By Simon Hay (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of the Modern British Ghost Story
Sympathy, Smith explains, is key to the development of the modern liberal subject, and it begins with imaginative identiﬁcation: we imagine ourselves into the identity of a wronged or wounded person, and respond as if we were in their shoes. Or rather, since his paradigmatic moment of such imaginative identiﬁcation is sympathy for the dead, as if we were in their graves: When we see one man oppressed or injured by another, the sympathy which we feel with the distress of the sufferer serves only to animate our fellow-feeling with his resentment against the offender .
Of the widow’s death, the narrator concludes, ‘I can tell [the reader] nothing. It is supposed to have happened several years after she had attracted the attention of my excellent friend Mrs Bethune Baliol’ (p. 209). He goes on to give some of the consequences of Mrs Baliol’s sympathy, distinguishing his own disinterestedness from her interestedness. ‘Her benevolence . . ’ This charity has an effect, however, only on Mrs Baliol; for the widow, it was ‘a matter of total indifference’ (p. 209). More than indifference, even, the Highlander turns against any charity with ‘an extreme resentment’ (p.
Seem to be but a small part of the duty which we owe him. (2000, pp. ’ Smith contrasts this position of sympathetic spectatorship with ‘the indifferent spectator’ (p. 52), and here at least indifference seems an inadequately sympathetic response. If the ‘sympathetic tears’ are ‘but a small part of the duty which we owe’ to the wronged and especially to the dead, then sympathy seems to demand a politics of revenge, an ‘imaginary resentment’ that would justify and even demand a set of actions or engagements in response to the wrongs inﬂicted on the dead (p.