As vehicles for giving readers the willies, they are most effective. When I reread “Caterpillars”, for the first time in four decades, I very quickly regretted that I had chosen to do so at night. Gatiss, in his introduction, says that it is “perhaps a ghost story like no other”, and he’s not wrong: it’s the kind of story that leaves one feeling almost unclean, checking clothes and body for vermin.
Lazard rightly observes that the late Victorian era produced some superb authors of weird fiction, and that this might reflect a growing fascination with the workings of the unconscious. But, as he also observes, Benson's stories survive because they are well-constructed. He may always be overshadowed by M.R. James in the ghost story genre, but at his best he produced some classic tales such as 'The Face', 'Caterpillars', and 'The Room in the Tower'. And it's no mean feat to excel in two distinct areas - Benson also created the small, amusing world of Mapp and Lucia.