Peripheral Vibrations


In the early stages of L.T.C. Rolt’s short story ‘Music Hath Charms’ (1948), two companions view the landscape from the train: ‘they saw the majestic shape of St Michael’s Mount framed in the carriage window’.1 The scene is pictured, ‘framed’, as a distant view, stripped of any other senses, as is characteristic of ‘the tourist gaze’. In this case the journey is from London to Cornwall, as it is in other gothic fictions by authors across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from Wilkie Collins’s Basil (1852) to Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903) and several of E.F. Benson’s ghost stories (from 1912 to the 1930s).3 In such stories Cornwall—along with Yorkshire, Cumbria and other rural regions with coastlines—operates as a peripheral location at the edge of England.…