The Spectre of Tappington (1840) by Richard Harris Barham

Tappington_Hall (1)

Image courtesy of Wikmedia

Evenin’ all.

I’ve been absent from the blog for a couple of weeks so I’m a bit behind on reviews and updates and all that jazz. I’ve read three books in this time (all very short) so I really need to get some posts up here. I’m beginning with this (equally short) review of The Spectre of Tappington, which is the second in my Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories collection. The first was Scott’s The Tapestried Chamber which was neither Victorian nor Edwardian. This one is at least Victorian but strictly speaking it’s not really a ghost story. What a great way to confuse your readers!

The Spectre of Tappington is apparently part of a larger collection of stories by Barham featuring Tappington Hall and Tom Ingoldsby. In this particular story an old friend, Charles Seaforth, a soldier, has returned to England from India and is staying at the Hall with his distant cousins, the Ingoldsbys. Thus far the plot is really quite similar to The Tapestried Chamber, especially as Seaforth is then given a room that appears to be haunted. Each night he awakens to witness a skeletal figure parade through the room and steal his trousers. The first time it happens he convinces himself that it’s all a dream but he soon changes his mind:

“He came to the bed’s foot, stared at me in a manner impossible to describe – and then he – he laid hold of my pantaloons, and whipped his long bony legs into them in a twinkling…”

“Absurd, Charles! How can you talk such nonsense?”

“But Caroline, the breeches really are gone!”

By the third night Seaforth’s getting annoyed – and running out of trousers – so it’s up to his friend Tom Ingoldsby to investigate.

The blatant thievery is comical rather than spooky but it feels much more substantial than The Tapestried Chamber. There’s more story, more witty conversation and a good description of Seaforth warming his arse before a fire that I quite enjoyed. It’s a trifle silly, and I felt a little cheated by the ending, but there’s not much else to complain about with this one.

What I find particularly interesting about this story – more than the story itself in fact – is that Barham used the pen name Tom Ingoldsby and Tappington Hall was his real home. You could, if you wished, stay in the room that inspired this tale. It’s the kind of literature/real-life cross over that I always like.

I’ll do my best to get a couple more reviews up here this week so I’m properly up to date, otherwise I’ll start forgetting what I’ve read. I’m tinkering with the idea of reading War and Peace next but I might talk myself out of that one in a day or two!

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