illustration of a ghost standing behid an iron fence with its arm raised against a large mansion

The Canterville Ghost

by Oscar Wilde

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Significant Allusions

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Allusions to Historical Persons 

  • Virgin Queen: Queen Elizabeth I of England, who ruled from 1558 to 1603; last of the ruling Tudor family and one of the most famous monarchs in English history 
  • Saroni: Napoleon Sarony; an American lithographer and photographer popular in the 1880s 
  • Sarah Bernhardt: a French actress regarded as one of the best actors of all time; popular in Europe and the United States in the 1870s 
  • Charles James Fox: a British statesman and a main opponent of King George III; a notorious gambler, womanizer, and hedonist 
  • Sir William Gull: 1st Baronet of Brook Street and prominent English physician in the 1800s; made significant contributions to medical science through his work on paraplegia, Bright’s disease, and anorexia nervosa

Allusions to Historical Places 

  • King’s College Cambridge: a college within the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England; founded in 1441 by Henry VI 
  • St. George’s, Hanover Square: a beautiful Anglican church in central London built in the early 18th century; a popular site for high society weddings 
  • Kenilworth: Kenilworth Castle where Queen Elizabeth I was entertained with banquets and pageants held in her honor; located in England’s West Midlands and constructed over several centuries, beginning in the 1100s 
  • Eton: Eton College founded in 1440 by King Henry VI; located near Windsor Castle 

Contemporaneous Allusions 

  • Gretna Green: a village in the south of Scotland near the border with England; a popular site for eloping, as very young couples could marry without their parents’ permission 
  • Wandsworth Common: a sizable public area in Wandsworth, a district of southwest London; contains a large amount of green space, as well as ponds and a lake 
  • Tunbridge Wells: Royal Tunbridge Wells, an affluent town in the county of Kent in England; became a fashionable resort for the wealthy in the early 1800s 
  • Crockford’s: William Crockford’s St. James Club, a London gentlemen’s club established in 1823; known for gambling and a slightly scandalous reputation 
  • Newport Casino: an American social club in Newport, Rhode Island; established in 1880 by the publisher of the New York World newspaper, James Gordon Bennett, Jr. 
  • Psychical Society: The Society For Psychical Research; founded in the United Kingdom in 1882 to study psychic or paranormal activities unexplained by science 
  • Scotland Yard: The Metropolitan Police Service established by Parliament in 1829; commonly called “Scotland Yard” because the original police headquarters were located on Great Scotland Yard in London 

Literary Allusions 

  • Monsieur de Voltaire: François-Marie Arouet, a French writer during the Enlightenment known by his pen name Voltaire; famous for his wit, criticisms of the Catholic Church, and advocacy of freedom of expression, religion, and separation of church and state 
  • Longfellow: American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) who wrote lyrical poems that largely adhered to poetic conventions, such as standard forms, regular meter, and rhymed stanzas; the most popular American poet of his day who also enjoyed success in Europe 
  • Chanticleer: the vain rooster in “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” a story and mock epic in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales; takes enormous pride in the sound of his crowing 

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