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Introduction: Our Own Ghostliness

  • Victoria MargreeEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Published in 1916, Henrietta (H. D.) Everett’s ‘The Whispering Wall’ testifies to the potent afterlife of the Victorian ghost story in the first decades of the twentieth century. Deploying familiar tropes such as a haunted ancestral pile and a cursed aristocratic line, Everett’s story begins as an Edwardian invocation of the traditional nineteenth-century form before seguing into an elegy for the lost youth of the First World War. The ‘light-hearted undergraduates’ we meet in the opening sentences, ‘laughing uproariously’ at tales of the supernatural, seem just the kind of sceptical, boisterous young men whom the Victorian women’s ghost story in particular had always delighted in humbling (2006, 203). Yet the spectre that really overshadows these men’s lives is nothing supernatural. The narrator encounters the family ghost of his friend, Jack Lovell, as a whispering sound that travels along a wall at the latter’s English family estate, Marchmont, but the two men can make no sense of the apparent words it utters: ‘Ah-mont-year’ (206). It is only later, once war has broken out and Jack lies in a military hospital in France, that the whispering sounds can be interpreted. ‘The child at Marchmont wants me’ he tells the narrator, ‘he was always whispering for me to come and play’ (207). Jack now understands that the ghostly child was saying not ‘Ah-mont-year’ but ‘Armentieres’—the name of the place where he would be mortally wounded in combat.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrightonBrightonUK

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