'Tis the Season = M.R. James

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Not all messages are displayed: show all messages (77 of them)

There are collected stories freely downloadable

MRJ might be the only author where I have a sudden luddite desire to claim that there's no substitute for reading him on paper. There is or was a cheapo wordsworth classics edition of the complete ghost stories, which has all but three.

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 09:14 (two years ago) link

There's a run of stories towards the end that up till now have never left any impression on my memory - An Episode of Cathedral History, The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance, Two Doctors, The Haunted Dolls' House, The Uncommon Prayer-Book. Just reread them all and I would need some convincing that this isn't the weakest set of the bunch.

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 09:19 (two years ago) link

An Episode of Cathedral History: this is good and important (= i have a *theory* abt it which i am waiting to deploy on freaky trigger).

All the others have one perfectly formed memorably nasty element but are otherwise slight (two doctors, which is largely period pastiche), formally a repeat (dolls house, as he admits), erm not un-racist (prayerbook), or technically flawed (disappearance, which i remain fond of for the punch-and-judy stuff).

mark s, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 10:08 (two years ago) link

caveat: i am the biggest MRJ-stan on the board and basically he did NOTHING BAD and EVERYTHING IS GOOD shut up

also ledge is clearly setting djh up for some kind of sacristan-style business with his "read it in an actual book"

mark s, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 10:14 (two years ago) link

one reason i like the copy i've downloaded is it collects everything and has James's introductions to the original published volumes.

you shoulda killfiled me last year (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 10:23 (two years ago) link

There is or was a cheapo wordsworth classics edition of the complete ghost stories, which has all but three.

that's collected not complete, which sounds less oxymoronish. it has this cover, which is a perfect evocation of the jamesian atmosphere, if not quite enough to inspire the terror of the sacristan:


Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 13:35 (two years ago) link

i have a *theory* abt it which i am waiting to deploy on freaky trigger

only five others to go first eh

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 13:36 (two years ago) link

ghost story anthologists love a john atkinson grimshaw - quite a few examples iirc.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 13:45 (two years ago) link

oxymoronish oxymoranic obv, xp to self.

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 13:48 (two years ago) link

haha i have a social history of the london context of jack the ripper with a john atkinson grimshaw, called -- with a degree of bathos -- after the shower

only five others: actually it's the next one to go up (but the writer -- not me -- hasn't finished it)

mark s, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 14:06 (two years ago) link

good to hear the series is being exhumed yet again.

All the others have one perfectly formed memorably nasty element

i am willing to forgive a lot in james if there is one perfectly formed memorably nasty element but to me that is just where these are lacking. two doctors is also exceedingly obscure, googling 'bedstaff' does not help much.

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 14:18 (two years ago) link

This reminds me that I started jumping around in my various Penguin collections of a similar vintage (Machen, Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith) and never returned to James. I shall have to do that.

Bobby Buttrock (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 14:33 (two years ago) link

the chrysalis! the chrysalis!

i have no idea what a bedstaff is, tbh i picture a big stick with a bedsheet nailed to it and move on

i could list the moments i mean (w/o looking them up) but it's a bit spoilery and unfair to djh

mark s, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 14:34 (two years ago) link

I have a collection of his stuff but never really got far into it. What's a really great one to start?

FREEZE! FYI! (dog latin), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 14:39 (two years ago) link

despite the various opinions here, including that he gets deeper and richer as he goes on, which is right i think, i'm not sure it really matters? If I remember rightly I picked up his stories (the first copy i had was Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and More Ghost Stories, and I just picked stuff I liked the look of. then re-read every winter. Have read all of them now I think (inc those not collected in the collected).

i'd be hesitant to tell you start with my favourites, partly because getting into him and his tone i think means you savour the best even more. would for this reason say 'just start with Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book and go from there where your nose takes you' but as you've presumably already done that, then pluck one you like the title of.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 15:30 (two years ago) link

christ my use or rather abuse of brackets is a constant source of shame.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 15:31 (two years ago) link

The titular(*) whistle is basically a supernatural equivalent of "Do not throw stones at this notice".

(*) noun/verb confusion notwithstanding

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Sunday, 7 January 2018 20:17 (two years ago) link

i've always imagined that the Templars or whoever originally made it had some way of managing whatever it summoned

not raving but droning (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 7 January 2018 21:46 (two years ago) link

I picked up a cheapo best-of reprint this weekend and am looking forward to reading it. Some Gerhard-style crosshatch illustrations throughout.

This seems like an interesting writeup by P Fitzgerald but am avoiding until I've read some of the stories.


Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:22 (two years ago) link

There's a good and complimentary biography review in the lrb, and a bad and dismissive review of the collected stories which overplays the fear of sex angle. Both paywalled but here's a bit of the latter:

We don’t need to have read any of the Freud which James would have run several miles from to interpret what Mr Dunning in ‘Casting the Runes’ finds when he puts his hand into the well-known nook under his pillow: ‘What he touched was, according to his account, a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being.’

Jones [sic]detects a vagina dentata

I'm gonna go with 'nope' there.

i've always imagined that the Templars or whoever originally made it had some way of managing whatever it summoned

The fur/fla/fle/bis inscription, likely translation "oh thief, you will blow it, you will weep" suggests otherwise, that it was made simply to punish and not even to protect any other treasure.

Here comes the phantom menace (ledge), Monday, 8 January 2018 19:36 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

Martin's Close on bbc 4 at 10pm tonight. I might be asleep by then...

Paperbag raita (ledge), Tuesday, 24 December 2019 20:01 (nine months ago) link

(can't place this one...)

koogs, Tuesday, 24 December 2019 20:26 (nine months ago) link

it's the one that's a report of a trial, the ghost is a spurned and drowned woman with learning difficulties iirc. definitely not top tier.

Paperbag raita (ledge), Tuesday, 24 December 2019 20:31 (nine months ago) link

It's from "More..." but still unfamiliar. Maybe that'll make for a better TV experience.

I had a bunch of the 15 minute radio versions from bbc4extra and they'd shuffle up whilst jogging around the park and really kill the mood.

koogs, Tuesday, 24 December 2019 20:37 (nine months ago) link

Dunno if I'll see it tonight or catch up on iplayer over the holiday. 30 minutes seems a bit skimpy, we don't get them very often so a 45 minute film would've been nice. Most adaptations bar Jonathan Miller's aren't exactly formally daring tho

a very powerful woman in the dog world (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 24 December 2019 20:51 (nine months ago) link

it's one of my favourite stories in the books but as a version it wasn't great:they played judge jeffreys as a twerp, where i think he shd be irresponsible playful and funny but switching on the instant to scary and sinister -- p sure he commanded his courtrooms, which this guy really didn't :(

mark s, Wednesday, 25 December 2019 09:59 (nine months ago) link

oh and the line-reading of "with a knife value a penny" was wrong -- this isn't meant dismissively, it's simply a record of the worth of the object by which the murder was done, as routinely entered in judicial records of crimes committed

viz per the medieval death bot tumblr FAQ, for the question (no.2) Why is the price of this thing mentioned?

"That thing – be it a pot or a knife – is called a deodand and it’s something that is believed to have caused the death of an individual. The price of each deodand is appraised and gathered for the crown’s treasury. The crown was then supposed to use this money for pious means, in the light that a deodand is, in purest form, something forfeited to god. The deodand was either paid by someone in the village or taken out of the deceased’s chattels."


mark s, Wednesday, 25 December 2019 19:29 (nine months ago) link

They also skipped the bit about john martin's name being spelt wrong on the indictment which I think gives a good indication of his deceitful character and desperation, as well as hanging over the story like a chekhov's shotgun only to misfire at the end.

Paperbag raita (ledge), Wednesday, 25 December 2019 21:16 (nine months ago) link

Yeah maybe the Beeb should let somebody less basic than Gattis have a go next time. This was mostly not quite adequate.

Bojo Rabid (Noodle Vague), Friday, 27 December 2019 10:48 (nine months ago) link

i liked the dark pokeyness of the inn but not so much the windowed smallness of the court (which i guess i imagined wd be more rumpole-esque)

there's some nice annotative details here at rosemary pardoe's pleasingly nerdy james fansite: including a note on the misspelling legal claim which ledge mentions, pointing out that this is almost certainly a reference to a similar occurrence and claim in the 1660 trial of the regicide henry marten/martin (which claim failed, tho marten was not in fact executed, partly thanks to his courageous and able self-defence)

MRJ's curious little legal history in-joke here is one of several things that make me think something is going on in his mind during this story which is not set out clearly: viz the date of the martin's close trial and martin's execution (via clues in the text) = late 1684, towards the very end of charles ii's reign (viz its 36th year, as measured from the death of charles i -- i.e. excluding the cromwellian interregnum). charles ii's successor, his brother james ii, acceded to the thone in feb 1685. the monmouth rebellion against james took place in the west country (= very much round where this story is set) this same summer, followed by the bloody assizes that made judge jeffrey's reputation, the grim consequence of this rebellion's defeat.

(the titus oates trial mentioned above -- actually a retrial -- also took place in earlyish 1685…)

all this (IMO) is mood music is MRJ's head during this story -- as jeffreys' backstory -- but very little of it is mentioned clearly and so i don't really know what to make of it all lol

mark s, Friday, 27 December 2019 14:39 (nine months ago) link


Ghost Stories From Ambridge: Lost Hearts

On a biting December night, Jim Lloyd enthrals Ambridge residents with the story of a young boy who arrives at the house of his generous benefactor to find all is not as it seems.

koogs, Tuesday, 31 December 2019 17:24 (eight months ago) link

eight months pass...


Crowdfunding for a book of his letters

Robert Adam Gilmour, Wednesday, 23 September 2020 18:28 (five days ago) link

weird that this hasn't been done already

how do i shot moon? (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 23 September 2020 19:10 (five days ago) link

Yeah, some editions of his books have several letters included but it is weird there was never a dedicated book.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Wednesday, 23 September 2020 22:31 (five days ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.