By Simon Hay (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of the Modern British Ghost Story
The novel might be a neo-romance, but then it is a romance of an oddly sociological kind, insisting on the ways that political conditions produce particular characters, behaviors, and situations. The novel’s narrator explains that his narrative will not be comprehensible outside such a frame: I beg pardon, once and for all, of all those readers who take up novels merely for amusement, for plaguing them so long with old-fashioned politics, and Whig and Tory, and Hanoverians and Jacobites. The truth is, I cannot promise them that this story shall be intelligible, not to say probable, without it.
Though the default mode of haunting, as we shall see in the chapters that follow, is for the ghost to demand a return to pre-capitalist modes, or to warn against the adoption of and adaptation to capitalism (in land, inheritance, family, or honor), the ghost of this story takes the opposite role. Hamish’s mother Elspat assumes the anti-capitalist position, demanding that Hamish resist his incorporation into an imperial modernity, asking him to turn against his fellow-soldiers and ﬂee to the Highlands, instead of ﬁghting for the English.
If that sounds confusing, it should. The story is ﬁltered to us through a series of narrative frames: an unnamed narrator tells us a story he read in Mrs Baliol’s memorandum, in which she records a story told to her forty years before she writes it down, told by the mother of the person who actually encountered the ghost. Such a series of ﬁlters becomes typical of the ghost story, especially as standardized by Dickens in his Christmas specials. The story’s frame narrator gives us only the ﬁrst few paragraphs of the story, and then disappears until the end, when he returns not in order to conclude anything, but rather to introduce for us the inconclusiveness with which the story ends: of Elspat’s life, this narrator says, ‘the reader is already as far acquainted as I have the power of making him.
A History of the Modern British Ghost Story by Simon Hay (auth.)