The Haunted House
Framed, 13.7 x 9 cm
Facing page 280, in The Illustrated Library Edition of Dickens's Works, Christmas Stories, vol. 1.
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On the first night, I was knocked up [i. e., awakened by a knocking] by Jack with a most wonderful ship's lantern in his hand, like the gills of some monster of the deep, who informed me that he "was going aloft to the main truck," to have the weathercock down. It was a stormy night and I remonstrated; but Jack called my attention to its making a sound like a cry of despair, and said somebody would be "hailing a ghost" presently, if it wasn't done. So, up to the top of the house, where I could hardly stand for the wind, we went, accompanied by Mr. Beaver; and there Jack, lantern and all, with Mr. Beaver after him, swarmed up to the top of a cupola, some two dozen feet above the chimneys, and stood upon nothing particular, coolly knocking the weathercock off, until they both got into such good spirits with the wind and the height, that I thought they would never come down. ["The Mortals in the House," pages 288-289]
Whereas Mahoney has selected for illustration the narrative which Dickens contributed to the first Christmas story for his new weekly periodical, All the Year Round, in 1859, other illustrators of the piece in the various anthologies seem not to have been interested in it, for neither the American Household Edition volume of 1876 nor Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) contains an illustration for The Haunted House. On the other hand, in the 1877 British Household Edition E. G. Dalziel has illustrated "The Mortals in the House" with An Insuperable and Speechless Man, He Had Sat at His Supper, with Streaker Present in a Swoon. That the most of the framed tales for 1859 are not by Dickens is probably not significant in its being overlooked or bypassed by later illustrators, for none of the framed tales for Christmas (discounting 1867's No Thoroughfare and The Perils of Certain English Prisoners ten years earlier, both written by the collaborative team of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins) had in them a preponderance of material from the journal's "Conductor." The illustrators may simply have felt that the satire of spiritualism was not conducive to pictures — and the other, more dynamic stories in the 1859 sequence were, of course, not by Dickens and therefore do not appear in the anthologies of 1868, 1876, 1877, 1910, and 1911.
Its Context in The Extra Number for Christmas, 1859
Dickens and Wills [his sub-editor] laid plans for the Christmas number in September 1859, when Wills wrote out to a dozen potential contributors on Dickens's behalf, setting out "the simplest [idea] in the world" by way of a central concept and framework for submissions, but by late November, Dickens complained to [his business agent] Forster, despite having "myself described" this idea "in writing, in the most elaborate manner" "not a story has come to me in the least belonging to" it (Letters 9: 169). Instead, "every one" of the submissions — in fact, only two out of the five not by Dickens himself — "turns, by a strange fatality, on a criminal trial!" Called The Haunted House, the number was intended to feature a group of guests staying in a house, reputedly haunted, whose only visitations turn out, at the end of the festive season, to have been made by the memories of their own pasts — thus acting as a kind of reproof to the more credulous and literal-minded believers in the Spiritualist movement . . . . [Drew, 207]
For this first framed tale for his new journal Charles Dickens himself contributed an introduction ("The Mortals in the House"), the fifth story, "The Ghost in the Corner Room," and the seventh and final tale, "The Ghost in the Corner Room." In the subsequent, anthologised texts, however, the seven-part, multi-voiced, multiply authored story became simply The Haunted House. In Three Chapters, namely those by Dickens. Excised from the series were the stories of children's author Hesba Stretton ("The Ghost in the Clock Room"), the "smart" young journalist and Dickens protegé George Augustus Sala ("The Ghost in the Double Room"), Adelaide Anne Procter ("The Ghost in the Picture Room"), the novelist and regular columnist for Dickens, Wilkie Collins ("The Ghost in the Cupboard Room"), and the protofeminist novelist and north of England writer Elizabeth Gaskell (who provided "The Ghost in the Garden Room"). As Deborah A. Thomas notes, Dickens's apportioning out writing tasks to a stable of regulars — some of them first-rate writers such as Collins and Gaskell, but some of them decidedly inferior — has produced a rather uneven texture in the original sequence. The problem with the reprinted version is that it lacks some of the original's coherence since it includes only work by Dickens himself.
James Mahoney's 1868 illustration for the Library Edition, the last complete edition from Chapman and Hall for which Dickens would have had input, concerns the most exciting moment in Dickens's introductory tale. As in the picture, the narrator (who has rented the old mansion north of London) and two companions go up on the roof of the "haunted" eighteenth-century house to take down a damaged weathercock which has been creating a most unpleasant noise in the high wind. As is consistent with the text, Jack and Mr. Beaver appear to be practised "old salts" who are not the least bothered by the stormy sky, the wind, or the height of the cupola upon which they are precariously balanced, although Mahoney's chimney (right) is less convincing than his drain pipe and down-spout (right of centre).
A Note on the 1911 Text
The two volumes containing the Christmas stories do not indicate where they fall in the 36-volume sequence. The "Bibliographical Note" on the verso of the title-page makes reference to the Charles Dickens Edition of 1871, although this text has been augmented by five stories from "Reprinted Pieces" and two others, "What Christmas Is As We Grow Older" and "The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices," "which were not always included in the collected works of the novelist."
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Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. 2 vols.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All The Year Round". Il. Fred Walker, F. A. Fraser, Harry French, E. G. Dalziel, J. Mahony [sic], Townley Green, and Charles Green. Centenary Edition. 36 vols. London: Chapman & Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911. Volume Two.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. Edward Dalziel, Harry French, F. A. Fraser, James Mahoney, Townley Green, and Charles Green. The Oxford Illustrated Dickens. Oxford, New York, and Toronto: Oxford U.P., 1956, rpt. 1989.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All the Year Round". Il. E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877. Rpt., 1892.
Drew, John. "All the Year Round, Volume II; 29 October 1859 — 7 April 1860 Nos. 27 — 50." Dickens Quarterly 30, 3 (September 2013): 198-222.
Schlicke, Paul, ed. "Christmas Stories." The Oxford Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999. Pp. 100-101.
Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
Last modified 24 April 2014