Augustus John Cuthbert Hare (1834-1903) was an English writer who wrote mostly, it seems, about his travels and his family. Why he thought anyone would be interested in his six volume autobiography (The Story of my Life), I don’t know; but from it, we do learn that he had a lot of friends who liked to tell ghost stories. And Hare wrote them down.

John Augustus Cuthbert Hare
Augustus Hare (1834-1903). Source: Wikimedia

In that roundabout way that happens while doing research for a potential post, I found myself browsing the last three volumes of The Story of my Life. And I came upon an oddly familiar story, one that Hare records from a “Miss Broke,” the niece of the Gurdons, a family that Hare is staying with in Suffolk.

A woman living in Ireland begins having frequent dreams of “the most enchanting house I ever saw”—detailed dreams, about walking through all the rooms of the house, its garden and conservatory. Eventually the family decides to leave Ireland and move to England, and they proceed to search for a house in the vicinity of London. During their search, they learn of a house near Hampshire.

As they came to the lodge, Mrs. Butler said, “Do you know, this is the lodge of my house.” They drove down an avenue—“But this is my house!” she said.

Naturally, they buy the house, for a very good price—so good a price that they get suspicious. Finally, the house agent confesses that the owners put the house up for sale because it was haunted—only the agent recognized the “ghost” as Mrs. Butler. Or, as Augustus Hare put it, her “astral body.”

Neat, huh? And I was sure I had read it before, or something very much like it. But where?

About a day’s pondering and I hit it. Late last year, Swan River Press published The Death Spancel and Others, a collection of the supernatural writing of Irish author and poet Katharine Tynan, a close friend of William Butler Yeats.

Katharine Tynan (1859-1931). Source: Wikimedia

One of the stories in this wonderful collection is “The Dream House,” about a young man who is disinherited by his wealthy uncle for having married an actress. Reggie Champneys accepts his fate with good grace, but can’t resist regaling his wife with childhood memories of The Champneys, his beloved family home. So much so that Kitty, his wife, starts seeing The Champneys in her dreams….

Tynan’s version is richer and more elaborate than Hare’s, but it’s the same story in its bones, right down to the use of the term “astral body” at the end of the tale. Hare published Volume 6 of The Story of my Life in 1900; Tynan’s “The Dream House” first appeared in The Story-Teller, January 1909. So it’s possible that Tynan was inspired by Hare’s tale. Or maybe she was acquainted with “Miss Broke,” too.

However she got the idea, it was fun to see the evolution from folk motif to fiction.

Featured Image: The Garden, Holmhurst, Augustus Hare. Illustration for The Story of My Life, Volume 6 (1900).

One thought on “The Dream House: From Fireside Tale to Fiction

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