of their supernatural tales, their once mainstream writings now almost entirely abandoned by modern readers. In 1882 Charlotte Riddell published her seminal collection, Weird Stories, and her supernatural novellas are still celebrated for their effectiveness. Meanwhile, Riddell’s realist mainstream novels have faded from memory, outside the cloistered world of scholars and academics. Similarly, the ghostly writings of Rosa Mulholland and B. M. Croker were kept alive, with varying levels of success, by the industrious efforts of twentieth-century anthologists, while the remainder of their works passed into the afterlife of the unfashionable from which they seldom return.

Bending to EarthIn compiling this anthology of strange tales, we sought stories by Irish women writing in the broader range of the darkly fantastic. We focused on the merits of each writer and their contribution, arranging stories in a sequence that we hope makes for an agreeable read. As one might expect, these selected tales reflect the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and preoccupations of each author. While there might not be a formal pedigree in the supernatural tradition, there is certainly a more ethereal sense of connection that characterises these writers and their offerings to strange literature.

Buy a copy of Bending to Earth here.

Read more about our Strange Stories by Irish Women poster here.


Maria Giakaniki is an independent scholar and editor-in-chief of Ars Nocturna, a small publishing house in Athens that focuses on Gothic fiction. She has compiled and co-translated Gothic Tales by Victorian Women Writers and Gothic Tales by Modern Women Writers.

Brian J. Showers runs Swan River Press in Dublin, Ireland. He also edits The Green Book: Writings on Irish Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic Literature.

Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women

Strange Stories by Irish Women

2019-01-25 Final Poster

Back in 2015, Jason Zerrillo and I designed the poster “Irish Writers of the Fantastic” as a response to the more ubiquitous “Irish Writers” poster that one often finds around Dublin. Instead of the typical faces — Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Swift, etc. — we wanted to showcase the Irish writers we enjoyed reading — those with a more fantastical bent — Le Fanu, Dunsany, Hearn, etc. Our goal was to establish a sort of lesser known canon, but a no less important one. If you want to see “Irish Writers of the Fantastic”, and read about the thought that went into it, have a look at this previous post.

With the release of Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women, edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers, we thought it would be an interesting idea to repeat the exercise. Naturally we focused on the Irish women who contributed to literature of the fantastic and whose stories are included in the book.

In addition to the image above showing the full poster, the links below will give you a bit more information on the backgrounds of these writers. And if you’re still interested, do pick up a copy of Bending to Earth.

Anna Maria Hall (1800 – 1881)

Lady Wilde (1821 – 1896)

Charlotte Riddell (1832 – 1906)

Rosa Mulholland (1841 – 1921)

L. T. Meade (1844 – 1914)

B. M. Croker (c.1849 – 1920)

Lady Gregory (1852 – 1932)

Katharine Tynan (1859 – 1931)

Clotilde Graves (1863 – 1932)

Ethna Carbery (1866 – 1902)

Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866 – 1918)

Beatrice Grimshaw (1870 – 1953)

Of course, as is always the case with these things, not everyone will agree with our choices. Two obvious omissions are Dorothy Macardle and Elizabeth Bowen. Given that they both appeared on our first poster, “Irish Writers of the Fantastic”, and are both served well in print, we decided not to include them again here. Instead we focused on lesser known contributors to fantastical literature. But the question stands: who would you include? And, more importantly, why would you include them?

As always, we hope this poster, “Strange Stories by Irish Women”, will lead you to discover new books and authors. If you have a further interest in Ireland’s contributions to fantastical literature, you also might want to check out our twice-yearly journal The Green Book, which features commentaries, articles, and reviews on Irish gothic, supernatural, and fantastic literature.


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.


Strange Stories by Irish Women
from Swan River Press

Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women edited by Maria Giakaniki and Brian J. Showers
Earth-Bound and Other Supernatural Tales by Dorothy Macardle
Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time and Other Strange Stories by Rosa Mulholland
“Number Ninety” & Other Ghost Stories by B. M. Croker
The Death Spancel and Others by Katharine Tynan
Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures by L. T. Meade

Strange Stories by Irish Women

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)