The letters which I now publish were sent to me recently by a person who knows me to be interested in ghost stories. There is no doubt about their authenticity. The paper on which they are written, the ink, and the whole external aspect put their date beyond the reach of question.
The only point which they do not make clear is the identity of the writer. He signs with initials only, and as none of the envelopes of the letters are preserved, the surname of his correspondent—obviously a married brother—is as obscure as his own. No further preliminary explanation is needed, I think. Luckily the first letter supplies all that could be expected.
GREAT CHRISHALL, Dec. 22, 1837.
MY DEAR ROBERT,—It is with great regret for the enjoyment I am losing, and for a reason which you will deplore equally with myself, that I write to inform you that I am unable to join your circle for this Christmas: but you will agree with me that it is unavoidable when I say that I have within these few hours received a letter from Mrs. Hunt at B——, to the effect that our Uncle Henry has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, and begging me to go down there immediately and join the search that is being made for him. Little as I, or you either, I think, have ever seen of Uncle, I naturally feel that this is not a request that can be regarded lightly, and accordingly I propose to go to B——by this afternoon’s mail, reaching it late in the evening. I shall not go to the Rectory, but put up at the King’s Head, and to which you may address letters. I enclose a small draft, which you will please make use of for the benefit of the young people. I shall write you daily (supposing me to be detained more than a single day) what goes on, and you may be sure, should the business be cleared up in time to permit of my coming to the Manor after all, I shall present myself. I have but a few minutes at disposal. With cordial greetings to you all, and many regrets, believe me, your affectionate Bro.,
KING’S HEAD, Dec. 23, ‘37.
MY DEAR ROBERT,—In the first place, there is as yet no news of Uncle H., and I think you may finally dismiss any idea—I won’t say hope—that I might after all ‘turn up’ for Xmas. However, my thoughts will be with you, and you have my best wishes for a really festive day. Mind that none of my nephews or nieces expend any fraction of their guineas on presents for me.
Since I got here I have been blaming myself for taking this affair of Uncle H. too easily. From what people here say, I gather that there is very little hope that he can still be alive; but whether it is accident or design that carried him off I cannot judge. The facts are these. On Friday the 19th, he went as usual shortly before five o’clock to read evening prayers at the Church; and when they were over the clerk brought him a message, in response to which he set off to pay a visit to a sick person at an outlying cottage the better part of two miles away. He paid the visit, and started on his return journey at about half-past six. This is the last that is known of him. The people here are very much grieved at his loss; he had been here many years, as you know, and though, as you also know, he was not the most genial of men, and had more than a little of the martinet in his composition, he seems to have been active in good works, and unsparing of trouble to himself.
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance
The Christmas ghost story is a lost tradition but was quite popular during the Victorian period. History.com has a history of the practice. That Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the only well-known version shouldn't take away from the fact that there are innumerable others. The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance, a 1913 story by M.R. James, is one such. You can read the James story online at this link or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,
Posted by Divers and Sundry at 2:00 AM
Labels: Advent/Christmas, Books
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Thanks for the link. The Victorians were fascinated with ghost stories, death & certainly the processes of grief. I think séances were quite popular during this period of time.ReplyDelete
I remember seances when I was a child. You don't hear much about them these days, but they were big during the Victorian period.Delete
...Dickens wrote a ghost story that never disappeared.ReplyDelete
I do like ghost stories!ReplyDelete
Me, too :)Delete
Reminds me of Punch and Judy shows but with a macarbe twist. Happy T Tuesday wishes and enjoy the rest of the holidays and New Year! Hugs Jo xReplyDelete
You never know where these stories are going to go.Delete
This sounds good! ValerieReplyDelete
He's a wonderful writer!Delete
I don't think I know any Christmas ghost stories other than Dickens.ReplyDelete
They used to be an annual thing.Delete
That's really interesting. I always wondered why Dickens made his most famous Christmas story have ghosts. When I get a minute later this evening I will watch the video. Hope your boil water order goes away soon. And happy T day.ReplyDelete
I was sooo happy when it was lifted!Delete
This was fascinating. Hope you have a super T Tuesday, dear Nita.ReplyDelete
I'm just living on FB during the crisis here, I'm afraid. Checking up on the blogging community now.Delete