The Oxford Book of English Short Stories

ISBN : 9780199561605

A. S. Byatt
472 Pages
129 x 196 mm
Pub date
Mar 2009
Oxford Books of Prose & Verse


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  • Edited by prize-winning novelist, essayist, broadcaster, and reviewer A. S. Byatt
  • The 37 short stories featured range from Dickens, Trollope, and Hardy to J. G. Ballard, Angela Carter, and Ian McEwan
  • Encompasses comedy and tragedy, farce and delicacy, elegance and the grotesque, ranging from social realism to the supernatural, surreal fantasy to science fiction

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories , edited by A. S. Byatt, herself the author of several collections of short stories, is the first anthology to specifically take the English short story as its theme. The 37 stories featured here are selected from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from Dickens, Trollope, and Hardy to J. G. Ballard, Angela Carter, and Ian McEwan, though many draw ingeniously from the richness of earlier English literary writing.
There are all sorts of threads of connection and contrast running through these stories. Their subjects vary from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the momentous to the trivial, from the grim to the farcical. There is English empiricism, English pragmatism, English starkness, English humour, English satire, English dandyism, English horror, and English whimsy. There are examples of social realism, from rural poverty to blitzed London; ghost stories and tales of the supernatural; surreal fantasy and science fiction. There are stories of sensibility, precisely delineated, from Hardy's reluctant bride to the shocked heroine of Elizabeth Taylor's The Blush, from H. E. Bates's brilliant fusion of class, sex, death, and landscape, to D. H. Lawrence's exploration of a consciousness slowly detaching itself from its world. There are exuberant stories by Saki and Waugh, Wodehouse and Firbank, with a particularly English range from high irony to pure orchestrated farce.
The very range and scope of the collection celebrates the eccentric differences and excellences of English short stories. Some of A. S. Byatt's choices clearly take their place in the grand tradition of story-telling, while others are more unusual. Many break all the rules of unity of tone and narrative, appearing to be one kind of story before unexpectedly turning into another. They pack together comedy and tragedy, farce and delicacy, elegance and the grotesque, with language as various as the subject matter. As A. S. Byatt explains: 'My only criterion was that those stories I selected should be startling and satisfying, and if possible make the hairs on the neck prickle with excitement, aesthetic or narrative'.


Introduction, A. S. Byatt
The Sacristan of St Botolph, William Gilbert
The Haunted House, Charles Dickens
Relics of General Chassé, A Tale of Antwerp, Anthony Trollope
A Mere Interlude, Thomas Hardy
Little Brother, Mary Mann
Two Doctors, M. R. James
Behind the Shade, Arthur Morrison
Wireless, Rudyard Kipling
Under the Knife, H. G. Wells
A White Night, Charlotte Mew
The Toys of Peace, Saki
The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown, G. K. Chesterton
Some Talk of Alexander, A. E. Coppard
The Reverent Wooing of Archibald, P. G. Wodehouse
Solid Objects, Virginia Woolf
The Man who Loved Islands, D. H. Lawrence
A Tragedy in Green, Ronald Firbank
A Widow's Quilt, Sylvia Townsend Warner
Nuns at Luncheon, Aldous Huxley
Landlord of the Crystal Fountain, Malachi Whitaker
On the Edge of the Cliff, V. S. Pritchett
A Dream of Winter, Rosamund Lehmann
An Englishman's Home, Evelyn Waugh
The Destructors, Graham Greene
The Waterfall, H. E. Bates
The Troll, T. H. White
The Blush, Elizabeth Taylor
At Hiruharama, Penelope Fitzgerald
My Flannel Knickers, Leonora Carrington
Enoch's Two Letters, Alan Sillitoe
Dream Cargoes, J. G. Ballard
Telephone, John Fuller
My Story, John Fuller
The Kiss, Angela Carter
The Beauty of the Dawn Shift, Rose Tremain
Solid Geometry, Ian McEwan
Dead Languages, Philip Hensher

About the author: 

Edited by Theodore W. Goossen, University of York, Ontario
Mori Ogai
Natsume Soseki
Kunikida Doppo
Higuchi Ichiyo
Nagai Kafu
Shiga Naoya
Satomi Ton
Okamoto Kanoko
Akutagawa Ryunosuke
Miyazawa Kenji
Yokomitsu Riichi
Ibuse Masuji
Kawabata Yasunari
Kajii Motojiro
Hayashi Fumiko
Enchi Fumiko
Hirabayashi Taiko
Sakaguchi Ango
Inoue Yasushi
Dazai Osamu
Nakajima Atsushi
Kojima Nobuo
Endo Shusaku
Abe Kobe
Yoshiyuki Junnosuke
Mishima Yukio
Kono Taeko
Mukoda Kuniko
Kaiko Takeshi
Oe Kenzaburo
Tsushima Yuko
Murakami Haruki
Shimada Masahiko
Yoshimoto Banana

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