Victorian Popular Fictions 2: 1 3 Ferguson

A Haunting in Time and Space:

Vernon Lee’s “Oke of Okehurst”

Barbara D. Ferguson


Vernon Lee’s 1886 work “Oke of Okehurst” deploys many of the tropes familiar to readers of the late-century Victorian ghost story – an ancestral country manor, an unhappy marriage, an evocative landscape, and an intrusive past –but this paper describes the ways Okehurst is haunted more by the enigmatic Mrs Oke than by any apparition. Attending to the story’s multifaceted play with time, I argue Mrs Oke’s eeriness is consistently linked to her atemporality within her local landscape, the resulting doublings and discomfort reminiscent of Freud’s exploration of the uncanny. This paper also borrows the invocation of a genius loci figure from Lee’s aesthetic writing to link geography and time as inextricably entwined elements in Mrs Oke’s knowledge of her Okehurst ancestors’ affect and behaviour. The story presents her intimate knowledge as distinct from, and apparently threatening to, her husband’s more mundane citational histories, and ultimately raises questions of the repercussions of human presentism and the privileging of objective forms of knowledge over others.

Key Words

Vernon Lee; “Oke of Okehurst”; Alice Oke; genius loci; temporality; uncanny; history; knowledge; resistance; affect

Date of Acceptance: 9 July 2020

Date of Publication: 13 July 2020

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Ferguson, Barbara D. 2020. “A Haunting in Time and Space: Vernon Lee’s ‘Oke of Okehurst’.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 2.1: 43-55. DOI:

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