The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde Gutenberg link here, for those wanting immediate (and free) gratification. Though I really don't like most of the illustrations in that version.I can't remember when I first read this story, only that it was long ago, and that I've always thought it was an underrated work of Wilde's. Since I love ghost stories in general I was predisposed to like this one.The story comes in two parts: the first where we're introduced to the family and then the ghost, and which contains a lot of humor and slapstick. The second part becomes poetic in its discussion of death, and a bit melodramatic in its ending.Early in Chapter I, an example of the humor:Suddenly Mrs. Otis caught sight of a dull red stain on the floor just by the fireplace, and, quite unconscious of what it really signified, said to Mrs. Umney, "I am afraid something has been spilt there.""Yes, madam," replied the old housekeeper in a low voice, "blood has been spilt on that spot.""How horrid!" cried Mrs. Otis; "I don't at all care for blood-stains in a sitting-room. It must be removed at once."The old woman smiled, and answered in the same low, mysterious voice, "It is the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, who was murdered on that very spot by her own husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, in 1575. Sir Simon survived her nine years, and disappeared suddenly under very mysterious circumstances. His body has never been discovered, but his guilty spirit still haunts the Chase. The blood-stain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed.""That is all nonsense," cried Washington Otis; "Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time," and before the terrified housekeeper could interfere, he had fallen upon his knees, and was rapidly scouring the floor with a small stick of what looked like a black cosmetic. In a few moments no trace of the blood-stain could be seen."I knew Pinkerton would do it," he exclaimed, triumphantly, as he looked round at his admiring family; but no sooner had he said these words than a terrible flash of lightning lit up the sombre room, a fearful peal of thunder made them all start to their feet, and Mrs. Umney fainted.The American family is very much an object of humor and here in particular is an example of their rampant consumerism - they always know the right product for the situation! It may be Oscar Wilde writing in 1906, but it's definitely a "surprise, it's product placement" joke. (There was a lot of product placement in short stories at the time, but not everyone was satirizing it.)There are a lot of jabs at Americans here, but since the family is obviously A Type (father obsessed with Greek republicanism, mother into fashion and entertaining, twin sons constantly into mischief, etc.) it's pretty much standard comedy of the time. With a ghost thrown into the mix.In Chapter V the descriptions and conversations become serious and poetic - the Ghost and Virginia have a conversation:"Far away beyond the pine-woods," he answered, in a low, dreamy voice, "there is a little garden. There the grass grows long and deep, there are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold crystal moon looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the sleepers."Virginia's eyes grew dim with tears, and she hid her face in her hands."You mean the Garden of Death," she whispered."Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death's house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is."Very Victorian, very sentimental, but still quite well written.I'm sure there are many people who'd find the ending too hokey and sweet, but considering the level of comedy we started with, a sweet ending is rather surprising, and pulling off that tone next to humor rather fun to see. Wilde manages to pull it off, I think.