London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1847. 4+32+1 pp Vol I ads dated January 1847. Original drab boards with purple ribbed cloth spines and printed spine labels, title pages printed in black and red.
First Edition of this supernatural tale about the goings-on in a haunted castle -- with the opening line (borrowing from a notorious 1830 Bulwer-Lytton novel) "It was an awfully dark and tempestuous night...". James (1800-1860) trained for medicine but became a prolific novelist after meeting Sir Walter Scott; James's 40 three-volume novels, most of them historical, exceeded the number written by Scott himself. In 1845 he and his family made a planned short visit to Germany so that he could do research for a novel, but two of the children's illness detained them there for a year, where he wrote two tales including this one. (In 1850 James and his family moved to Massachusetts; two years later, he was appointed British Consul in Norfolk, where over the next seven years his health suffered from the climate (read: yellow fever), so much so that he requested and got a transfer to Venice; however they arrived there just as that city was besieged, and he died of ill-health within months.)
This set is in remarkably near-fine condition, with a little wear at the spine ends and some (typical) fading of the purple cloth. Whoever first read this had little patience: except for the first 30 or so pages of Vol I, the leaves of all three volumes remain unopened.
Sadleir 1251; Wolff 3503 (a rebound copy); Ashley (Who's Who in Horror and Fantasy Fiction) p. 103 ("his masterpiece of terror... a superb portrayal of a ghost-ridden castle spoiled only at the end by its natural solution"); Punter (The Literature of Terror) p. 174 ("a Radcliffean tale of the explained supernatural"); Bleiler 900 ("A haunted chapel with bats and spectral lights, phantom figures in armor who hold ghostly court..., skeletons, the Black Rider, spectral music are only a few in a long list of phenomena."). Item #14957