A sinister posset of spells, curses and incantations, to be read for maximum effect on ghostly, starless nights. Not all witches are repellent old crones. Perhaps more suited to Victorian tastes were the fragile, virginal maidens ensnared into illicit communion with The Prince of Darkness who beguiled young swains with their ""silver laugh"" to certain perdition (""She has drained of health, she has drained of mind and soul""). Coming from the quills of genteel Victorian matrons whiling away the hours between needlework and afternoon tea, these tales of ""exquisite tortures,"" maimed, defiled, and branded women, palpitate with repressed horrors and unspeakable rites. The dozen and a half authoresses represented were, many of them, eminent in their own day -- Mrs. E. Lynn Linton was a distinguished vicar's daughter, Lady Duff-Gordon's father was the noted philosopher, John Austin, and several others were members of ""scientific"" societies devoted to the study of occult or psychic phenomena. As literature their tales are pale and histrionic; as social history of pre-Freudian sexual darkness they hold considerable interest. Many of these little cameos of sado-masochism were originally presented in such loved Victorian family magazines as The Strand. All are worthy of the attentions of Steven Marcus and other students of the nether world of Victorian respectability on the darker side of the moon.