Review: Ghost Story: “Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
April 29, 2017 8:44am CST
The narrator begins by saying that an odd thing happened to his uncle, Mr. Watson of Haddlestone, but in order to explain that, he has to tell the story of Captain James Walshawe, who was called captain out of courtesy, for he never earned the title in the army. He left that service in 1766 at the age of twenty-five, spent all his money, and immediately ran up more debts than he could ever pay off. He remedied that by marrying an Irish heiress, Peg O’Neill, who was plain of face and stout of figure. She had with her an old Irish serving woman, Molly Doyle, who hated the captain. He hated her in turn and often threatened to turn her out, but as the years passed, Molly remained. Peg took ill and died. The captain mourned her by going out drinking. When he returned, he found Molly and some of the women of the town had dressed his deceased wife in the brown habit of a Carmelite nun and placed a candle in her hands. Worse for brandy, he abused the women, especially Molly Doyle. “What the d----- are you doing with my wife?” he shouts at the women. “How dare you dress her up in this ---- trumpery you—you cheating old witch!” He snatches the candle from his wife hands. “The holy candle!” Molly cries. “I’ve a mind to make you eat it, you beast!” “An’ now her poor sowl’s in prison, you wretch, be the mains o’ ye; an’ may yer own be shut into the wick o’ the same candle, till it’s burned out, ye savage.” The captain puts the candle in a “press,” which I guess is some sort of closet. (In some east coast dialects, a closet is a “clothes press.”). The captain lives another forty years off Peg’s money, getting himself into and out of scrapes. Now comes Uncle Tom Watson, who is the heir-in-law of the increasingly cantankerous captain. When the grim reaper calls on the captain in 1822, Uncle Watson goes to see to the disposition of the estate. There is no will, but neither the lawyer nor the deaf servant can find any of the leases. Uncle Tom, being the new master of the place, now has all the keys. Of course, there’s a nasty storm going on. And of course, he finds, after all this time, unbeknownst to him, the same candle the unfortunate Peg O’Neill was given to clutch in death. He gets a little supernatural help finding the lease some mortal was being less than honest about. This is not quite the ghost of Christmas future, though, pointing things out. It takes a while going where it’s going. This is a sad shaggy dog story. Nevertheless, I liked it overall. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of French Huguenot descent whose gothic stories were popular and influential in the nineteenth century. Outside of his lesbian vampire tale, “Carmilla,” most of his stuff is no longer read. The story is available from Wikisource: It’s a bit longer than most I review here. _____ Title: “Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling” Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) First published: Dublin University Magazine April 1864 Source: ISFDB
From Wikisource < Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling Jump to: navigation, search Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling by Sheridan Le Fanu Chapter I: Peg O'Neill Pays the Captain's Debts Chapter II? 179819Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling — Chapter I: Peg
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Glad you liked it. My work here is done. But yesterday's was such a downer. Today's just took forever to get were it was going. I think Le Fanu's tendency to wander and his transcription of the brogue are probably reasons he's not read too much any more.