By Simon Hay (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of the Modern British Ghost Story
It is supposed to have happened several years after she had attracted the attention of my excellent friend Mrs Bethune Baliol’ (p. 209). He goes on to give some of the consequences of Mrs Baliol’s sympathy, distinguishing his own disinterestedness from her interestedness. ‘Her benevolence . . ’ This charity has an effect, however, only on Mrs Baliol; for the widow, it was ‘a matter of total indifference’ (p. 209). More than indifference, even, the Highlander turns against any charity with ‘an extreme resentment’ (p.
141). In the character of Mrs Baliol are united a satisfaction with modernization and a keening for the past that has been erased by that modernization. Mrs Baliol, for all her romanticism, does not herself encounter a ghost: she is too English, too cosmopolitan, not agrarian or provincial A Failed Modernity 33 enough to be haunted. She comes, she says, ‘of a race not greatly subject to apprehensions arising from imagination only’ (p. 135). Here, unlike in ‘The Open Door,’ it is the poor and the socially marginal who are haunted by the ghost and thereby associated with it.
Scott’s historical novels, especially one like The Antiquary, sometimes set up such narrative layers, but not to the same effect. In ‘The Highland Widow,’ we can think of the story’s project as making visible the deﬁnitional collapse on which the sympathetic project depends. ‘The Highland Widow’ sets out precisely to make visible the limits and failures of sentimental philanthropy, but then this critique is substantively different from the account Scott gives in his historical novels. If we now consider instead how sympathy is generated and deployed in Waverley, we will see that the historical novel invites the experiment of sympathy with a particular suffering or dead body, only to substitute for it a generalized compassion or wistfulness; sympathy as such substitutes for sympathy for this particular thing.
A History of the Modern British Ghost Story by Simon Hay (auth.)