Here is a collection of short stories, typical of Wilde's wry humor. The Canterville Ghost pokes fun at Americans and their lack of
romanticism and imagination. The Otis family (Mr. Otis is a United States Minister) moves to England and purchases Canterville Chase. The family consists
of Hiram and Lucretia, and their children, Washington, Virginia, and the twins, nicknamed Stars and Stripes. They are forewarned that a ghost resides there,
who has been running off residents since 1584. The ghost is Sir Simon de Canterville, who murdered his wife, then disappeared nine years later, never to
be found. The Otises are perfectly comfortable with that, and we shall soon see that it is the ghost who becomes the uncomfortable one.
First there is the blood stain by the fireplace, somewhat of an admired curiosity, the housekeeper mentions. Washington immediately removes it with Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent. Although it continues to appear each morning in a variety of colors, Pinkerton's is always applied.
And the ghost doesn't attempt to sneak around, either—he makes himself completely known. To remedy the clanking of his heavy manacles and rusty gyves, Hiram offers him some Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator, which is downright insulting to a ghost.
As he laments in the corridor, the twins throw pillows at him. The taunts continue, even to the point where the Otis children set up a phony ghost to scare the real one. Now that is stooping low. . .
After four weeks, the ghost has become run down. He gives up on the bloodstain. Of the Otises, he surmises that "They were evidently people on a low, material plane of existence, and quite incapable of appreciating the symbolic value of sensuous phenomena." He becomes so depressed and weary that he can barely perform his haunting duties.
Then he encounters the fifteen-year-old Virginia, sweet and loving, and the story takes a mighty turn.
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime is a darkly humorous tale which begins at a party given by Lady Windermere. One of her guests is the palm reader Mr. Podgers. He delights the ladies as he reads their future, but when Lord Arthur requests his reading, Podgers becomes pale and clearly upset, saying only that Arthur is a charming young man. Before the party ends, Lord Arthur corners Podgers and demands to know his future, even offering payment. Podgers tells Arthur that he will commit a murder.
Now, obviously this upsets Lord Arthur considerably, especially since he is soon to marry the woman of his dreams, Sybil Merton. Arthur leaves the party and wanders eventually home. The next morning, however, he is in a much more practical mood, and decides that if murder is in his future, he better be done with it, so he can get on with his life and marriage. He makes a list of his friends and relatives, and picks an elderly second cousin, Lady Clementina. He decides poison is the route to go, so he studies a toxicology book, then goes to a chemist to get the pill, claiming it is for a rabid dog. He boxes it up like a bonbon, and tells Clementina it is for her heartburn attacks, and she must take it when that happens. Then he leaves the country to visit his brother in Venice, checking the obituaries each day. At last, the one he awaits appears, and he returns home to find that she has also included him in her will. When he and Sybil are at Clementina's home doing some cleaning, Sybil finds the "bonbon" untouched.
So now, Lord Arthur must delay the wedding again, and find another victim. But does he? This is a clever and funny tale.
These are the two longest stories in the collection, along with two very short stories, and some serious, religious "Poems in Prose." This thin volume can be read in a few hours, and provides delightful entertainment.
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