Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart

(1844-1911) US novelist and poet, also known as Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward or Mrs Herbert Dickinson Ward after her marriage in 1898. Her reputation rests on The Gates Ajar (1868), the story of a grieving sister whose brother died in the Civil War. An aunt makes her believe in the Immortality of the Soul and the hope of an Afterlife. The sequels, Beyond the Gates (1883), The Gates Between (1887) and Within the Gates (1901) are strong spiritualist books (> Spiritualism) that explore different aspects of the afterlife and its meaning to various individuals. Mark Twain wrote a satire of the first book, Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (1909), but held back publication for over 40 years for fear it would upset people. ESP also wrote a number of Ghost Stories. Some of the earliest, collected in Men, Women and Ghosts (coll 1869) are humorous, although "Kentucky's Ghost", about a revengeful stowaway killed at sea, has much atmosphere. Her later stories are more melancholic and reflective; Sealed Orders (coll 1879) and The Empty House (coll 1910) contain the most effective of these, though not all are supernatural fiction. With her husband, Herbert D Ward (1861-1932), she wrote The Master of the Magicians (1890). [MA]

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.