Our Haunted Year 2021

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that running a small press is not an easy job. It’s a precarious balancing act with limited resources on one side and an ever-shifting set of challenges on the other. This year was perhaps the most difficult I’ve experienced, due not only to the continuing pandemic, but also from the very real fallout caused by those twin bad decisions: Brexit and the Trump administration. We’ve been subjected to significant jumps in postage, reams of customs forms where there were none before, and supply chain issues that are likely to affect the entire publishing industry for the foreseeable future. And yet . . .

. . . despite all this, publishing remains a pleasure. Swan River Press generates a domineering amount of work—and it’s not even my day job. What it is, though, is an opportunity for me to engage with friends, colleagues and ideas, indulge in creativity, and put some truly wonderful literature into the world. I love designing books, the thrill of unboxing each new shipment, and getting them into the hands of readers. I take a lot of pride in what the Swan River team does, and I know we work hard to do it. Sure, I might grumble occasionally (and will continue to do so), but rest assured, I wouldn’t trade Swan River Press for anything.

As most of you already know, I’ve made it a tradition to take stock of our accomplishments over the past twelve months. I find it’s a good practice, even therapeutic, as it’s easy to lose sight of all the good work that’s being done. It seems all the more important to do so this year as the struggle to keep the barge on an even keel felt all the more difficult. But here we are. We made it. So let’s have a look at 2021.

Our first book of the year was in collaboration with our multi-talented friend to the north, Reggie Chamberlain-King: The Fatal Move and Other Stories by Conall Cearnach. Reggie first wrote about Cearnach for The Green Book 11, prompting me to track down a copy of the Irish writer’s sole collection. “Cearnach” was the pseudonym of the Belfast-born F. W. O’Connell, a peculiar Protestant divine, linguist and Irish language scholar, oddball essayist, and early national broadcaster. The Fatal Move is truly a strange and fascinating collection. It showcases a wide scope of modes: the conte cruel, the ghost story, the locked-room mystery, and the science-fictional satire. I published the Jamesian tale “The Fiend that Walks Behind” in The Green Book 15, and shortly thereafter decided to publish the whole damn book—which hadn’t seen an outing since its initial publication in 1924. Reggie provided a lengthy and erudite study of Cearnach’s fascinating life and works, and we added a selection of equally oddball essays to round out the volume. As Supernatural Tales’ David Longhorn observes, this book “illuminates some of the more obscure byways of Irish literature”. If you want to read more about The Fatal Move—and the fascinating story behind the book’s cover art, check our my previous blog post. You can also listen to Reggie discussing Cearnach on BBC Radio. (Also be sure to check out The Black Dreams: Strange Stories from Northern Ireland, a new anthology edited by Reggie Chamberlain-King.)

(Buy The Fatal Move here.)

Next is the fifth instalment of our ongoing anthology series, Uncertainties, our showcase of new writing—this time featuring contributions from Ireland, Canada, America, and the United Kingdom—with each writer exploring the idea of increasingly fragmented senses of reality. I decided to take the reins this year and put together a line-up of stories from twelve contemporary writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Alan Moore, Aislínn Clarke, and Carly Holmes. The cover for this volume was provided by Ksenia Korniewska, whose work I had long admired on Instagram. With Uncertainties 5, I finally had an excuse to work with her. Along with The Fatal Move, Uncertainties 5 is the first of our books with printed buckram boards, a feature with which we will endeavour to continue. As with previous volumes, Uncertainties 5 has been well-received: Deirdre Sullivan’s “Little Lives” won the An Post Book Award for Short Story of the Year, while the Irish Times reviewed the anthology as, “Challenging and uncanny, these are exactly the kinds of stories we need to survive in a world that keeps getting stranger.” I’m also quite proud of the foreword I wrote, the culmination of an awful lot of ruminating about the horror genre and it’s many facets. You can read the essay online: “That Didn’t Scare Me”.

(Buy Uncertainties 5 here.)

A selection of stories by L. T. Meade was something I’d been considering since Bending to Earth came out in 2019. In that sense, Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures is the next instalment in our unofficial “Strange Stories by Irish Women” series, which to-date includes titles by Dorothy Macardle, Rosa Mulholland, B. M. Croker, Katharine Tynan, and Clotilde Graves. For Eyes of Terror, I went to Meade scholar Janis Dawson, who had written an excellent author profile on Meade for The Green Book 16. Meade’s stories were widely published in popular fin de siècle magazines, and this selection showcases her macabre specialties: medical or scientific mysteries featuring doctors, scientists, occult detectives, criminal women with weird powers, unusual medical interventions, fantastic scientific devices, murder, mesmerism, and manifestations of insanity. Quoth Michael Dirda in the Washington Post, “[Meade’s] scariest, and hitherto scattered, short horror fiction is finally reassembled in Swan River Press’s Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures, superbly edited by Janis Dawson. Highly recommended.”

(Buy Eyes of Terror here.)

Our fourth book this year has its roots in the Dublin Ghost Story Festival at which Joyce Carol Oates was our guest of honour in 2018. Surely working with Joyce would be a career highlight for any publisher: it certainly is for me. The Ruins of Contracoeur and Other Presences is a collection of Joyce’s trademark grotesqueries; check this out: “A group of resourceful young girls punish the men of a small town for unspeakable lusts by luring them to a derelict factory and into the toils of a bizarre contraption; a dead man tries to makes sense of a strange epiphany he experienced one day when out hiking amid gigantic ancient redwoods; and a state judge, fleeing disgrace, settles with his family on an isolated ruinous estate where some dread thing prowls in the night . . . ” Wow! So for this publication, I wanted to do something extra special. First, asking Lisa Tuttle to write the introduction was an obvious choice—folks, I’m still kicking myself for not recording the fascinating guest of honour interview she conducted with Joyce at the DGSF. For the cover, I went to Meggan Kehrli, who mainly serves as Swan River’s designer. I hope you’ll agree, she turned in something special (and just wait until you seen the boards). Finally, the entire edition is signed not only by Joyce, but also by Meggan and Lisa. And in atonement for my aforementioned sin, you can watch an online conversation between Lisa and Joyce that we recorded, with the help of Eric Karl Anderson, for the launch of The Ruins of Contracoeur. My sincere gratitude again to you, Joyce, for the opportunity to publish this book!

(Buy The Ruins of Contracoeur here.)

Our last hardback publication for the year is another entry in the “Strange Stories by Irish Women” series: A Vanished Hand and Other Stories by Clotilde Graves. Of course, you’ll always be familiar with Grave’s work from Bending to Earth. Graves is one of the most interesting and neglected writers I’ve come across, whose writing is as difficult to pin down as her personality. In her early years, she was known as the dramatist “Clo Graves”, but became better known under her fiction-writing persona, “Richard Dehan”. She transgressed contemporary gender norms by dressing in male attire, wearing her hair short, and smoking in public. This border crossing can be seen also in her work, which encompasses a wide variety of forms and modes. And while she wrote relatively few fantastical stories, she was devoted to tales of lingering revenants, mysterious cryptids, and grotesque sciences—often laced with her sardonic sense of humour. This volume seeks to recover this side of Graves’s writing by including stories from across her career, which challenge definition and range across the speculative genres. The selection of thirteen stories was made by Melissa Edmundson, who also provided an expert introduction on Graves and her work. You’ll also, no doubt, notice the exceptionally striking cover by Brian Coldrick, who also gave us the cover for Eyes of Terror earlier in the year (as well as the covers for our Mulholland and Tynan volumes). I had a lot of fun working on this book, another landmark of its kind. We’ll be working with both Brian and Melissa again for sure.

(Buy A Vanished Hand here.)

We also published two issues of our journal The Green Book: Writings on Irish Gothic, Supernatural and the Fantastic. It’s hard to believe that the journal will read its ten-year anniversary next year. Based on the popularity of Issue 15, The Green Book 17 featured a selection of rare fiction and poetry by the likes of H. de Vere Stacpoole, Herbert Moore Pim, Katharine Tynan, Dora Sigerson Shorter, and L. T. Meade. We also reprinted in this volume Althea Gyles’s “weirdly powerful and beautiful” illustrations to Oscar Wilde’s poem “The Harlot’s House”. Issue 18 featured eleven entries from our (still tentatively titled) Guide to Irish Gothic and Supernatural Fiction Writers project, including profiles of George Croly, Anna Maria Hall, Fitz-James O’Brien, Jane Barlow, Harry Clarke, Iris Murdoch, and more. Our issues for 2022 are already coming together nicely—the next will be loosely themed on Dublin’s theosophical scene of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (Anyone who is unsure where to jump in on this journal, we’ve a special offer running too. It’s a secret.)

(Buy The Green Book here.)

You also might have noticed that we substantially added to our paperback catalogue this year. In 2020 we published three paperback titles. In 2021, we increased that to a total of nineteen. Among them you’ll find Curfew & Other Eerie Tales by Lucy M. Boston, Strange Epiphanies by Peter Bell, and The Anniversary of Never by Joel Lane. We’ve got another six titles waiting to be reprinted in early 2022, including The Pale Brown Thing by Fritz Leiber and The Sea Change by Helen Grant. Rest assured, hardbacks will remain our primary focus—not to mention still the best way to support the press’s ongoing work. Please also be aware that our anthologies featuring contemporary writers will not be reprinted as paperbacks. Once those are out of print, they will truly be gone! If you want to see what books we have available in paperback, have a look here (scroll down to “Paperback”). And if your next question contains the word “When” in it, do be sure to join our mailing list.

Now if anyone is interested in the figures, we published 7 new titles this year, totalling 1,288 pages, 2,481 copies, and 363,460 words. I have a nifty spreadsheet that keeps track of all of this stuff for me. I love literature, but these numbers help put our achievements into perspective too.

We had a bit of change up this year as well. Ken Mackenzie left the team having worked with us since 2013. His first book with us was Seventeen Stories by Mark Valentine and he’d typeset every publication through Uncertainties 5 earlier this year. Ken brought a polish to our pages and helped make our books all the better for it. I’m grateful to Ken for all his work over the years and wish him the best in all his future endeavours. Quickly stepping up as our new typesetter and team member is Steve J. Shaw, who many followers of independent press will know from his own Black Shuck Books imprint. Steve proved himself invaluable from the outset, not only as our new typesetter, but with his insight into the workings of independent publishing. Welcome, Steve—and thanks for your help! (And if you get a chance, do check out his books. I recently enjoyed Only the Broken Remain by Dan Coxon.)

No summation of the year would be complete without acknowledging the rest of the Swan River team: Meggan Kehrli, who does all our design work; and Jim Rockhill and Timothy J. Jarvis, both of whom help with the editorial and proofreading duties, not to mention general advice and support. I’d also like to thank John Howard, Joe Mitchen, Alison Lyons of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, and John Connolly (check out his new anthology Shadow Voices: 300 Years of Irish Genre Fiction), all of whom continue to give their support, encouragement, and enthusiasm for our work.

This year has been difficult for many, and I’ve had a lot of books and media to keep me company lately. I’d like to give a shout out to the creatives that I’ve been enjoying lately. Maybe you’ll find something new and interesting: Tartarus Press, Zagava, Ritual Limited, Egaeus Press, Sarob Press, Side Real Press, Black Shuck Books, Supernatural Tales, Hellebore, Nunkie Productions, Eibonvale Press, Undertow Publications, Nightjar Press, Friends of Arthur Machen—all of these people are doing the sort of things that I love, so be sure to give them your support if you find something new and exciting. Not to mention the many booksellers out there who stock our books—and even if they don’t, be sure to support your favourite local, independent bookseller. Choose to put your money into their pockets instead of Am*zon’s, because it really does make a difference.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who supported Swan River Press this year: with kind words, by buying books, donating through our patron programme, or simply spreading the word—I’m grateful for it all! If you’d like to keep in touch, do join our mailing list, find us on Facebook, follow on Twitter and Instagram. We’ve got some exciting projects for next year that I’m looking forward to sharing with you all. Until then, please stay healthy; take care of each other and your communities. I’d like to wish you all a restful holiday season, and hope to hear from you in the New Year!

Our Haunted Year 2021

“How I Write My Books”: An Interview with Mrs. L. T. Meade

Despite her wide contributions to genre literature, Irish author L. T. Meade is now remembered, if at all, for her girls’ school stories. However, in 1898 the Strand Magazine, famous for its fictions of crime, detection, and the uncanny, proclaimed Meade one of its most popular writers for her contributions to its signature fare. Her stories, widely published in popular fin de siècle magazines, included classic tales of the supernatural, but her specialty was medical or scientific mysteries featuring doctors, scientists, occult detectives, criminal women with weird powers, unusual medical interventions, fantastic scientific devices, murder, mesmerism, and manifestations of insanity. Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures is the first collection to showcase the best of her pioneering strange fiction.


Mrs. L. T. Meade has probably written a greater number of stories than any other living author. A healthy tone pervades all her works, and her pictures of English home life in particular are among the best of their kind. Calling on the novelist (writes our Special Commissioner) at her City office, I found her at her desk hard at work. Her personality is like her writings—bright, fresh, vivacious; and to say that she is of a well-favoured countenance is to understate the fact. She retains much of her girlish appearance, though a rather worn look about the eyes suggests midnight oil and an ever-active brain. Knowing how Mrs. Meade values her time, I plunged at once into the subject of my visit by remarking that nowadays people take a very friendly interest in those who delight and instruct them by their writings, they like to know how their favourite books are written; and asked whether she was willing to satisfy this natural curiosity.

“I shall be happy to tell you anything you want to know,” she replied in a soft, musical voice. “As to how my books are written, well, I simply get a thought and work it out. I have no particular method of writing. My stories grow a good deal as I write them. I don’t think the plot out very carefully in advance. My children’s stories, for instance, before they are written, are, as a rule, first told to my own children to amuse them—at least, I have tried that plan since the children have become old enough to be interested in them, and I have found it very successful; as a rule, what one child likes, another child will like. I write my stories a good deal because the publisher wants the book; I simply write it to order, and, of course, if he asks for a girl’s story he gets it, and if he asks for a novel or children’s story he gets that. I may say that I am a very quick writer; I produce four or five books in a season. I have written in less than three months a rather important three-volume novel.”

“Do you ever take your characters from real life?”

“Yes, but not intentionally. I don’t deliberately say I will put such a character here or there; I take traits rather than a whole character. I find that deliberately setting my mind to delineate a certain character produces considerable stiffness, and the character is not so fresh. Authors are a good deal governed by their characters in writing fiction. If your book is to be successful, your characters guide you rather than you guide your characters; they are so very living and real that you have not complete control over them.”

“Your experience, then, is similar to that of Charles Dickens and some living writers, who have stated that their characters become their masters, and, as it were, take their destiny into their own hands?”

“Exactly. I find it a good plan, when a novel is in process, after a certain stage, to cut out every character that is not intensely alive. I am now speaking, of course, of my larger stories; in a short story there is not room for development of character.”

“May I ask how many stories you have written?”

“I am afraid to tell you—between fifty and sixty volumes, besides a great many short stories. I have been writing now constantly for fifteen years. An enormous quantity to have produced?—so it is; I don’t know any other author who has done so much work as I have done in that time. I will give you an example. I have recently brought out four volumes (none cheaper than 3s. 6d., which gives you some idea of the size) and a three-volume novel, not to mention a complete Christmas number of the Sunday Magazine, of nearly sixty thousand words. They have certainly all been written under two years. I write on an average every day in the year a little over two thousand words; on some occasions I wrote a great deal more.”

“Do you write everything with your own hand?”

“I write nothing with my own hand—I almost forget how to write. I employ a short-hand writer, and I revise the type-written transcript.”

“Do you write at regular hours or at uncertain intervals; in other words, do you wait for an inspiration, or do you sit down and write whether you feel inclined for it or not?”

“I never wait for an inspiration.” Mrs. Meade added, with a laugh, “I might never write at all if I did. I write every day at a certain hour, and it would be impossible for me to write in the way you suggest. I have a great many books promised against a certain time. I always write against time.”

“And you find that your work does not suffer from that somewhat mechanical method?”

“I don’t think it does. I believe that to write against time puts your work into a frame, and is improved by it. To have to write a certain length, and for a certain publisher, who requires a certain kind of work, is splendid practice; it makes your brain very supple, so that you can turn to anything. It is a matter of habit with me now, and I rather like it.”

“Are you never at a loss for ideas when working under such pressure? Don’t you ever feel impoverished?”

“Sometimes, perhaps; but not as a rule. I often sit down, my secretary has a blank sheet of paper, I say, ‘Chapter I’ and that is all I know when I begin. I suppose my ideas do flow very rapidly, for some writers who are very much beyond me in power can’t write quickly. They have to think out their subjects a great deal. I could not write if I gave much labour to my work.”

“But surely you must sometimes stop and think when you are dictating?”

“No; as a rule, I dictate straight ahead continuously, and never pause for an instant. I see the whole scene, and I talk on as I see it.”

I could not help feeling that, if Mrs. Meade dictates as rapidly as she was speaking to me, her stenographer must be exceptionally expert. Her readiness and fluency were such, that of all the people I have interviewed, not one covered so much ground in so short a time. To this hard-working novelist our conversation was but a momentary interruption.

“Then you create as you speak?”

Mrs. Meade in her study (Nov. 1900)

“Yes. Of course all writers must feel they do better work one day than another, but there is no day I don’t write except Sunday. Atalanta takes up a great deal of time; more than half my days are occupied with it. I have a very large life outside my books.”

A portrait of a sturdy, happy-looking youngster in cricketing costume, which his mother showed me, was an illustration in point. Mrs. Meade told me that he was the original of Daddy’s Boy—one of the most fascinating of her numerous children’s tales.

“What do you think of our English fiction of to-day?” I next inquired.

“I think fiction is at a very low ebb just now. We have no giants; but the average writer has come to a much higher pitch of excellence than was the case ten or twelve years ago. I admire Barrie immensely. I think I like him almost better than Rudyard Kipling, but I have a great admiration for both in their way. Mr. Kipling has more sting than Mr. Barrie, but Mr. Barrie’s character-drawing is inimitable. Mr. Barrie, Mr. Kipling, and Mr. Stevenson ranks first of all.”

“Still, none of them, you think, are ‘giants’?”

“I would not put them on a level with George Eliot, or Thackeray, or Dickens. We have no Dickens now, no Thackeray, no George Eliot; we have not even a Bulwer-Lytton.”

“Would you put George Eliot at the head of all women novelists?”

“Yes. I don’t think anybody else has touched her. I think Charlotte Brontë has exceeded her in some things—she has more passion; but, on the whole, I think George Eliot is greater.”

“What is your opinion of the theological novel?”

“Frankly, I don’t care for it. Edna Lyall has made a great success, and done some very fine and noble work, but I think theology in a novel is a mistake. It might be introduced, but ought not to be overdone.”

“It is bad artistically, don’t you think?”

Swan River Press’s limited edition hardback

“Extremely bad; absolutely wrong. I think Mrs. Humphrey Ward is not at all artistic. She is a remarkably clever woman, but she is not a fictionist. A fictionist is in her own way a painter; she writes pictures instead of painting them. I think the art of fiction is not half studied by writers; there is so much in it.”

“Do you do most of your work at home, or here in the City?”

“I write in the morning at my own house at Dulwich. I do most of my original work at home, and my editorial work here, though I have done a great deal of original work here also. I don’t go by any fixed rule. The only fixed rule in my life is that I never can get a holiday.”

“I hope that is not to be taken literally?” “Well, we are going away to-morrow for three or four days. Such an event is so rare that I can hardly believe it is coming to pass. I never get more than about a fortnight’s holiday in the year. That is mostly because of my magazine work, which, of course, never ends.”


L. T. Meade (1844-1914) was born in Bandon, Co. Cork and started writing at an early age before establishing herself as one of the most prolific and bestselling authors of the day. In addition to her popular girls’ fiction, she also penned mystery stories, sensational fiction, romances, historical fiction, and adventure novels. Her notable works include A Master of Mysteries (1898), The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (1899), and The Sorceress of the Strand (1903). She died in Oxford on 26 October 1914.


Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures is now available in both paperback and limited edition hardback from Swan River Press as part of the Strange Stories by Irish Women series.

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

“How I Write My Books”: An Interview with Mrs. L. T. Meade

THE GREEN BOOK 17

EDITOR’S NOTE

As it turned out, Issue 15, which was comprised entirely of fiction, proved to be quite popular. So I had a look in my files to see if I could put together another such issue of refugee writings that did not fit elsewhere in our publishing schedule.

Let the curtains rise on Oscar Wilde’s “The Harlot’s House”, first published in The Dramatic Review (11 April 1885), which publisher Leonard Smither’s notes is “not included in the edition of his collected Poems”—I assume a reference to the volume issued by Elkin Mathews and John Lane in 1892. While “The Harlot’s House” has since become available, we would like to present it here as Leonard Smithers had in a portfolio edition in 1904: with five “weirdly powerful and beautiful” drawings by Althea Gyles, known for her lavish cover designs for Yeats’s poetry collections, including The Secret Rose (1897), two covers for The Wind Among the Reeds (1899/1990), and Poems (1900). We will explore more fully this remarkable artist in a future issue of The Green Book.

H. de Vere Stacpoole’s “The Mask”, a deft little shocker set in the Carpathian Mountains, had previously a couple of outings in 1930s anthologies, including My Grimmest Nightmare (1935) and Not Long for This World (1936). While de Vere Stacpoole is best known for his popular novel The Blue Lagoon (1908), his career is sprinkled with tales of the macabre. A profile of his life and writings can be found in Issue 12.

Next is Herbert Moore Pim’s “The Ravished Bride”, a gothic narrative in verse set in the north of Ireland, and quite unlike the stories found in his oddball collection Unknown Immortals of the Northern City of Success (1917). You’ll find his story, “The Madman” in Issue 15, while a full profile of this quixotic author is in Issue 12.

After this we have two stories by Katharine Tynan, neither of which have been reprinted before. We considered both when compiling The Death Spancel and Others, which Swan River published in late 2020, but ultimately decided they wouldn’t strengthen that volume. We rejected “The Heart of the Maze” because it is simply not a supernatural tale; however, it does possess dream-like and faerie tale-type qualities not atypical of Tynan’s work. The second story, “The House of a Dream”, while it does contain psychical elements, we deemed far too similar in plot to “The Dream House”, the latter of which we did include in The Death Spancel. As a commercial writer, Tynan reused plots and themes to keep up with the demands of the fiction markets. Despite this pace, her writing remained of the highest quality: elegant, descriptive, and a pleasure to read.

Following the two stories by Tynan you’ll find three poems by Dora Sigerson Shorter, all of which were selected by Margaret Widdemar for her anthology The Haunted Hour (1920), a volume that also included contributions from Yeats, Tynan, and Walter de la Mare. Widdemar takes for her strict definition of a “ghost-poem” as “poems which relate to the return of spirits to earth”. Sigerson Shorter’s poems deftly evoke a night-time Ireland populated by revenants and other wandering ill-omens, such as the fetch and the banshee. If you want to learn more about Sigerson Shorter’s life and work you can read about her in Issue 13; her remarkable story “Transmigration” can be found in Swan River’s Bending to Earth: Strange Stories by Irish Women (2019).

Finally we have “To Prove an Alibi” by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace, a tale of mystery and terror reminiscent of Wilkie Collins’s “A Terribly Strange Bed” (1852). This story is one in a series to feature John Bell, later collected as A Master of Mysteries (1898). Bell is a “professional exposer of ghosts” whose business is to “clear away the mysteries of most haunted houses” and to “explain by the application of science, phenomena attributed to spiritual  agencies”. More on Meade can be found in The Green Book 16; we will be seeing more from her soon.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, another issue of weird, gothic, and macabre poems and stories from Irish writers. I write this on Saint Patrick’s Day, under a clear blue sky in Dublin; and I hope some of the convivial cheer and goodwill of the day reaches you as you read this issue.

Brian J. Showers
Rathmines, Dublin
17 March 2021

You can buy The Green Book here.

Want to catch up on back issues? We have a special offer.

Contents

“Editor’s Note”
    Brian J. Showers

“The Harlot’s House”
    Oscar Wilde with Althea Gyles

“The Mask”
    H. de Vere Stacpoole

“The Ravished Bride”
    Herbert Moore Pim

“The Heart of the Maze”
    Katharine Tynan

“The House of a Dream”
    Katharine Tynan

“All-Souls’ Night”
    Dora Sigerson Shorter

“The Fetch”
    Dora Sigerson Shorter

“The Banshee”
    Dora Sigerson Shorter

“To Prove an Alibi”
    L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace

“Notes on Contributors”

THE GREEN BOOK 17

The Green Book 16

EDITOR’S NOTE

Here we are, after a brief hiatus, with the continued serialisation of the Guide to Irish Writers of Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic Literature, which I am co-editing with my long-time collaborator Jim Rockhill. (How many years has it been now, Jim?)

This is a project we started work on sometime in 2017 — although it’s something we had talked about for longer than that. Our goal is to create a resource for both readers and scholars, not unlike E. F. Bleiler’s Supernatural Fiction Writers (1985), showing the rich extent of Ireland’s contributions to supernatural literature and its related genres. The first entries appeared in Issue 11, back in 2018, and continued through Issue 12 and Issue 13. In the “Editor’s Notes” for those issues you’ll also find more details on the background of this project, plus how we as editors have set about defining the criteria to guide us through such an enormous task.

It’s been three years now, and, near as I can reckon, we’re somewhere over the halfway mark. When we initially embarked on this journey, neither Jim nor myself quite realised the scope of the undertaking. Perhaps it’s good that we hadn’t as we might have been instilled with a deep sense of daunting fear and put off entirely. But that’s not what happened, and so here we are with another issue filled cover to cover with more fascinating entries on an array of Irish authors whose lives and works span the better part of three centuries.

I have to say, I’m grateful that we have The Green Book as a venue in which to serialise these entries, otherwise they might have temporarily languished as we continue to work towards (with luck) a collected single volume. It’s been a long road so far, and, just now passing the midway point, we’ve still a long way to go.

On the plus side, as I’m working on these entries, I’ve personally been learning so much, finding new connections, asking more questions, making lists of things I ought to read and explore. For me, our Guide is already doing what it’s supposed to do?

With that in mind, I hope you’ll enjoy this issue. Some big names in this one, including J. S. Le Fanu, Lafcadio Hearn, and Elizabeth Bowen; along with some names that might be less familiar, but I hope all the more thrilling for it.

I would also like to welcome some new contributors to this issue, including Janis Dawson, Paul Murray, and Nicola Darwood. We’ll be hearing more from each of them in future issues.

In the meantime, I hope you and your communities are staying safe, healthy, and happily reading.

Brian J. Showers
Rathmines, Dublin
22 August 2020

You can buy The Green Book here.

Contents

“Editor’s Note”
    Brian J. Showers

“Edmund Burke (1729-1797)”
    Albert Power

“James McHenry (1785-1845)”
    Reggie Chamberlain-King

“Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873)”
    Jim Rockhill

“Thomas Caulfield Irwin (1823-1892)n”
    James Doig

“L. T. Meade (1844-1914)”
    Janis Dawson

“Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904)”
    Paul Murray

“St. John D. Seymour (1880-1950)”
    Richard Bleiler

“Forrest Reid (1875-1947)”
    John Howard

“Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)”
    Nicola Darwood

“Frank Carney (1902-1977)”
    Reggie Chamberlain-King

“Notes on Contributors”

The Green Book 16

The Green Book 14

Green Book 14EDITOR’S NOTE

We encounter and enjoy authors mostly through their writing, forgetting sometimes that there are personalities behind their words, some astonishingly well-known in their time, often now relegated to small press rediscoveries. With sufficient spans of years, these authors and their personalities pass out of memory, becoming less familiar to us as people and more so as names on title pages. But it is important to remember that these authors lived and worked, had careers and relationships; some of them died while relatively unknown, others were widely celebrated for their creations. With this in mind, I’ve decided to focus the current issue on reminiscences, interviews, and memoirs in hopes of summoning the shades of these writers and to show that in some ways their lives were not always so different from our own.

To that end, you will find a number of texts I have been collecting these past few years, now nestled here comfortably beside one another. Each one, I hope, will give you some insight into the lives of these authors, who they were, and a past that is not necessarily so far distant.

There are first-hand accounts by authors with whom I hope you are now familiar. Rosa Mulholland, Cheiro, and Dorothy Macardle all relate anecdotes of their own experiences with the psychical and supernatural. Elsewhere in this issue, you can spend an entertaining evening with Mervyn Wall. In this talk, given to the Bram Stoker Society in 1987, he delves into witchcraft and details the origins of his best-loved novel, The Unfortunate Fursey (1946).

We have a few interviews — “chats” — with those who worked as professionals, and whose names were familiar to the broader public on a weekly basis, as their stories were published and novels serialised in magazines of the day. Among these sketches you’ll be invited to spend agreeable afternoons with L. T. Meade, Charlotte Riddell, and Katharine Tynan. While they may not discuss strictly ghastly material, I hope these interviews bring us that much closer to authors whose works still find admiration of a modern readership.

You’ll also find some brief memoirs, including litterateur William Winter’s reminiscence of his fallen comrade Fitz-James O’Brien, who died in the American Civil War; and Samuel Carter Hall, who conjures two of Dublin’s gothic greats: Charles Maturin and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu — perhaps reminding us that these authors existed in a wider social world.

However, the issue commences with Albert Power’s appraisal of George Croly’s Salathiel (1828), a novel which Stoker biographer Paul Murray posited as an influence on the composition of Dracula. Although, a tale of the Wandering Jew, Salathiel might have more in common thematically with Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, than Bram Stoker’s more famous book. Power aptly leads us through the life of Reverend Croly and how his book fits into the literary milieu of the dark fantastic.

If you would like to read more about some of these writers among these pages, you’ll find lengthier profiles in earlier issues of The Green Book. In Issue 9: Rosa Mulholland; Issue 12: Mervyn Wall; Issue 13: Cheiro and Beatrice Grimshaw. While this issue and the next will serve as an intermission in our Guide to Irish Writers of Gothic, Supernatural, and Fantastic Fiction, fear not — we will return with more entries in future instalments.

Brian J. Showers
Rathmines, Dublin
15 April 2020

You can buy The Green Book here.

Contents

“Editor’s Note”
Brian J. Showers

“Who Marvels at the Mysteries of the Moon: George Croly’s Salathiel”
Albert Power

“Sketch of Fitz-James O’Brien”
William Winter

“Le Fanu and Maturin: Two Reminiscences”
Samuel Carter Hall

“About Ghosts”
Rosa Mulholland

“How I Found Adventure”
Beatrice Grimshaw

“A Biographical Sketch of Mrs. L. T. Meade”
Helen C. Black

“Sweet Singer from Over the Sea”
A Chat with Katharine Tynan

“A Chat with Mrs. J. H. Riddell”
Raymond Blathwayt

“Extracts from Confessions: Memoirs of a Modern Seer”
Cheiro

“They Say It Happened”
Dorothy Macardle

“Ghost Story of a Novelist”
Katharine Tynan

“Witchcraft and the Origins of The Unfortunate Fursey”
Mervyn Wall

“Notes on Contributors”

The Green Book 14

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

2021-14-09 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
A Vanished Hand and Others by Clotilde Graves

Strange Stories by Irish Women

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.


Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures by L. T. Meade

Despite her wide contributions to genre literature, Irish author L. T. Meade is now remembered, if at all, for her girls’ school stories. However, in 1898 the Strand Magazine, famous for its fictions of crime, detection, and the uncanny, proclaimed Meade one of its most popular writers for her contributions to its signature fare. Her stories, widely published in popular fin de siècle magazines, included classic tales of the supernatural, but her specialty was medical or scientific mysteries featuring doctors, scientists, occult detectives, criminal women with weird powers, unusual medical interventions, fantastic scientific devices, murder, mesmerism, and manifestations of insanity. Eyes of Terror and Other Dark Adventures is the first collection to showcase the best of her pioneering strange fiction.

Order a copy of Eyes of Terror.


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)