Best known for the short story “The Lady? or, The Tiger?” Stockton was a very prolific writer, churning out history, novels, travelogues, and humor, often incorporating all of the above into one work.
His was a warm and well-mannered voice, with a sense of irony similar to James Thurber’s, in my opinion.
I’ve reproduced four collections of short stories here, line-edited and scanning errors removed. I encourage you to visit his page at Gutenberg.org to explore further, and please tell me if you come across anything that I ought to add here.
A adventure of elves, fairies and giants, told in five longer stories. Stockton leaps, so to speak, from one point of view to the other with ease.
Stockton turns his hand to Children’s whimsey.
The Prince has no kingdom to be prince of (hence the term “floating”), and decides to create one by enlisting the people he meets on his travels. Naturally, he ends up with a wild assortment of individuals– fairies and giants, schoolboys and shepherds, philosophers and clam rakers. The stories in this book explicate the adventures of many of these various members of his retinue — what we now might call “in the universe of the Floating Prince. ”
Read the title story online
The Lady? Or the Tiger? Published 1884
Besides the eponymous puzzle-story, this book has comedic ghosts, humorous writers, funny artists, kindly and romantic businessmen, folksy hunters and fishermen and some epistolary advice one would be well-advised to ignore. Oh, and a shipwreck!
I laughed out loud repeatedly as I edited this book.
The dialect story “That same old ‘Coon” contains a racial slur we do our best to avoid, these one hundred and thirty years later. Finding not one single occasion where it was necessary, I allowed myself lese-editè and altered the text. In the interests of historical preservation, of course, the un-bowdlerised version is available on request.
One day, a Junior Wizard tells the Bee-Man that he wasn’t always a wizened little old man who lives on honey and in the company of thousands of golden insects. In fact, he has been transformed– but from what, the young man can’t say, for his studies are not yet that advanced, and the Bee-Man sets off to find his true form. Will he succeed?
(Spoiler; of course he will!)
In other stories, a Griffin descends on a small town and attaches himself to a Minor Canon, willy-nilly;
A sweet Dryad cares deeply about an old man and his even older mother;
A Merchant Captain is delayed in getting home for Christmas– there’s so much to do out on the open sea!
Stockton’s whimsey is matured and finely honed in these stories.