Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Apparition of Mrs. Veal

I read Daniel Defoe's "The Apparition of Mrs. Veal" in a volume titled The Best Ghost Stories, edited by Joseph Lewis French.

Mrs. Bargrave is visited by Mrs. Veal, a friend with whom she has had a falling out. They repair the breach in their friendship during this visit, and Mrs. Veal recommends to Mrs. Bargrave Drelincourt's book on death.

Upon reading this reference to Drelincourt, I stopped reading and went to to see if there was such a book; and indeed there is.

Mrs. Veal had died just at the time that Mrs. Bargrave said she was visited by Mrs. Veal. The reader is told that the ghost of Mrs. Veal had two purposes in visiting Mrs. Bargrave after death: "Her two great errands were to comfort Mrs. Bargrave in her affliction and to ask her forgiveness for the breach of friendship, and with a pious discourse to encourage her."

Appended to the story is a section entitled "To the Reader", apparently written by Joseph Louis French, in which it is suggested that this story was written as a means of promoting Drelincourt's book. If so, it was effective with at least this reader.

If we apply Susan Hill's definition of what makes a ghost story, this story meets two of her three criteria: there is a ghost; and the ghost has a purpose. The third element of Ms. Hill's defenition, that there be a ghostly atmosphere, is missing.

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