Women Writers of Folklore and the Fantastic: Lettice Galbraith

Not a lot seems to be known about Lettice Galbraith. She published two short story collections (New Ghost Stories, and Pretty Miss Allington and other tales) as well as a novel(?) (Spin of the Coin) around 1893-1894. A further story from her pen came out in 1897, and then, as far as I know, nothing. I suppose we don’t even know if Lettice Galbraith is the author’s real name.

NewGhostStories cover

I’m including Ms. Galbraith in my Women Writers of Folklore and the Fantastic series for New Ghost Stories (1893), a really delightful collection. The stories are crisp and well-paced, and are frequently more direct about unsavory topics like adultery, seduction, and suicide than one might expect in Victorian-era tales. The characters are generally well-fleshed out, and every story is quite different in its haunting, as well.

My two favorite stories were “The Missing Model” and “In the Séance Room,” which both combine the sensibility of a ghost story with that of a crime story — and crime stories were my first early genre love. “The Missing Model” especially has a fun detective-story vibe that augments a classic ghost story trope. “In the Séance Room” uses spiritualism and mesmerism in a fairly novel way, to tell the story of a crime revealed.

“The Case of Lady Lukestan” is a slightly nasty tale of (undeserved) ghostly revenge, one which might resonate with a lot of women. “The Trainer’s Ghost” is a particularly colorful tale, set in the world of horseracing. “The Ghost in the Chair” tells of an unusual Faustian bargain, and “A Ghost’s Revenge” is a good old-fashioned haunted house story, with a nicely exciting climax.

With New Ghost Stories, you can sense the transition from traditional Victorian-era ghost stories to the early-modern period of M.R. James, Edith Wharton, and others. The tales all read very well today, and I enjoyed every single one of them. Highly recommended; my only complaint is that I wish there were more of them.

  • You can download New Ghost Stories from the Internet Archive, here.

Sarob Press reprinted New Ghost Stories (plus one more tale) in 1999; that volume is well out of print. Wordsworth has also has a reprint collection featuring Galbraith’s tales (the same set as in the Sarob Press edition, I think), along with those of her contemporary, Louisa Baldwin, if you prefer a physical book to an electronic one.

Either way–enjoy!

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