Publication Date
February 29, 2020

A Phantom Lover

Vernon Lee

“. . . as dangerous and uncanny as she is intelligent . . .” —Henry James

If you are the housewife of a very good, very kind husband, parade your bad attitude in the most careless fashion possible. Refuse to have children. Fall in love with the resident ghost. Obsess over your namesake, doppelgänger ancestor. Wear her musty clothes to the dinner party instead of the ones your husband wants you to wear. Stoke his jealousy for weeks. When he accuses you, gaslight him: “No one was walking with me near the pond, at five o’clock or any other hour.” Spend your days in the yellow room, luxuriating in love letters written to your beloved murderess. Do this all while eluding the gaze of the male portrait painter, yet another man who would define you.

With echoes of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” A Phantom Lover creates an otherworldly space for this provocative femme fatale to live and love as she pleases.

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About the Author

Vernon Lee (1856–1935), the pen name of Violet Paget, was a queer intellectual, feminist, and pacifist. She wrote groundbreaking treatises on art and aesthetics, essays on topics from history to travel to music, and supernatural fiction. Widely respected despite her contentious nature, Lee attracted a large circle of literary friends including H. G. Wells, Edith Wharton, and Oscar Wilde.