Review of Jen Baker, ed., Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth (British Library, 2021) — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.
Do you like ghost stories? Do you like haunting stories about dead children? Do you like to delve into the history of speculative fiction! This is the anthology for you! Jen Baker has collected thirteen (of course) Anglo-American and Irish stories (most written by women!) first published between 1831 and 1925 (and accompanied by a bibliography of sources cited and further reading, in case you want a bit more on the academic side of things.)
The genre of “dead children literature” is pretty popular in that era — unsurprising given the high child mortality rates — but Baker (an academic at the University of Warwick) draws a distinction between the Gothic horror of the stories in her collection with the more common “twee” (her word, p. 7) approach of many poems and elegies of the era. In these stories, the ghostly children are not returning to console or comfort their parents, but for more sinister and strange purposes. But to say more would be spoiling things!
Each story is accompanied by brief biographical information about the authors, and the original publication history of the story. As usual, we’ll link the reviews of the individual stories back to this post as they are published!
- “The Dead Daughter’s Tale” by Henry Glassford Bell
- “The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell
- “The Ghost of Little Jacques” by Ann M. Hoyt
- “Kentucky’s Ghost” by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
- “Walnut-Tree House: A Ghost Story” by Charlotte Riddell
- “Was It An Illusion?: A Parson’s Story” by Amelia B. Edwards
- “Lost Hearts” by M. R. James
- “The Doll’s Ghost” by F. Marion Crawford
- “The Lost Ghost” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
- “The Shadowy Third” by Ellen Glasgow
- “Two Little Red Shoes” by Bessie Kyffin-Taylor
- “Anne’s Little Ghost” by H. D. Everett
- “The Curse of the Stillborn” by Margery Lawrence