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Posts Tagged ‘Gothic literature’

William Beckford – Vathek

Posted by demonik on June 12, 2009

William Beckford – Vathek (Four Square/ NEL, 1966)

Josh Kirby

Josh Kirby

Originally published in 1786. The Capith Vathek, whose evil eye is so lethal he can mutilate or even kill a man just by glaring at him, leads his men on a subterranean Black Pilgrimage to the Hall of Eblis at the earth’s core, where he hopes to meet his hero and the one entity who can satisfy his every cruel and terrible lust (essentially, Satan).  Beckford’s Oriental slant and taste for the exotic marks him out as a Clark Ashton Smith (or, at least, Frank Owen) of the early Gothic novel, while the sheer horror of the climax – which sees Vathek as completely damned as any character in the history horror fiction; Prayers On Fire! – makes this short novel as memorable in it’s way as M. G. Lewis’s more traditionally shocking The Monk.

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Rhiannon Hughes – Legends of the Mist

Posted by demonik on September 16, 2007

Rhiannon Hughes (ed.) – Legends of the Mist (Nel, 1972)

Not quite as glamorous as the wonders of Flesh Bait perhaps, but …

I’ve never seen a copy of this, but found the following review at Crew (Centre for Research in to the English Literature and Language of Wales). In his own collection of Welsh Terrors, The Magic Valley Traveller, Peter Haining attributes the blinding The Murderess, or The Fatal Prediction, A Romantic Tale to ‘Anne Of Swansea’, but he is evidently the only person to have come to that conclusion. If anybody has this and would like to share the complete contents list then I’d be most grateful as it’s one that seems to have eluded the best brains on here!

A sort of subtitle on the front cover describes this as “A magical collection of Welsh folk tales and legends”, and many of the stories here are precisely that. There are no credits for sources or authors; The Lady of the Fountain, for instance, is taken straight from the Guest translation of the Mabinogion.

The book is in sections: Legendary Tales (of which Merlin and the History of Tom Thumb and The Legend of the Mountain Bard probably come from travellers` accounts – and Tom Thumb has nothing to do with Wales apart from the mention of Merlin`s and Arthur`s names); Witchcraft and Satanism, which includes extracts from Brand`s Popular Antiquities etc; and Supernatural, which does include two stories and one `storyfied` legend. The two short stories are evidently early nineteenth century: The Murderess, or The Fatal Prediction, A Romantic Tale and The Infidel: a Welsh Legend; the first is High Gothic, with a haunted murderess, vengeful ghosts and so on, while the other is School of Walter Scott, with, in fact, no supernatural elements at all. The Sighs of Ulla, the third offering, is much the same. Like The Infidel, it has a lengthy introduction, and is only very dubiously a legend.

It is unfortunate that so much of the material is uncredited, but the use of so many nineteenth century sources, no doubt to avoid paying royalties, does make some interesting early fiction available.

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