short note on m.p. shiel’s “the bride.”


Hans Bellmer, Les Quartres Filles.

Here is what M.P. Shiel has to say about love in his 1911 tale, “The Bride,” written in his florid, fin de siecle influenced style:

“It was a lunacy, its name was Legion, it was possession by the furies; it was a spasm in the throat, and a sickness of the limbs, and a yearning of the eye-whites, and a fire in the marrow; it was catalepsy, trance, apocalypse; it was high as the galaxy, it was addicted to the gutter; it was Vesuvius, borealis, the sunset; it was the rainbow in a cesspool, St John plus Heliogabalus, Beatrice plus Messalina; it was a transfiguration, and a leprosy, and a metempsychosis, and a neurosis; it was the dance of the maenads, and the bite of the tarantula, and baptism in a sun.”

“The Bride” is an engaging tale, but one with a confusing and muddled end, and not in the good way. However, I found it much more successful than “Xelucha,” the tale Lovecraft glowingly referred to as a “noxiously hideous fragment,” but which I felt was baldly pretentious and successful less in discomfiting the reader than in boring her with the names of minor Egyptian gods. In that tale, the fin de siecle theatricality turns into a pathetic marionette parody of itself. Nonetheless, Shiel can on occasion marshal a splendid set of images, and this was the best passage from “The Bride.” Good horror, I think, depends more on the manufacturing of startling imagery than perhaps any other form of fiction, and this excerpt has it.

(I read this piece in Peter Haining’s Great Irish Tales of Horror, which was uneven but contained some solid work here and there.)