In 1859, a twenty-four year old author burst upon the American literary scene with a short story 'In the Cellar', which caused a sensation. Although not a supernatural tale, it was followed in quick succession with two weird stories and the novel SIR ROHAN'S GHOST, all of which earned Harriet Prescott comparisons with Matthew 'Monk' Lewis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ann Radcliffe; while there were those who, due to the rich Romanticism of her work, were ready to crown her as the successor to Edgar Allan Poe. In 1862, one critic predicted that Prescott would one day write 'the greatest novel by any American so far'. |
Today, however, Harriet Prescott Spofford's reputation rests mainly on a handful of early tales, written before she was persuaded to abandon her inclination for the weird and uncanny, and focus instead on the New England regional tales which were so popular with late nineteenth century readers and publishers. Jessica Amanda Salmonson has now rescued Spofford's weird tales and poems, collecting them all together into one volume; a project which the author herself pursued in the last years of her life, but which came to nothing. In addition, Salmonson has written a lengthy introduction, in which she draws on extensive research to examine the life and ghostly fiction of a woman who was, in her day, one of the most respected and popular authors in America.