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Boston had been busied with psychical research for some years, and Prof. William James has had a good deal to say about Mrs. Piper, so that it is not surprising after all to find Mr. W. D. Howells toying with the supernatural in his book 'Questionable Shapes.' Realists need not be startled – Mr. Howells is true to his colors and only takes his ghosts up with the tongs to hold them off as far as possible. His interest lies in the effect the ghost stories have on the bystanders, not in the ghosts themselves, in fact he tells only one ghost story, and that, one that may be explained away, in the three tales that make up the book. The first, 'His Apparition', is written in the style of the late Frank Stockton, though with little of Mr. Stockton's humor. It is a study, we should say, in the etiquette of visions, suggesting how and when and where he who sees an apparition should tell or should abstain from telling about it. Mr. Howells takes occasion, by the way, to draw a caustic picture of one of his very earnest young women. The second story, 'The Angel of the Lord', we can only take as a parody on Mr. Henry James. The talk drags along as inconsequentially and irrelevantly as Mr. James's at his worst. In the last tale in the book, 'Though One Rose from the Dead', Mr. Howells has a really fine story, and we wish he had let it run away with him as he repeatedly seems tempted to do. His irritating psychologist keeps interfering, however, and explaining away, and a good ghost story is well-nigh spoiled in consequence.


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