Edward Frederic Benson was born in 1867 at Wellington College, where his father was headmaster, in Berkshire just outside London and died at University College London at the age of 72. His father went on to be Bishop of Truro, and Cornwall features in both his and his brothers’ stories, and then Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest ranking of the Anglican Church.
He was the fifth child. His illustrious brother A C Benson wrote the words to Land of Hope and Glory, a patriotic English song and some fine ghost stories, although probably not as good as EF’s. His other brother also wrote ghost stories but he was a committed Catholic and RH Benson’s stories often contain religious lessons rather than being merely fun.
His sister Margaret was an amateur Egyptologist and author. Two other siblings died young.
E F Benson was educated at Marlborough College and then went to King’s College Cambridge. His first book was Sketches from Marlborough and he was most famous in his lifetime for the Mapp and Lucia comic novel series. Arguably however his ghost stories are his greatest legacy. Some of these including this one How Fear Departed The Long Gallery have comic elements, particularly the kind of humour that observes and gently satirises the social class he moved in — otherwise known as the idle rich. A status I aspire to myself, and with your help will one day reach.
How Fear Departed The Long Gallery
The story starts with a rather comic picture of a genteel English county family who live in a long occupied ancestral house full of quirky ghosts. Then after the comedy we are told about the scary ghosts: the murdered children, murdered quite horribly by Dirty Dick. It was one of those murders like Richard III, motivated by a desire to wipe out the line and inherit
I think the scariness of children is if I may say like that of a doll. It’s the uncanny valley. They are both like and unlike adults. They look like us, but we cannot be sure they think like us or what they will do. Who is hiding behind the eyes of the child. Anne Rice does this with her child vampire Claudia and there was a child vampire in Skyrim too. Just saying.
The servant who first sees the toddlers dies. Then Miss Canning, the great beauty and friend of Voltaire mocks th twins and gets a horrible lichen disease. E F wrote a few horror stories that feature diseases, notably Caterpillars. Colonel Blantyre shot at the poor ghosts. Miss Canning told them to get back into the fire.
When Madge wakes in the Long gallery after dark and gets lost in the furniture and disorientated that’s like the Blind. Man’s Buff story we did. Lighten Our Darkness indeed, and figuratively by mercy. So it’s a story about redemption