'I was conscious of a most horrible smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own...'
Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M. R. James was an eminent scholar who spent his entire adult life in the academic surroundings of Eton and Cambridge. His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of the everyday, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces, often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches or the manuscript collections of great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace, from creatures seeking retribution and harm. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.
This edition presents all of James's published ghost stories, including the unforgettable 'Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad' and 'Casting the Runes', and an appendix of James's writings on the ghost story. Darryl Jones's introduction and notes provide a fascinating insight into James's background and his mastery of the genre he made his own.
About the Author
Darryl Jones's other publications include Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film (London: Arnold; New York: OUP, 2002).
Table of Contents
Chronology of M. R. James
Canon Alberic's Scrap-book
'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas
A School Story
The Rose Garden
The Tractate Middoth
Casting the Runes
The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral
Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance
The Residence at Whitminster
The Diary of Mr Poynter
An Episode of Cathedral History
The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance
The Haunted Dolls' House
The Uncommon Prayer-Book
A Neighbour's Landmark
A View from a Hill
A Warning to the Curious
An Evening's Entertainment
There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard
After Dark in the Playing Fields
The Malice of Inanimate Objects
Appendix: M. R. James on Ghost Stories
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read most of these as a child in another edition; they were terrifying, particularly "The Haunted Doll's House," "The Mezzotint," and "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad."
I will doubtless court the wrath of James devotees by saying I was somewhat disappointed by this book.Not that it was bad. Some of the stories (notably "'Oh Whistle and I'll come to you my lad'" and "Casting the Runes" are well known and justly so. I also find "The Mezzotint" agreeably creepy.But tastes have changed and many of the stories, despite their excellent writing, have dated badly, seeming tame in comparison with today's more bloodthirsty writers. Almost nothing happens in many of them and in others I was left thinking "Huh?".Maybe a reread in a few months time will yield more. We shall see
M R James is the greatest writer of ghost stories there has ever been. These stories are wonderful - I've read this book several times and always read James stories when I inevitably come across them in anthologies. No matter how much I think I know them they are always worth re-reading. I find it heartbreaking that 'horror' these days has to be blood-soaked and full of sex. You don't find that in James, you just find scary stories, beautifully written, atmospheric and downright enjoyable. They comfort me strangely even when the hair on the back of my neck is sticking up! My personal favourite is 'Number 13' about the room number thirteen in a hotel which only appears at night complete with a deranged, dancing inhabitant. The only thing wrong with M R James is that he didn't write enough stories!
Born in 1862, M. R. James was a Victorian with a love of ghost stories. Many of the tales in this collection were meant to be read aloud a Christmas or New Year gatherings; it shows in their conversational tone. There are 33 stories in over 400 pages- with 48 pages of notes. I¿ve never before seen endnotes in fiction, but I found them helpful. The author makes many references to places and events in England that an American would likely not understand, and the many colloquialisms of the time sometimes baffled me until I looked in the back of the book. I read right through this book, which turned out to not be the right way of approaching it. Read one after the other, they tended to run together and lose their effect. These stories would be best read one or two in an evening, perhaps read out loud- preferably by firelight. But it was a library book, so I persevered. `Ghost stories¿ is not really the right name for a lot of these stories. Many of them feature not ghosts but demons, things that go bump in the night, haunted or bespelled pictures, rooms, binoculars, hills and other inanimate objects. James seemed to have a peculiar horror of animate fabric, as it features in several tales, in the form of evil curtains, pillowcases, blankets, etc., which sounds silly but when it comes down to it, would you want to confront drapes that form into a human shape and try to smother you? For the main part (although there are a couple of exceptions) the horror in these stories in not of the modern variety where the gore is splattered across the pages. James creates a sense of disturbing unease, a feeling that puts the hair on the back of your neck up, the sense that something is really NOT all right, and that if one is smart, one will get the heck out of that house/cemetery/library before the thing you don¿t really see becomes visible. Highly enjoyable, but take your time reading it.
You can't go wrong with picking up this volume of stories. M. R. James is the classic writer of the classic ghost story, just as Poe is the master of the weird tale. Give it a try.
Best book I have ever read!
I am a scardy cat ways to help not to be scared good i will repay you promise!!!!!!!!!!!!!