A Passion For Horror
Marjorie Bowen is
one of several pen-names that were adopted by the writer Margaret
Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long (1885 – 1952). This collection of her
stories is 189 pages long and contains a dozen tales of the
supernatural and macabre. The book also has an introduction written by
her son, Hillary Long.
Marjorie Bowen is one of several pen-names that were adopted by the writer Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long (1885 – 1952). This collection of her stories is 189 pages long and contains a dozen tales of the supernatural and macabre. The book also has an introduction written by her son, Hillary Long.
first story, "The Fair Hair of Ambrosine", is set in Paris, where the
central character Claude Boucher is counting down the days to the 12th
of December with an increasing dread. Claude works as a clerk in The
Chamber of Deputies and has been entrusted with the delivery of some
important documents on that date. This is a task that he had originally
looked forward to because it gave him a sense of importancel.
But then Claude's memories took him to the little house on the banks of
the river, where his former love, Ambrosine, used to live. It is also
where she died, or to be more precise it is where she was murdered.
Claude will have to walk right past the house to deliver the documents
and just the thought of doing so makes Claude feel
uncomfortable. Then he be begins to have bad dreams, in which
Ambrosine's killer accompanies him on his journey.
central character in "The Crown Derby Plate" is an elderly lady named
Martha Pym. Although Martha has never seen a ghost she would very
much like to do so, and this is the subject of conversation between
Martha and her two friends when the reader first joins them as they sit
talking beside the fire. It is Christmas though, and ghost stories and
Christmas go together like holly and ivy, or sage and onion. It is easy
to talk of such matters when sitting in good company, but it is quite a
different matter when you are alone, in dismal countryside, or a big,
old house, miles away from the town, and where there is a distinctly
odd smell and your company is odder still. And it is a house such as
this that Martha soon finds herself in, when she goes looking for the
missing Crown Derby plate that she needs to complete her set.
Housekeeper" is the story of a rather unpleasant gentleman named
Robert Skeforde, who married his second wife for her money. Robert was
fooled though, because the second Mrs.
Skeforde misled him; she has no money at all. In fact, she only
married him because she believed that he was the wealthy one. They are
both nasty characters who deserve each other and they are not, as you
might have guessed, happy in their marriage and one of the worst things
for Robert is that his present wife is such a poor housekeeper; not at
all like his first wife, who was a very good housekeeper indeed, and it
appears that she has returned from beyond the grave to put her house in
Flannery" is the tale of a young lady who gets married and
goes to live at her husband's house in the country. As in the
previous story the young lady has been slightly mislead about her
husband's wealth and the 'fine manor' has seen better days. Florence
becomes intrigued, however, when she discovers her name scratched onto
one of the tiny panes of one of the leaded windows: 'Florence Flannery
Borne 1500.' Florence, who is quite amused by
this, uses the diamond in
her ring to scratch the present year into the glass: '1800.' Although
this was not her intention, the new mark looks odd and, as her husband
remarks, it is almost as if it represents Florence's year of death and
all to soon the idea seems set to become reality.
Lonely Afternoon" might better have been called Elsie's Lonely
Life because Elsie, who is just seven, has had many lonely afternoons
and any number of lonely mornings and nights as well. Elsie lives in a
big house, at Hampstead, with her ailing grandmother who forbids her to
speak to the servants—to be honest; they don't sound too nice a
bunch anyway. Elsie's grandmother is confined to bed so Elsie,
whose parents are dead, has never had much company and her diet is
simple, even though her grandmother is very rich and the pantry is
filled with many good things to eat. It is a sad life for a little girl
and this is a tragic story that paints a picture in the many colours of
Bishop of Hell" is a story about a nearly-clergyman turned bad. The
narrator begins his tale by telling the reader:
'Hector Greatrix was my friend, yet to say friend is to profane a noble word; rather was he my councillor, companion, and prop in all things evil.'
Grey Chamber" was written by an anonymous author, but the story is
included in this collection because Bowen translated it from the
French text. The story is only a few pages long and to be honest it is
similar to a lot of other stories in its basic set up: a man goes to
stay with a friend and is given a haunted room for the night.
"The Extraordinary Adventure of Mr John Proudie", a chemist receives a
late night visitor. The man at the door has his face hidden
behind a mask and, speaking with an Italian accent, he demands the
services of the doctor who rents the room above Mr. Proudie's shop. Mr.
Proudie is no more happy about disturbing his lodger than he is about
being disturbed himself, but the masked man is most insistent and the
doctor, who spent some time living in Italy, seems happy to go; but
later has second thoughts. Then the stranger shows him a
curious-looking white enamel ring, and the sight of this object is
enough to convince the doctor to step out into the night. When the
doctor does not return though, Mr. Proudie begins
to worry. Then he has a second visitor, a young lady this time. She too
has an Italian accent and Mr Proudie is soon following her out of the
shop and going in search of his lodger.
"The Scoured Silk" is a particularly nasty story, but you will have to read it yourself if you want to know how nasty because I do not want to give away too much of the plot. The two main characters are Mr Orford and the young lady he is engaged to marry, Elisa Minden. Mr Orford is a scholar whose life's work seems to be the process of translating Ariosto's romance into English couplets and writing essays on recondite subjects connected with grammar and language—now doesn't he sound an interesting guy?
Orford is middle-aged and considerably older than his
fiancee. He has also been married before. In fact, twenty years ago,
when his first wife came to live with him at the house in Covent
Elisa Minden was just a small child watching from the railings around
her home. Nobody saw much of Flora Oxford after that and it was not
long before she died. But that was twenty years ago and now the child
is a lovely young woman. Though it must be said that it was Elisa's
father who arranged the marriage and not Elisa herself. When Mr
Orford takes her to see Flora Orford's place of interment and tells her
what a wicked woman she was, displaying a certain amount of delight
about her death, Elisa begins to have second thoughts and who can blame
story "The Avenging of Ann Leete" centres on a painting of a
young lady in a green silk dress. The story is set in 1845 and the
narrator is telling the reader about how he became fascinated by the
picture that was, at that time, already seventy years old and how,
against all odds and quite by chance, he was fortunate enough to meet
someone who knew Ann Leete. What became of her is the real story.
"Keksies" two young men, Crediton and Bateup, both worse for
drink, are caught out in the open countryside when the weather also
takes a turn for the worse. One of the men owns a nearby farm though;
so the two men feel at liberty to barge into the
farmhouse and make themselves at home. This story is set in the days
when horsepower and saddles were the only way to go,
but a modern word best describes the two men: wasters.
Final story in the collection is called "Ann
Mellor's Lover". It is about
a man who runs a bookshop, who has—through his love of books—managed
to develop clairvoyant abilities. His main skill seems to lie in the
practice of psychometry and he often receives
glimpses of the
past just by touching things. This story is about what
happens when he finds an old sketch, of a young woman. It is trapped
the pages of a book and he feels an immediate affinity to the picture
also knows, from past experience, that little by little he will receive
the insights he needs to get the full picture of the girl's identity.
It is not long before he discovers her name was Ann Mellor and
it appears that they were aquainted in a past life.