‘When the cage came up there was something crouched a-top of it’the haunted tales of L.T.C. Rolt - a contextual analysis

Masters Thesis

Rhodes, D. 2018. ‘When the cage came up there was something crouched a-top of it’the haunted tales of L.T.C. Rolt - a contextual analysis. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
AuthorsRhodes, D.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMA

British writer and historian L.T.C. Rolt’s collection of ghost stories, Sleep No More was published in 1948. His short fiction deserves greater exposure. More than simply a ‘derivative imitation’ of what came before, one could argue the collection provides an end point for the Victorian and Edwardian ghostly tale. Whilst heavily influenced by, and indebted to, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu and M.R. James, Rolt’s tales assuredly re-shape the traditional ghost story from the outdated gothic settings of the past and the academic background of James’s works - the isolated country churches, foreign abbeys and country halls - into the more identifiable surroundings of post-war Britain with its steam trains, canals and factories. Gone too are Le Fanu’s country squires and James’s fusty antiquarians, replaced by railwaymen, steel-workers and motor-racing enthusiasts. It is into this recognisable world populated by ordinary characters that Rolt slips his unease. In doing so, he forges the way, alongside Fritz Leiber for the generation of ‘working-class’ or ‘blue-collar’ stories that follow.

Beginning with a close analysis of the key fundamentals of a ghost story as laid down by M.R. James, and juxtaposing those against Rolt’s informative essay The Passing of the Ghost Story (1956) we can see how Rolt’s tales provide a distinctive connection between the traditional ghost stories of James and the industrial short horror fiction of Leiber. Rolt also sets a portion of his tales in isolated Welsh valleys and the Shropshire border country where he was raised. It is in these more wild and brooding locations, more aligned to the works of Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, that his tales of ghosts and hauntings are transformed into unsettling, disorientating excursions where ‘angel satyrs’ stir.

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Publication process dates
Deposited20 Nov 2018
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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