‘[H]ear the ghost!’: Spirits and deathly portents in the short stories of Thomas Richards

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Contributor(s) Organisations
Date

05 Nov 2022

Type(s) Oral presentation

Event details

Event TitleHaunted Wales
Duration05 Nov 202206 Dec 2022
LocationGregynog Hall
CityNewtown
CountryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
TypeConference

Description

On 1 November 1825, the quarterly journal The Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, &c. published the first of two ‘Cambrian Sketches’ by an anonymous author under the title ‘The Spectre of Pont Vathew’. Set in Dyffryn Dysynni, the story takes place within living memory and relates the tragic murder of a young local woman. On the twentieth anniversary of her death, her restless spirit at last succeeds in taking vengeance by drowning the perpetrator in the shallow river during a torrential downpour. Whilst this story and the one published in the following number of the Repository were published anonymously, the location, themes and turns of phrases indicate Thomas Richards’s (1800-1877) authorship. Originally from Dolgellau, today Richards’s name is all but forgotten in the country of his birth, while in Australia he is esteemed as a contributor to the emergence of the Tasmanian short story. When he was only nine years of age, he was sent to a London boarding school after the death of his father, and never returned for more than short visits, but Wales and his ancestral bro forever haunted his short stories and antiquarian writings. Using internal evidence around ghostly hauntings and death portents from several of Richards’s published writings, this paper seeks to establish him as the author of this recent serendipitous find in a 240-year old magazine otherwise invested in fashion and decorative arts.