Interesting Literature

Today is the Sheridan Le Fanu bicentenary: this key figure in the Irish ghost story was born on 28 August 1814. We thought, then, this would be the perfect time to go all ghostly on you. The following facts about the history of the ghost story in the nineteenth century are largely taken from this book, Bewilderments of Vision: Hallucination and Literature, 1880-1914 (Sussex, paperback edition 2014), which, as well as being a rollickingly interesting book (but of course!), is also written by the curator of Interesting Literature, Oliver Tearle.

The earliest mention of ‘ghost-story’ recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary comes from 1824, from a manuscript of Byron’s Don Juan, which mentions ‘Supper, punch, ghost-stories, and such chat’ (which, if nothing else, is the recipe for a fine Friday night). Ghost stories would evolve dramatically over the nineteenth century: after Byron introduced the phrase into the language…

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