Wednesday , May 22 2024
The figure stalked once round the table, and then disappeared through the closet door, pulling it after him.

A Lady of Quality Tells a Ghost Story

Miss Frances Williams Wynn, a well-bred woman from a good family who moves in the heights of society, has a blog. That’s with a little help from me, since she died in 1844.

Her Diaries of a Lady of Quality was published in a second edition in 1864 (my copy) and it had received a positive review in The Times, yet it has almost disappeared from view. I’m trying to resurrect it by publishing the Diaries, which are rather like a commonplace book, so ideal for blogging, in daily form. (I’ve collected what little I know about her thus far here.)

Miss Williams Wynn might be high class, but she’s not stuffy, as this Halloween-seasonal extract suggests:

Buxton, Oct. 16th 1803

The night before my departure, the conversation happening to turn on ghost stories, Lord Bagot mentioned the following, as being very curious from its uncommon authenticity.

During the American war, Major Wynyard (who afterwards married Lady Matilda West), Gen. Ludlow, and Col. Clinton, were dining together in a mess-room at New York. In this room there were but two doors, one of which led to a staircase, and the other to a small closet, or rather press, without either door or window.

A man entered at the door, when Gen. Ludlow, the only one of the gentlemen whose head was turned to the door, exclaimed, ‘ Good God. Harry! what can have brought you here?’ The figure only waved its hand and said nothing. At his friend’s exclamation Major Wynyard turned round, and his astonishment at seeing a brother whom he had left in England was so great, that he was unable to speak.

The figure stalked once round the table, and then disappeared through the closet door, pulling it after him, without fastening it. One of the gentlemen rose immediately to open the door, but the figure was already vanished, and no trace of any mode of egress was found in the closet. Col. Clinton, who had never seen Mr. H. Wynyard, and was less horrified than his friends, proposed that they should mark both the day and the hour on which they had seen this strange apparition, believing that they should never hear of it again, but at the same time, thinking’ it might be a satisfaction to know the precise time of so extraordinary an occurrence.

The next mails which came from England brought news of the death of Mr. Henry Wynyard, which had taken place at the same hour, two days after that on which his brother had seen the figure.

Some years after this, as Col. Clinton and Gen. Ludlow were walking together in London, Col. Clinton exclaimed: ‘ There is the figure which we saw in America.’ Gen. Ludlow turned round, and saw a man (whose name Lord Bagot had forgot) so famous for being so like Mr. H. Wynyard, that he was perpetually mistaken for him. This man never had been in America. All these facts were told to Lord Bagot by Col. Wynyard, in the presence of either one or both of the gentlemen who were with him at the time that this extraordinary adventure happened.

Her editor, A. Hayward, comments: No ghost story is more frequently mentioned in society than this.

Coming soon from Miss Williams Wynn are accounts of an innocent Botany Bay convict, and of the Naples earthquake of 1805.

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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