William Mudford (8 January 1782 – 10 March 1848)  was a British writer, essayist, translator of literary works and journalist.  He also wrote critical and philosophical essays and reviews. His 1829 novel The Five Nights of St. Albans: A Romance of the Sixteenth Century received a good review from John Gibson Lockhart, an achievement which was considered a rare distinction. Mudford also published short fictional stories which were featured in periodicals such as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine , Fraser's Magazine , and Bentley's Miscellany .  His short story "The Iron Shroud", about an iron torture chamber which shrinks through mechanical action and eventually crushes the victim inside,  was first published in August 1830 by Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, and later republished separately in 1839 and 1840 with the subtitle "Italian Revenge".   Edgar Allan Poe is considered to have been influenced by "The Iron Shroud" when he wrote "The Pit and the Pendulum" having got his idea for the shrinking chamber from Mudford's story.    Mudford was born in London, where his father made a living as a shopkeeper in Piccadilly. He was influenced by John Milton, Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson, William Cowper, William Collins, Mark Akenside, Thomas Gray, and Oliver Goldsmith. 
Mudford was born in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly, London, on 8 January 1782.  He exhibited an interest in political philosophy and attended lectures at the university of Edinburgh where he befriended John Black who, at the time, was also a student at the university. Later, Mudford published a series of letters exchanged with Black in William Cobbett's Political Register. The letters centred around a debate about classical education. In the exchanges, Mudford had argued against the merits of classical education, while Black supported the opposite side. In 1810 Mudford published a series of essays under the title The Contemplatist, which were originally published in instalments in a weekly periodical under the same title.  He later joined the Morning Chronicle as a parliamentary reporter. Departing from the Chronicle he was employed first as assistant editor, and then as the editor of the Courier which at the time was an influential evening journal on par with the Times. After he came to a disagreement with the owners of the Courier over policy matters, Mudform resigned from the journal and issued a letter justifying his actions. His letter drew a lot of attention at the time. In the aftermath of his departure the Courier lost readership and eventually closed while attempts at inviting Mudford back at the journal proved unsuccessful. 
Mudford has been described by Sir Walter Scott as an author who "loves to play at cherry-pit with Satan."; a Shakespearean expression used to indicate familiarity with the Devil.   John H. Collins, analysing the influence of Mudford's work, comments that "the Shroud story is a first rate piece of writing comparable to the best half-dozen works by Poe" and that "it should not just be dismissed as a mere potboiler which the genius of Poe transformed."  He goes on to mention that he thinks many readers mistakenly think that the "Iron Shroud" is one of Poe's works thus further strengthening Poe's reputation by attributing to him a story that he actually plagiarised.  In the Dictionary of Literary Biography Mudford's writing is described as vigorous while as a writer he is called a master at creating atmosphere. In the same source, his stories are analysed as lacking the subtlety and psychological depth found in the writings of Edgar Allan Poe but they are described as amusing and entertaining. 
In 1803 Mudford published his first novel, Augustus and Mary also known as The Maid of Buttermere: A Domestic Tale. Following that, Mudford made a living occupied by more mundane work such as translating foreign works and editing essays and other literary works. He also wrote his second novel Nubilia in Search of a Husband which was his response to the popular Coelebs in Search of a Wife by Hannah More and was clearly aimed at capitalising on the market success of the novel by More. 
As a young man Mudford showed his ambition by contacting influential and powerful men. When only seventeen, Mudford approached the producer of the Covent Garden Theatre John Philip Kemble, with the suggestion of issuing a pamphlet in his honour. Years later this was followed by a proposal for a theatrical play which was rejected by Kemble. The play itself was subsequently lost. Mudford, at 18, followed the Duke of Kent to Gibraltar as his assistant secretary.  Mudford was a Tory and a supporter of the foreign minister of the era George Canning.  Mudford was also a close friend and supporter of Samuel Taylor. 
At the age of forty he lost a lot of money in speculative ventures in the stock market and had to start again financially. He worked very hard and accepted an offer from the conservative party in East Kent to become the editor of the Kentish Observer . He finally settled in Canterbury and eventually became the owner of the Kentish Observer. He contributed regularly to Blackwood's Magazine and sometimes he wrote a story, a review, and a political paper in the same issue. His series of First and Last stories were very popular as were his contributions under the nickname of The Silent Member. In 1841 Mudford moved back to London where he succeeded Theodore Hook as editor of the John Bull magazine all the while maintaining his connection with the Kentish Observer. During this period his health started declining but he still kept a busy work schedule. In 1848 he wrote his last article on the topic of the French revolution which appeared in the John Bull on 5 March of the same year. 
Mudford while employed at the Morning Chronicle met William Hazlitt who was also working as a journalist there. A rivalry developed between the two and Hazlitt became one of Mudford's detractors. In Hazlitt's essay in Table-Talk published in 1821 under the title Coffee-House Politicians, Roger Kirkpatrick, one of Hazlitt's friends, is described as a Mudford impersonator. In the essay Mudford was described by Hazlitt as a Contemplative Manwho wrote an answer to Coelebs. Hazlitt then goes on to describe him as a man made of fleecy hosiery and fat, pert, and dull as it was possible to be. Hazlitt thought that Mudford was a political hack-type journalist and a government tool and he often criticised and ridiculed him. 
Charles Dickens used a parody of Mudford's name when he wrote the Mudfog Sketches, creating the town of Mudfog as a parody of Chatham.  Mudford was also a founder member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and was among those who voted to create the organisation on 16 June 1824 at Old Slaughter's Coffee House, London. 
Mudford died at 5 Harrington Square, Hampstead Road, on 10 March 1848, leaving a widow and eight children. His second son, William Heseltine Mudford, became the editor of the Standard in 1894.  In Mudford's obituary, appearing in the June 1848 issue of Gentleman's Magazine, his abilities as the editor of the Courier were praised.  The entry on Mudford for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography appeared in 2004, written by David Finkelstein . 
Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She wrote seven novels: Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1862–63), Felix Holt, the Radical (1866), Middlemarch (1871–72) and Daniel Deronda (1876). Like Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, she emerged from provincial England; most of her works are set there. Her works are known for their realism, psychological insight, sense of place and detailed depiction of the countryside.
"The Pit and the Pendulum" is a short story by American writer Edgar Allan Poe and first published in 1842 in the literary annual The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843. The story is about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, though Poe skews historical facts. The narrator of the story describes his experience of being tortured. The story is especially effective at inspiring fear in the reader because of its heavy focus on the senses, such as sound, emphasizing its reality, unlike many of Poe's stories which are aided by the supernatural. The traditional elements established in popular horror tales at the time are followed, but critical reception has been mixed. The tale has been adapted to film several times.
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William Hazlitt was an English essayist, drama and literary critic, painter, social commentator, and philosopher. He is now considered one of the greatest critics and essayists in the history of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. He is also acknowledged as the finest art critic of his age. Despite his high standing among historians of literature and art, his work is currently little read and mostly out of print.
Algernon Henry Blackwood, CBE was an English broadcasting narrator, journalist, novelist and short story writer, and among the most prolific ghost story writers in the history of the genre. The literary critic S. T. Joshi stated, "His work is more consistently meritorious than any weird writer's except Dunsany's" and that his short story collection Incredible Adventures (1914) "may be the premier weird collection of this or any other century".
James Henry Leigh Hunt, best known as Leigh Hunt, was an English critic, essayist and poet.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall Pym, including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is saved by the crew of the Jane Guy. Aboard this vessel, Pym and a sailor named Dirk Peters continue their adventures farther south. Docking on land, they encounter hostile black-skinned natives before escaping back to the ocean. The novel ends abruptly as Pym and Peters continue toward the South Pole.
Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant was a Scottish novelist and historical writer, who usually wrote as Mrs. Oliphant. Her fictional works cover "domestic realism, the historical novel and tales of the supernatural".
William Gilmore Simms was an American writer and politician from the American South who was a "staunch defender" of slavery. A poet, novelist, and historian, his History of South Carolina served as the definitive textbook on state history for much of the 20th century. Literary scholars consider him a major force in antebellum Southern literature; in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe pronounced him the best novelist America had ever produced. Throughout much of his literary career he served as editor of several journals and newspapers. He also served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1844–1846.
John Neal was an American writer, critic, editor, lecturer, and activist. Considered both eccentric and influential, he delivered speeches and published essays, novels, poems, and short stories between the 1810s and 1870s in the United States and Great Britain, championing American literary nationalism and regionalism in their earliest stages. Neal advanced the development of American art, fought for women's rights, advocated the end of slavery and racial prejudice, and helped establish the American gymnastics movement.
Bentley's Miscellany was an English literary magazine started by Richard Bentley. It was published between 1836 and 1868.
Blackwood's Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. It was founded by the publisher William Blackwood and was originally called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The first number appeared in April 1817 under the editorship of Thomas Pringle and James Cleghorn. The journal was unsuccessful and Blackwood fired Pringle and Cleghorn and relaunched the journal as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine under his own editorship. The journal eventually adopted the shorter name and from the relaunch often referred to itself as Maga. The title page bore the image of George Buchanan, a 16th-century Scottish historian, religious and political thinker.
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"The Iron Shroud" or less commonly known as the "Italian Revenge" is a short story of Gothic fiction written by William Mudford in 1830 and published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine and also as a twenty four page chapbook. It is a classic predicament story about a noble Italian hero who is confined in a continuously and imperceptibly contracting iron torture chamber. In the story, the chamber walls and ceiling are slowly contracting, day by day, through mechanical means, to the point of eventually crushing and enveloping the victim, thus metaphorically becoming his iron shroud. The story is considered to have provided Edgar Allan Poe with the idea of the shrinking cell in his short story "The Pit and the Pendulum" and it is viewed as Mudford's most famous tale.
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The Round Table is a collection of essays by William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt published in 1817. Hazlitt contributed 40 essays, while Hunt submitted 12.
William Blackwood and Sons was a Scottish publishing house and printer founded by William Blackwood in 1804. It played a key role in literary history, publishing many important authors, for example John Buchan, George Tomkyns Chesney, Joseph Conrad, George Eliot, E. M. Forster, John Galt, John Neal, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Reade, Margaret Oliphant, John Hanning Speke and Anthony Trollope, both in books and in the monthly Blackwood’s Magazine.
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