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bodies, and I have some fearsome anes, that mak the
auld carlines shake on the settle, and bits o' bairns
skirl on their minnies out frae their beds."

The personality of the narrator, swayed by the terror of his
tale, would have cast the spell that Scott's carefully framed
sentences fail to create. Another of Scott's _disjecta membra_,
composed at the end of the eighteenth century, is the opening of
a story called _The Lord of Ennerdale_, in which the family of
Ratcliffe settle down before the fire to listen to a story
"savouring not a little of the marvellous." As Lady Ratcliffe and
her daughters

"had heard every groan and lifted every trapdoor in
company with the noted heroine of Udolpho, had
valorously mounted _en croupe_ behind the horseman of
Prague through all his seven translators, had followed
the footsteps of Moor through the forests of Bohemia,"

and were even suspected of an acquaintance with Lewis's _Monk_,
Scott was setting himself no easy task when he undertook to
thrill these seasoned adventurers. After this prologue, which
leads one to expect a banquet of horrors, only a very brief
fragment of the story is forthcoming. Though he gently derides
Lady Ratcliffe's literary tastes, Scott, too, was an admirer of
Mrs. Radcliffe's novels, and had been so entranced by Burger's
_Lenore_ that he attempted an English version.[111] It was after
hearing Taylor's translation of this ballad read aloud that he
uttered his dismal ejaculation: "I wish to heaven I could get a
skull and two crossbones" - a whim that was speedily gratified.
He, too, like Lady Ratcliffe, had read _Die Räuber_; and he
translated Goethe's _Gëtz von Berlichingen_. He delighted in
Lewis's _Tales of Wonder_ (1801) where the verse gallops through
horrors so fearful that the "lights in the chamber burn blue,"
and himself contributed to the collection. He wrote "goblin
dramas"[112] as terrific in intention, but not in performance, as
Lewis's _Castle Spectre_ and Maturin's _Bertram_. His Latin
call-thesis dealt with the kind of subject "Monk" Lewis or
Harrison Ainsworth or Poe might have chosen - the disposal of the
dead bodies of persons legally executed. Scott continually added
to his store of quaint and grisly learning both from popular
tradition and from a library of such works as Bovet's
_Pandemonium, or the Devil's Cloyster Opened_, Sinclair's
_Satan's Invisible World Discovered_, whence he borrowed the name
of the jackanapes in _Wandering Willie's Tale_, and the
horse-shoe frown for the brow of the Redgauntlets, Heywood's
_Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels_, Joseph Taylor's _History of
Apparitions_, from which he quotes in _Woodstock_. He was
familiar with all the niceties of ghostly etiquette; he could
distinguish at a glance the various ranks and orders of demons
and spirits; he was versed in charms and spells; he knew exactly
how a wizard ought to be dressed. This lore not only stood him in
good stead when he compiled his _Letters on Demonology and
Witchcraft_ (1830), but served to adorn his poems and novels.
There was nothing unhealthy in his attitude towards the spectral
world. At an inn he slept soundly in one bed of a double room,
while a dead man occupied the other. Twice in his life he
confessed to having felt "eerie" - once at Glamis Castle, which
was said to be haunted by a Presence in a Secret Chamber, and
once when he believed that he saw an apparition on his way home
in the twilight; but he usually jests cheerfully when he speaks
of the supernatural. He was interested in tracing the sources of
terror and in studying the mechanism of ghost stories.

The axioms which he lays down are sound and suggestive:

"Ghosts should not appear too often or become too
chatty. The magician shall evoke no spirits, whom he is
not capable of endowing with manners and language
corresponding to their supernatural character. Perhaps,
to be circumstantial and abundant in minute detail and
in one word ... to be somewhat prosy, is the secret
mode of securing a certain necessary degree of
credulity from the hearers of a ghost story... The
chord which vibrates and sounds at a touch remains in
silent tension under continued pressure."[113]

Scott's ghost story, _The Tapestried Chamber, or the Lady in the
Sacque_[114] which he heard from Miss Anna Seward, who had an
unexpected gift for recounting such things at country house
parties, gives the impression of being carefully planned
according to rule. As a human being the Lady in the Sacque had a
black record, but, considered dispassionately as a ghost, her
manners and deportment are irreproachable. The ghost-seer's
independence of character are so firmly insisted upon that it
seems impertinent to doubt the veracity of his story. _My Aunt
Margaret's Mirror_ was told to Scott in childhood by an ancient
spinster, whose pleasing fancy it was to read alone in her
chamber by the light of a taper fixed in a candlestick which she
had formed out of a human skull, and who was learned in
superstitious lore. She describes accurately the mood, when "the
female imagination is in due temperature to enjoy a ghost story":

"All that is indispensable for the enjoyment of the
milder feeling of supernatural awe is that you should
be susceptible of the slight shuddering which creeps
over you when you hear a tale of terror - that
well-vouched tale which the narrator, having first
expressed his general disbelief of all such legendary
lore, selects and produces, as having something in it
which he has been always obliged to give up as
inexplicable. Another symptom is a momentary hesitation
to look round you, when the interest of the narrative
is at the highest; and the third, a desire to avoid
looking into a mirror, when you are alone, in your
chamber, for the evening."[115]

In her story "Aunt Margaret" describes how, in a magic mirror
belonging to Dr. Baptista Damiotti, Lady Bothwell and her sister
Lady Forester see the wedding ceremony of Sir Philip Forester and
a young girl in a foreign city interrupted by Lady Forester's
brother, who is slain in the duel that ensues. Scott regarded
these two stories as trifles designed to while away a leisure
hour. On _Wandering Willie's Tale_ - a masterpiece of supernatural
terror - he bestowed unusual care. The ill fa'urd, fearsome
couple - Sir Robert with his face "gash and ghastly as Satan's,"
and "Major Weir," the jackanape, in his red-laced coat and
wig - Steenie's eerie encounter with the "stranger" on horseback,
the ribald crew of feasters in the hall are described so
faithfully and in such vivid phrases that it is no wonder Willie
should remark at one point of the story: "I almost think I was
there mysell, though I couldna be born at the same time." The
power of the tale, which fascinates us from beginning to end and
which can be read again and again with renewed pleasure, depends
partly on Wandering Willie's gifts as a narrator, partly on the
emotions that stir him as he talks. With unconscious art, he
always uses the right word in his descriptions, and chooses those
details that help us to fix the rapidly changing imagery of his
scenes; and he reproduces exactly the natural dialogue of the
speakers. He begins in a tone of calm, unhurried narration, with
only a hint of fear in his voice, but, at the death of Sir
Robert, grows breathless with horror and excitement. The uncanny
incident of the silver whistle that sounds from the dead man's
chamber is skilfully followed by a matter-of-fact account of
Steenie's dealings with the new laird. The emotion culminates in
the terror of the hall of ghastly revellers, whose wild shrieks
"made Willie's gudesire's very nails grow blue and chilled the
marrow in his banes." So lifelike is the scene, so full of colour
and movement, that Steenie's descendants might well believe that
their gudesire, like Dante, had seen Hell.

The notes, introductions and appendices to Scott's works are
stored with material for novels of terror. The notes to
_Marmion_, for instance, contain references to a necromantic
priest whose story "much resembles that of Ambrosio in the
_Monk_," to an "Elfin" warrior and to a chest of treasure
jealously guarded for a century by the Devil in the likeness of a
huntsman. In _The Lady of the Lake_ there is a note on the
ancient legend of the Phantom Sire, in _Rokeby_ there is an
allusion to the Demon Frigate wandering under a curse from
harbour to harbour. To Scott "bogle-wark" was merely a diversion.
He did not choose to make it the mainspring either of his poems
or his romances. In _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_ he had,
indeed, intended to make the Goblin Page play a leading part, but
the imp, as Scott remarked to Miss Seward, "by the natural
baseness of his propensities contrived to slink downstairs into
the kitchen." The White Lady of Avenel, who appears in _The
Monastery_ (1830) - a boisterous creature who rides on horseback,
splashes through streams and digs a grave - was wisely withdrawn
in the sequel, _The Abbot_. In the Introduction Scott states:

"The White Lady is scarcely supposed to have possessed
either the power or the inclination to do more than
inflict terror or create embarrassment, and is always
subjected by those mortals who ... could assert
superiority over her."

The only apology Scott could offer to the critics who derided his
wraith was that the readers "ought to allow for the capriccios of
what is after all but a better sort of goblin." She was suggested
by the Undine of De La Motte Fouqué. In his next novel, _The
Fortunes of Nigel_, Scott formally renounced the mystic and the
magical: "Not a Cock Lane scratch - not one bounce on the drum of
Tedworth - not so much as the poor tick of a solitary death-watch
in the wainscot." But Scott cannot banish spectres so lightly
from his imagination. Apparitions - such as the Bodach Glas who
warns Fergus M'Ivor of his approaching death in _Waverley_, or
the wraith of a Highlander in a white cockade who is seen on the
battlefield in _The Legend of Montrose_ - had appeared in his
earlier novels, and others appear again and again later. In _The
Bride of Lammermoor_ - the only one of Scott's novels which might
fitly be called a "tale of terror" - the atmosphere of horror and
the sense of overhanging calamity effectually prepare our minds
for the supernatural, and the wraith of old Alice who appears to
the master of Ravenswood is strangely solemn and impressive. But
even more terrible is the description of the three hags laying
out her corpse. The appearance of Vanda with the Bloody Finger in
the haunted chamber of the Saxon manor in _The Betrothed_ is
skilfully arranged, and Eveline's terror is described with
convincing reality. In _Woodstock_, Scott adopted the method of
explaining away the apparently supernatural, although in his
_Lives of the Novelists_ he expressly disapproves of what he
calls the "precaution of Snug the joiner." Charged by Ballantyne
with imitating Mrs. Radcliffe, Scott defended himself by
asserting:

"My object is not to excite fear of supernatural things
in my reader, but to show the effect of such fear upon
the agents of the story - one a man in sense and
firmness, one a man unhinged by remorse, one a stupid,
unenquiring clown, one a learned and worthy but
superstitious divine."[116]

As Scott in his introduction quotes the passage from a treatise
entitled _The Secret History of the Good Devil of Woodstock_,
which reveals that the mysteries were performed by one Joseph
Collins with the aid of two friends, a concealed trap-door and a
pound of gunpowder, he cannot justly be accused of deceiving his
readers. There are suggestions of Mrs. Radcliffe's method in
others of his novels. In _The Antiquary_, before Lovel retires to
the Green Room at Monkbar, he is warned by Miss Griselda Oldbuck
of a "well-fa'urd auld gentleman in a queer old-fashioned dress
with whiskers turned upward on his upper lip as long as
baudrons," who is wont to appear at one's bedside. He falls into
an uneasy slumber, and in the middle of the night is startled to
see a green huntsman leave the tapestry and turn into the
"well-fa'urd auld gentleman" before his very eyes. In _Old
Mortality_, Edith Bellenden mistakes her lover for his
apparition, just as one of Mrs. Radcliffe's heroines might have
done. In _Peveril of the Peak_, Fenella's communications with the
hero in his prison, when he mistakes her voice for that of a
spirit, have an air of Gothic mystery. The awe-inspiring villain,
who appears in _Marmion_ and _Rokeby_, may be distinguished by
his scowl, his passion-lined face and gleaming eye. Rashleigh, in
_Rob Roy_, who, understanding Greek, Latin and Hebrew, "need not
care for ghaist or barghaist, devil or dobbie," and whose
sequestered apartment the servants durst not approach at
nightfall for "fear of bogles and brownies and lang-nebbit things
frae the neist world," is of the same lineage. Sir Robert
Redgauntlet, too, might have stepped out of one of Mrs.
Radcliffe's romances. His niece is not unlike one of her
heroines. She speaks in the very accents of Emily when she says:

"Now I have still so much of our family spirit as
enables me to be as composed in danger as most of my
sex, and upon two occasions in the course of our
journey - a threatened attack by banditti, and the
overturn of our carriage - I had the fortune so to
conduct myself as to convey to my uncle a very
favourable idea of my intrepidity."

Jeanie Deans, the most admirable and the most skilfully drawn of
Scott's women, is a daring contrast to the traditional heroine of
romance. The "delicate distresses" of persecuted Emilies shrink
into insignificance amid the tragedy and comedy of actual life
portrayed in The Waverley Novels. The tyrannical marquises,
vindictive stepmothers, dark-browed villains, scheming monks,
chattering domestics and fierce banditti are thrust aside by a
motley crowd of living beings - soldiers, lawyers, smugglers,
gypsies, shepherds, outlaws and beggars. The wax-work figures,
guaranteed to thrill with nervous suspense or overflow with
sensibility at the appropriate moments, are replaced by real folk
like "Old Mortality," Andrew Fairservice, Dugald Dalgetty and
Peter Peebles, whose humour and pathos are those of our own
world. The historical background, faint, misty and unreal in Mrs.
Radcliffe's novels, becomes, in those of Scott, arresting and
substantial. The grave, artificial dialogue in which Mrs.
Radcliffe's characters habitually discourse descends to some of
Scott's personages, but is often exchanged for the natural idiom
of simple people. The Gothic abbey, dropped down in an uncertain,
haphazard fashion, in some foreign land, is deserted for huts,
barns inns, cottages and castles, solidly built on Scottish soil.
We leave the mouldy air of the subterranean vault for the keen
winds of the moorland. The terrors of the invisible world only
fill the stray corners of his huge scene. He creates romance out
of the stuff of real life.




CHAPTER IX - LATER DEVELOPMENTS OF THE TALE OF TERROR.


As the novel of terror passes from the hands of Mrs. Radcliffe to
those of "Monk" Lewis, Maturin and their imitators, there is a
crashing crescendo of emotion. The villain's sardonic smile is
replaced by wild outbursts of diabolical laughter, his scowl
grows darker and darker, and as his designs become more bloody
and more dangerous, his victims no longer sigh plaintively, but
give utterance to piercing shrieks and despairing yells; tearful
Amandas are unceremoniously thrust into the background by
vindictive Matildas, whose passions rage in all their primitive
savagery; the fearful ghost "fresh courage takes," and stands
forth audaciously in the light of day; the very devil stalks
shamelessly abroad in manifold disguises. We are caught up from
first to last in the very tempest, torrent and whirlwind of
passion. When the novel of terror thus throws restraint to the
winds, outrageously o'ersteps the modesty of nature and indulges
in a farrago of frightfulness, it begins to defeat its own
purposes and to fail in its object of freezing the blood. The
limit of human endurance has been reached - and passed. Emphasis
and exaggeration have done their worst. Battle, murder, and
sudden death - even spectres and fiends - can appal no more. If the
old thrill is to be evoked again, the application of more
ingenious methods is needed.

Such novels as Maturin's _Family of Montorio_, though "full of
sound and fury," fail piteously to vibrate the chords of terror,
which had trembled beneath Mrs. Radcliffe's gentle fingers. The
instrument, smitten forcibly, repeatedly, desperately, resounds
not with the answering note expected, but with an ugly, metallic
jangle. _Melmoth the Wanderer_, Maturin's extraordinary
masterpiece, was to prove - as late as 1820 - that there were
chords in the orchestra of horror as yet unsounded; but in 1816,
when Mary Shelley and her companions set themselves to compose
supernatural stories, it was wise to dispense with the shrieking
chorus of malevolent abbesses, diabolical monks, intriguing
marquises, Wandering Jews or bleeding spectres, who had been so
grievously overworked in previous performances. Dr. Polidori's
skull-headed lady, Byron's vampire-gentleman, Mrs. Shelley's
man-created monster - a grotesque and gruesome trio - had at least
the attraction of novelty. It is indeed remarkable that so young
and inexperienced a writer as Mary Shelley, who was only nineteen
when she wrote _Frankenstein_, should betray so slight a
dependence on her predecessors. It is evident from the records of
her reading that the novel of terror in all its guises was
familiar to her. She had beheld the majestic horror of the halls
of Eblis; she had threaded her way through Mrs. Radcliffe's
artfully constructed Gothic castles; she had braved the terrors
of the German Ritter-, Räuber- und Schauer-Romane; she had
assisted, fearful, at Lewis's midnight diablerie; she had
patiently unravelled the "mystery" novels of Godwin and of
Charles Brockden Brown.[117] Yet, despite this intimate knowledge
of the terrible and supernatural in fiction, Mrs. Shelley's theme
and her way of handling it are completely her own. In an "acute
mental vision," as real as the visions of Blake and of Shelley,
she beheld her monster and the "pale student of unhallowed arts"
who had created him, and then set herself to reproduce the thrill
of horror inspired by her waking dream. _Frankenstein_ has,
indeed, been compared to Godwin's _St. Leon_, but the resemblance
is so vague and superficial, and _Frankenstein_ so immeasurably
superior, that Mrs. Shelley's debt to her father is negligible.
St. Leon accepts the gift of immortality, Frankenstein creates a
new life, and in both novels the main interest lies in tracing
the effect of the experiment on the soul of the man, who has
pursued scientific inquiry beyond legitimate limits. But apart
from this, there is little resemblance. Godwin chose the
supernatural, because it chanced to be popular, and laboriously
built up a cumbrous edifice, completing it by a sheer effort of
will-power. His daughter, with an imagination naturally more
attuned to the gruesome and fantastic, writes, when once she has
wound her way into the heart of the story, in a mood of
breathless excitement that drives the reader forward with
feverish apprehension.

The name of Mrs. Shelley's _Frankenstein_ is far-famed; but the
book itself, overshadowed perhaps by its literary associations,
seems to have withdrawn into the vast library of famous works
that are more often mentioned than read. The very fact that the
name is often bestowed on the monster instead of his creator
seems to suggest that many are content to accept Mrs. Shelley's
"hideous phantom" on hearsay evidence rather than encounter for
themselves the terrors of his presence. The story deserves a
happier fate, for, if it be read in the spirit of willing
surrender that a theme so impossible demands, it has still power
momentarily "to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle
the blood and to quicken the beatings of the heart." The record
of the composition of _Frankenstein_ has been so often reiterated
that it is probably better known than the tale itself. In the
summer of 1816 - when the Shelleys were the neighbours of Byron
near Lake Geneva - Byron, Shelley, Mary Shelley and Dr. Polidori,
after reading some volumes of ghost stories[118] and discussing
the supernatural and its manifestations, each agreed to write a
ghost story. It has been asserted that an interest in spectres
was stimulated by a visit from "Monk" Lewis, but we have evidence
that Mrs. Shelley was already writing her story in June,[119] and
that Lewis did not arrive at the Villa Diodati till August
14th.[120] The conversation with him about ghosts took place four
days later. Shelley's story, based on the experiences of his
early youth, was never completed. Byron's fragment formed the
basis of Dr. Polidori's _Vampyre_. Dr. Polidori states that his
supernatural novel, _Ernestus Berchtold_, was begun at this time;
but the skull-headed lady, alluded to by Mary Shelley as figuring
in Polidori's story, is disappointingly absent. It was an
argument between Byron and Shelley about Erasmus Darwin's
theories that brought before Mary Shelley's sleepless eyes the
vision of the monster miraculously infused by its creator with
the spark of life. _Frankenstein_ was begun immediately,
completed in May, 1817, and published in 1818.

Mrs. Shelley has been censured for setting her tale in a clumsy
framework, but she tells us in her preface that she began with
the words: "It was on a dreary night of November." This sentence
now stands at the opening of Chapter IV., where the plot begins
to grip our imagination; and it seems not unfair to assume that
the introductory letters and the first four chapters, which
contain a tedious and largely unnecessary account of
Frankenstein's early life, were written in deference to Shelley's
plea that the idea should be developed at greater length, and did
not form part of her original plan. The uninteresting student,
Robert Walton, to whom Frankenstein, discovered dying among
icebergs, tells his story, is obviously an afterthought. If Mrs.
Shelley had abandoned the awkward contrivance of putting the
narrative into the form of a dying man's confession, reported
verbatim in a series of letters, and had opened her story, as she
apparently intended, at the point where Frankenstein, after weary
years of research, succeeds in creating a living being, her novel
would have gained in force and intensity. From that moment it
holds us fascinated. It is true that the tension relaxes from
time to time, that the monster's strange education and the
Godwinian precepts that fall so incongruously from his lips tend
to excite our mirth, but, though we are mildly amused, we are no
longer merely bored. Even the protracted descriptions of domestic
life assume a new and deeper meaning, for the shadow of the
monster broods over them. One by one those whom Frankenstein
loves fall victims to the malice of the being he has endowed with
life. Unceasingly and unrelentingly the loathsome creature dogs
our imagination, more awful when he lurks unseen than when he
stands actually before us. With hideous malignity he slays
Frankenstein's young brother, and by a fiendish device causes
Justine, an innocent girl, to be executed for the crime. Yet ere
long our sympathy, which has hitherto been entirely with
Frankenstein, is unexpectedly diverted to the monster who, it
would seem, is wicked only because he is eternally divorced from
human society. Amid the magnificent scenery of the Valley of
Chamounix he appears before his creator, and tells the story of
his wretched life, pleading: "Everywhere I see bliss from which I
alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery
made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."

He describes how his physical ugliness repels human beings, who
fail to realise his benevolent intentions. A father snatches from
his arms the child he has rescued from death; the virtuous
family, whom he admires and would fain serve, flee affrighted
from his presence. To educate the monster, so that his thoughts
and emotions may become articulate, and, incidentally, to
accentuate his isolation from society, Mrs. Shelley inserts a
complicated story about an Arabian girl, Sofie, whose lover


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