The Lady's Walk



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The Story

Mr Temple, the narrator of this story, meets the Campbell family while travelling in Switzerland. He admires 28-year-old Charlotte ("Chatty"), who is a mother-sister figure to the rest; and he is pleased to be invited to their West Highlands estate, Ellermore, for the shooting. As his love for Chatty grows, he becomes aware how unlikely it is that she would ever marry and leave her family.

While on this visit he learns about the family ghost - an ancient relation who comes at sunset each evening to walk in the old beech walk known as the Lady's Walk, and whose footsteps can be heard going up and down the avenue. After he is approached twice by a mysterious veiled lady with a warning that Chatty's brother Colin is in great trouble, he and Chatty and her father rush to London - but will they be in time?

And much later the mysterious lady will approach Mr Temple again.

Biographical and other notes

According to the 1984 book Ford: A Village in the West Highlands of Scotland by John B Stephenson, the fictional house of "Ellermore" in The Lady's Walk was based on a real Highland mansion-house, Ederline House. As in the story, the estate has its own small loch (Loch Ederline), and had belonged to the Campbells for centuries. (Sadly the house no longer stands.)

The ghost story itself had another source, according to Margaret Oliphant's cousin Annie Walker Coghill, who edited her Autobiography and Letters. Cousin Annie relates that while Mrs Oliphant was on a visit to friends in Northamptonshire, she " . . . heard a legendary story of the neighbouring old house of the Sackvilles [Drayton House] which by-and-by shaped itself in her mind into 'The Lady's Walk.'" (Per the Autobiography and Letters, 1899, page 287.)

There are two versions of The Lady's Walk, both available above:  the shorter version for Longman's Magazine in 1882-3, and the longer version published as a novel in 1897. It is unknown whether the longer version was already written by 1882, and if so, whether magazine requirements caused Mrs Oliphant to shorten it. Most of the differences in the text are accounted for by the drastic curtailment of the scenes in London. There are also a few small changes in wording, most notable in the scenes where Mr Temple is speaking with the mysterious lady.

Fyi, the 1897 edition also contains an old short story, The Ship's Doctor (1868), beginning on page 205. The story is not listed in the table of contents; and this is the only edition it appears in.

British publishing information

Periodical:   Longman's Magazine   Dec 1882 - Jan 1883

First edition:   Methuen and Co (also includes story The Ship's Doctor) 1897

Series and Themes

Male central character
Stories of the Seen and Unseen
The Highlands
Theft, forgery, embezzlement
Unmarried women
Vice - gambling, depravity, dissipation
Women's issues / women's rights

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