Thursday, March 1, 2012

ZAM Book Review: The Spectre Bride

I may be pushing it to call this a book review since The Spectre Bride takes about 10 minutes to read.  I downloaded to my Kindle, although you can find it all over the net for free.  Also, check your ghost story anthologies: I bet it's in there.  Turns out I had two copies in my house!  Luckily, the $1.99 download is not going to bankrupt me!  I was turned on to The Spectre Bride by Noel Carroll in his book The Philosophy of Horror.  I can't get through The Philosophy of Horror because I keep stopping it to read his suggestions.  It was a lovely passage Carroll quoted about worms and corpses and brides that made me want to read The Spectre Bride.

 Poor girl, I am leading thee indeed to our nuptials; but the priest will be death, thy parents the mouldering skeletons that rot in heaps around; and the witnesses to our union, the lazy worms that revel on the carious bones of the dead. Come, my young bride, the priest is impatient for his victim.' As they proceeded, a dim blue light moved swiftly before them, and displayed at the extremity of the churchyard the portals of a vault. It was open, and they entered it in silence. The hollow wind came rushing through the gloomy abode of the dead; and on every side were piled the mouldering remnants of coffins, which dropped piece by piece upon the damp mud. Every step they took was on a dead body; and the bleached bones rattled horribly beneath their feet. In the centre of the vault rose a heap of unburied skeletons, whereon was seated, a figure too awful even for the darkest imagination to conceive. As they approached it, the hollow vault rung with a hellish peal of laughter; and every mouldering corpse seemed endued with unholy life. The stranger paused, and as he grasped his victim in his hand, one sigh burst from his heart - one tear glistened in his eye. It was but for an instant; the figure frowned awfully at his vacillation, and waved his gaunt hand.

William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) was a writer (and friend of Dickens) who dabbled in the Gothic.  The Spectre Bride was written when he was 19 (there is a question of authorship, but most seem to agree that Ainsworth is responsible.)  It is a classic Gothic ghost story that features "The Wandering Jew", grisly catacombs, rotting corpses, the Devil, and a ruined girl.  If it sounds a bit like The Monk by Matthew Lewis you are right on the money.  The Monk is my favorite Gothic novel.  It is a cornucopia of Gothic-y goodness. 

You can read The Spectre Bride and other great short horror stories at my new favorite website:

 The Road to Great Cthulhu has the complete text of H.P. Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature.  Not only that, but it also has links and complete texts to every author and story referenced by Lovecraft.  This is why I haven't been watching any films lately! 

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