Buy Collected Ghost Stories (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural) by M.R. James, David Stuart Davies (ISBN: 9781840225518) from Amazon's Book Store.
Full texts and ebooks of all M. R. James ' ghost stories. Also, details of every DVD, film & TV adaptation, illustrations and biography. Collected Ghost Stories by MR James – review. These spooky tales from a 'weird fictionist of the very first rank' are released just in time for the. The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James is the title of M. R. James ' omnibus collection of ghost stories, published in 1931, bringing together all but four of his. M R James's spine-chilling stories of encounters with ghosts and ghouls still have the power to make us pleasantly uncomfortable a century.
Collected Ghost Stories by MR James – review. H ere is an entry from the diary of the archdeacon of Barchester Cathedral, for October 11, 1816 (or 197 years ago next week): "Candles lit in the choir for the first time at evening prayers. It came as a shock: I find that I absolutely shrink from the dark season.
" And well may Archdeacon Haynes shrink from the dark season; for he has a dark secret himself, and the prayer desk at his stall is decorated with carvings of a cat, crouching as if to strike, a prick-eared and horned figure, "invested with the attributes of royalty", and a cowled figure who, on close inspection, is revealed to be "the King of Terrors" (I presume this means Death). To cap it all, the wood from which they have been carved has come from a tree once known locally as "the Hanging Oak". You, gentle reader, who have not, I presume, been implicated in the unfortunate demise of a prelate of the church, and who are far from sinister carvings made from accursed wood, need not tremble; but note the season, the drawing in of the evenings, the increasing darkness and the chill of the wind.
So it's appropriate that Oxford is publishing this collection at this time of year. There is an enormous pleasure to be had reading James's ghost stories, and even if you do not have a decanter and a log fire, you can readily imagine that you do, as his stories are more, perhaps, about atmosphere than about actual horror (for that, I recommend the stories of his contemporary and, I'm fairly sure, friend, EF Benson).
The typical James ghost story kicks off when someone discovers an old manuscript or a valuable or rare book, often with a religious connection or theme. Having seemingly set up a scene of remarkable dustiness, it turns out that evil resides in the pages, or lurking behind a dark corner of a church, waiting to manifest itself and reduce the unfortunate antiquarian to a wreck. ("Canon Alberic's ScrapBook", the first story in the collection, in which a drawing of a demon comes to life, is a good example of this, and an early collection of James's stories was called Ghost Stories of an Antiquary.
) You have to wonder what it was in James that inspired him to do this. He knew what he was talking about when he described the business of going through ancient collections, and he grew up in an ecclesiastical environment, so knew an apse from a chasuble; but why he found fear in these elements is something of a mystery in itself.
It certainly adds to the plausibility of the stories, however, and their wide and enduring popularity. It also takes quite a talent to get a shiver from, say, an unconventional dating of a prayer-book, as he does in "The Uncommon Prayer-Book". HP Lovecraft. who was probably about as far in temperament as you could get from James, wrote a long essay on supernatural fiction in which he described James as "a literary weird fictionist of the very first rank", and in Darryl Jones's introduction to Collected Ghost Stories we are given a vignette of how James came to sharpen his craft – by telling his stories after the Christmas service at King's College, Cambridge (where he was provost) to an audience of uneasy fellows. Who might also, I was surprised to learn, have been uneasy at James's fondness for the card game "animal grab", which descended into impromptu wrestling bouts that would leave his opponents with "torn clothes" and "nailscored hands".
James saw himself as something of a Dickensian (and a Trollopian, as the reference to "Barchester Cathedral" shows; James, who died in 1936, was very much a Victorian, and a Victorian of a very particular kind at that), and so quite often the stories feature cockney or rustic accents that, after a while, become rather irritating. All I can say is that you should just put up with them and wait for the story to resume.