Monday, January 23, 2017

Mount TBR #3

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

The Haunted  House – Charles Dickens

Dickens ran a weekly magazine called All the Year Round. In the Victorian era, magazines catered to the wish of the public for reading aloud ghost stories at Christmas time. So for its Christmas number of 1859, Dickens got some fellow authors to collaborate on a connected tale. The authors we still read today are Elizabeth “North and South” Gaskell and Wilkie “The Woman in White” Collins while the forgotten ones are Hesba Stretton, George Augustus Sala, and Adelaide Anne Proctor.

Dickens himself opens the story by narrating a tale in which a skeptical guy decides to rent a haunted house.  The spooks run off his servants, which gives Dickens a change to strut his comic stuff. It’s very funny though we post-moderns think that Dickens' makes too much fun of female servants. Not giving up, the narrator recruits some friends to stay in the house to rustle up any wraiths or ghouls or spectres. They gather round the fire to recount stories of what happened in their respective rooms.

The stories, however, are not ghost stories of the M.R. James type. Rather, they are well-told tales of wrong-doing, trepidation, or pangs of guilt. Long on atmosphere, short on shades and phantoms. But it’s fun to read nevertheless. There is also the appeal that one is reading neglected, out of the way fiction that the squares don’t even know about. I read this in an edition published by Hesperus Press, which reprints little-known works by famous writers.

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