.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Maria Lectrix

Public domain audiobooks, six days a week, for folks with a Catholic taste in literature. Enjoy! Clan Honor Mondays: Fitz-James O'Brien works. Lit Tuesdays: Short stories, novels, or poems. Acts of the Wednesdays: Early Christian works. Mystery Thursdays: Mystery short stories or novels. Lit Fridays: Short stories, novels, or poems. Saintly Saturdays: Later Christian works.

Mary reading to ChristA Vatican Library catalog page, 1518

Thursday, November 17, 2005

#46: "In a Cellar" by Harriet Prescott Spofford, Part 1

A diplomat does detecting for diamonds and Delphine. This 1859 short story appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and was the first publication of a very prolific writer named Harriet Prescott Spofford.

The traditional view of detective literature is that there was really no literary detective story between Poe and Doyle. Spofford does not appear to have heard this. Like Alcott and others, she was forgotten by the Christopher Morley generation. I don't think this was sexist; I think it was just a cultural memory hole that most of our mid-Victorian writers have fallen into. (There was supposed to be no "scientific romance" to speak of, either, besides O'Brien's microscopic world of "The Diamond Lens", but I found a story about a "Brazen Android" -- probably Bacon's alleged brazen head -- in Harper's that looks well worth inquiry.) In general, the immediately pre-war stories in Harper's are sharp, well-written, and relatively lean, and the women writers are just as good as the men. I can only suppose that the mid-Victorians were too raw for the late Victorian generation's sentimentality, or not morally uplifting enough, or something of that sort. Or perhaps the literary magazines just got laid aside in a pile somewhere.

"In a Cellar", part 1
Part 2
56 min.


Post a Comment

<< Home