Friday, November 14, 2014

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde


The American Minister to the Court of St. James, Hiram B. Otis, buys Canterville Chase, despite the presence of a ghost.  He and his family are Americans and don't believe in things like ghosts.  Besides, Americans were carting off all the good European stuff to America (so says Wilde), so if there were such a thing as a ghost, they would have imported one by now.  

They become believers after they move in to Canterville Chase.  Sir Simon Canterville killed his wife three hundred years ago and disappeared nine years later.  A blood stain on the sitting-room floor cannot be permanently eradicated.  One of the Otis sons removes it with Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover, much to the dismay of the Canterville ghost, who has to reapply the stain every time it's cleaned off.  They leave oil out for the ghost to lubricate his chains so they don't clank so much.
The ghost does his best to frighten the Otis's, but the Otis twins succeed in frightening him more.  Poor old ghost!  

When the Otis's daughter, Virginia, finds him looking morose and tired, the ghost finally tell's her his woes.  He admits he killed his wife, he says he's sorry, but he can't be dead, something he longs for, until his body is buried.  Virginia agrees to pray for his sins to be forgiven and to help him to eternal rest.  The ghost takes her to the secret room where his skeleton is chained to the wall.  In revenge for killing his wife, he was left there to starve to death.

Virginia is missing while she's away with the ghost.  Her family is frantic, thinking she's been stolen by Gypsies or tramps.  Or drowned in the carp pond.  She reappears holding a small box of jewels that the ghost has given her for helping him.  She tells the ghost's tale to her family and shows them  the secret room and the skeleton.  A few days later, the skeleton is buried with ceremony under the almond tree, under the silver moon, where the ghost will find peace at last in death.

This is a lovely, sweet, funny short story or novella.  I read it on my Kindle as a Project Gutenberg download.


  1. Oh how wonderful this sounds! I will have to download it and plan on reading it for next year's RIP Challenge! Something to look forward to :)

    1. It's a fast read, probably less than 100 pages. I thought it was charming.

      (BTW, I bought a Lamy Al-Star graphite fountain pen today at Bromfield Pen in Boston. I love the way it feels and writes. I also indulged in a bottle of Noodler's Nightshade ink. I thought of you while I was in the store! I didn't see the notebooks you mentioned, though.)

    2. oh fun! I like Lamy pens. And I am fostering a growing affection for Noodler's ink too.

  2. Thanks, I'm definitely going to read this one.

    I thought you wouldn't be able to resist the pen and ink shop!

    1. No more pens or ink for me! The wooden box I keep my ink in is full. And how many pens can I write with in a single day? One line with each pen with a different color ink? Gaudy!

      I think you'll like The Canterville Ghost.