‘Shot of Short’ #17: The Iron Shroud

Title: The Iron Shroud by William Mudford
Date Read: 25 January 2008
Available Online?: YES

Briefly: Held captive by the Prince of Tolfi, Vivenzio is resigned to the fact that he will never know freedom again, and will die under captivity. The only question remaining in Vivenzio’s mind is exactly how he will die and when. It is not long before he realises his method of execution, and it’s one that he can visually witness drawing nearer every day, a death of unimaginable horror and a death that will not require him to leave his rock-encircled dungeon

Afterthoughts: Ever since Paul Collins mentioned the plot of this short story in Sixpence House (and the fact that it originated from Blackwood’s Magazine, a favourite periodical of Edgar Allan Poe), I’ve been really eager to read it. I recommended it last week solely on the premise of the plot but now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can declare it to be a little beauty!

If you’re a fan of Victorian Gothic then you really can’t miss out on reading this. The story is well up to the standard of anything Poe has ever produced and Mudford’s prose is a delight to read. What he encapsulates better than anything is the fear that’s aroused when one is facing an inevitable death. The build-up is edgy, compelling and anxious and there’s a nice little twist thrown in at the end. Superb!

Notable Quote: “How dismal was the sound of their retiring steps! And, as their faint echoes died along the winding passages, a fearful presage grew within him, that never more the face, or voice, or tread, of man would greet his senses. He had seen human beings for the last time! And he had looked his last upon the bright sky, and upon the smiling earth, and upon a beautiful world he loved, and whose minion he had been! Here he was to end his life–a life he had just begun to revel in! And by what means? By secret poison? or by murderous assault?”

Rating: ★★★★½

*Story read as part of my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. I’m doing my masters on the tales from Blackwood’s Magazine, and this one’s a pearl. Especially interesting to see the many links between it and Poe’s ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’.

    I can recommend many more, but William Godwin Jr.’s ‘The Executioner’ is my personal favourite!

    Also see Maginn’s ‘The Man in the Bell’ (another influence on Poe), ‘The Buried Alive’ by John Galt and ‘The Spectre-Smitten’ by Samuel Warren.

  2. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Hege – I may not know you but I love you already. What a fascinating subject to base your Masters on. I wish you every success with it. You need to tell me more when you have time though – Why you chose to particularly focus on Blackwood’s? How long you’ve been doing it for? What university? What degree? Nosy and intrusive I know but you’ve piqued my interest :o) Email me – rob@robaroundbooks.com, if you’d rather not be too public.

    I will of course track down and read every one of these stories (I’m plugging in the eReader as I type. Seriously I am. It’s not true that guys can’t multitask :o)), because I couldn’t possibly ignore someone who’s academically involved with them. Besides they all sound so deliciously gruesome *evil grin*

    Anyway thank you for taking the time to drop by, and thanks again for the recommendations. Hope to hear from you soon.