Thursday, January 12, 2012

Weird Tales from Modern Ghosts (1890)

In late 1890, the New York publishing house of Harper & Brothers issued a finely-made book called Modern Ghosts. Introduced by the American writer and reformer George William Curtis (1824-1892), the book collected seven tales by European authors--and modern they were. "The Horla," by Guy de Maupassant, was originally published in 1887, "Fioraccio," by Giovanni Magherini Graziani, in 1886. In picking up that little blue book, readers may very well have seen the first English translations of these tales from across the Atlantic. "The Horla" alone would have given them a fright.

Contents of Modern Ghosts:
"Introduction" by George William Curtis
"The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant, translated from the French by Jonathan Sturges 
"Siesta" by Alexander L. Kielland, translated from the German version of M. von Borch by Charles Flint McClumpha
"The Tall Woman" by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, translated by Rollo Ogden
"On the River" by Guy de Maupassant, translated by Jonathan Sturges
"Maese Pérez, The Organist" by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, translated by Rollo Ogden
"Fioraccio" by Giovanni Magherini-Graziani [sic], translated by Mary A. Craig
"The Silent Woman" by Leopold Kompert, translated by Charles Flint McClumpha

I have listed these stories here for good reason, for all but one were reprinted three or four decades later in Weird Tales magazine, almost exactly in the order they appeared in Modern Ghosts. I suspect that Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales, kept a copy of the book near at hand, turning to it again and again over an eight-year period during the 1920s and '30s. Perhaps it was to give his magazine an international air or to boost the prestige of Weird Tales. Then again, maybe it was simply to fill a gap when his page count ran short. In any case, between 1926 and 1934, Weird Tales reprinted six of the seven stories published in Modern Ghosts.

Re-printings in Weird Tales:
"The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant (Weird Tales, Aug. 1926)
"Siesta" by Alexander L. Kielland (Weird Tales, Nov. 1930)
"The Tall Woman" by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (Weird Tales, Feb. 1929)
"On The River" by Guy de Maupassant (Weird Tales, Feb./Mar. 1931)
"Maese Pérez, the Organist" by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer (Weird Tales, June 1934)
"Fioraccio" by Giovanni Magherini-Graziani (Weird Tales, Oct. 1934)
"The Silent Woman" by Leopold Kompert

As far as I know, Alexander L. Kielland was the only Norwegian author to be published in Weird Tales. I'm almost certain Giovanni Magherini Graziani was the only native-born Italian to have his byline in the magazine. His was also the last story from Modern Ghosts to be reprinted in Weird TalesLeopold Kompert's story, "The Silent Woman," never made it into the magazine's pages. I'm not sure why. It could be that the book was simply set aside, nearly exhausted of material. Or maybe it was loaned out to someone, never to return. In any case, I would like to correct that oversight by reprinting "The Silent Woman" here sometime in the future. If someone has a faithful image or transcript of the story, feel free to submit it to me. I will give you full credit for your contribution.

I have already written about one of the authors of Modern Ghosts. As I write about the others, I will add links to this posting.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870) (The name can be spelled with or without an accent mark.)
Giovanni Magherini Graziani (1852-1924) (The correct punctuation is without a hyphen.)
Leopold Kompert (1822-1886)

Finally, the translators:
Charles Flint McClumpha (1863-1933) Author and translator of German
Rollo Ogden (1856-1937) Journalist, translator of Spanish, ordained minister, and editor of the New York Times, 1922-1937
Mary A. Craig (?-?) Translator of Italian

Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. MODERN GHOSTS is free online at Hathi Trust, , etc. -- for instance here

    Denny Lien

  2. Whoops, sorry, the URL did not come through in my post just now:

  3. Hi! Thanks for this article on Modern Ghosts.

    According to this site, Sturges' dates are 1864 - 1911.

    Would you, by any chance, happen to know if Modern Ghosts was ever released or made available in England?

  4. Hi, Chenanigan,

    Thanks for locating Sturges' dates. I have updated the posting above.

    I don't know whether Modern Ghosts was issued in England, but I don't know why it would not have been available to English readers in one way or another.

    Thanks for writing.