Rhoda Broughton (1840-1920) was a Welsh writer who was known for the sensationalist aspect of her work. Her uncle, the famed author J. Sheridan le Fanu, assisted her in finding her first publisher; later on, Rhoda mentored other women, include Mary Chomondelay.
This was a hard story to reject! We really loved the use of mesmerism (something that was very popular in the nineteenth century), and some of the strange, almost surreal scenes. There’s nothing else like it in Weird Women, but sadly we excluded it mainly due to length.
Like many of the early female authors, Gertrude Atherton was a suffragist, a prolific writer whose works fall into a variety of genres and forms, and she lived long enough to see a silent film made from one of her novels (Black Oxen). Like her contemporary Emma Frances Dawson, she spent most of her life in Northern California, where she had a tempestuous friendship with Ambrose Bierce.
As you’ll see from our introduction, “The Bell in the Fog” made it far enough along in the editing process that we had already written the bio for the beginning of it, and we were sorry to lose this one.
Catherine Crowe was influential in the development of two movements in the mid-nineteenth century: spiritualism, and the ghost story. Although she produced a number of acclaimed non-supernatural works, she found her greatest success with translating Justinus Kerner’s German biography The Seeress of Prevorst (1845), about a young mystic named Friederike Hauffe; and 1848’s The Night-Side of Nature, a collection of ghost lore which sold 65,000 copies shortly after publication. The latter book was published the same year that the Fox sisters heard “spirit rappings” in their house in Hydesville, New York, and so started spiritualism. Later devotees often noted the importance of Crowe’s work to their religion.
Crowe’s “Round the Fire” first appeared in her 1859 collection Ghosts and Family Legends: A Volume for Christmas. We ended up not using it in Weird Women partly because it feels like a collection of existing ghost stories, and partly because we already had so many other ghost stories…but it retains enough power to chill to make it worthy of the attention of modern readers.
This suggestive ghost tale was first published in Blackwood’s in 1896, and has been reprinted many times since. Oliphant was a prolific Scottish writer whose works usually appeared under the byline “Mrs. Oliphant”, as was common at the time.
This classic tale wasn’t used in Weird Women mainly due to length (and to the fact that we already had a number of other ghost stories), but we still love it and are happy to share it here, with our annotations.