(#139248) AN ITINERANT HOUSE AND OTHER GHOST STORIES. Edited by John Pinkney and Robert Eldridge with an Introduction by Robert Eldridge. Emma Frances Dawson.

AN ITINERANT HOUSE AND OTHER GHOST STORIES. Edited by John Pinkney and Robert Eldridge with an Introduction by Robert Eldridge. Portland, Maine: Thomas Loring & Co., 2007. Octavo, pp. [i-xvii] xviii-lx [lxi-lxiv] [1-3] 4-266 [267-268: blank] [269: colophon] [270-272: blank], illustrated with ten black and white line drawings by Ernest C. Peixotto. facsimile of prospectus to 1897 edition, and frontispiece with portrait of author, her gravestone and facsimile of her signature, original publisher's dark green decorated cloth, front and spine panels stamped in gold. First printing of this expanded edition. Limited to 500 copies. This edition collects the contents of the 1897 William Doxey edition (AN ITINERANT HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES) together with three additional ghost stories from local periodicals, plus a translation by Dawson of a German supernatural tale, plus short pieces about Dawson and her work by contemporaries, plus a long introduction giving historical and critical commentary and offering the first reliable, well-researched sketch of the author's life. The editors argue that Dawson was "the author of the most distinctive ghost stories written by an American woman in the late nineteenth century." Her dedication to this form, writing as she was mainly in the 1870s and 1880s, sets her apart from most other contemporary practitioners of the genre, who diversified their efforts, as does her sophisticated technique, which carefully spreads a fog of mystery throughout her stories. Dawson was a musician and music teacher, and very well acquainted with works for the stage (as her highly cultured allusions demonstrate), and her technique is essentially theatrical, setting forth vivid and detailed set descriptions, richly ornamented dialogue, and concise "stage directions" -- or actions. She very seldom intrudes into the thoughts and feelings of her characters. Irony pervades their world. Her stories, all of them tragic, all of them supernatural, almost all of them about doomed romance, and all of them set in the doomed San Francisco that was burned to the ground in 1906, have "an elusive something defying analysis, even description," as Ambrose Bierce put it, who called her 1897 collection "a work of supreme genius." It is a quality both elusive and pungent, like the whiff of a half-remembered perfume before the wind whisks it away. An only child whose father was a railroad builder and mother a distant cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emma was born in Bangor, Maine in 1839 and christened Frances E. Dawson. She later treated her birth date as well as her name with poetic license. She grew up in Massachusetts, then moved to California with her ailing mother (who was by then divorced) in the early 1870s. She settled on Russian Hill in San Francisco and stayed there in one cheap apartment or another, caring for her mother, scraping a living together from her teaching and writing, until the great earthquake and fire of 1906 drove her out of the city. Friends built a bungalow for her in Palo Alto and she spent the next twenty years there quietly with her two parrots and her books, secluded from most of those who knew her but friendly on those rare occasions when she ventured forth to visit with people. The editors draw an interesting comparison of her to Emily Dickinson. Reclusive, independent, fiercely intelligent and cultured, Emma was modest about her stories, nearly dismissive of them. One of the enigmas about this woman is that despite her evident dedication to the genre, she almost never wrote fiction unless an editor commissioned it. Another is that her true love, the poems she wrote -- and inserted into her stories -- come across today as conventional and vapid compared to the stories. As the introduction states, "Dawson's ghosts, in more than one story, have foreknowledge of the future -- an important break from their Gothic ancestors, who were typically chained to the past … again and again in these stories we discover that the will of the dead is stronger than the will of the living." This definitive edition of her thirteen supernatural stories should help establish the case that their significance far outweighs their quantity. A new copy without dust jacket as issued. (#139248).

Price: $40.00

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Printing identification statement for this book:
"First edition. Published in 2007" on copyright page.