Ghost Story Review: “Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman” by Wilkie Collins
This story is introduced by a man who took the dying confession, so to speak, of his brother, a clergyman. The clergyman brings to his attention the case of a man recently acquitted for the murder of a certain Miss Jéromette. The clergyman knows he was in fact guilty.
He swears his brother to secrecy then begins to tell how he met Miss Jéromette in London years earlier, how she was smarting from a being abandoned by a gentleman friend. She doesn’t want a romance, but they start a friendship. All this is just as well because the brothers’ mother extracts a deathbed promise from him to fulfill his promise to their father and enter the church.
At the same time he must break this news to Jéromette, she receives a letter from her erstwhile gentleman friend, saying he will take her back. He will marry her, but the marriage must remain secret while his parents live. Yeah, what lady could turn down an offer like that?
They part. The clergyman offers her help should she ever need it. Jéromette says she knows she will die young and horribly, but she will let him know.
My big gripe with this story is that the characters are all so passive. The unnamed brother who takes the clergyman’s confession just sits and listens to his brother. The clergyman listens to the predictions of Miss Jéromette, who in turn takes back a lover who had abandoned her despite knowing things will turn out horribly. The clergyman offers help, but she never asks takes up his offer, outside putatively appearing to him as a spirit. Melodrama overload for me, I’m afraid.
Author Wilkie Collins, the son of a painter, is perhaps now best known for his novel The Moonstone . In addition to novels and short stories, Collins also wrote—and acted in—several plays. He became good friends with author Charles Dickens.
Title: “Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman”
Author: Wilkie Collins (1824-1889)
First published: first appeared as “The Clergyman’s Confession” in Canadian Monthly August-Sept. 1875
© 2016 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has been removed from that site and is no longer visible. Additionally, that site has crashed and burned and is no longer visible. The review has been updated and expanded for its inclusion in PP.