Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories

Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories

"Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories" is collection of short semi-comic mystery stories that were written by Oscar Wilde and published in 1891. It includes:
*Lord Arthur Savile's Crime
*The Canterville Ghost
*The Sphinx Without a Secret
*The Model Millionaire
*The Portrait of Mr. W. H.


Lord Arthur Savile's Crime

In this story, the main character is introduced to Mr Septimus R. Podgers by Lady Windermere, a chiromantist, who reads his palm and tells him that it is in his future that he will be a murderer. Lord Arthur wants to marry, but decides he has no right to do so until he has committed the murder.

His first attempted murder victim is his elderly Aunt Clementina, who suffers from heartburn. Pretending it is medicine, Lord Arthur gives her a capsule of poison, telling her to take it only when she has an attack of heartburn. Reading the newspaper some time later, he finds that she has died and victoriously returns to London to learn that she has bequeathed him some property. Sorting through the inheritance, he finds the poison pill, untouched; thus his aunt died from natural causes and he finds himself in need of a new victim. After some deliberation, he obtains a bomb from a friendly German Anarchist, disguised as a carriage-clock, and sends it anonymously to a distant relative, the Dean of Chichester. When the bomb goes off, however, the only damage done seems like a novelty trick, and the Dean's son spends his afternoons making tiny, harmless explosions with the clock. In despair, Lord Arthur believes that his marriage plans are doomed, only to encounter the same chiromantist who had told his fortune late at night on the bank of the River Thames. Realising the best possible outcome, he pushes the man off a parapet into the river where he dies. A verdict of suicide is returned at the inquest and Lord Arthur happily goes on to marry. In a slight twist, the chiromantist is denounced as a fraud, leaving it up to the reader as to whether the story is a result of free will or destiny.

The Canterville Ghost

When a family from the United States buys Canterville Chase, they are told by all that it is haunted by a horrible spirit, but this does not deter them in the slightest. Indeed, when they find a recurring blood stain on the floor, and hear creaking chains in the night, even seeing the ghost himself, all they do is clean up the blood and insist that the ghost oil his manacles if he is going to keep living in the house. This perturbs the ghost to no end, and he does everything he can to try to frighten the family.

Nothing the ghost does scares them, though the two twins (who enjoy heckling him) do manage to scare the ghost when they erect a fake ghost for him to find. Seeing him sitting alone and depressed, the daughter pities him and offers her help in trying to get him released from haunting. He takes her to the ghostly realm, where she and Death meet, but this meeting, and what goes on during it, is not described. She succeeds in her mission, and the Canterville Ghost disappears, his skeleton being found where it was chained in a hidden room centuries ago. The family buries the skeleton, and the daughter marries a duke, wearing a ruby necklace the ghost had given her before his release.

The Sphinx Without a Secret

In this very short story, Lord Murchison recounts to his old friend a strange tale of a woman he had loved and intended to marry, but was now dead. She had always been very secretive and mysterious, and he one day followed her to see where she went, discovering her stealthfully going to a boarding house. He suspected there was another man, and confronted her the next day. She confessed to having been there, but said nothing happened. He did not believe her and left; she died some time later.

He went to the boarding house to speak to the owner, and she confirmed she had rented the room and that all the lady ever did was come to it and sit alone for a few hours at a time, reading or doing nothing.

After telling his story, he asks his friend if he believes it — that her secret really was that she had no secret — and his friend said he was certain of it. Lord Murchison ends with the reply: "I wonder."

The Model Millionaire

Hughie Erskine is in love and wants to marry, but the girl's father will not allow it, since Erskine has no money. Erskine's friend is a painter, and he visits him at his studio one day to find him with a pitiable beggar--the model for his painting. Erskine only has one coin, which he depends on for transportation, but he decides he can walk for a couple weeks and gives the beggar the coin.

The beggar is in reality an immensely wealthy baron, having a portrait of himself as a beggar done for fun. He is so impressed by Erskine's generosity that he gives him £10,000, enough so that the girl's father will consent to his proposal.

The Portrait of Mr. W. H.

'The Portrait of Mr. W. H.' is a short story about an attempt to uncover the identity of Mr W.H., the enigmatic dedicatee of Shakespeare's Sonnets. It is based on a theory, originated by Thomas Tyrwhitt, that the Sonnets were addressed to one Willie Hughes, portrayed in the story as a boy actor who specialized in playing women in Shakespeare's company. The only evidence for this theory is a number of sonnets that make puns on the words 'Will' and 'Hues'.

In Wilde's story, Cyril Graham is convinced that the Hughes theory is correct, and tries to persuade his friend Erskine, but is frustrated by the lack of historical evidence for his existence. Graham sets about finding such evidence, but fails; he therefore fakes a portrait of Hughes with his hand on a book on which can be seen the dedication from the Shakespeares Sonnets. Erskine is convinced by this, but then discovers it to be a fake, and abandons his belief. Graham, however, still believes in the theory, and to prove it, shoots himself.

Erskine later recounts the story to another friend, who is so struck by the Willie Hughes theory that he begins his own research and further fleshes out Graham's findings until he is without a doubt that it was true. He presents it to Erskine, but then finds himself strangely divested from it and loses faith in its basis in reality.

Erskine's belief, however, is renewed and he sets off at once to try to find a trace of Willie Hughes. But like Graham, he finds nothing. His friend maintains that there was nothing to be found - that Hughes never existed. Erskine sent him a letter, in which he tells him that the truth is in front of him and, as a sign of complete faith in it, is now twice stained with blood. His friend goes to his hotel in Paris and finds Erskine dead.

He assumes Erskine committed suicide, but the doctor tells him the real cause was a lingering illness that Erskine had known about for some months, and that he had come to Paris specifically to die. He left his friend the portrait of Mr. W. H. The portrait now hangs in his home, where many comment on it but he does not tell of its history. He sometimes wonders to himself, however, if it might be true after all.

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