I’ve been editing and rewriting The Haunting of Dungarvan Castle set in the Highlands of Scotland: think Outlander meets The Wicker Man, and Melusin, or The Dark Tower which is set in medieval Brittany which is something like a Roger Zelazny story crossed with Celtic myth and a vampire thrown in for luck. Available soon.
Otherwise I’ve been very busy recording the audiobook of Dracula and producing the latest The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast episode. Viz:
The Story of Salome by Amelia B Edwards
We did The Phantom Coach by Amelia B Edwards as Episode 8, which seems a long time ago now.
That was a splendidly written story too. To remind ourselves:
Amelia Edwards was born in 1831 in London, England. As such she is one of the oldest writers we’ve read so far in this podcast. She died aged only 60 in Weston Supermare, a seaside resort in the west of England.
She came from a wealthy background and didn’t have to work, but she was a very successful writer based on her own talents. She was born in London to an Irish mother and a father who had been a British army officer before becoming a banker.
She was in fact a very talented woman and had the potential to be a professional artist though her father, a banker, frowned on that as a career. She also made home with a woman, long before such things were accepted by polite British society.
She was also an Egyptologist and after a cruise down the Nile and a long stay among the monuments, she devoted all of her efforts to saving the Egyptian monuments and took a lecture tour over several years in the United States to promote the cause.
Edited by Richard Dalby. Richard Dalby had great taste in stories and there are lots of good ones in this anthology.
You may, or may not, know that I have a fondness for Venice. I have read this Story of Salome, on the podcast as well as Ray Russell’s Vendetta and Vernon Lee’s A Wicked Voice.
I have also written my own Christmas ghost story set in Venice which is available in my More Christmas Ghost Stories, soon to be out as an audiobook once Audible get their finger out. If you can’t wait for Audible, Audiobookstore has it here
The subject of the story is Salome, daughter of Isaac. She is Jewish and inevitably this throws up attitudes that make me uncomfortable. I do not think this is an anti Semitic story though it does have the theme of converting Salome to Christianity. It is of its period but better than many in its attitudes.
I think it very well written and was easy to narrate without the tripping syntax of James or the excitable lists and adjectives of Dickens.
Edwards performs the trick of portraying a main character who is reasonably convinced that the grave belongs to Salome’s aged father Isaac, rather that to her. In the end, when the truth is almost impossible to ignore she had a nice little run of him convincing himself that there must be another Salome, that his Salome can’t be dead. We’ve all been there, trying to kid ourselves that something isn’t true when we know fine well it must be.
And the description of his flighty friend, Coventy Turnour, loving Salome followed by a disinterested account by our main character only to slowly reveal that he himself is infatuated with her. This is the same trick as him believing the grave is Salome’s fathers. We the readers and listeners know before he admits it to himself both that he loves Salome and that she is dead.
And he finds her more beautiful as a ghost, though he doesn’t know it. He talks about her more spiritual beauty.
One mystery is why Turnour left Venice. He lost hope in winning Salome quite suddenly, and left. She in her turn converted secretly to Christianity. It’s not explained why, but I wonder whether it was something to do with Turnour? Did she convert for Turnour’s sake and then he grew bored of her and abandoned her?
His copying of the inscription on the tomb is the key to understanding the fate of Salome. Tantalisingly, he has the secret in his hands but can’t read it. He sends it to a laggardly professor and Amelia Edwards tortures us and him by having the reply take a long time to come back. This little withholding of information is a neat writer’s trick.