Episode 18: The Old Nurse's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell
This story was written by Elizabeth Gaskell. Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810 in London and died aged only 55 in 1865 in Hampshire. She was an accomplished novelist and with many successful novels in her time, but we are most interested in her ghost stories.
She is one of the earliest writers that we have featured and I think you can tell that in the writing which seems a little archaic at times. An Old Nurse’s Story was published in 1852 and it is part of the Victorian tradition of Christmas ghost stories where the family would sit around the fire by candlelight and listen to ghost stories at Christmas. I think that is quite a delightful tradition and one that I would like to bring back.
The Old Nurse’s Story features a lot of the Gothic tropes that we are familiar with. We have the castle or the grand old house which is so big and part of it uninhabited. It is set in a remote area. We've seen that Bram Stoker uses Transylvania while Joseph Le Fanu uses Styria in Austria. Even the far more modern Russell Kirk uses the backwoods of New England. What is amusing to me is that the remote trackless area that Elizabeth Gaskell uses is in fact my home region and I'm very familiar with the fells of Cumberland and Westmorland and Northumberland.
It's ironic that I was more self-conscious of doing the accent and I think rather than having my own native Cumbrian accent I sounded a bit Yorkshire.
It is actually quite a magnificent story and in common with many of the Victorian ghost stories Elizabeth Gaskell spends a lot of time describing the scenery. So we have a very clear picture of the huge and gloomy mansion. We have very romantic ghosts and in common with many ghost stories this is a moral tale. The older lady Miss Furnival pays in age for the sins of pride that she committed when she was young.
The story winds towards its ending in quite a direct way but there wasn't any time when I was reading it that I thought that any part of it was surplus.
I plan to do a series of Christmas ghost stories as we get closer to Christmas. This one isn't technically a Christmas ghost story but it is very wintry with snow and cold.
In terms of what I'm up to at the moment. We are quite busy with our ghost story evenings tour around in about the place. I am also editing an audiobook of my own which is the Cumbrian ghost stories, although this podcast gets in the way of doing that. I have a small volume of Christmas ghost stories out on Amazon which is selling quite well. It's a slim volume of three stories
and there is an audiobook to go along with it if you fancied getting a copy of that from Audible.
It seems the podcast goes from strength to strength and a number of listeners is increasing which is great news. We had another anonymous five star review on Apple podcasts but I'm not complaining because it was anonymous. In fact, thank you to the anonymous person who wrote that
As always I wouldn’t treat you to like share and rate the podcast however you choose to listen to it.
You can always support the podcast via Patreon and I’ve got a new link to Kofi so you can buy me a cup of coffee and there is no ongoing payment involved or commitment.
I'm still looking for suggestions for stories to read after Christmas so please drop me a line through Twitter. On Instagram also.
The music is by the Heartwood Institute so go and get copies of that on Bandcamp