Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time by Rosa Mulholland

Not to Be Taken at Bed-TimeAn Extract from the Introduction by Richard Dalby

In the late-nineteenth century Rosa Mulholland achieved great popularity and acclaim for her many novels (written for both an adult audience and younger readers), several of which chronicled the lives of the Irish poor. These novels, notably The Wicked Woods of Tobereevil (1872), incorporated weird elements of Irish folklore. Earlier in her career, she became one of the select band of authors employed by Charles Dickens to write stories for his popular magazine All the Year Round, together with Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Hesba Stretton, and Amelia B. Edwards.

She was born in Belfast on 19 March 1841, the second daughter of a doctor (Joseph Stevenson Mulholland) whose family had become prosperous from textile manufacture. She was educated at home and studied art in South Kensington.

While living in London, Rosa published her first novel, Dunmara (1864), under the pseudonym “Ruth Murray”, and was personally encouraged by Dickens to begin contributing regularly to his bestselling weekly All the Year Round.

She wrote “Another Past Lodger Relates His Experience as a Poor Relation”, the third chapter of Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy, the 1864 Christmas Number (which also contained Amelia B. Edwards’ classic “The Phantom Coach”), followed by “Not to be Taken at Bed-Time” for the 1865 Christmas Number, Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions. This memorable Irish witchcraft horror tale became her best-known story following its appearance in The Supernatural Omnibus, edited by Montague Summers in 1931 and much reprinted.

1894-12-05-the-sketch.jpg“Not to be Taken at Bed-Time” was closely followed by two of Rosa Mulholland’s best ghost stories, “The Ghost at the Rath” (14 April 1866) and “The Haunted Organist of Hurly Burly” (19 November 1866).

Dickens serialised her novella “The Late Miss Hollingford” in All the Year Round from 4 April to 2 May 1868, and it was immediately reprinted in a Tauchnitz edition together with No Thoroughfare by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. As “The Late Miss Hollingford” was not credited to any specific author, it was wrongly assumed by many readers to be the work of Dickens and Collins until it was eventually published separately in book form under Rosa Mulholland’s name in 1886.

Her next novel, Hester’s History, was serialised in All the Year Round from 29 August to 28 November 1868, and published in book form (as by R.M.) in 1869.

After Dickens died in 1870, Rosa Mulholland continued to write many stories for All the Year Round, notably “The Signor John” (Christmas 1871), “A Will o’ the Wisp” (Christmas 1872), and “The Country Cousin” (16 and 23 May 1874).

During the 1870s she began a productive career as a children’s writer, and these books are her most collectable and sought after today: The Little Flower Seekers, being adventures of Troy and Daisy in a Wonderful Garden by Moonlight (1871), richly illustrated by W. H. Frith, W. French, and F. E. Hulme; The First Christmas for Our Dear Little Ones (1875), with fifteen colour wood-engravings painted by L. Diefenback “richly executed in xylography”, and verse texts by Rosa Mulholland telling the Nativity story beneath each picture; and Puck and Blossom (1875), one of the earliest books to be illustrated by Kate Greenaway.

Among Rosa Mulholland’s later stories for All the Year Round were three notable examples written for the special “Extra Summer Numbers”; “The Mystery of Ora” (1 July 1879), a memorable supernatural tale, not reprinted until 2013; “A Strange Love Story” (3 July 1882), featuring reincarnation; and “The Hungry Death” (1 July 1880), a graphic macabre tale set on a remote Irish island during the 1840s famine.

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When Rosa Mulholland left London to settle permanently in Dublin in the 1870s, she befriended Father Matthew Russell, S. J., who edited the Irish Monthly, and whose brother Francis (later Lord Russell of Killowen) was married to her elder sister Ellen Clare Mulholland, author of a dozen children’s books from The Little Bogtrotten (1878) to Terence O’Neill’s Heiress (1909).

Buy a copy of Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time.


Richard Dalby (1949-2017), born in London, was a widely-respected editor, anthologist, and scholar of supernatural fiction. He has edited collections by E. F. Benson, Bram Stoker, and Rosa Mulholland; and his numerous anthologies include Dracula’s Brood, Victorian Ghost Stories by Eminent Women Writers, and Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories.

Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time by Rosa Mulholland

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 Jane Francesca Wilde (1821[?] – 1896)

Charlotte Riddell (1832 – 1906)

Rosa Mulholland (1841 – 1921)

L. T. Meade (1844[?] – 1914)

B. M. Croker (c.1849 – 1920)

Lady Augusta 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

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.


Not to Be Taken at Bed-TimeNot to Be Taken at Bed-Time and Other Strange Stories by Rosa Mulholland

In the late-nineteenth century Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) achieved great popularity and acclaim for her many novels, written for both an adult audience and younger readers. Several of these novels chronicled the lives of the poor, often incorporating rural Irish settings and folklore. Earlier in her career, Mulholland became one of the select band of authors employed by Charles Dickens to write stories for his popular magazine All the Year Round, together with Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and Amelia B. Edwards. Mulholland’s best supernatural and weird short stories have been gathered together in the present collection, edited and introduced by Richard Dalby, to celebrate this gifted late Victorian “Mistress of the Macabre”.

Order a copy of Not to Be Taken at Bed-Time.

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

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.

Order a copy of Bending to Earth.

 
Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921)