Historian of Horror : Magus of the Magazines

I feel fairly certain that everyone reading this has at least heard of Charles Dickens (1812-1870). The demographics of those present incline me to suspect that his 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, is known amongst the populace if nothing else he wrote is. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also a magazine editor.

In 1836, Richard Bentley asked Dickens to edit his new magazine, Bentley’s Miscellany. Dickens left the post after three years due to a disagreement with his publisher. Along the way, he serialized his second novel, Oliver Twist, and published several ghost stories by Thomas Ingoldsby, a nom de plume for the English clergyman Richard Harris Barham. The Ingoldsby Legends as they became known were quite popular, later being collected in several volumes. The periodical continued on without Dickens, lasting until 1868. All six volumes from his stint are available in the Internet Archives. Wikipedia reports that the magazine published several stories by Edgar Allan Poe, but I can find no trace of them in those first six volumes. Perhaps Dickens’ successor as editor acquired them.

Shortly thereafter, Dickens lasted a mere ten weeks as editor of the progressive newspaper, London’s Daily News, before a disagreement with one of the co-owners put an end to that gig. In 1850, he began his own magazine, Household Words, which ran for nine years until Dickens had a dispute with his publishers. 

Are we starting to detect a pattern here?

Charlotte Brontë biographer and occasional ghost story writer Elizabeth Gaskell was a frequent contributor to Household Words. Her short gothic ghost story, “The Poor Clare”, for example, was serialized over three issues in 1856. Wilkie Collins also appeared often, although his early gothic work tended towards happier endings than our preferred genre requires.

Both authors were even more regularly seen in Dickens’ subsequent magazine, All the Year Round, which debuted even before the last issue of Household Words went to press. They each contributed a chapter to the round-robin story, The Haunted House, in the Christmas, 1859 issue. Collins’s gothic novel The Woman in White and seminal mystery book The Moonstone also ran in All the Year Round, as did the five stories that were combined into Gaskell’s collection, Lois the Witch (1861), along with half-a-dozen tales by Carmilla author J. Sheridan le Fanu. Dickens himself contributed A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.

Dickens’ tenure on All the Year Round ended with his death in 1870, but his son, Charles Dickens, Jr., continued editing the magazine until at least 1888. His involvement with the issues published from 1889 to 1895 is unclear, but the title definitely ended in that latter year. 

Like the bulk of Dickens’ work, the various periodicals he edited were tilted towards the social issues that concerned him, with a sprinkling of ghost yarns and gothic tales mixed in. A more careful examination of each volume would be necessary to root out all the spooky tales, as so many were published anonymously. I have provided links to the relevant sites within the Internet Archives, but if a better source is desired, I have recently obtained high quality PDF scans of both Household Words and All the Year Round that were made from well-preserved bound copies found in a medical school library in London in the not-too-distant past. I plan to spend as much time as is available to me in combing through the indices for each magazine to find whatever scary tales might be lurking. By available time, I mean the precious few moments afforded me by my constantly demanding children who seem to assume that my current condition of being retired allows them to make myriad demands on me and my time, given that I am not obliged to spend those precious hours at anything as mundane as a job. 

In other words, don’t hold your breath. Not if I’m doing it on my own, anyhow.

Any volunteers?

 

Our lagniappe this time out is one of those great old tunes I learned by careful repeated listening to the Dr. Demento Show back in the mid-1970s on WKDF-FM in Nashville, leaning in towards the muted radio on a Sunday night so my parents wouldn’t hear what degenerate Satanic music I dared to pollute their God-fearing home with on the Lord’s Day. If there is any song that should be the national anthem of Horror Addicts, or indeed any horror fan organization, my vote is for this one – Rose and the Arrangement’s 1974 classic, “The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati”. Some of my younger readers may need to look up a couple of references, but overall I feel the piece speaks for itself. No disrespect intended towards the Queen City. 

As always, my fellow gourmands of the Grand-Guignol…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.