Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Happy 150th Birthday to MR James!

One hundred and fifty years ago today, Montague Rhodes James was born, scholar, antiquarian and a teller of ghost stories. But he was not just any old crafter of weird fictions, for MR James can claim, with little competition, the title of Finest Proponent of the Spectral Tale. Of course being a most modest gentlemen, Monty would naturally refuse such accolade, but the truth will out - the power and charm of his stories, not to mention their massive influence on later writers, affirm that his works contain some of the finest ghost stories ever committed to paper.

And what makes his tales so memorable? Well, their strengths are legion - there's the calm and clear narrations, the attention to detail, the historical lore, and the gentle humour. But aside from his immaculate literary skills, it is the ghosts themselves that he conjures that make his work so unique.  James' spectres are the usual dear departed wafting about making a nuisance of themselves; instead we have a variety of strange apparitions, often felt rather than seen and frequently defying the usual conceptions of spirits. Indeed as I have explored in a lengthy essay - The Presence of More Formidable Vistants - the beings haunting his stories are most often the shades of folk passed over, but other things, that have never and will never be human...

Whether you have ever read James or not, if you enjoy a ghostly tale or two, you'll have certainly read something that bears his influence. So kindly charge you glasses and join me to raise a toast to this most remarkable man!

The Mezzotint - a recreation by Mr Jim Moon

Over the last couple of years, I have read several of James' tales for the HYPNOBOBS podcast. Here are all the stories recorded so far, and rest assured there will be more in the future...

A little out of season perhaps but it is  a testament to his greatness that MR James' stories is now a part of the traditional Christmas celebrations... 

And there is a companion article to this podcast for those wishing to hunt down these spectral televisual delights - Visions After Midnight

And for more MR James audio goodness, I highly recommend this...


...a wonderful broadcast in which each episode examines a different tale in-depth. Marvelously entertaining and wonderfully informative, a real treat for James fans new and old!

Find it here - A Podcast To The Curiou

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