‘Treasure into Trash: Ghostly Objects and the Horrors of Ghastly Ancestors in the Ghost Stories of Louisa Baldwin’

Heholt, Ruth and Lloyd, Rebecca (2014) ‘Treasure into Trash: Ghostly Objects and the Horrors of Ghastly Ancestors in the Ghost Stories of Louisa Baldwin’. In: 'Treasure into Trash: Victorian Popular Fiction' Conference, July 2014, Senate House London.

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Abstract / Summary

This paper looks at the ghost stories of Louisa Baldwin. More commonly known as Mrs Alfred Baldwin, there are no commentaries that mention Louisa without reference to her family. Wife to Alfred Baldwin, sister-in-law to Edward Burne-Jones and Rudyard Kipling and mother to prime minister Stanley Baldwin it is perhaps not surprising that Louisa tends to be lost. As John Pelan and Richard Dalby say, ‘Louisa Baldwin figures mostly as a footnote’ (ix). The writer of apparently mostly forgettable fiction, Louisa produced one popular and critically acclaimed collection of ghost stories; The Shadow on the Blind and Other Ghost Stories (1895). This paper focuses on two of the tales, ‘The Weird of the Walfords’ and ‘The Empty Picture Frame’. Both stories have ghostly objects; an ancestral bed and a picture of a long-dead ancestor, that provide examples of both treasure and trash. The ancient bed is inherited by Henry Walford and the centuries-old picture by Katherine Swinford, both of whom are the last of an aristocratic ancestral line. In the stories, each of the ghostly and uncanny objects finally destroy their owners and bring about the demise of the family lines. In Baldwin’s ghost stories, family and ancestry are not seen as a stabilizing influence conferring status and an idea of longevity, but as stifling, oppressive, madness-inducing and absolutely inescapable. That which is usually seen as something to be treasured: aristocratic ancestry, in the final reckoning becomes an engulfing horror that overcomes the individual. This paper speculates that for Louisa Baldwin, the idea of ancestry and family was at the very least, oppressive. Class relations are questioned as Baldwin’s ghost tales turn a more acceptably treasured idea of aristocracy, history and family into trash.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Writing & Journalism > Literature
Writing & Journalism
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > Journalism
Depositing User: Ruth Heholt
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2015 13:47
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 16:06
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/1535

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