authorOscar Fingal OFlahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) wasan Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he becameone of Londons most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, plays and the circumstances of his imprisonment, followed by his earlydeath.Wildes parents were successful Dublin intellectuals, and their son showed hisintelligence early by becoming fluent in French and German. At university Wilderead Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, thenat Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophyof aestheticism (led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin), though he alsoprofoundly explored Roman Catholicism, to which he would later convert on hisdeathbed. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and socialcircles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities:he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States of America and Canada onthe new "English Renaissance in Art", and then returned to London where he worked
authorAt the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series ofdialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty intohis only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aestheticdetails precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to writedrama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence.Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made himone of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.At the height of his fame and success, whilst his masterpiece, The Importance of BeingEarnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde sued the father of his lover, LordAlfred Douglas, for libel. After a series of trials, Wilde was convicted of grossindecency with other men and imprisoned for two years, held to hard labour. In prison hewrote De Profundis (1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through histrials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his releasehe left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his
introduction"The Canterville Ghost was first published serially in 1887 in Court and Society Review,a magazine for the leisured upper classes. The story did not immediately receive muchcritical attention, and indeed Wilde was not viewed as an important author until thepublication, during the 1890s, of his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and ofseveral well-received plays, including The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In 1891,‘‘The Canterville Ghost’’ was republished in Lord Arthur Saviles Crime, and OtherStories.
introduction The collected stories were severely criticized by contemporary reviewers; early critics found Wildes work unoriginal and derivative. More recently critics have celebrated Wildes ability to play with the conventions of many genres. In ‘‘The Canterville Ghost,’’ Wilde draws upon fairy tales, Gothic novels, and stories of Americans abroad to shape his comic ghost story. Though Wilde offers a comic treatment, he finds inspiration for Sir Simons character in Alfred Tennysons serious poem "Maud," as well as in the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridges "Christabel." Critics also point to the possible influence of Henry Jamess Portrait of a Lady (1881) on ‘‘The Canterville Ghost.’’
introduction Wilde used a myriad of comic sources to shape his story. Thomas De Quinceys ‘‘Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,’’ a satirical essay, is one apparent source. Wilde would also have been aware of Jane Austens Northanger Abbey (1818), a parody of the Gothic novel so popular in the early nineteenth century. Finally, Wildes own experience on the lecture circuit in the United States undoubtedly helped him ridicule stereotypical American behavior. Indeed, one of the major themes in the story is the culture clash between a sixteenth-century English ghost and a late nineteenth- century American family. But the story also examines the disparity between the public self and the private self, a theme to which Wilde would return again in his later writings.
Purchasing Canterville ChaseAs the story opens, Horace B. Otis, the brusque American minister, ignores the warnings of several English friends and buys the haunted Canterville Chase. Lord Canterville desires to sell the home but feels honor-bound to tell Otis stories of skeleton hands and mysterious noises. However, Otis refuses to believe in the existence of ghosts.
The Persistent Blood StainThe Otis family moves into the Chase, a Tudor mansion. Mrs. Lucretia Otis, disturbed by a blood stain in the sitting-room, orders that it be removed at once. But the housekeeper, Mrs. Umney, explains that the blood stain dates back to 1575, the day Lady Eleanore de Canterville was murdered by her husband, Sir Simon, and cannot be removed. Washington Otis, the oldest son, quickly declares that Pinkertons Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will prove a match for even so historic a stain. Before the housekeeper can stop him, Washington drops to his knees and scrubs out the blood. Thunder and lightening greet his success, and Mrs. Umney faints in fear. The stain, however, reappears the following morning, and again Pinkertons is applied. But each successive morning brings a new stain, and the Otises begin to believe that the Chase really is haunted.
The Ghost AppearsSeveral nights later, Mr. Otis awakes to the sound of clanking metal. In the hallway, he encounters a ghost with burning-red eyes, matted hair, and heavy chains. As a practical American, Mr. Otis suggests to the Ghost that Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator will quiet his chains. The Ghost, stunned by this effrontery, is further insulted as the young Otis twin boys throw pillows at his head. The Ghost retires to his chamber and ponders his past glories of terrifying housemaids and driving members of the aristocracy to madness and suicide. Refusing to be intimidated by upstart Americans, the Ghost plans his revenge. Meanwhile, the Otises discuss the Ghost and note the changing hues of the sitting-room bloodstain. Only the beautiful fifteen-year-old Virginia Otis cannot laugh as the stain mutates from red, to purple, to bright emerald green. When the Ghost next appears, the twins shoot pellets at it. But more insulting is that after the Ghost tries to scare the family with a hideous laugh, Mrs. Otis offers him Dr. Dobells tincture to cure his indigestion.
The ghost appearsSickened by the experience, Sir Simon retreats for a few days before making another attempt to horrify the Otises. However, when the Ghost next appears, it is he who is frightened. The twins create a fake ghost out of a hollow turnip, bed curtain, kitchen cleaver, and broom. Their trick succeeds, and Sir Simon, humiliated, gives up on his bloodstain and begins to use Mr. Otiss Rising Sun Lubricator. The twins continue to torment the Ghost, setting traps along the corridor to trip him. The Ghost, in one final effort, prepares an elaborate costume, "Reckless Rupert, or the headless Earl, to revenge himself on the twins. When he tries to enter the twins bedroom, a jug of water crashes down on him, leaving Sir Simon with a severe cold and
Virginia Otis and the CantervilleGhost As the Ghost dreams of his past glory, the Otis family carries on with their normal pursuits. The young Duke of Cheshire, madly in love with Virginia, arrives as a guest. One day after riding with the Duke, Virginia stumbles upon the Ghosts hiding place. Pitying him, Virginia entreats Sir Simon to behave himself. But, in a well- known passage, the Ghost replies:
Virginia Otis and the Canterville Ghost‘‘It is absurd asking me to behave myself,’’ he answered, looking around in astonishment at the pretty little girl who had ventured to address him, ‘‘quite absurd. I must rattle my chains, and groan through keyholes, and walk about at night.... It is my only reason for existing.’’‘‘It is no reason at all for existing, and you know you have been very wicked. Mrs. Umney told us, the first day we arrived here, that you had killed your wife.’’‘‘Well, I quite admit it,’’ said the Ghost petulantly, ‘‘but it was a purely family matter, and concerned no one else.’’‘‘It is very wrong to kill any one,’’ said Virginia, who at times had a sweet Puritan gravity, caught from some old New England ancestor.‘‘Oh, I hate the cheap severity of abstract ethics! My wife was very plain, never had my ruffs properly starched, and knew nothing about cookery. Why, there was a buck I had shot in Hogley Woods, a magnificent pricket, and do you know how she had it sent up to table? However, it is no matter now, for it is all over, and I dont think it was very nice of her brothers to starve me to death, though I did kill her.’’ (Excerpt from ‘‘The Canterville Ghost’’)
Virginia Otis and the Canterville GhostThough she berates him for stealing her paints to refurbish the blood stain, this exchange marks the beginning of Virginias sympathy for the Ghost. Virginia offers to help the Ghost emigrate to America. He declines claiming that all he wants is to sleep in the Garden of Death. Sir Simon asks Virginia to pray for his soul, so that he can finally rest. Despite the pleas of the huntsmen embroidered on the tapestry and the gargoyles carved on the chimneypiece, Virginia takes the Ghosts hand and follows him into another dimension. Virginia Lost and Found Virginias family and the Duke search for her. At the last stroke of midnight, the house shakes, and Virginia appears at the top of the stairs. She explains that she has been with the Ghost and has brought him eternal rest. Sir Simon, in turn, has given her a box of jewels. Virginia leads her family into a secret room where they find the skeletal remains of Sir Simon. Four days later, Sir Simon, with much ceremony, is buried. A few years later, Virginia marries the young Duke, who was struck by her kindness to the Ghost. Even after marriage, however, Virginia resists her husbands entreaties and refuses to reveal what happened when she disappeared into the wall with Sir Simon. But she states simply that the Ghost taught her the meaning of Life, Death, and Love.
The ghostThe ghost: The ghost of the castle for centuries. He was Sir Simon de Canterville anddied in 1584, his spirit still haunts the Chase. His aspect is very terrible: “He is an old man,his eyes were as red burning coals, long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils,his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists andankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves.”
Mr. otisMr. Otis: The father of the Otis family. He is a middle-aged American minister; he isdeterminated, inflexible, rational, practical and pragmatic, in conclusion a true American. Infact at the beginning he believes that the ghost doesn’t exist, then, when he personallymeets him, he is indifferent: he has more important things to do, making money, forexample.
Virginia: “She is a little girl of fifteen, lithe and lovely as a fawn, and with a finefreedom, in her large blue eyes. She is a wonderful amazon. In respect to herfamily she is kind and with weling heart.”The daughter is the only one in the familywho is scared by the ghost. She never speaks except to the ghost, at the end of
Washington: the Otises oldest son; “he is a fire-haired rather cood-loooking young man; gardenias and peerage are his only weaknesses.”
The twins: “they are usually called The stars and stripes, they are delightful boysand the only true republicans of the family.” These children always play tricks onthe ghost and make him depressed and desperate. All along the story, theyimagine jokes and even dress up as ghosts.
Mrs Otis: The mother isnt scared of the ghost and even asks him if he wantsa remedy for his stomach. “She is a very handsome middle-aged woman withfine eyes and a superb profile. She has a magnificent constitution and awonderful amount of animal spirits.”
Duke of Chesire: “He is a handsome young scapegrace” desperately in love with thefifteen-year old Virginia Otis. However, his guardians pack him off to Eton, and he mustwait to marry. When Virginia vanishes, he insists on being part of the search party. As soonas she reappears, he smothers her with kisses. His devotion is rewarded, and Virginiaconsents to become the Duchess of Cheshire.
Lord Canterville: A respectable descendent of the Canterville family, thatwas the owner of the Canterville Chase. “He is an English men of themost pounctilious honour.”
Mrs.Umney: the old house-keeper of Canterville Chase is very terrified bythe ghost and tries to warn the family.
My reviews Oscar Wildes story of The Canterville Ghost tells the tale of a malevolent ghost who discovers there is no peace to be found when a rumbustious American family take over his ancestral home.This classic tale by one of the 19th centurys most celebrated wits is here reproduced in a stunning little book with stylish illustrations which perfectly capture the atmosphere and imagination of the story. An ideal gift for young readers who enjoy classic stories, The Canterville Ghost is perfect for reading alone or reading aloud.