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.
“On a sudden Ginotti’s frame, mouldered to a gigantic skeleton, yet two pale and ghastly flames glared in his eyeless sockets.  Blackened in terrible convulsions, Wolfstein expired; over him had the power of hell no influence.  Yes, endless existence is thine, Ginotti—­a dateless and hopeless eternity of horror.”

Interspersed with this somewhat inconsequent story are the adventures of Eloise, who is first introduced on her return home, disconsolate, to a ruined abbey.  We are given to understand that the story is to unfold the misfortunes which have led to her downfall, but she is happily married ere the close.  She accompanies her dying mother on a journey, as Emily in The Mysteries of Udolpho accompanied her father, and meets a mysterious stranger, Nempere, at a lonely house, where they take refuge.  Nempere proves to be a less estimable character than Valancourt, who fell to Emily’s lot in similar circumstances.  He sells her to an English noble, Mountfort, at whose house she meets Fitzeustace, who, like Vivaldi in The Italian, overhears her confession of love for himself.  Nempere is killed in a duel by Mountfort.  At the close, Shelley states abruptly that Nempere is Ginotti, and Eloise is Wolfstein’s sister.  In springing a secret upon us suddenly on the last page, Shelley was probably emulating Lewis’s Bravo of Venice; but the conclusion, which is intended to forge a connecting link between the tales, is unsatisfying.  It is not surprising that the publisher, Stockdale, demanded some further elucidation of the mystery.  Ginotti, apparently, dies twice, and Shelley’s letters fail to solve the problem.  He wrote to Stockdale:  “Ginotti, as you will see, did not die by Wolfstein’s hand, but by the influence of that natural magic, which, when the secret was imparted to the latter, destroyed him."[97] A few days later he wrote again, evidently in reply to further questions:  “On a re-examination you will perceive that Mountfort physically did kill Ginotti, which must appear from the latter’s paleness.”  The truth seems to be that Shelley was weary of his puppets, and had no desire to extricate them from the tangle in which they were involved, though he was impatient to see St. Irvyne in print, and spoke hopefully of its “selling mechanically to the circulating libraries.”

Shelley took advantage of the privilege of writers of romance to palm off on the public some of his earliest efforts at versification.  These poems, distributed impartially among the various characters, are introduced with the same laborious artlessness as the songs in a musical comedy.  Megalena, though suffering from excruciating mental agony, finds leisure to scratch several verses on the walls of her cell.  It would indeed be a poor-spirited heroine who could not deftly turn a sonnet to night or to the moon, however profound her woes.  Superhuman strength and courage is an endowment necessary to all who would dwell in the

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The Tale of Terror from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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