A Victorian Entertainment: Ghost Stories for Christmas

Today in our con­tin­u­ing series From The Library, we present a pro­gramme of music from the Vic­to­ri­an and Edwar­dian eras, includ­ing bal­lads and music from the peri­od, along with a selec­tion of mate­r­i­al by Gilbert & Sul­li­van. In addi­tion we will be pre­sent­ing two tra­di­tion­al Ghost Sto­ries by the not­ed Edwar­dian author E F Ben­son.

The tra­di­tion of telling ghost sto­ries dur­ing the Christ­mas peri­od goes back at least to Charles Dick­ens and his sto­ry A Christ­mas Car­ol (pub­lished on 19 Decem­ber 1843), which prob­a­bly has had quite an influ­ence on the way that we cel­e­brate the sea­son today, com­ing as it did at a peri­od when the tra­di­tion­al forms of cel­e­bra­tion were on their way out. You can hear A Christ­mas Car­ol, in a spe­cial adap­ta­tion for radio by the Radio Riel Play­ers, dur­ing the course of this week-end (see this arti­cle for sched­ule details).

Also well-known is Dick­en­s’s short sto­ry The Sig­nal-Man, pub­lished first pub­lished as part of the “Mug­by Junc­tion” col­lec­tion in the 1866 Christ­mas edi­tion of All the Year Round. It seems like­ly that the lat­ter sto­ry was influ­enced at least in part by Dick­ens’ own involve­ment in the the Sta­ple­hurst Rail Crash the pre­vi­ous year, where he was in the only first-class car­riage to sur­vive. The sto­ry was an out­stand­ing mem­ber of a series of Christ­mas ghost sto­ries broad­cast by BBC Tele­vi­sion in the 1970s, which includ­ed pro­duc­tions by Jonathan Miller and sto­ries by writ­ers includ­ing MR James.

By the time we get to E F Ben­son (1867–1940, pic­tured above), the Christ­mas ghost sto­ry tra­di­tion is well estab­lished. H P Love­craft spoke high­ly of Ben­son’s works in his Super­nat­ur­al Hor­ror in Lit­er­a­ture. Many of his sto­ries are set around the end of the year, includ­ing one of the two we present today, How Fear Depart­ed from the Long Gallery. In today’s pro­gramme, this and anoth­er sto­ry by E F Ben­son, The Bus-Con­duc­tor, are read by Elrik Mer­lin.

E F Ben­son Pro­gramme sched­ule (times are approx­i­mate):
How Fear Depart­ed from the Long Gallery: 4am, 12 noon, 8pm SLT
The Bus-Con­duc­tor: 8am, 4pm, mid­night SLT

• From the Library is pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with the Cale­don Library in Sec­ond Life. Today’s pro­gramme was pro­duced by Elrik Mer­lin.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Cale­don Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Sec­ond Life ref­er­ence libraries in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Cale­don Library Web site, or one of their loca­tions in-world.

You can lis­ten now at http://music.radioriel.org — the ide­al URL for you to use in your home par­cel media address in-world — or sim­ply vis­it any Cale­don Library branch in-world and press Play on your embed­ded music play­er. (If you want to lis­ten off-world, eg in Winamp or iTunes, and the above address does­n’t work for you, click here.)

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