Tag Archives: Henry James

Passionate Throbs in The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Ghosts   June 12, 2018

The quintessential ghost story of all time is … Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. As far as literature goes, academic or otherwise, this blog would be faulty if it didn’t feature James’ most famous ghost story. The story is a dark and rich suspense, full of passionate throbs both horrific and psychological. James has had his criticism about his overburdened sentences and his fussy and prudish style. Too Freudian was another swipe at him because his ghosts had their foundation in ourselves. But this story, after more than a century,  hasn’t lost its power.

The Turn of the Screw first appeared in serial format in Collier’s Weekly magazine (1898). James is famous for writing about the nature of evil in a quiet way. This short story fulfills the three –S’s in ghostly fiction: suspenseful, sinister, and strange. Gothic, of course, since the story takes place at the House of Bly. The story is both supernatural and psychological. James adapted this story from a tale told him by the archbishop of Canterbury. James was said to claim that his intention was to entertain. You will certainly find this story entertaining, disturbing, but also an exploration of good and evil.

The story opens with a prologue of backstory and then Chapter One is told by the governess (unnamed) who goes to Bly House in the English countryside to care for two children: Miles and Flora. Ghosts of unspeakable evil appear to the governess: Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. But are these apparitions only seen by the governess?

Do Miles and Flora observe as well? And what about the knowledgeable and reliable housekeeper Mrs. Grose? Truths, tricks, and the state of mind of our governess all play roles and so does supernatural powers.

A clever story, this is, and beautifully written. Writers of ghost stories can learn a lot by reading it carefully. The puzzle of the storytelling is cut expertly! The structure perfection. The tone mystifying. Still, literary critics debate if true evil ghosts haunt Bly House or is it the haunting from the madness of the governess.

For me, to take away the ghosts’ reality weakens the story and dilutes the fear. James insists we see the ghosts  just as the governess sees them, thereby maintaining the horror. And yet he sprinkles doubt at every turn, which enhances the suspense.

Read The Turn of the Screw at Gutenberg.org


Listen to the audio at Librivox.org.



I’d love to read your comments and reactions to this story. What kind of psychological realism or supernatural realism did you find in the story? 

Watch the film with Deborah Kerr, directed by Jack Clayton (vintage black and white)




There are other adaptations for film:
—1991 film with Lynn Redgrave, directed by Dan Curtis
—1999 film with Colin Firth, directed by Ben Bolt
—2009 film with Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery of Downtown Abbey, directed by Tim Fywell (available Amazon Prime Streaming)


Henry James was an American author, born in New York in 1853. He is considered to be one of the greatest novelists in our literature. The Portrait of a Lady and Daisy Miller are his most widely read and best known works.  He accomplished 22 novels, more than a hundred short stories, autobiographical works, several plays and critical essays. The Wings of Dove (1902) is a beautifully written love story and a film.  In Edith Wharton’s autobiography, she recalls how she and James sat by a ditch at Bodiam Castle, in East Sussex. ‘For a long time no one spoke,’ writes Wharton, ‘then James turned to me and said solemnly: ‘Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.’

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction. Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed


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In Every Way Ghostly

 The Ghostly Rental   by Henry James (1876)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 13, 2015


A rambling old house on a lonely road. A drooping elm beside it and a stretch of apple trees all gnarled. A deepening dusk. As the last of the sunset disengages, the fading light touches the small window panes and twinkle there fantastically.

“The house is simply haunted.”

The idea of being haunted by a house is a curious one. And deeply curious is our protagonist, a divinity student who carries Pascal’s little book of Thoughts in his pocket. He is intrigued by this stately house that he just happens to stumble across on his evening walk.

Subtext: the immortality of the soul. Henry James’ ghost stories are psychological stories and apparitional. We all know Turn of the Screw where James infers we do not always know what we see or see clearly what may be the truth. James wrote The Ghostly Rental before he wrote Turn of the Screw (1898) and it reflects a lot about the modern spiritualism of that time. There is a real ghost here and you will meet her.




But first, we meet Captain Diamond. Are you fond of walking in cemeteries?



This is a creepy rocking-chair read and perfect for a gray winter’s day.



Read the short story (PDF) at Encyclopaedia.com/ebooks.


This story was produced into a film in French and Russian (1965). You can visit the website at Klubkrik.ru/2012





Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

 HorrorSociety.com       Sirens Call Publications   HorrorNews.net  

HorrorTalk.com   Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify    

Spooky Reads   Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.

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A Devilish Fine Woman

The Romance of Certain Old Clothes   by Henry James (1886)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 27, 2014



Romance of Certain Old Clothes is about female sexual rivalry. Two sisters are deliciously jealous of one another. We are in Massachusetts in the country home of the Wingrave family [in some versions the Willoughby family]. Perdita and Rosalind [in some versions Rosalind is renamed Viola] are both attractive young women with an older brother.

Rosalind “is tall and white, with calm gray eyes and auburn tresses; a very faint likeness to the Rosalind of Shakespeare’s comedy.” And a tad plump, she is, with a cold eye on everything around her. Perdita is the sweetest and has “the cheek of a gipsy and the eye of an eager child, as well as the smallest waist and lightest foot.”



Mr. Arthur Lloyd arrives, a handsome gentleman, rich in sterling pounds,good health, well educated, and a traveler.

Poor Arthur, for he is compelled to choose between the two sisters for his bride. At one point you might wonder if the man is falling in love with both beauties. Hmmm, this smacks of an odd threesome, but we are in Victorian times in New England so that Puritan repression holds Mr. Lloyd in place.




A drama takes center stage between Rosalind and Perdita for this prize marriage, and of course for property—the theme of possessions run high as does the desire to be Mr. Lloyd’s object of beauty in fine dresses and jewels. Who does Mr. Lloyd carry off as his wife to his new estate? I’ll never tell.



Don’t miss the irony, the intrigue, the clever ambiguity that is Henry James’ signature; he gives us a well-crafted psychological ghost story, and so very Gothic. In the end, one of the sisters has a most sinister win.



imagesHenry James wrote this story when he was in his twenties and this was his first attempt at supernatural fiction.


Read The Romance of Certain Old Clothes at HenryJames.org

Listen to the audio recording (scroll to Number 9) at Librivox.org



Other Reading Web Sites to Visit


Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace


 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed


Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.


First image above is by Francios Boucher 1770s.

Bottom image is by Jakab Marastoni Woman Seated before a Mirror 1840s.



Filed under fiction, ghost stories, literature, psychological horror, short stories, tales of terror

Ghostly Little Romance, and Deadly

Sir  Edmund Orme  by Henry James (1891)  [Birth date April 15]

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,   April 16, 2013

If one were to look for a precise opposite of Henry James’ style of writing, we can look no further than Hemingway’s sharp and snappy prose. James writes long sentences with long clauses that have a mesmerizing quality that you might find glorious to sink into. We know James to write fiction a bit like a psychologist—more suggestive than direct— and that’s why some of us love his work because there’s so much to discover between the lines.

This short story, Sir Edmund Orme is not as famous as The Turn of the Screw, but this ghostly little romance moves along with high suspense and at the same time you can sink into the hypnotic prose of the narrator.

When seeing a ghost (in literature, that is), we are often excited that whoever has died still exists in some form of consciousness and  returns to haunt. But the horror of actually seeing a ghost dramatizes death as well as making it so mysterious that we often want to explore more. Our narrator, a dashing young man, is curious about such ghosts.

“The place is haunted, haunted!” I exulted in the word as if it stood for all I had ever dreamt of.

We meet him flirting with the lovely Charlotte Marden on a soft Sunday in November in Brighten. He falls in love with Charlotte. But Charlotte’s mother, Mrs. Marden, has “intuitions” that trouble her; she confesses these troubles to our narrator. Almost immediately, our narrator begins to “see” a ghost.

Is this ghost truly a relic of the dead …  or an experience of Mrs. Marden’s that infects our narrator? Or maybe some monstrosity from beyond?

Read it at East of the Web:


And if you really want to read James’ absolute best ghost story, here’s the link to The Turn of the Screw at Read Book Online:


Stop by next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.  Next week, H.G. Wells.

Drop me a LIKE or a comment if you enjoyed my introduction and Sir Edmund Orme.


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