ABSTRACT

Individual perceptions of ghosts were shaped by forces beyond pen and pulpit. At grass-roots level, ghost stories and ghost beliefs were rmly embedded within the life-cycle structures, daily habits and physical landscapes of late eighteenthcentury England. ese localized and highly personal confrontations with ghost stories form the subject of this chapter. We have seen how abstract philosophical trends refashioned perceptions of ghosts, but what did it mean to experience ghosts within a spatially-bound community? Childhood recollections from the turn of the nineteenth century indicate that the idea of ghosts was one of the most formative experiences of social life, and one that made a long-lasting impression that continued into adulthood. Britain’s colonial and commercial endeavours overseas created new spaces and motivations for the production and circulation of ghost stories. Ghost stories were also intimately linked with familiar geographical features of the natural environment. Evocative physical settings played a very signi cant role in determining the ways that people responded to these narratives. Local landscapes represented the primary sites in which most people experienced ghost stories, and as such they provide crucial contrasts to the appreciation of ghost stories through print. Reciprocal links between ghost stories, memory structures and physical landscapes further suggest that these narratives functioned as important expressions of personal and community identities. e cults of sensibility and romanticism will nally be examined for the ways in which they encouraged interest in wild, haunted landscapes. e impact of Gothic ctions and artworks upon the private leisure pursuits of the governing classes helps to create a more complete picture of how public and private perceptions of ghost beliefs were constantly interacting, and reshaping each other. By detailing how the idea of ghosts in ltrated everyday life, this chapter highlights reciprocal links between individual psychological structures and broader currents of social, religious and intellectual change.