THE STRANGE CASES OF DR. STANCHON. Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon.

THE STRANGE CASES OF DR. STANCHON. New York and London: D. Appleton and Company, 1913. Octavo, pp. [1-8] [1-2] 3-362 [363-364: blank] [note: last leaf is a blank], inserted frontispiece by W. J. [Aylworth?], original decorated salmon cloth, front and spine panels stamped in gold and blind. First edition. First printing with code "(1)" at base of text on page 362. "A book of [ten] medical stories with emphasis on the psychic and psychopathic. Most ... are told in the form of mysteries ..." - Queen, The Detective Short Story, p. 8. "The series called THE STRANGE CASES OF DR. STANCHION ... shows instances occurring among the clientele of a famous brain specialist, where the materialist might put aside the explanation of the supernatural, only to be confronted by still greater problems. The relation between insanity and ghostliness in recent fiction is significant and forms the crux of many a story since Poe. Mrs. Bacon's 'The Miracle,' for instance, has its setting in an insane asylum, but the uncanny happenings almost convince us of the sanity of the patients and the paranoia of the outsiders. We come to agree with the specialist that every person is more or less a paranoiac, and none more so than he who scoffs at the supernatural." - Scarborough, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction, p. 254. See also Scarborough, pp. 289 and 299. "A solid collection of supernatural tales, curiously overlooked by critics, scholars and collectors. Bacon was a successful American author in the first quarter of the century, turning out commercial fiction of a fairly high quality. This book, along with MEDUSA'S HEAD, seems to be her main contribution to the fantastic genre. Several of the stories here were mentioned in Dorothy Scarborough's important 1917 study, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction, but, aside from infrequent appearances in anthologies, they have been ignored since then. In all ten stories of this collection, the supernatural plays a key role, usually to facilitate the escape from some confining and threatening situation. In two of the stories, that situation itself is supernatural, but the key to escaping it is to first stop denying its existence and meet it in on its own grounds. The stories hinge on both uncanny survivals from the past (ghosts, hauntings, ancestral calls) and uncanny anticipations of the future (premonitions, warnings, precognitions). The author brings fresh thinking to all of these motifs, including the most traditional. In her haunted house story ('The Unburied'), the symptoms of the haunting are specific and unusual: all the female inhabitants of a cheerful, ordinary-looking house are seduced by a malign presence into actions of sexual depravity. A curse expressed and embodied in a concealed cache of old love letters turns out to be the cause, which is discovered by a Roman Catholic priest after Dr. Stanchon's persistent failure to consider any 'unscientific' explanation. In some cases Stanchon, a general practitioner, shows refreshingly unorthodox thinking, in others he sticks with conventional wisdom. He and his redoubtable nurse, Miss Jessop, re-appear through these otherwise unrelated stories, usually in minor roles. (It would be inaccurate to put this collection in the category of occult detectives, except perhaps as a revisionist example). In other stories, the author shows considerable inventiveness. The old housekeeper in 'The Miracle' turns out to be a ghost -- and perhaps something more. We eventually learn that she had died (medically pronounced as such) even though her long-time employer had kept up an unbroken conversation with her. It is hinted that, after she 'comes back,' her body becomes a window into other souls than her own, including people who are unknown to her but close to whomever she happens to be with. Bacon is very skillful at gradually and credibly building up the sort of atmosphere that makes the unbelievable seems believable. The notion of shivering in response to an uncanny tale has been so abused and degraded by blurb-writers that it is all but impossible now to speak of it seriously. But the phenomenon itself, which is a great deal rarer than those blurbers would have us believe, is all but impossible to dismiss when it happens to oneself. The physical responses of the body to art constitute a kind of supreme court whose judgments are beyond appeal. Laughter, tears, shivers, increased heart beat, involuntary exclamations (and on the other side of the ledger, yawns and drooping eyelids): let the sophisticated critic or writer dismiss these as vulgar, but let's see him produce them first. It's harder than it looks. A reasonable guess is that fewer than ten percent of ghost stories actually deliver the goods in such an irrefutable manner. The true figure may be closer to one percent. Bacon maneuvered this reader into such a state in four of these stories. Bacon's work also carries a certain thematic weight that's unusual for the genre, exploring ideas of bondage and escape in a frequently unorthodox manner. In several cases, the heroine is trapped in a gilded birdcage. Wealthy heroines, having everything done for them, come to feel useless and lose the zest for life. Escape comes by renouncing unearned wealth and taking up the struggle for one's daily bread. In another case ('The Crystal'), a young woman is trapped in a fast-track career and eventually has a nervous break-down. A moment of accidental crystal-gazing helps her get off the fast track and find the right path, which in her case means becoming the working wife of the captain of a tramp steamer. In the most moving of these stories ('The Key'), a wealthy but helpless middle-aged society woman is finally committed to an asylum for what would now be diagnosed as clinical depression. In a dream she learns how to escape the asylum, and proceeds to do so, with no plan but to follow instincts and opportunities. She disguises herself, adopts a new identity, is robbed of her jewels, and winds up as the housekeeper of a small boarding house in the suburbs, happy for the first time in her life. In 'The Gypsy' the author does not quite bring off a similar transition. But the mere effort to tackle such a riches-to-rags theme is laudable for its freshness." As with almost any popular writer, the social mores underlying Bacon's stories accurately reflect and amplify those of her time, with the result that, a century later, many seem dated. But, all in all, for thematic weight, stylistic polish and fantastic imagination, this deserves to be considered a core collection of American short supernatural fiction." - Robert Eldridge. Bleiler (1948), p. 37. Not in Bleiler (1978). Reginald 00698. Smith, American Fiction, 1901-1925 B-64. A fine copy in very good pictorial dust jacket (which reproduces the frontispiece on front panel) with shallow chip from upper spine end, 30 x 40 mm chip from lower spine end (probably with loss of publisher's imprint), light edge wear, rubbing and some closed splits along folds, and several old internal tape mends at edges. Despite the faults, an attractive example of a rare jacket. (#147363).

Price: $4,250.00

Printing identification statement for this book:
No statement of printing on copyright page. First printing has code "(1)" at base of text on page 362.