A Victorian Entertainment: Ghost Stories for Christmas

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 27 December, 2008

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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