Night Terror in a Bleak Autumn

The Dream-Woman by Wilkie Collins (From Queen of Hearts) (1855)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    April 29, 2014

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OldEngland-vol2-p223-InnAtCharmouth-262x200A bleak autumn arrives.

Isaac Scatchard, a man of thirty-eight years, has been walking all day through the countryside and comes upon a small inn. He takes a room. The landlord happily closes and fastens the windows and doors, bids him a good night’s sleep. The unsnuffed candle burns down to issue a dull light as Isaac drifts off.

A strange shivering comes upon him.

 

“Between the foot of his bed and the closed door there stood a woman with a knife in her hand, looking at him.

He was stricken speechless with terror …”

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We have three narrators who tell this story of Isaac Scatchard in The Dream-Woman. We begin with a physician who is traveling with a lame horse and in need of a hostler, so he stops at an inn. We meet the landlord of the inn who tells us about poor old Isaac Scatchard, a hollowed, wrinkled man with grizzled hair—a man who sleeps only by the light of day. The physician wonders if there is  something wrong with Isaac’s brain that prevents the man from normal night sleeping.  He decides he must investigate. But investigate Isaac or the power of dreams?

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imagesThe full story is told by Isaac’s mother, Mrs. Scatchard, in Chapter Three. She tells us that Isaac’s apparent nightmare of this dream-woman occurred at the precise time and date of Isaac’s birthday at 2 a.m. Superstitious dread or warning? What happens to Isaac? Does he dream of this woman again who tries to stab him?

Like Isaac, you might believe that dreams have power. And you might believe that the elements of dreams are not so frothy as to disappear upon waking. Is there a reality in dreams? Maybe  of prophecy? Or maybe the dream reality is more like destiny?

 

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I adore dream elements in fiction and Wilkie Collins’ The Dream-Woman is a haunting story. You know this author from The Woman in White, The Moonstone; Frozen Deep is his most famous play that he co-wrote with Charles Dickens in 1857.  Collins was known for creating female characters that often showed a masculine side. He is certainly revered for his narrative power in this story. If you’ve ever heard the literary term “sensation genre,” this is the man who started it all.

Collins is one of many writers who uses dreams in stories. There is some speculation that Collins may have had such a dream as Isaac had. Robert Louis Stevenson was said to have based Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on a dream; Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel, The Castle of Otranto came from a dream;  Stephen King found the story of Salem’s Lot in a dream. Everyone knows that Mary Shelley claimed the idea for Frankenstein happened during a dream. I did the same with my novel Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural: I dreamed of a woman alone by the sea and ruled by her nightmares of persistent demon. Was I haunted by a winged creature in my own bedroom? Many nights!

I do believe that dreams contain eerie presences and that they have the power to perform a function in our lives. For Isaac Scatchard, the dream operates on both sides of the shadow.

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(William)_Wilkie_Collins_by_Rudolph_LehmannThere are several versions of The Dream-Woman by Wilkie Collins. This version here is  Brother Morgan’s Story of the Dream-Woman  from Queen of Hearts by Wilkie Collins:  Read the text at Ebooks.Adelaide.edu

 

Another version is subtitled A Mystery in Four Narratives and begins with the narrative (a longer version) told by the character Percy Fairbanks at ReadBooksOnline.net 

 

Or, you can listen to this version in audio, which has four parts on YouTube

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Charles Dickens, classic horror stories, Dreams, fiction, horror, literary horror, Night Sea Journey, quiet horror, short stories

2 responses to “Night Terror in a Bleak Autumn

  1. Alicia, thank you for your thoughts. There is a wish about the supernatural that many of us hold. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by ghost stories and can’t get enough of them. I love your blog site, by the way. It has a subtle richness that is quite inviting.

    Like

  2. I can’t read horror – too much imagination? – and couldn’t take ghost stories at camp, but you have a lovely hand with the reviews and the details. I learned so much by reading a bunch of them. There is an undercurrent of fascination with the occult and all the supernatural – that which we cannot rationalize – within humans, the wish to know.

    Like

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