Monday, May 29, 2017

Gestures of ghosts: Haunted Scholars: Antiquarian Ghost Stories from Cambridge Magazines




Haunted Scholars: Antiquarian Ghost Stories from Cambridge Magazines by 'B', 'D.N.J.' and one other

This is a refreshing collection of occasional and fugitive pieces out of Edwardian Cambridge. All are well-handled, braiding insidiously together their anecdotes, manuscript extracts, and diary entries to form entertaining antiquarian ghost stories.

"Moon-Gazer" is the strongest, and its marshalling of peripheral suggestion is very well done.

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A few underlinings or glosses on the contents:

Contents

STORIES BY 'B.'

The Strange Case of Mr Naylor
....Yet I saw what he held in his hand, and it was a small white Bone. Coming closer, I saw a horrid sight, which vexes me extreamly to remember. A face, very pale, with holes where eyes and mouth should be, hung in ye air.

When the Door is Shut
....Mr Mauleverer opening the door one evening saw something looking round one of the jambs, and perceived that it was a little ape, with white teeth and large eyes; it looked wickedly at him, and tried to dodge into the house; but Mr Mauleverer was too quick for it, and straddled across the threshold....

The Strange Fate of Mr Peach
"I have a most singular desire, doubtless an unregenerate one, to see the other side of all doorways."

Quia Nominor
....He woke with a sense of great discomfort, feeling as though something had leaned over him and touched his arm; he had felt, he thought, a hot and fetid breath on his face; and what added much to his alarm was that he could discern the heavy scent of a bear....

The Stone Coffin
....There was something drawn over the head of it; and the face was very white; now, as I think of it, I believe it had no eyes; it said something to me, which still sounds in my ears like Latin, in a very low voice; and it seemed to be angry - Yes, Sir, it was angry, was that person!"

The Hole in the Wall
....Then suddenly in the middle of it, I become aware that someone is drawing near. I don't know who or what it is, but he - or it - comes upstairs, I think, very cautiously, as if it was all dark, feeling his way; he is afraid of something, afraid of being seen, and he is carrying something.

The Hare
....He laid his pipe down on the chimney-piece, when out of the corner of his eye he suddenly saw something run out of the recess and across the room. It was a very curious object, so far as he could make it out - but the light was dim, and it was gone before he could fix it. It looked about the size of a hare, and it seemed to him to have long ears; it did not run on all-fours, but on its hind-legs, with its fore-paws stretched out in front of it.

STORIES BY 'D.N.J'

The Journal of Edward Hargood
....  "Nov. 7. to-night had in Mr Morden of Catherine Hall, who talk of publishing Dunning's old papers, which worthless, when a most surprising Occurence. I was standing talking to M. seated before me, when he goes into a Fit, becoming first much suffused with Blood in the Face, andvery red, his eyes shooting out, as he saw something which frightened [him]. Then he became very pale, his mouth dropping down in a Grin, and he waves, half rising from the Chair, his Hand at the Mirrour behind me, as if he saw something, and falls in a Swoon upon the Floor. I have in help and he was carried to his Rooms. I am curious to know what gave him such Terrour and what he thought to see behind me."

The Moon-Gazer
....he is in an orchard under a vacuous full-moon: in the centre of the picture is a tall tree, and against its trunk leans a rickety ladder. A first glance does not reveal the inevitable Dr Gerschovius, but soon we descry him among the leaves in the tree, climbing, and stretching out his hand to touch - what is it? Just above his head, a dark naked leg hangs down as though someone were sitting astride a bough, and stretching down through the leaves towards the toiling Doctor is a long, thin hand.

STORIES BY ONE OTHER

An Old MS.
....and then a tense silence, on which there broke a horrible withered cry of madness and fear, that rose and fell upon the night, until another voice seemed to join in, like a reverberation in nightmare, shouting down the first cry in hideous mockery, until both died away in smothered sobs.

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The last lines of B.'s story "The Hole in the Wall" could serve as a pendant for the entire history of this genre:

"....I believe we are right in the middle of some very queer things indeed, and I believe it's lucky for us that we so rarely knock up against them!"

Artist John Piper

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