"Shortly before his death I asked him what he really thought on the subject, since he had written better ghost-stories than any man living. He answered: 'Depend upon it! Some of these things are so, but we do not know the rules!'" --- Shane Leslie on M.R. James.
Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936), Provost of
King's College, Cambridge, and later of Eton, was a noted medieval scholar,
antiquary, and expert on Bible apocrypha. He also authored some of the greatest
and most influential ghost stories in the English language. There are approximately
forty of his supernatural tales (some incomplete), most of which were published
in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories (1911),
A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), A Warning to the Curious (1925)
and The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James (1931). Among
them are famous titles such as "Casting the Runes" and "Oh,
Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad". James also wrote a short supernatural
fairy-tale novel for children, The Five Jars (1922).
M.R. James can arguably be described as the Father of the Modern Ghost Story, and Ghosts & Scholars Magazine continued the Jamesian tradition, as well as encouraging scholarly research into James, his themes and his followers. Founded in 1979, it was a small press, non-profit journal containing new stories, articles, reviews, columns and artwork. Ghosts & Scholars 33 (December 2001) was the final issue. In 2002 it was succeeded by The Ghosts & Scholars M.R. James Newsletter, which is similar in content but does not usually include new fiction.
The Newsletter is edited by Rosemary Pardoe (email@example.com); with assistant editors, David Rowlands and Steve Duffy.
Jamesian News (and the on-line Ghosts & Scholars M.R. James Newsletter).(April 1, 2011)
Current and Forthcoming Publications, Back Issues List, and Subscription Information. (April 1, 2011)
Guidelines for Contributors to The G&S M.R. James Newsletter.
Jamesian Cards and Bookmarks For Sale.
Frequently Asked Questions.
A Chronological Listing of M.R. James's Ghost Stories
Index to Ghosts & Scholars 1-33.
Index to The Ghosts & Scholars M.R. James Newsletter 1-12.
Complete Checklist of Haunted Library Publications (and notes on earlier publications).
Bibliography of Writings about M.R. James's Ghost Stories.
M.R. James on TV, Radio and Film: An Updated Checklist.
An Index to M.R. James's Eton and King's: Recollections, Mostly Trivial.
An Index to M.R. James's Letters to a Friend.
The M.R. James Memorial Plaque and other MRJ-related Great Livermere Photographs
M.R. James's Gravestone at Eton and related Photographs
Douglas Walters' illustrations for Tales from Lectoure by M.R. James
Ghosts & Scholars Archive:
The Ghosts & Scholars Archive features
selections from most issues of the magazine (including all the material
by M.R. James), and from the Ghosts & Scholars book (edited by
Rosemary Pardoe and Richard Dalby in 1987), together with related items
from other Haunted Library publications and elsewhere. MRJ's "The Malice
of Inanimate Objects" and most of his unfinished draft stories are
here, among many other things.
The Everlasting Club:
How about a change from the Internet? If the idea of an on-paper ghost story discussion group appeals to you, The Everlasting Club is the perfect place to publish your own small zine or simply to chat bi-monthly through the mail with others who share your interests.
Frank Adey's authorized M.R. James Homepage includes the texts of "The Ash-Tree", "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book", "Casting the Runes", "Count Magnus", "Lost Hearts", "The Mezzotint", "Number 13", "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad", "Rats", "A School Story" and "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas", plus a handy bibliography of MRJ's writings, a short biography, some notes on the main Jamesian authors, and a couple of links pages.
The Literary Gothic site has the texts of "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book", "The Haunted Dolls' House", "Martin's Close", "Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance", "The Rose Garden", "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral", "The Tractate Middoth" and "A Warning to the Curious": access them via the main Literary Gothic M.R. James page. Also on the site is a Study Guide (pdf file) to "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book".
The Gaslight discussion group has the texts of "The Ash-Tree", "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book", "An Episode of Cathedral History", "Lost Hearts", "Martin's Close", "The Mezzotint", "Number 13", "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad", "The Residence at Whitminster", "The Rose Garden", "A School Story", "Two Doctors" and "Wailing Well": access them via the "Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James" page. Additionally Gaslight has H.P. Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927), containing his enthusiastic comments on MRJ.
The massive HorrorMasters site includes pdf files of "The Ash-Tree", "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book", "Casting the Runes", "Count Magnus", "The Diary of Mr Poynter", "An Episode of Cathedral History", "Lost Hearts", "Martin's Close", "Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance", "The Mezzotint", "Number 13", "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad", "The Residence at Whitminster", "The Rose Garden", "A School Story", "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral", "The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance", "The Tractate Middoth", "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas", and "Two Doctors". (Also stories by MRJ's associates, Arthur Gray, E.G. Swain, and the Benson brothers.)
"The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance" is on the Guardian's web site, with Penelope Fitzgerald's introduction to Penguin Books' The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Stories by M.R. James (2000). The Albion Chronicles site has MRJ's essay, "Stories I Have Tried to Write" and Robert Hood's site has MRJ's essay, "Ghosts - Treat Them Gently!".
In the Catalogue of the M.R. James Papers at King's College Library (Cambridge), there is information on several ghost story manuscripts.
Stephen Gray's A Thin Ghost is a site entirely devoted to MRJ's ghost stories, with links, bibliography, media and artwork sections. Consider the Evidence is another MRJ site.
Clark Ashton Smith's "The Weird Works of M.R. James", from the February 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan, is on the superb Eldritch Dark site.
Jacqueline Simpson's "'The Rules of Folklore' in the Ghost Stories of M.R. James" is her excellent 1997 Folklore Society paper, relating especially to Scandinavian sources. Her article, "Repentant soul or walking corpse? Debatable apparitions in Medieval England" (Folklore, December 2003), covers the medieval ghost stories from Byland Abbey which MRJ brought to light in 1922.
Robert A. Kraft's "Rescuing Ghosts from the Shadows: Montague Rhodes James and his Curiously Converging Imaginations" is part of his on-going MRJ project (for more, see the "Non-Ghost-Story Writings" section below). "Ghosts, trains and trams: the technologies of transport in the ghost stories of M.R. James", "M.R. James: supernaturalism, Christianity, and moral accountability" and "'So jarred were all my nerves': supernatural shock and traumatic terror in the ghost stories of M.R. James" are essays on Ralph Harrington's site. The pdf of Diegesis 7 (Summer 2004) contains Andrew Smith's article, "M.R. James's Gothic Revival". On the Harry Price site, Eddie Brazil asks "Did M.R. James Visit Borley?"
"The Ghost Master: The supernatural affinity of M.R. James" by Michael Dirda (The Weekly Standard, Jan 2, 2006) is an article cum review of Eton and King's & S.T. Joshi's Count Magnus. An unusual subject for an article is "'I Shall Most Likely Be Out on the Links': Golf as Metaphor in the Ghost Stories of M.R. James" (Papers on Language and Literature, Fall 2004). "Thrillingly creepy tales of ghosts and ghouls" in the Telegraph (October 28, 2006) is mainly about "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book". Ron Breznay's "The Old Masters of Horror: M.R. James" is revised and expanded from Hellnotes (March 6, 2003). "Was What Sauniere Found A Codex?", on the Codex Celtica blog, looks at the intriguing but unlikely theory that "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" was inspired by the discoveries at Rennes-le-Chateau.
Gareth Preston has essays about the MRJ adaptations in BBC TV's 1970s A Ghost Story for Christmas series and Jonathan Miller's 1968 Whistle and I'll Come to You on his site. And on the British Film Institute web site is "Ghost Stories on Film", an interesting "resource to support English at Key Stages 3 and 4 and Media Studies at GCSE" by Jerome Monahan, intended for use along with BFI Videos/DVDs including Miller's Whistle and I'll Come to You and Lawrence Gordon Clark's A Warning to the Curious. Further useful commentaries on some of the TV MRJ adaptations are in the BFI's Screenonline.
Paul Di Filippo's cute little piece on The Five Jars (and Led Zeppelin!) is from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2000.
Robert Price's 1997 "The Transition of Abdul Alhazred" is Alhazred's own account of his Black Pilgrimage to Chorazin.
Read the original Mishnic Tractate Middoth if you want to find out why Dr Rant thought this a safe place to hide his will!
Two entertaining papers by MRJ about "The Bestiary" are on David Badke's wonderful site devoted to the medieval Bestiaries: MRJ's inaugural address at the Historical Association Annual Meeting in 1931, and his article in the 1930-31 Annual Report of the Eton College Natural History Society.
Roger Pearse's Tertullian Project has the texts of MRJ's 1931 lecture, Two Ancient English Scholars (St Aldhelm and William of Malmesbury), and his The Wanderings and Homes of Manuscripts (1919).
The text of MRJ's The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament (1920) forms part of Robert A. Kraft's ambitious plan for electronically "Reviving, Refurbishing, and Repurposing the Lost Apocrypha of M.R. James". He has also produced an extensive "Bibliography of the Scholarly and Other Writings of M.R. James", chiefly compiled from R.W. Pfaff's bibliography in his Montague Rhodes James (1980) and Nicholas Rogers' bibliography in The Legacy of M.R. James (2001). Access via Robert Kraft's "Directory of Materials Relating to the Montague Rhodes James Project(s)" page.
Some of the translations and introductory notes from MRJ's The Apocryphal New Testament (1924) can be found in the (highly recommended) Gnosis Archive and on the Early Christian Writings site. Similarly recommended is the Sacred Texts site, which includes MRJ's translation (with his introduction) of The Biblical Antiquities of Philo (1917).
MRJ's Old Testament Legends (1913), retelling for children some stories from the OT Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, is available as a Project Gutenberg text.
The chapter on Glastonbury Abbey from MRJ's Abbeys (1925) is on the Isle of Avalon site.
The web site of the John Rylands Library (Manchester) has an interesting page (with illustrations) about MRJ's cataloguing of Michael Scot's Magic Book.
More of MRJ's cataloguing work can be seen on the web site of St John's College, Cambridge, where they have placed the medieval entries from his 1913 Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of St John's College. And MRJ's The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge catalogue (1900-1904) is here.
"'For Love of an Idea': Jane Ellen Harrison, heretic and humanist" (pdf file) by Shelley Arlen (Women's History Review 5/2, 1996) is a paper in which the author examines the "criticisms and motives of two of [Harrison's] critics", including MRJ. Harrison, the comparative mythologist, and MRJ clashed over her 1916 article on "The Head of John the Baptist". (This is a different paper to Shelley Arlen's piece in G&S 31, although it covers some of the same ground.)
Warnings to the Curious: A Sheaf of Criticism on M.R. James is a collection of new and reprint essays on MRJ and his supernatural fiction, edited by S.T. Joshi and Rosemary Pardoe, which was published by Hippocampus Press in 2007. Ash-Tree Press publish attractive and reasonably priced hard-cover books of reprint and new supernatural fiction, and have been responsible for getting a number of rare Jamesian volumes back into print. In 2001 Ash-Tree released the essential A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings of M.R. James (out of print), which collects together almost everything he ever wrote within and about the genre (click here for the G&S review). Also recommended are Tartarus Press, Sarob Press and Supernatural Tales.
The Holiday Movie Company organises holidays in Britain and France during which participants are involved in the making of a short film, often inspired by a selected M.R. James story.
Among G&S contributors with their own web sites are: Ramsey Campbell, John Whitbourn, Chico Kidd, David Sutton, Tina Rath, David Longhorn (blog), Dave Carson, Jane Jakeman and John Howard (the latter two sites include material from G&S). The texts of some of John Connolly's Jamesian "Ghost Stories" (broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January 2000, and reviewed in G&S 30) can be read on his web site.
A Ghostly Company is a small, England-based, society devoted to fictional ghost stories, which holds get-togethers - called 'Black Pilgrimages' - in various parts of the country, and publishes a newsletter and magazine.
William Allison's Haunted Bibliophile site contains much of relevance.
This page has been selected for the Violet Bookmark Award
for excellence in coverage of vintage genre literature
Last altered: July 25, 2011.
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