Cover image for The haunted major
The haunted major
Marshall, Robert, 1863-1910.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Hopewell, NJ : Ecco Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 192 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
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Introduced by John Updike and published in America for the first time, The Haunted Major recounts a golf match of epic proportions between adversaries. In this uproarious tale about human conceit and the supernatural, Major the Honorable John William Wentworth Gore, an English gentleman of sublime self-esteem, challenges crack golfer Jim Lindsay to a game for the chance to propose marriage to Mrs. Gunter, a beautiful American millionairess. Although "Jacky" Core, the narrator, alleges to be a marvelously accomplished sportsman, he has never set foot on a fairway and has only seven days to learn to pitch, putt, and drive the course like a veteran.

To prepare for the match, which is to take place on the fictitious St. Magnus links in Scotland (based on the Old Course at St. Andrews), Gore secretly hires a coach and transforms his hotel room into a golf studio, outfitted with turf, a moveable hillock, a bunker, and specially padded walls to absorb drives. Gore is set to win or lose like a gentleman when the revengeful ghost of a Scottish cardinal with some odd-shaped clubs materializes, adding an otherworldly twist to the story.

This new edition, with John Updike's spirited introduction and Harry Furniss's humorous original illustrations, fixes The Haunted Major in the uppermost tier of sports classics.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Originally published in England in 1902 but only now released in the U.S., this delightful novel offers a pleasing mix of Victorian-era class arrogance, spooky supernatural thrills and love of the maddening game of golf. Marshall (1863-1910) was a Scottish playwright and novelist with a sharp eye for character, color, satire and the stunning twist of plot. The haunted major is Major the Honorable John William Wentworth Gore. Known as Jacky to his elite class of stuffed-shirt Englishmen, he's a pompous fop who proclaims himself to be "the finest sportsman living." Smitten with an American millionairess, Katherine Gunter, whom he earnestly admits is desirable as much for her money as for her beauty, Jacky unwisely challenges golf champion Jim Lindsay to a match. Jacky's wager: whoever wins the match in Scotland at the ancient royal course of St. Magnus will get first crack at proposing marriage to Katherine. But Jacky has greatly exaggerated his golf expertiseÄin fact, he's a novice golferÄand has only one week to prepare. His imperious training methods are comically bizarre and utterly worthless, and his worries take on new weight when he is approached by a cackling old ghost, the spirit of Cardinal Smeaton, a golf-loving Scottish prelate with a bewitched set of golf clubs for Jacky to use. The day of the match is a surprise for everyone, even the ghost, and the outcome is charmingly unexpected and satisfying. With plenty of hooks, slices, worm-burners, flying divots and whiffs, this brief novel vividly explores and satirizes the humorous mysteries of golf and golfers. The 11 whimsical original illustrations by Harry Furniss and the introduction by Updike grace the presentation. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

There is probably no golfer worth his or her salt who has not read this 1902 novel. The plot follows two menÄone an ace, the other a noviceÄwho use a game of golf to decide which of them will ask for a certain lady's hand in marriage. Along with the full text, this includes 11 illustrations and a new introduction by John Updike, himself an avid golfer. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



ABOUT MYSELF I AM a popular man and withal I am not vain. To the people who know me I am an acquaintance of importance. This is due to a combination of circumstances. First of all, I am a youthful (aged thirtyfive) major in that smart cavalry regiment, the1st Royal Light Hussars, commonly called the "Chestnuts." Secondly, I am an excellent polo player, standing practically at the top of that particular tree of sport ; and again, I am a quite unusually brilliant cricketer. That I do not play in first-class cricket is due to long service abroad with my regiment ; but now that we are at last quartered in England, I daily expect to be approached by the committee of my county eleven. I consider myself, not before taking the opinion of my warmest friends, the best racquet player of my day in India ; and I have rarely played football (Rugby) without knowing by a strange instinct (born, I feel sure, of truth) that I was the best man on the ground. In the hunting field I am well known as one of the hardest riders across country living ; and this statement, so far from being my own, emanates from my father's land agent, a poor relative of ours, and himself a fair performer in the saddle. As a shot, I will only refer you to my own game-book; and if, after examining the records contained therein, you can show me an equally proficient man in that special line, well - I'll take off my hat to him. The trophies of head, hom, and skin at Castle Goreby, our family's country seat, are sufficient guarantees of my prowess with big game in all parts of the world ; and when I mention that I have been one of an Arctic Expedition, have climbed to the highest mountain peaks explored by man, voyaged for days in a balloon, dived to a wreck in the complete modem outfit of a professional diver, am as useful on a yacht as any man of my acquaintance, think nothing of scoring a hundred break at billiards, and rarely meet my match at whist, piquet, or poker, it will be admitted that I have not confined my talents, such as they are, to any one particular branch of sport. In fact, I am " Jacky Gore," and although the War Office addresses me officially as " Major the Honourable John William Wentworth Gore, 1st Royal Light Hussars," nothing is sweeter to my ear than to hear, as I often do, a passing remark such as " There goes good old Jacky Gore, the finest sportsman living I " I take it for granted that the reader will accept this candour as to my performances in the spirit which inspires it, and not as a stupid form of self-conceit. I desire to be absolutely confidential and unreserved with those who peruse these pages, and a false modesty would be as misleading as it would be untrue to my nature. For true modesty, as I conceive it, consists in an accurate valuation of one's own worth ; an estimate of one's self that is conceived, not for purposes of advertisement, but rather to foster one's own selfrespect. Thus, were these pages designed only for the eyes of sportsmen, there would appear no other description of myself than the laconic intimation, " I am Jacky Gore." That, I know, would be sufficient to arrest electrically the ears of the sporting world. But as I desire my singular story to interest the whole range of human beings, from the Psychical Research Society down to the merest schoolboy who vaguely wonders if he will ever see a ghost, I must perforce be explicit, even to the extent of expounding my personal character as well as enumerating my achievements. First, then, I am not a snob; I have no occasion to be one. I am the younger son of one of England's oldest earls, Lord Goresby, and my mother is the daughter of one of our newest marquises, Lord Dundrum. My friends are all of the very best, socially and otherwise. Indeed, I have established myself on a plane from which all acquaintances who have been financially unfortunate, or have otherwise become socially undesirable, must inevitably drop. For I hold that true friends are those whose position, affluence, and affection for one may be of material assistance in the race towards the goal of one's personal ambition. If there is one thing that jars on me more than another, it is when a person of lower social status than my own presumes to associate with me in a style and with a manner that imply equality. I can readily, and I believe gracefully, meet people of higher rank than mine on their own platform, but the converse is, at least to me, odious. Lest, from these candid statements, the reader might be inclined to consider me a trifle exclusive, I will frankly own that I often shoot, fish, or yacht with those nouveaux riches whose lacquer of gold so ineffectually conceals the real underlying metal. Still, a breadth of view of life, which has always been one of my characteristics, inspires me with the hope that the association of such people with one of my own type may in the process of time tend to the refining of the class from which they spring. Besides, one need not know people all one's life. A keen eye for the artistic, a considerable talent for painting, a delicate and highly trained ear for music, and a quick perception as to what is of value in literature, have led me to frequent at times the houses where one meets the best class of so-called Bohemians. They are interesting people whom one may cultivate or drop according to social convenience, and useful as living dictionaries of the intellectual fashions of the moment, Sometimes I have thought that... (Continues...) Excerpted from The Haunted Major by Robert Marshall Copyright © 2003 by Robert Marshall Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.