By Simon Hay (auth.)
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Additional resources for A History of the Modern British Ghost Story
He also, that is, functions as something like a ghost, the remnant of the past persisting into the present, his way of life superseded by commercial society, a ﬁgure who now makes his living through commodifying his own links to that past. The focus of the memorandum, written forty years after the tour took place, is Mrs Baliol’s record of the story she was told on that tour by Elspat MacTavish, describing Elspat’s son’s encounter with the ghost of his father. If that sounds confusing, it should.
Which at once impelled me to approach the sufferer and speak to her words of comfort, or rather of pity, and at the same time made me afraid to do so’ (pp. 144–5). The tone of her trip, and of her narrative, is not so much one of Enlightened skepticism (which we might expect from her sneering dismissal of the Highlanders’ belief in the marvelous) but rather one of wistful yearning: At one point, she tells us she travels about ‘Musing, like the Irish lady in the song, “upon things which are long enough a-gone” ’ (p.
Mrs Baliol tells us, by way of asserting the veracity of her recounting and the trustworthiness of her observational powers, ‘I am, you know, the sister of soldiers’ (p. 140); martial violence is present throughout the story, but here it serves as a marker of her reliability, of the unlikeliness of her being carried away by these Romantic scenes and places, of her ability to maintain a rational and skeptical perspective. And yet the different martial violence of the Highlanders is a key part of their feudal heroism, hence their irrationality.
A History of the Modern British Ghost Story by Simon Hay (auth.)