A History of the Modern British Ghost Story by Simon Hay (auth.)

By Simon Hay (auth.)

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The Baron, who knows our manners, and lives near our country, will apprize you of the time and means to be their protector. (p. 325) The protection Fergus begs, and that Edward promises, is premised upon and mediated by money, not action. Edward learns, in a sense, to be Mrs Baliol of ‘The Highland Widow’; the achievement of that kind of sympathetic spectatorship, of distance mediated by money, is both the goal for the characters of Edward’s type and the targeted reading experience. 4 It is a process, effectively, of learning to allow history to be a spectacle, and indeed at one remove: we watch, not history directly, but Edward watching history.

But modernity includes also the trace left behind in such stories, of origins traumatically suppressed, the trace, that is to say, of something that pre-exists the fantasy of autogenesis. Scott’s ghost stories and his historical novels both find themselves continually addressing the traumatic moment of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, but they do so to radically different ends. History, sympathy, and the narrative frame in Scott’s ghost stories In ‘The Highland Widow’ the ghost is that of Hamish MacTavish, a highlander whose pre-1745 income was secured mainly by way of blackmail.

Scott’s hero is one General Browne, of the British army, who in the course of a tour of the western counties finds that an old school friend of his, Lord Woodville, is living in the castle near a village that has taken Browne’s fancy. Browne visits the young lord, who we learn ‘had been Browne’s fag at Eton, and his chosen intimate at Christ Church’ (p. 17), Oxford. The lord insists that the general stay a week or so, and Browne is happy to do so. They spend together ‘a morning of manly exercise’ (p.

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