by Richard Marsh, (c) 1898 – this edition: Valancourt Books trade paper, 2007 – short story collection
This is the 31st in my series of Friday Forgotten Books
This thin volume (155 pages) containing seven amusing short stories provides something completely different from the usual fare. Marsh was a writer of Victorian horror and humor, best known for his novel The Beetle: A Mystery. The Victorian fascination with the curious and unusual informs this set of stories as two men, sometimes friends, often at odds with each other, seek to add desirable items to their “collections” of ephemera and oddities.
Mr. Tress and Mr. Pugh are rivals and neither is above playing tricks, misinforming, lying or even outright theft in order to achieve their goal of having the better collection. Each considers the items the other owns as rubbish, while elevating, at least in his mind, his own items to the level of museum quality, to be admired by one and all.
The stories deal with a pipe which seems to come alive when smoked [“The Adventure of the Pipe”]; a recording which seemingly conveys a crime from beyond the grave [“The Adventure of the Phonograph”]; a fine piece of French furniture with doubtful ownership [“The Adventure of the Cabinet”]; a mysterious painting, mistakenly sold [“The Adventure of the Ikon”]; a box puzzle [The Adventure of the Puzzle”]; a haunted woman’s hand [“The Adventure of Lady Wishaw’s Hand”]; and the egg of a long vanished aquatic bird [“The Adventure of the Great Auk’s Egg”].
Each story is narrated by either Mr. Tress or Mr. Pugh alternating through the collection, and the viewpoint and opinions of the narrator are part of the humor and sometimes irony of the stories. Light, enjoyable, different. It’s nice to see Valancourt Books reprinting many of the works of Marsh.
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