Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Guest Post: Machen and the Dark Specter by Dale Nelson

In three recent articles, I’ve argued that Arthur Machen probably drew upon the writings of Ovid, the historian Josephus, and the Bible to suggest, subtly rather than explicitly, the nature of the horror of violation that occurs in “The Great God Pan” and “The Inmost Light.”

Here, I’ll comment on “Fragments of Paper” (also called “Psychology”), which is a sketch, and “The Novel of the White Powder.”  Where in “Pan” and “Light” the innocent sufferers were women, in these two pieces the sufferer is a man, and he is not innocent.

The “fragments of paper” are scraps that Mr. Dale wrote on during a sunny day at home, which was mostly busy with unspecified work.  “On them he had carefully registered all the secret thoughts of the day” without thinking about them, getting back to work till he jotted the next note and put it aside.  When he reviewed them, he was shocked by “the crazy lusts, the senseless furies, the foul monsters that his heart had borne” that the scraps recorded.

He has learned that “every day we lead two lives. … I say I am a man, but who is the other that hides in me?”

“Powder” is narrated by the sister of Francis Leicester, a diligent student of law.  Miss Leicester became anxious about the toll on her brother’s health of such long, sedentary hours, so he reluctantly consulted the family physician, Dr. Haberden. 

Francis had his prescription filled, despite his sister’s misgivings, at a neighborhood shop kept by an elderly pharmacist.  Francis perked up and exhibited a new taste for London night life, but eventually sequestered himself in his room.  There is a horrified glimpse of a monstrous face and paw at his window, some nasty black fluid drips from his room into the room below, his door is at last broken down, and a vile bubbling black pool of corruption is revealed, which is what Francis has become thanks to the drug.  It turns out to have been identical with the “wine” of the Witches’ Sabbath.

What may lift this shocker above the level of a pulp thriller are its superior generation of suspense, its narrative and descriptive craftsmanship (including a bit of Machen’s famous evocation of Strange London) -- and the final few pages.  A wrap-up that conveniently explains things is a familiar device in popular fiction, but uncommon is writing such as this:

“There [in some forest depth or remote cave], in the blackest hours of night, the Vinum Sabbati was prepared,” and the neophytes “partook of an evil sacrament. … And suddenly, each one that had drunk found himself attended by a companion” of alluring evil, which was, “awful as it is to express, the man himself. … the worm which never dies, that which lies sleeping within us all, was made tangible and an external thing, and clothed with a garment of flesh.  And then, in the hour of midnight, the primal fall was repeated.”

These sonorous lines were written to Dr. Haberden by the friend who analyzed the white powder and detected its real nature.  The friend comments, “for so terrible an act as [the partaking of the “wine”], in which the very inmost place of the temple was broken up and defiled, a terrible vengeance followed.  What began with corruption ended also with corruption.”

We’ve seen that imagery of the violated temple before, when the victims were women.  Exactly how to reconcile that imagery with the imagery of the inmost “worm” and the reference to the Fall is more than I will attempt here.

Mysteries of theology, unlike mysteries of detection, may be contemplated but not exhaustively explained.  Machen’s imagery points to a mystery of theological anthropology.  

To take one authority on it: the Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard – who was hardly likely to minimize sin – taught, on one hand, that “the very essence of the soul” was not lost at the Fall.  Sinful man does not require a new soul in order to be saved, nor does he acquire a new soul at Baptism. 

Yet, on the other hand, Gerhard added, man “from being righteous and holy became impious and unrighteous … Having lost the most beautiful image of God, man put on the dark specter of the devil.”  (That sounds Machenian, doesn’t it?)  Gerhard says, “we bear no longer the image of God and of the heavenly Adam, but the image of the earthly Adam. … we are by nature alienated from God,” although we possess “remnants of that original divine image,” etc.; hence the new birth in Christ is necessary.

Machen drew upon beliefs such as these for the purposes of literary art when he took pen in hand to write weird fiction; he was a poet more than a mystic, theologian, or parson; but he took those beliefs seriously, verbal signs of contradiction though they were in his time as they are in ours.

I think that Machen would have liked this statement:

“Only fools have clear conceptions of everything.  The most cherished ideas of the human mind are found in the depths and in twilight: around these [perplexing] ideas which we cannot [master] revolve clear thoughts, extending, developing, and becoming elevated.  If this deeper mental plane were to be taken away, there would remain but geometricians and intelligent animals; even the exact sciences should lose their present grandeur, which depends upon a hidden correlation with eternal truths, of which we can catch a glimpse only at rare moments.  Mystery is the most precious possession of mankind.  Not in vain did Plato teach that all below is but a weak image of the order reigning above.  It may be, indeed, that the grandest function of the loveliness we see is the awakening of desire for a higher loveliness we see not; and that the enchantment of great poets springs less from the pictures they paint than from the distant echoes they awaken from the invisible world.”

© Dale Nelson


Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) is quoted from pp. 61 and 63 of The Doctrine of Man in the Writings of Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, edited by Preus and Smits (Concordia Publishing House, 2005), pp. 61 and 63.

The long unattributed quotation (“Only fools”) is from the Russian reactionary and anti-Semite Konstantin Pobedonostsev, Ober-Procurator of the Most Holy Synod (1827-1907).  Curiously, it is possible that Machen saw the book, Reflections of a Russian Statesman, in which the quotation appears.  It was issued by Machen’s own eventual publisher, Grant Richards, in 1898, translated by Robert Crozier Long.  I quote from the Ann Arbor Paperback reprint, 1968, p. 188.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Horace B. Samuel, The Quisto Box

Samuel, Horace B. The Quisto-Box (London: A.M. Philpot, [February 1925]).

This is the only novel by Horace Barnett Samuel (1883-1950), a London barrister who translated books (including ones by Nietzsche and Strindberg) and who wrote some of his own, including the critical study Modernities (1913) and Unholy Memories of the Holy Land (1930), the latter published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

In The Quisto-Box, Professor Quist has just achieved his long ambition to create a Telepathoscope, a small aluminium box that allows its bearer to read other people's thoughts. Then the Professor conveniently dies, and his housemaid Lalage Marne, an intelligent young “heiress on a small scale” who had heard rumours of Quist's invention and obtained employment with him in order to investigate, ends up with his invention and the instructions on how to use it. Lalage Marne is pursued by a young journalist from the Daily Blare, Lucien Swope, who tries out the box in an interview with a high-ranking politician. The box reveals secrets about the government's association with an evolving revolution in a few (imaginary) countries in Europe, including Yunkaria. Swope and Marne become involved in the crisis. From this point, the novel shifts to concentrating on the tedious ins-and-outs of the revolution in Yunkaria. Then Lalage Marne and financier Gabriel Zaffrouli find a way to make money off the war. Next they decide to make even more money by producing and selling a thousand Quisto-Boxes designed to function for only six months. Their veiled advertisement attracts the attention of “the worst woman in Europe”, currently operating under the name of Miss Celia Jones, who is described as follows: “The white bloated face and the swollen supple body. The red flabby folds that purported to be lips. The lax sinuosity of what was supposed to be a mouth, The brutal and business-calculation that glared brazenly from out her green eyes. The thick, slimy creaminess of her voice, that would in case of necessity and with the utmost suddenness assume a crisp, businesslike click. Come now, don't you agree that she is the queen of the world sinister?” (p. 167). With the brief appearance of the character of Celia Jones the novel gains some interest.

Soon afterwards, however, cheaper and less-effective Quisto-Boxes are made and sold, and it is not long before everyone has them, and society around the world becomes impossible. Lalage determines to save humanity by becoming its redemptress, destroying the supply of new Quisto-Boxes as well as the instructions for making more. To achieve this end, she murders Zaffrouli, and as the Quisto-Boxes already in use expire, the world returns to normal. Overall, this rather stodgily-written novel is primarily an unsuccessful mix of satire and cynicism.

An advertisement by the publisher at the rear of the book notes that Samuel is “an author well-known as a shrewd critic and writer of trenchant short stories.” Only a few short stories have been located. “Final Solution of the Sphinx” is the longest, and it appeared in The English Review (January 1921). Shorter tales include “On the Intellectual Plane” (The Egoist, February 1918) and the vignette “An Interesting Man” (The New Age, 14 October 1920).

Friday, November 22, 2019

Guest Post: Uncle Silas (1968) Location, by Gavin Selerie

I recently watched the version of Uncle Silas directed by Alan Cooke for TV (Mystery & Imagination series, 1968). I thought I hadn't seen it before but recognized in particular the performance by Patience Collier as Madame de la Rougierre, who conveys a twisted humour within menace. I now think I did see this at the National Film Theatre (BFI) years ago. It's quite an impressive version, though not as detailed as the more famous TV one with Peter O'Toole and Jane Lapotaire. Cooke plays up the melodrama but the central performance by Robert Eddison is superb and the atmosphere is well sustained throughout. Lucy Fleming as Maud displays a convincing innocence and naivety turning into horrified awareness. I note that the IMDB entry lacks any information about the location where it was filmed. I think there can be little doubt that at least the exterior and some of the internal scenes were shot at Horsley Towers in Surrey. This was the home counties residence of Earl and Lady (Ada) Lovelace. The arch which the carriage drives through from the courtyard and the lake in front of the Italian tower (east side) are unmistakeable. The rows of gothic windows seem to be further evidence that the Lovelace dwelling is the base site. I think the main staircase was  also used, although some further decorative detail may have been added. Finally, use is made of the Great Hall, with balcony or gallery. Perhaps some of the architecture was recreated in the studio, although it may well have been cheaper to film the entire thing on location. Interestingly, Horsley Towers was also used as the exterior location for The Stone Tape, a landmark of TV drama with script by Nigel Kneale, although in that case much less of the site is evident.

I visited Horsley Towers earlier this year, so my memory of the building and grounds is fresh. A poem I wrote afterwards, simply called 'Horsley Towers', appears in my recently published Collected Sonnets (Shearsman Books), which also features two outtakes from Le Fanu's Ghost, 'Stalking Grove' and 'Peep into a Whiskey-shop'.

 Gavin Selerie

Monday, November 18, 2019

Guest Post: The Abomination of Desolation in Machen’s “Great God Pan” and “The Inmost Light” by Dale Nelson

In an earlier article, I proposed that part of Clarke’s dream in the first chapter of Machen’s “Great God Pan” recalled the eve of the Jerusalem Temple’s destruction in AD 70, as recounted by the historian Flavius Josephus in The Jewish War, a book formerly well-known in Whiston’s translation.

Machen’s character Clarke dreamed of a voice that cried, “Let us go hence!” and the tome of Josephus reported that the priests heard a multitude of voices calling “Let us remove hence!” before the triumphant forces of Titus overthrew the Temple.  Clarke’s dream foreshadowed the sacrilegious violation of a young girl’s spiritual integrity because of a successful brain experiment.

I will argue that an account of the violation of an earlier Temple illuminates Machen’s theme.  Here again, Machen is (I suspect) drawing on an old book – this time, the Bible – that is much less a part of education, the arts, etc. today than formerly.

“‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation (spoken of by Daniel the prophet), stand in the holy place’ – whoso readeth, let him understand – ‘then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains’” (St. Matthew 24).  These words of Christ refer, in context, to the prophesied destruction of the Temple of Jesus’ day, the Second Temple, the taking of which by Roman soldiers about 40 years afterwards was described by Josephus. 

But the words allude also to the Old Testament book of Daniel 9:27 and 11:31, which the interested reader may look up.

However obscure these texts may be now, they were familiar to many when Machen was young.  I won’t attempt to summarize the reasons why the Daniel passages have been taken to have a twofold fulfillment, first at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who ruled 175-164 BC, and then in AD 70.

Under the Seleucid king, the Temple was defiled: the king’s forces set up in it an idol of a pagan god, prevented the Israelite sacrifices from being offered, and may have polluted the altar with the blood of pigs.  Under the Emperor Vespasian, over 200 years later, the Temple was, again, subject to outrage.  In a war of appalling carnage, Titus ended the Jewish sacrifices and thrust the Roman standards into the sanctuary.

That, basically, is the historical meaning of “the abomination of desolation” or the “abomination that makes desolate.”  The hallowed place, sacred to God, is broken into, something sacred is lost or departs from it, and something unholy takes its place.

Readers of Machen’s horror stories will see the parallel I’m proposing.

The orphan girl Mary is violated; “the soul seemed struggling and shuddering within the house of flesh”; she is left a ruin, an “idiot” who dies before a year has passed.  But something horrible took possession of her body so that nine months later she gave birth to Helen Vaughan, with whose deplorable activities much of “The Great God Pan” is concerned.  When Helen is forced to kill herself, a ghastly corruption is revealed.

Likewise, in “The Inmost Light,” Dr. Black experiments on his innocent, consenting wife.  Black wrote that “from some human being there must be drawn that essence which men call the soul, and in its place (for in the scheme of the world there is no vacant chamber) – in its place would enter in what the lips can hardly utter, what the mind cannot conceive without a horror more awful than the horror of death itself.”  Black’s experiment is successful, and a Poesque mass of bubbling black corruption results.

In each story, an “abomination of desolation” follows upon violation.

Please note: I don’t say Machen wrote these stories intending that they would be interpreted as religious allegories, and, so far as I know, by and large they haven’t been.  He wrote more as a poet than as a mystic, much more as a poet than as a theologian, and much, much more as a poet than as a parson; to say which is not to disparage mystic, theologian, or parson.

Machen wanted to write tales of suspense, wonder, awe, and horror, and, so far as I know, for decades many readers have found these stories first rate of their kind.  The literary allusions I’ve expounded – if they are there – are part of the man’s artistry, and have worked mostly as undertones.

Except that, as Ovid, Josephus, and even the Bible have ceased to indwell many readers’ imaginations today, such readers might hardly sense those tones.

Machen may now be faulted by critics who lack the imaginative formation he and many of his readers shared.  For some of these critics, it’s too late to become naturalized to that country, that spacious, and almost lost, realm of the Greek and Latin classics, the Bible and religious tradition, the standard English authors such as Milton and Browne and Wordsworth.  In new Machen reprints, footnotes may identify some of his references and allusions, but few or no associations with personal formative imaginative experiences will be evoked in readers, because that formation didn’t happen.  To be told that the allusions are there is not to feel them as undertones as one reads the stories --.

When Machen treats of the human being positively, as a divine creation, though threatened by evil, the victims are female.  In my next article, I’ll discuss Machen’s variation, in which his emphasis is on the corruption lurking within fallen human nature.  There, the sufferer will be male.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Guest Post: Phyllis Paul: A Few Glimpses of Her Meaning by Dale Nelson

Miss Paul maintains a pervasive sense of mystery, even though much in her books may be mysterious only in the conventional sense, that is, mysterious until more information is gathered, which then resolves some of the questions that have accumulated. 

In her work mystery remains; it is as if, when the earthly mysterious has been cleared up, something of unearthly mystery remains untouched.  Her imagination tends to the quasi-Gnostic.  References to the Cathars (in The Lion of Cooling Bay) and so on suggest Miss Paul may have studied heterodox religious history. 

However, her ideas and her beliefs may have changed over time.  And whatever she believed at a given point, she may have borrowed elements of some system that she herself did not believe for its imaginative, literary possibilities. 

Here are some observations about matters of the spirit in Miss Paul’s fiction.

In the seven novels that I’ve read so far, Miss Paul allows only a weak connection between English religion and the world of the spirit.  She doesn’t seem interested in a thoroughgoing satire of parish religion, but nor does she endorse it. 

Thus, in Twice Lost, Christine’s mother, Mrs. Gray, maintains a spiritual atmosphere with Scripture texts on the wall at home and with feelings of spiritual communion that she cultivates.  And she is no fool; when Keith Antequin intrudes upon this atmosphere, she knows he is a fake.  Unfortunately, when elderly Thomas Antequin brought himself forward as a suitor for Christine’s hand, he seemed to Mrs. Gray a convenient – perhaps, fatally, a providential – protector for her troubled young daughter. 

Rachel in A Cage for the Nightingale is an Anglican happy with the round of parish life, but she doesn’t understand the more spiritual Victoria.

For Roman Catholicism Miss Paul has a strong aversion, which, as I understand, she particularly indulges in Pulled Down, which I haven’t read yet.  In Cage, several of the worst characters are Catholics. In Twice Lost, Thomas Antequin’s historical play concerns the Inquisition and the theme is cruelty. 

Detail from Breugel's Triumph of Death
Ricky in The Lion of Cooling Bay is attracted to Romanism and to sexual perversity. In the same novel, the narrator refers to the “torture-wheels of the Spanish devils” as painted by Bruegel (see his Triumph of Death), and the Catholic boy Francis dreams of a ceremony in which “the crowd was surrounded by a circle of lofty poles, each of which had a wheel fixed horizontally on its summit; objects which he felt he had seen before, perhaps in some old picture, without understanding their significance.”  (There is a curious reference, in Twice Lost, to a “clubbed tree [that] was crowned with a huge wheel” in a Kensington square.) 

Miss Paul worked within the Gothic tradition, where portrayals of Roman Catholic cruelty have a long pedigree.  However, the anti-Catholic curate Treadworthy, in Rox Hall Illuminated, is rather creepy.

Miss Paul evinces some respect for certain 17th-century Protestant authors who had a keen sense of the reality of spiritual evil.  In A Cage for the Nightingale, Victoria’s imagination was “darkly stirred” when, as a child, she read Hall, Baxter, and Browne. 

Richard Baxter, the Puritan, quoted Bishop Joseph Hall about “Satan’s prevalency in this age” being evident from the numbers of witches.  (Hall is better known for his Anglican Neostoicism.)
Baxter may still be remembered for The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, which has a section on ghosts, and was also author of The Certainty of the Worlds of Spirits.  And Consequently of the Immortality of Souls.  Of the Malice and Misery of the Devils, and the Damned.  And of the Blessedness of the Justified.  Fully Evinced by the Unquestionable Histories of Apparitions, Operations, Witchcrafts, Voices, &c.  Written as an Addition to Many Other Treatises, for the Conviction of Sadduces [sic] and Infidels (1691). 

Sir Thomas Browne is best known for Urn Burial and especially Religio Medici, wherein the point is made that it is not in the devil’s interest to reveal himself to those who profess disbelief in the devil and in God.

The devil is a dreadful presence – seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) -- in The Lion of Cooling Bay.  Anne described to William a drawing she saw in Julian’s room, with a great shadow on the landscape, and an inscription naming “The Lion – the King of beasts – God of this world – Ruler of the darkness of this world.”

With particular clarity, A Cage for the Nightingale exhibits a threefold Gnostic-type spirituality.

1.Most of the characters are examples of the sarkikos anthropos, the fleshly person.  They are concerned with this world, its silly or base pleasures, its bogus values.  Herve, Tonine, Janet, Pat, Maurice, and Constantine belong to this category. 

2.Rachel is an example of the psychikos anthropos, the soulish person.  She isn’t worldly like the fleshly characters.  She has some awareness of spiritual reality in sometimes detecting sinister atmosphere, and she is intrigued by Victoria, who is on a higher spiritual level than herself.  Miss Paul makes Rachel an artist who draws without genius.  She would like to go to a Christmas Eve service.  Gnostics would see Christians such as Rachel as satisfied by family life and a conventional religion inadequate for finer spirits.

3.Much-tormented Victoria is the exemplar of the pneumatic or spiritual person.  Though she has felt that she is “all light inside,” she is the imprisoned nightingale, fluttering against the bars of the cage – that is, the trammels of earthly embodiment.  Unlike Rachel’s drawings, Victoria’s artwork has an impressive, real quality.  Paul uses art as a symbol of spiritual life. 

In Gnosticism, God exists but is remote from this world.  As Victoria says, “‘The fall of a sparrow!  God sees it and lets it fall.’”

The phenomenal world hides the realm of spirit, which is associated with light, e.g. in The Lion of Cooling Bay with sunlight burning through leaves.

Christine in Twice Lost thinks of God as absent in one’s time of spiritual anguish – not nonexistent, but not concerned. 

Christine is a superb study, from a classic Lutheran point of view, of a person bowed down under the “curse of the Law.” The two great commandments are to love God with all one’s heart and mind and strength and one’s neighbor as oneself. 

Christine knows that she did fail the unattractive, unwinsome little girl Vivian Lambert, when she didn’t wait to make sure the child got inside her house late one evening, but left her on the doorstep.  She is haunted by part of this passage (St. Matthew 18:6): whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Vivian disappeared and was presumed to have been murdered.  Thereafter, Christine suffers, a prisoner of inner condemnation.  She deals with her guilt in two ways, by doing good works (she is a volunteer at a clinic for the poor, as I recall) and by hoping desperately that Vivian didn’t die, but only disappeared; if Vivian didn’t die, then she, Christine, is not guilty of her death.  There is no suggestion in the novel that she could have opened her tormented heart to a pastor and received the comfort of Gospel absolution, the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake.

A severe spirituality – characterized by Glen Cavaliero as “steely puritanism” -- is integral to the atmosphere and meaning of the novels discussed here.  It deserves further exploration.
Note: I consulted Edwyn Bevan’s Symbolism and Belief for a discussion of Gnosticism’s threefold anthropology.  Baxter’s Saints’ Everlasting Rest is often issued in abridged form without the section on ghosts – which I know of but haven’t seen.

© 2019 Dale Nelson

Saturday, November 9, 2019

R.I.P. Glen Cavaliero 1927-2019

I'm saddened to report on the passing of poet and literary critic Glen Cavaliero at the age of 92. He is perhaps best-known for his scholarship on John Cowper Powys, and Charles Williams, though readers of Wormwoodiana will honor him for his championing of the neglected novelist Phyllis Paul.  I first learned of Phyllis Paul in Cavaliero's fine book, The Supernatural and English Fiction (Oxford University Press, 1995), in which he devoted part of a chapter to Paul's novels. Cavaliero also published two of his volumes of poetry with Tartarus Press, Steeple on the Hill (1997) and The Justice of the Night (2007), and contributed to Wormwood and wrote introductions for the Tartarus Press editions of Elizabeth Jane Howard's Three Miles Up (2003) and Robert Aickman's Dark Entries (2011). 

I've seen a few obituaries so far, one by his college here, and another a the The Powys Society webpage here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Montague Summers's Ghost Stories

After Montague Summers died in August 1948, a number of his manuscripts and personal papers disappeared, including (it was believed) the manuscript of Six Ghost Stories, which Summers had listed in a Who's Who entry for 1938 as having been published in 1937. Of course it hadn't been published in 1937, and the reference remained a tantalizing bibliographical ghost for the next several decades.

Tantalizing, especially because of Summers's clear knowledge of the whole ghost story field, as evidenced in his three anthologies of such stories, The Supernatural Omnibus (Gollancz, September 1931; the US edition from Doubleday, Doran, March 1932, has different contents)*, Victorian Ghost Stories (Fortune Press, October 1933; no US edition), and The Grimoire and Other Supernatural  Stories (Fortune Press, November 1936; no US edition). All three anthologies have extensive introductions by Summers. And the first anthology reportedly went through multiple printings in both England and America.  Yet in the third one, Summers also included, under his own name, a ghost story entitled "The Grimoire," as well as another he had written, "The Man on the Stairs," published anonymously.  "The Grimoire" is excellent, and "The Man on the Stairs" pretty good, so there would be considerable interest in a volume of Sunmmers's own ghost stories.

A bunch (but not all) of Summers's missing manuscripts and papers turned up about a decade ago in Canada. The whole story is told in an article "The Manuscripts of Montague Summers, Revisited" by Gerard O'Sullivan, published in The Antagonish Review, Fall 2009.  In brief, Summers had left the papers to his live-in companion, Hector Stuart-Forbes, who in turn died in 1950, and whose brother retrieved the papers and shipped them to Canada where he lived. And thus they passed out of public knowledge. The archive was later sold to Georgetown University.

Now, at last, Six Ghost Stories has ceased being a bibliographical ghost and become an actual book, published by Snuggly Books in trade paperback (Amazon UK listing here;  Amazon US listing here), with an introduction by Daniel Corrick. This edition is based on a hand-written manuscript in the Georgetown archive. It includes the two Summers stories mentioned above ("The Grimoire" and "The Man on the Stairs") and four more which have never been published before, and a short introduction by Summers. Being based on manuscript versions, the texts of the two previously published stories are thus slightly different.  (A "Note on the Text" rather confusingly circles around these facts, but I think I've got it sorted out correctly.  The Note reads, in part, "The current versions of those stories, therefore, presented in the current volume, have been significantly amended, comparing the previously published versions to the original hand-written version and, in the case of 'The Man on the Stairs', to an existing typescript as well.")

The four newly published stories have some fine moments, as well as some exasperating ones (e.g., some instances of run-on dialogue, like one passage stretching out over four pages in "The Governess") but none challenge "The Grimoire" in terms of quality.  It's good to have the chance to read this volume at last, though some modern readers might find the prose a bit too Victorian. Summers's own introduction notes his preference in stories against the beneficent ghost and for Spirits that are "no kindly commonplace apparitions but veritable powers of darkness, grisly evil things of terror and dread and doom."

The editorial introduction, however, is barely adequate. It give no account of the discovery of the Summers papers in Canada, deferring the reader to a forthcoming second volume of Summers's fiction, and then refers the reader to Gerard O'Sullivan's article without saying when or where it was published. (Fortunately, I already had a photocopy in my files.)  The title of the second forthcoming volume is given as The Bride of Christ and Other Fictions, and the title story is subsequently described as a "Catholic symbolist novella" without the additional information found in O'Sullivan's article that its sixty pages of holograph manuscript "appears to be unfinished because it lacks a signed and dated colophon page," something found in other Summers manuscripts. The introduction also notes that "Six Ghost Stories does not represent the entirety of Summers' ghost oeuvre." One wonder if some other organization of the two volumes of Summers's fiction might have been better.

Some curious statements are also made about the manuscript. We read that from "recently discovered correspondence, we learn that [M.R.] James himself read and commented favorably on the collection in draft form." M.R. James died in June 1936, so how does one square this with the statement that "addresses given on some of the manuscripts allow us to date its completion to the last part of the '30s, although the stories originated at the very least a few years earlier."  What addresses on the manuscripts?  Are they just submission addresses?  It seems likely that Summers had completed the stories by the time he submitted his Who's Who entry for the 1938 volume, which would have been published sometime in 1937. Summers likely had the already-named volume done by early 1937, if not at least a year earlier for it to be shown to M.R. James. (And certainly two of the stories appeared in the November 1936 publication of his third and final ghost story anthology.) Probably Summers expected Six Ghost Stories to be published by the Fortune Press, who had published his second and third ghost stories anthologies in 1933 and 1936. Summers first met R.A. Caton, the niggardly and eccentric owner of the Fortune Press, in February 1927, and through 1940 he published seven books with the Fortune Press, but he had planned or even completed other volumes for the press that never appeared (like Summers's edition of A Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft, by William Perkins, which Summers had similarly and optimistically listed as published in 1934 in his Who's Who entry for 1935.)  Presumably after his failure with getting the Fortune Press to publish Six Ghost Stories, Summers is known to have offered it in late March 1939 to the very short-lived firm Laidlaw and Laidlaw (initially Laidlaw and Butchart), an eccentric publisher of fantasy and modernism that managed to release eleven books in 1938 and early 1939 before dissolving. (My article on Laidlaw and Laidlaw is forthcoming.) After the Second World War began, Summers apparently kept the manuscript to himself.

Whatever the case, we can now read the former bibliographical ghost, Six Ghost Stories. And I look forward to the follow-up volume.

* The UK edition has 38 stories, the US edition 36. They have thirty stories in common, with eight appearing only in the UK edition, and six appearing only in the US edition.