Rediscovered 19th Century Fiction,
from the University of Tampa Press

Vol 1: The Library Window by Margaret Oliphant
Edited with an Introduction, Afterword & Notes by Elizabeth Winston
University of Tampa Press, 2006, xvi + 74 pages
ISBN: 1-59732-011-0 (hbk.) / 1-59732-012-9 (pbk.)

Vol 2: A Study of Destiny by Cheiro (Count Louis Hamon)
Edited with an Introduction, Afterword & Notes by Sean Donnelly
University of Tampa Press, 2006, xvii + 92 pages
ISBN: 1-59732-013-7 (hbk.) / 1-59732-014-5 (pbk.)

This review appeared in Dead Reckonings #2, 2007

THE NEWLY LAUNCHED Insistent Visions series from the University of Tampa Press is an admirable endeavour reminiscent of Dover's scholarly and affordable volumes. The series editors state their intention at the front of both books: Insistent Visions is, "dedicated to republishing supernatural fiction, mysteries, science fiction, and adventure stories from the nineteenth century that deserve to be more widely known and appreciated." And their goal is to produce a series that is, "carefully edited, with essays and notes to provide biographical, historical, and literary contexts and suggest questions for further thought and discussion." This is the publishing equivalent of a special edition DVD with all its extras. All of this is offered in slim and attractive volumes available in both paperback, priced at a somewhat reasonable $12USD, or hardback at a slightly overpriced $25USD. However, in a market where most publishers want to give their readers the biggest bang for their buck (which usually translates into page count, not necessarily quality), it is nice to have a venue where awkward length fictions, neither short story nor novel, can be showcased and studied.

As such I approached these books as complete packages, expecting thorough, thoughtful and well-written essays. In short I was anticipating an afternoon's crash course in the story at hand. As the Editors' Statement promises, Margaret Oliphant's The Library Window contains an introduction and afterword, which like the featured story include notes by editor Elizabeth Winston. The page opposite the introduction is an illustration of Oliphant drawn by her niece-a face to the name is a nice way to start the proceedings. Winston, who holds a doctorate in British Literature from my own alma mater UW-Madison, does a sufficient job in introducing the author. After the date (4 April 1828) and the place (Wallyford, Scotland) of birth, and a list of contemporaries, we are treated to a breezy and brief account of Oliphant's life, one that looks to have been filled with much grief. She was a prolific writer who "kept the pot boiling" in order to support her family, many of whom she outlived including her brothers, husband and many of her children. More...

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