Last night I found myself serendipitously reading a Victorian ghost story. How good was it? Good enough that I read it on-screen in Project Gutenberg ASCII for about 4 hours.
J.H. Riddell was a genuine Victorian literary figure who was popular in her time and was part-owner of one of the leading literary magazines. (J.H. Riddell for VP!) Spoonful by spoonful, like a good simmering stew, the plot thickens: the unhappy marriage, the sudden death, the house, the unattainable love… All reviewed beneath skeptical eyebrows by a likeable young lawyer whose firm has the thankless task of letting and re-letting the chronically disinhabited house.
If I had a publishing house, I would snap this up and revive it with a gorgeous longhand edition. It’s not a book that changes my life, but my toes wriggle at the real Victorian voice, written in 1875 with accurate details of gaslights, charwomen, and social correctness. It’s not so wordy as Dickens or so starkly grand as Jane Eyre, but in this slim, fast-paced volume is all we need to know about up-and-coming London. I can see the carefully dressed Mrs. Riddell at her writing desk producing a manuscript of impeccable penmanship.
Full text is free here.