I purchased the Wordsworth collection, IN GHOSTLY COMPANY by Amyas Northcote, because Amazon suggested it to me based on my previous purchases, mentioning him as similar to M.R. James. The Introduced of the book by David Stuart Davies gives some background on Northcote. Not an easy task, I’m sure, due to the obscurity of the author. Amyas was born in 1864. His father, Sir Stafford Northcote, was the lord of a manor and a powerful politician. I found it interesting Amyas attended Eton College the same time as M.R. James, although it is unknown if the two ever met. This collection of ghost stories, his only published work, came out in 1921. Unfortunately, Amyas died just eighteen months after its publication, making the promotion of the book difficult and relegating it to obscurity. Amyas might have been forgotten altogether if Montague Summers hadn’t included one of his stories, “Brickett Bottom”, in his influential SUPERNATURAL OMNIBUS (1931). It makes me wonder how many great writers have become forgotten due similar circumstances. While I wouldn’t put Amyas Northcote on the same level as M.R. James, I did enjoy these stories. “Brickett Bottom”, “In the Woods”, “The Steps” and “The Governess’s Story” were personal favorites of mine.
- “Brickett Bottom” (1921) – A vicar’s daughter spies a house on her way home she hadn’t noticed before. Her nearsighted sister is unable to see it. They plan to visit the following day, but the nearsighted sister injures her foot and can’t go. When the other goes alone, she fails to return.
- “Mr. Kershaw and Mr. Wilcox” (1921) – A business arrangement between two neighbors sours, leading to dark consequences in this tale of subtle supernatural underpinnings with a twist ending.
- “In the Woods” (1921) – A lonely 17 year old girl finds herself enthralled by the woods near her home. She spends her spare time there and begins to view the trees as her only friends. She yearns to learn their mysteries and begins to feel the area observing her. As she slips further from normal life to become more in tune with the woods, she realizes that although the woods have great beauty, it also hides powerful evil.
- “The Late Earl of D.” (1921) – A solicitor witnesses a phantom reenactment of a violent crime.
- “Mr. Mortimer’s Diary” (1921) – The diary of a man found dead under bizarre circumstances tells of his being haunted by a diabolical ghost.
- “The House in the Woods” (1921) –Two men are forced to spend the night in a secluded house in the woods.
- “The Steps” (1921) – A young woman is haunted by the approaching footsteps of a man whose love she spurned.
- “The Young Lady in Black” (1921) – An artist is approached by a young woman in black who implores him to paint her portrait but is unable to sit for him longer than a half hour. He encounters her a few times afterwards, each under strange circumstances.
- “The Downs” (1921) – A man traveling through downlands at night finds himself accompanied by a mysterious stranger.
- “The Late Mrs. Fowke” (1921) – A man secretly follows his wife on one of her journeys out of town to find her partaking in occult activities.
- “The Picture” (1921) – A girl becomes enthralled by the portrait of a dead Count in a manor house.
- “The Governess’s Story” (1921) – A governess keeps hearing someone running and opening a window in a room above her every night. These unearthly footfalls are tied to a grim family secret.
- “Mr. Oliver Carmichael” (1921) – A man enters a shop to buy a handkerchief and meets an unattractive, female clerk. When their eyes meet, he is filled with an inexplicable dread. From that point on, he is haunted by her, feeling evil growing in his soul which is tormented each night while he sleeps.
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