The Tale of Terror eBook

Edith Birkhead
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 261 pages of information about The Tale of Terror.
to stories of the occult and the uncanny.  Algernon Blackwood is one of the most ingenious exponents of this type of story.  By means of psychical explanations, he succeeds in revivifying many ancient superstitions.  In Dr. John Silence, even the werewolf, whom we believed extinct, manifests himself in modern days among a party of cheerful campers on a lonely island, and brings unspeakable terror in his trail.  Sometimes terror is used nowadays, as Bulwer Lytton used it, to serve a moral purpose.  Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray is intended to show that sin must ultimately affect the soul; and the Sorrows of Satan, in Miss Corelli’s novel, are caused by the wickedness of the world.  But apart from any ulterior motive there is still a desire for the unusual, there is still pleasure to be found in a thrill, and so long as this human instinct endures devices will be found for satisfying it.  Of the making of tales of terror there is no end; and almost every novelist of note has, at one time or another, tried his hand at the art.  Early in his career Arnold Bennett fashioned a novelette, Hugo, which may be read as a modernised version of the Gothic romance.  Instead of subterranean vaults in a deserted abbey, we have the strong rooms of an enterprising Sloane Street emporium.  The coffin, containing an image of the heroine, is buried not in a mouldering chapel, but in a suburban cemetery.  The lovely but harassed heroine has fallen, indeed, from her high estate, for Camilla earns her living as a milliner.  There are, it is true, no sonnets and no sunsets, but the excitement of the plot, which is partially unfolded by means of a phonographic record, renders them superfluous.  H.G.  Wells makes excursions into quasi-scientific, fantastic realms of grotesque horror in his First Men in the Moon, and in some of his sketches and short stories.  Joseph Conrad has the power of fear ever at the command of his romantic imagination.  In The Nigger of the Narcissus, in Typhoon, and, above all, in The Shadow-Line, he shows his supreme mastery over inexpressible mystery and nameless terror.  The voyage of the schooner, doomed by the evil influence of her dead captain, is comparable only in awe and horror to that of The Ancient Mariner.  Conrad touches unfathomable depths of human feelings, and in his hands the tale of terror becomes a finished work of art.  The future of the tale of terror it is impossible to predict; but the experiments of living authors, who continually find new outlets with the advance of science and of psychological enquiry, suffice to prove that its powers are not yet exhausted.  Those who make the ‘moving accident’ their trade will no doubt continue to assail us with the shock of startling and sensational events.  Others with more insidious art, will set themselves to devise stories which evoke subtler refinements of fear.  The interest has already been transferred from ‘bogle-wark’ to the effect of the inexplicable, the mysterious and the uncanny on human thought and emotion.  It may well be that this track will lead us into unexplored labyrinths of terror.

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The Tale of Terror from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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