I’m fond of E F Benson’s writing and once again like the Room in the Tower this has a dreamlike quality. The horror is produced from some kind of vision that the narrator, Everard, has. He has a vision of antiquity, and a horrible antiquity at that, of little Picts! (My ancestors!!!)
It’s a funny story in that it purports to be a Christmas Story and certainly the first part has all the elements: the snow outside, the cosy country house, the fire.
Then we go back to a year before and I’m unclear why, because we have Country House at Christmas: Vision: Then October in the Scottish Highlands lost in the mist.
There is just a presentiment of horror and in that it is almost Lovecraftian, albeit more subtly. I think this story would be more correctly characterised as a weird tale rather than a ghost story. Certainly there is no ghost as such.
The horror is unexplained other than to say he was horrified by the bestiality of the inhabitants even though they don’t harm him. He should live round here.
There are folk horror themes in that it references horrid rural people with their vile lives that scare good urban chaps like Everard. The Scottish gillie Sandy (what else!) shows a primitive fear of the little folk.
He also has a way of layering clauses within clauses in his writing which makes it hard to read out loud!
Proust does that too. I won’t be reading him.
So, not my favourite though it is a Christmas Story to be read just before Christmas.
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I’m off on a boat to Amsterdam tomorrow. You bet your bottom dollar I’ll be looking out for ghosts among the Christmas lights!
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