The Canterville Ghost

Author: Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
Downloaded: Project Gutenberg via iBooks


Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish journalist, poet, playwright and author. He was born in Dublin and read Classics in Trinity College, Dublin (1871 – 1874) and Magdalen College, Oxford (1874 – 1878). In university, Wilde became a strong follower of Aestheticism and he had Walter Pater, a leading figure of the movement, as a tutor in Oxford. Aestheticism started among artists and designers in the 1860s and expanded to include architects, poets, writers and philosophers. The movement argued that the arts (literature, visual art, music etc) should be enjoyed for its beauty alone and did not have any moral, social or didactic purposes. For some, the aesthetic ideal even became a way of life, manifested in hedonism and homosexuality. Aestheticism was a response to the morality and values of the middle class, the emerging mainstream of the Victorian Age.

Oscar Wilde is best known for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890, revised 1891) and play The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). The Canterville Ghost is one of his most famous short stories, first appearing in the collection Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories (1891). It has been adapted for radio, television and even the cinema.

In 1895, at the height of his fame, Oscar Wilde (somewhat foolishly, with hindsight) sued the Marquess of Queensbury for libel. He lost the case and his liability for the Marquess’ legal cost bankrupted him. Worse, the trial uncovered evidence of his sexual relationships with the Marquess’ son and other men. He was tried and convicted for gross indecency for which he was sentenced to two years of hard labor. He was released in 1897, a broken man physically. He left for Paris and died a penniless exile three years later.

What is the story about?

An American family occupies Canterville Chase and comes face to face with the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville, the first owner of the house.


Oscar Wilde comically satirised both the Americans (brash, commercialised) and the English aristocracy (out-dated, tradition-bound).

How is the e-book?

This e-book comes with illustrations by Wallace Goldsmith.

Finally …