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.
“Had I announced in my frontispiece, ’Waverley, A Tale of Other Days,’ must not every novel reader have anticipated a castle scarce less than that of Udolpho, of which the eastern wing has been long uninhabited, and the keys either lost or consigned to the care of some aged butler or housekeeper, whose trembling steps about the middle of the second volume were doomed to guide the hero or heroine to the ruinous precincts?  Would not the owl have shrieked and the cricket cried in my very title page? and could it have been possible to me with a moderate attention to decorum to introduce any scene more lively than might be produced by the jocularity of a clownish but faithful valet or the garrulous narrative of the heroine’s fille-de-chambre, when rehearsing the stories of blood and horror which she had heard in the servant’s hall?  Again, had my title borne ’Waverley, a Romance from the German,’ what head so obtuse as not to image forth a profligate abbot, an oppressive duke, a secret and mysterious association of Rosycrucians and Illuminati, with all their properties of black cowls, caverns, daggers, electrical machines, trap-doors and dark lanterns?  Or, if I had rather chosen to call my work, ‘A Sentimental Tale,’ would it not have been a sufficient presage of a heroine with a profusion of auburn hair, and a harp, the soft solace of her solitary hours, which she fortunately always finds means of transporting from castle to cottage, though she herself be sometimes obliged to jump out of a two-pair-of-stairs window and is more than once bewildered on her journey, alone and on foot, without any guide but a blowsy peasant girl, whose jargon she can scarcely understand?  Or again, if my Waverley had been entitled ‘A Tale of the Times,’ wouldst thou not, gentle reader, have demanded from me a dashing sketch of the fashionable world, a few anecdotes of private scandal ... a heroine from Grosvenor Square, and a hero from the Barouche Club or the Four in Hand, with a set of subordinate characters from the elegantes of Queen Anne Street, East, or the dashing heroes of the Bow Street Office?”

Yet Scott himself had once trodden in these well-worn paths of romance.  In the general preface to the collected edition of 1829, wherein he seeks to “ravel out his weaved-up follies,” he refers to “a tale of chivalry planned thirty years earlier in the style of The Castle of Otranto, with plenty of Border characters and supernatural incident.”  His outline of the plot and a fragment of the story, which was to be entitled Thomas the Rhymer, are printed as an appendix to the preface.  Scott intended to base his story on an ancient legend, found in Reginald Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft, concerning the horn and sword of Thomas of Hercildoune.  Cannobie Dick, a jolly horse-cowper, was led by a mysterious stranger through an opening in a hillside into a long range of stables.  In every stall stood a coal-black horse, and by every horse lay a

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The Tale of Terror from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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