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THE BODY-SNATCHER ...
New York: The Merriam Company,. [1895]. original decorated violet cloth, front and spine panels stamped in dark purple.. Minor rubbing to cloth at spine ends and corner tips, slightly dulled. spine panel, otherwise a bright, nearly fine copy. A nice copy of. this attractive little book. (#147932). First edition. Published as the second volume in Merriam's "Violet Series." "Stevenson was always interested in the supernatural and the uncanny ways in which the human brain can distort reality. His short stories are distinguished by psychological insight and a deft handling of horror. His first 'crawler' (his own pet name for horror stories) was "The Body-Snatcher, " written in 1881 and inspired by the case of Burke and Hare. He shelved the story for three years 'in justifiable disgust, the tale being horrid,' but it eventually appeared in the Christmas number of the Pall Mall Gazette (1884). It was advertised on posters, which were suppressed by the police for being too lurid and shocking. Stevenson turned down his £40 fee because he had such a low opinion of the story. 'I was not able to produce my best,' he claimed, 'and I will be damned if I steal with my eyes open.'" - Sullivan (ed), The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. p. 402. There has been some confusion about the nature of this story, whether it is truly supernatural, Clute and Grant calling it "marginally weird" (Encyclopedia of Fantasy, p. 897), Bleiler omitting it from his Checklist. Critics also have failed to see its literary quality: Barzun and Taylor pan it for "turning suddenly into a ghost story," Curtis C. Smith because the story "lacks logic and is merely gruesome." (Supernatural Fiction Writers, p. 310). A careful reading of the story reveals it to be definitely supernatural, effectively horrific, and artistically interesting. The reappearance of Gray as an intact corpse rings an interesting change on the usual ghost plot: rather than having a corpse appear as a living person, the decapitated and "long- dissected" Gray appears as an intact corpse. What is most shocking about the story is not its grue, but its breezy cynicism. True, Fettes has been punished for his misdeeds, but Macfarlane has prospered and so has their old medical school patron, the "meteorically famous" Mr. K---. And the vengeful hand of supernatural justice issues not from one of the innocent "lambs" but from one of the wrathful "lions." An author does not always make the best critic of his own work. This misunderstood and underrated "crawler" is one of Stevenson's very best. Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction 1535. Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature IV, p. 1701. Wilson, Shadows in the Attic, p. 456. Reginald 15865. Hubin (1994), p. 771. Beinecke 608.
      [Bookseller: L. W. Currey, Inc.]
Last Found On: 2015-11-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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