Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The All-Time Best Short Stories: A List from the New York Times, 1914

Famous Authors Select the Best Short Stories: 1914.

My fascination with lists is long-standing. Many early lists represent discrete bits of history and reveal the mindset of their times. While researching information on Arthur Conan Doyle, a character in my upcoming novel, A Predator's Game, I ran across an article in the January 25th, 1914 issue of the New York Times in which the journalist queried 26 of the most famous authors of the day as to what is the best short story in English. The list of respondents included: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Booth Tarkington, Jack London, Owen Wister and Edna Ferber. They made a total of 49 selections.

With a list of their choices on hand, I decided to track down the stories for personal consumption. I figured since they were all public domain, so they would probably be readily accessible. After laboring for two weeks to compile the stories, sometimes finding them poorly scanned with many typographical errors or else not available at all online, I realized how much time I had spent and wished someone had done the work done for me.

So, I put together a series of volumes of the best short stories, wrote up some introductions and found a publisher.

First thing to note. I suspect they didn't use the word, "novella" or "novelette" at this time. Many of the "short stories" were lengthy, up to 40,000 words (The Turn of the Screw and Heart of Darkness). The selections totaled over 500,000 words, filling three volumes, each with 500 pages.

So, What Were the Short Stories?

Those selected by four authors:
  • A Lodging for the Night by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte

Those selected by three authors:
  • The Brushwood Boy by Rudyard Kipling
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
  • A Municipal Report by O. Henry
  • Without Benefit of Clergy by Rudyard Kipling

Those selected by two authors:
  • The Belled Buzzard by Irvin S. Cobb
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Luck of the Roaring Camp by Bret Harte
  • The Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale

Those selected by one author:
  • Beyond the Pale by Rudyard Kipling
  • Bread Upon the Waters by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
  • Cinderella by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
  • The Claws of the Tiger by Gouverneur Morris IV
  • The Cricket on the Hearth, A Fairy Tale of Home by Charles Dickens
  • Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens
  • The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Gifts of Oblivion by Dorothy Canfield
  • The Haunted and the Haunters; Or, The House and the Brain by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • His Wife by Stephen French Whitman
  • An Incident by Sarah Barnwell Elliott
  • A Journey by Edith Wharton
  • Love in a Mist by A. Neil Lyons
  • The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling
  • Marjorie Daw by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  • Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
  • The Pavilion on the Links by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Piece of String by Guy de Maupassant
  • Providence and the Guitar by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Rebecca and Rowena by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
  • The Stolen Story by Jesse Lynch Williams
  • The Story of Richard Doubledick by Charles Dickens
  • The Story of Ruth Anonymous
  • Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • An Unfinished Story by O. Henry
  • Will o’ the Mill by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Wolfert Webber; or, Golden Dreams by Washington Irving

To be continued with notes on the stories and the history of short stories.

 Volume1 cover Volume3




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