The development of the Victorian short story is inextricable from the nineteenth-century fascination with the supernatural, with its origins in the popularity of Gothic fiction at the end of the eighteenth century. As we saw in chapter 2, realist fiction from the pens of Anthony Trollope and others was popular during the period, but it is a misconception to categorise fiction of the period as wholly realist. The importance of Gothic paradigms and conventions to our understanding of cultural preoccupations, fantasies and modes of thinking also needs to be acknowledged. Recently Nicola Bown, Carolyn Burdett and Pamela Thurschwell have argued that for the Victorians, ‘the supernatural was both fearful and terrible and ardently desired…an important aspect of [their] intellectual, spiritual, emotional and imaginative worlds’.1 This chapter focuses on some of the ways in which writers of the day exploited this interest.
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