Tales of the Dead/Advertisement
Although the passion for books of amusement founded on the marvellous relative to ghosts and spirits may be considered as having very much subsided; yet I cannot but think that the tales which form the bulk of this little volume, may still afford gratification in the perusal. From the period when the late Lord Orford first published The Castle of Otranto, till the production of Mrs. Ratcliffe's romances, the appetite for the species of reading in question gradually increased; and perhaps it would not have been now surfeited, but for the multitude of contemptible imitations which the popularity of the latter writer called forth, and which continually issued from the press, until the want of readers at length checked the inundation.
The Northern nations have generally discovered more of imagination in this description of writing than their neighbours in the South or West; and in proportion as they have been more the victims of credulity with respect to spirits, they have indulged in the wanderings of fancy on subjects of this kind, and have eagerly employed their invention in forming narrations founded on the supposed communication between the spiritual world and mankind. The productions of Schiller, and others of the modern German literati, of this nature, are well known in England.
The first four tales in this collection, and the last, are imitated from a small French work, which professes to be translated from the German. It contains several other stories of a similar cast; but which did not appear equally interesting, and they have therefore been omitted. The last tale has been considerably curtailed, as it contained much matter relative to the loves of the hero and heroine, which in a compilation of this kind appeared rather misplaced. The fifth tale, (or rather fragment,) is founded on an incident similar in its features, which was some years since communicated to me, by a female friend of very deserved literary celebrity, as having actually occurred in this country; and I have therefore no other claim in respect to it, than that of having a little amplified the detail. The termination is abrupt, and necessarily so, as I must candidly confess a want of imagination to fulfil the expectations which may have been excited by the early part of the tale.
The translation was the amusement of an idle hour; and if it afford an equal portion of gratification to the reader, the time has not been altogether misemployed.
- Fantasmagoriana; ou Recueil d'Histoires d'Apparitions, de Spectres, Revenans, Fantômes, &c. Traduit de l'Allemand, par un Amateur. Paris, 1812. 2 tom. 12mo.