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The Stoneground Ghost Tales by E.G. Swain
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The Stoneground Ghost Tales

by E.G. Swain

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I was reminded that I owned this book when I reread 100 Ghastly Little Ghost Stories and bumped into one of Swain's stories there (Bone to His Bone) - I have a lot of books of ghost stories and am apt to forget what I own like that. I'd originally bought this book when I learned that Swain was a friend of M. R. James and also had written ghost stories - and that those stories were a bit difficult to track down. This is the perfect book to discover Swain with because the introduction covers Swain's history and character, and the last chapter with his obituary. It's a great way to set the stories in perspective.

Last paragraph of the introduction:
p. xviii "When you read these stories, do not expect Swain to be a carbon-copy of M.R. James. While his friend was influenced by Le Fanu's horrifying tales, Swain, who produced more genteel stories, creates a more Dickensian feeling. In Stoneground, there are no characters as dark as Mr. Abney, Count Magnus, or the abominable Mr. Karswell. Only the entity from 'The Rockery' is truly dangerous; the others generally want only peace or justice. That the friendship between the two authors continued for many years after the publication of Swain's volume shows that James must have appreciated the erudition and wit which they contain."

Another thing in Swain's writing which is quite different from M.R. James - Swain uses the reoccurring character of the vicar Batchel, who just happens to be in the area (or somewhere in the narrative) when the ghost pops in.

Ghost stories in this book, in order:

The Man With the Roller
An appearance in a photograph.

Bone to His Bone
A past Vicar's library sends our hero Batchel on a midnight quest. I loved the book descriptions in this one. Also mentions The Compleat Gard'ner of de la Quintinye, which I believe is an actual book.

One of my favorite quotes, because it shows Swain is as much a book lover as the rest of us:
p 16 "...The books there are arranged as he arranged and ticketed them. Little slips of paper, sometimes bearing interesting fragments of writing, still mark his places. His marginal comments still give life to pages from which all other interest has faded, and he would have but a dull imagination who could sit in the chamber amidst these books without ever being carried back 180 years into the past, to the time when the newest of them left the printer's hands."

The Richpins
A local man is seen in Frenchman's Meadow who was in reality found elsewhere. So who was it in the meadow?

I love how Swain suddenly has a discussion about the use of coincidence mid-story:
p. 36 "...The next incident has, to some, appeared incredible, which only means, after all, that it has made demands on their powers of imagination and found them bankrupt.

Critics of story-telling have used severe language about authors who avail themselves of the short-cut of coincidence. 'That must be reserved, I suppose,' said Mr. Batchel, when he came to tell of Richpin, 'for what really happens; and that fiction is a game which must be played according to the rules.'
It goes on for several more paragraphs, which I found amusing.

The Eastern Window
A moving imagine inside a stained glass window and a ghost that wants something. And we also learn that, in certain circumstances, Betchel feels he can ignore the law.

A fun description of the window:
p. 39 "...It is a large painted window, of a somewhat unfortunate period of execution. The drawing and colouring leave everything to be desired."
I always like it when a character is reasonably unimpressed with artwork.

Lubrietta
In which our vicar discovers what had apparition has to do with grading exam papers.

A reminder that this is written in 1912:
p. 56-57 "...He had learned from a friend in the Indian Civil Service that an exaggerated value was often placed by ambitious Indians and Cingalese upon a European education, and that many aspiring young men declined to take a wife who had not passed this very examination. It was to Mr. Batchel a disquieting reflection that his blue pencil was not only marking mistakes, but might at the same time be cancelling matrimonial engagements, and his friend's communication had made him scrupulously careful in examining the work of young ladies in Oriental Schools...

...Young ladies were notoriously weak in argument, and as strong in conclusions!" and after all, the conclusion was correct, and ought not a correct conclusion to have its marks? There followed much more to the same purpose, and in the end Mr. Batchel stultified himself by adding the necessary three marks and passing the candidate.

The Rockery
A mystery uncovered while gardening.

The Indian Lamp-shade
A lamp shade and a mirror reveal a scene from the past.

The Place of Safety
In which Batchel really wants to find some lost church relics, and - sort of - does.

The Kirk Spook
A humorous ghost story.
( )
  bookishbat | Sep 25, 2013 |
A clumsy, awkward writer if I'm honest but with enough ideas that the book just manages to become special and considerably more than an otherwise rather reheated Jamesian collection of ghost stories. I particularly like the idea of there being a linking theme between the stories. Worth tracking down. ( )
  irkthepurist | Oct 8, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E.G. Swainprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rowlands, DaveAuthormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cox, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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