The narrator (the 'I') of 'Bones and I' or, The Skeleton at Home lives in a small modern villa situated in a London cul de sac looking out upon 'the dead wall at the back of an hospital'. He is a skillful digressionist who holds an uneasy court with 'Bones' (the not 'I' of the title) who resides in a cupboard. They argue, they vie for rhetorical supremacy, they listen to each others stories, sometimes they fall out or occasionally lapse into fireside meditation. Each chapter is the length of one of these conversations and there appears to be no organising principal or narrative trajectory behind their arrangement in the volume. 'Gourds', a self-consciously rambling meditation on the temporality of life lies next to, 'A Vampire', a forgotten example of the genre and one whose, Madame de St. Croix, predates Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla as the first female, serially sexual (though heterosexual), predatory vampire in the canon.

The "skeleton-in-the-cupboard" seems to have entered into common usage in the early nineteenth century, perhaps from a story that circulated in the American South of the drowning and post-mortem preservation of a slave. It implied the existence of some generally domestic guilty secret hidden within all families. but Whyte-Melville makes it clear that Bones is an acquisition, he has been 'brought home'. Although he's sometimes referred to as a 'specimen,' there are times when we learn more of his identity, especially in 'A Vampire'.

By means of his use of Bones as a narrative strategy, Whyte-Melville imaginatively stumbles into the territory of psychoanalysis a decade and a half before its invention. But out of the triumviry of 'I', Bones and Whyte-Melville it is hard to say who plays the psychoanalyst.

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Last modified 26 May 2006