hidden europe 46

Railway ghosts

by hidden europe


Literary ghosts haunt the pages of mid and late 19th-century fiction - from Henry James The Turn of the Screw to Charles Dickens' The Haunted House. One of the spookiest tales of all is Dickens' The Signalman, a fine short story which may have been influenced by the train crash in which Dickens was involved in summer 1865.

For Charles Dickens, travelling by train and boat from Paris to London 150 years ago this summer (on 9 June 1865), there was a frightening incident during his journey when the boat train from Folkestone crashed on a Kent viaduct. The writer found himself confronted by the apotheosis of nothingness — far worse than any tunnel — when his railway carriage was left “impossibly balanced in the act of tilting” (as he recalled in correspondence).

Before retreating from the scene of the accident, Dickens had the good sense to tend the injured and retrieve the manuscript of his novel Our Mutual Friend from the precariously balanced carriage.

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