31/31 Day 7: Sir Walter Scott's "The Tapestried Chamber"
Michael Cox writes that the ghost story didn’t take the form we know today until “Wandering Willie’s Tale” a narrative told by a character in Sir Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet. Yet, Scott informed by a favorite, Washington Irving, was already in business. An earlier piece, “The Tapestried Chamber” contains all of the necessary elements to pass muster with M.R. James: a pleasing terror, no gratuitous bloodshed, and no explanation of the machinery.
Here, we have the old country estate, containing of course, an even more ancient chamber, complete with family curse and an arrogant young lord who’d rather toss someone lower on social ladder — in this case a general returning from Yorktown — into the dead zone than open the family hope chest all by himself.
Scott begins this tale with a pile of ambiguity and unfinished business. When General Browne first stumbles upon his friend’s estate, odd if they were such intimates, we wonder whether this castle’s sudden appearance isn’t a mirage, or whether the general himself hasn’t really died in the war. Lord Woodville (dig the name) was once this general’s close friend, his “fag at Eton.
Of course I’m reading a lot into this, but if as James stipulated, there should be no explanation for the machinery, it’s a carte blanche to interpret as we like.
You, of course, can decide for yourself.