Facts in The Canterville Ghost
Ascot is a town approximately 30 miles to the southwest of London in southern England. Eton College is located 10 miles to the north of Ascot, and therefore Canterville Chase, on the Thames. This helps provide context for the location of Canterville Chase and how it is situated in a fairly remote area but still close enough to notable towns and railway lines.
Lady Stutfield appears to be a fictional character of Wilde's creation. While this story Lady Stutfield drowns herself in a carp-pond, Wilde uses the same name later for one of the characters in his play A Woman of No Importance.
Charles James Fox (1749–1806) was a British statesman who became a main opponent of King George III. In his private life, he was a notorious gambler, womanizer, and hedonist.
While Madame de Tremouillac is not a historical figure, Monsieur de Voltaire is. Known by his pen name Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet was a well known writer famous for his criticisms of the Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of expression, religion, and separation of church and state.
Wilde is referring to the 19th-century English physician Sir William Gull, 1st Baronet of Brook Street. Sir William made significant contributions to medical science through his work on paraplegia, Bright's disease, and anorexia nervosa. He is mentioned here to emphasize how badly the ghost scared the local rector; the rector needed one of the best doctors to deal with the nervous disorder he suffered from the ghost's actions.
Sarah Bernhardt was a French actress regarded as one of the best actors of all time. She became famous in France in the 1870s and was soon after highly in demand in Europe and the United States. The comparison here between Bernhardt and Davenport refers to the role that both of the stage actresses played in Victorien Sardou's Fédora. Of course, Wilde makes sure to have the American family prefer the American actress.
Fanny Devonport was an Anglo-American stage actress during the late 19th century. Later in her career, she acquired the American rights to the French dramatist Victorien Sardou's Fédora, a play that was a big hit for the actress Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. Devonport turned it into a lucrative success in the US, premiering the play in New York in 1883 and continuing its tours through 1887.
Frederic W.H. Myers and Frank Podmore were members of the Society for Psychical Research who co-authored, along with Edmund Gurney one of the first publications of the organization Phantasms of the Living in 1886.
The Society For Psychical Research was founded in the United Kingdom in 1882, five years before "The Canterville Ghost" was published. Their stated purpose is to understand and comprehend psychic or paranormal activities that fall outside the range of scientific behavior. Mrs. Otis's willingness to join the group and inability to distinguish between science and pseudo-science parodies the Victorian era's faith in scientific progress.
The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) wrote lyrical poems that largely adhered to poetic conventions such as standard forms, regular meter, and rhymed stanzas. He was the most popular American poet of his day and enjoyed success overseas. The ghost is likely referring to Longfellow's "The Skeleton in Armor" poem in this passage.
Located on the western coast of the United States, California acquired its statehood status in 1850. However, in the 19th century it still had a strong mental association with the lawless frontier period of the American Wild West. Mr. Otis's "Californian etiquette" is an excellent example of Wilde's use of irony because holding someone at gun point and demanding that they raise their hands above their heads are certainly not considered appropriate behavior.
Wilde is referring to Napoleon Sarony, an American photographer from the 19th century who gained fame for his portraits of theater stars. His inclusion here is deliberate, because not only did he take one of the most iconic portraits of Oscar Wilde, but also because that same image became the subject of a copyright contention in the US Supreme Court case Burrows-Giles Lithographic Co. vs. Sarony 111 US 53 in 1884, a few years before "The Canterville Ghost" was published.
This is the shortened version of the affluent town Royal Tunbridge Wells in the county of Kent in England. In the early 19th century, Tunbridge Wells became a place for the well-off to establish homes in or visit as tourists, becoming a fashionable resort town.
Wandsworth Common is a sizable public area in Wandsworth, a district of southwest London. It contains a large amount of green space, as well as ponds and a lake.
While there is a location in England named Black Fell in the English Lake District, that place is far to the northwest in England in Cumbria. Given the approximate location of the Canterville Chase, it's highly unlikely that Wilde means this particular place, making it most likely a location of his own imagining.
This is a famous Anglican church in the City of Westminster in London. The church was built in the early 18th century, is situated near Oxford Circus, and has been a venue for high society weddings for a long time, making it a natural choice for Wilde have Virginia marry and become the Duchess of Cheshire.