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Collected Ghost Stories

by M. R. James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ghost Stories of M.R. James (Omnibus 1-4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,084416,644 (4.17)83
'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 closedrooms 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 creaturesseeking 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.… (more)
Recently added byMace2Space, hauffmann, smm_1964, Stuart_S, sujash9, kamintra, GrettelTBR, private library, Limarie87
Legacy LibrariesEvelyn Waugh
  1. 40
    Cold Hand in Mine: Strange Stories by Robert Aickman (chrisharpe)
  2. 20
    Nine Ghosts by R.H. Malden (EveleenM)
    EveleenM: Malden's stories are written in a very similar style to James', and the best of the collection are very enjoyable.
  3. 10
    Dark Encounters : A Collection of Ghost Stories by William Croft Dickinson (EveleenM)
    EveleenM: Dickinson's stories are an interesting contrast to James's: they are ghost stories of a presbyterian Scots antiquary, as opposed to an anglican Cambridge don. An enjoyable read.
  4. 00
    The Virago Book of Ghost Stories Volume 2: The Twentieth Century by Richard Dalby (MinaKelly)
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» See also 83 mentions

English (39)  Danish (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
The Collected M.R. James
Review of the Oxford World Classics hardcover (2017), an expanded and enhanced edition of the original "The Collected Ghost Stories Of M. R. James" (1931)

I have my ideas of how a ghost story ought to be laid out if it is to be effective. I think that, as a rule, the setting should be fairly familiar and the majority of the characters, and their talk such as you may meet or hear any day. ... Another requisite, in my opinion, is that the ghost should be malevolent or odious: amiable or helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales or in local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story. - M.R. James from the Preface to More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911)

Do not, in any case, bring it into the house. It may not be alone ... (Dots are believed by many writers of our day to be a good substitute for effective writing. They are certainly an easy one. Let us have a few more ......) - a rare instance of humour from M.R. James in his article "Stories I Have Tried to Write".

I read Collected Ghost Stories in stages, and reviewed the earlier selections Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911) and A Thin Ghost and Others (1919) over the past two years. Those included the first 19 stories of this collection, so this review only covers the final 13.

The quality drops off quite a lot in the final short vignettes (#26 to #32). In a letter, James himself even admitted to #32 not being up to his previous standards. Still I don't hesitate in rating the entire collection with 5 stars due to the extensive introduction and explanatory notes provided by the editor Darryl Jones.

See book at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9b/The_Collected_Ghost_Stories_of_M....
A copy of the first edition of Collected Ghost Stories (1931). Image sourced from Wikipedia.

Included in A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925)
20. The Haunted Doll's House A collector buys an elaborate doll's house which appears to come alive during the night and allows him to see a reenactment of a crime that happened in the real house which the replica is based on. James himself admitted that this somewhat of a variation on his earlier story The Mezzotint.
21. The Uncommon Prayer-Book A traveller comes across a deserted chapel where there are several copies of a prayer book illegally printed during the time of Oliver Cromwell. The books appear to be haunted in some manner. A book dealer is also interested in them.
22. A Neighbour's Landmark A haunted forest was cut down in an attempt to remove a curse. The curse appears to remain though in the shape of a howling figure.
23. A View from a Hill A traveller visits a friend in the country and together they observe the nearby district from a viewpoint on top of a hill. A cursed pair of homemade binoculars allows the traveller to view scenes from past history which the friend cannot see.
24. A Warning to the Curious An antiquarian finds one of the three lost crowns of East Anglia and is then stalked by its ghost guardian.
25. An Evening's Entertainment A grandmother tells a frightening story to her grandkids.

Included in the original Collected Ghost Stories (1931)
26. There Was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard An invented ghost story to continue the interrupted story of Prince Mamilius in Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale".
27. Rats An inn contains a haunted room.
28. After Dark in the Playing Fields More of a fantasy story. A man meets a talking owl.
29. Wailing Well A reckless boy scout leaves his troop to inspect a cursed well.

Included in the expanded editions of Collected Ghost Stories
30. The Experiment The death of a man leads to an experiment as to whether he can communicate the location of a treasure after his death.
31. The Malice of Inanimate Objects Mostly just a listing of the harm caused by accidents, but then there is an unexplained murder.
32. A VIgnette A plantation gate is haunted.
[33.] The Fenstanton Witch [Not included in this collection]

Appendix: M.R. James on Ghost Stories. This is a collection of the various introductions and articles that M.R. James wrote for his own ghost story books and for other books and journals.

I read Collected Ghost Stories as part of a subscription to independent bookshop Shakespeare and Company's 2020 Year of Reading Lost Treasures.

Trivia and Links
The Ghost Stories of M.R. James have been adapted on an occasional basis by the BBC TV Series A Ghost Story for Christmas (1971-78, 2005-ongoing).

Most of the Collected Ghost Stories in their earlier separate book releases can be read for free at both Wikisource and Project Gutenberg.

Most of the Collected Ghost Stories can also be listened to for free through public domain audiobooks at LibriVox. ( )
  alanteder | Oct 27, 2022 |
M.R. James’s Collected Ghost Stories is among the finest anthologies in the genre. With a somewhat professorial tone yet wholly accessible, James’s stories exhibit a style and sense of eeriness that few authors can match. James includes authoritative details throughout that sublimely augment the reader’s suspension of disbelief. The tales generally fall into two broad plot lines: stories involving the search for or discovery of antiquarian manuscripts and artifacts; and stories centered in English manors or estates of some historical significance. These are all uniformly effective ghost stories by the unparalleled master storyteller. ( )
1 vote ghr4 | Oct 12, 2020 |
Reprint of 1931 edition ( )
  Afab67 | Apr 23, 2020 |
A beautiful edition with illustrations by Francis Mosley ( )
  Afab67 | Apr 23, 2020 |
The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James

In many ways, M R James was destined to be a superlative writer of ghost stories. Born in 1862, his interest in antiquarian matters was evident even during boyhood and he spent the whole of his long bachelor life steeped in the past: first at Eton and then Cambridge as an undergraduate and subsequently an academic, later completing the full circle by retiring from the university to return to his old school as provost.

To create memorable ghost stories requires the writer to connect profoundly with a past that intrudes upon the present world. In fact, the author really needs to be immersed in the past. Even when those around them cannot feel the tug or lure of the centuries of lives that have gone before, they still need to remain powerfully vivid to the writer of ghost stories. M R James was such a man. There are moments in his fiction when the present seems to cause him more fear than the past ever could. He could combine the two more effectively in a ghost story than any other writer has managed, even during the golden age of the ghost story we attribute to the Victorians.

Another part of the reason why M R James' fiction is so vivid is that he wrote about what he knew. Boarding school, the ecclesiastical world and academic life often feature in his writing, as do the country homes he visited during the holidays. Each environment lends itself well as a setting for a ghost story, being essentially backward looking into the past, and (as an older building) providing a credible location for a spirit to have established itself hundreds of years ago and lingered ever since. ( )
1 vote johncadamssf | Feb 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James, M. R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davies, David StuartIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grimshaw, John AtkinsonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, DarrylEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mosley, FrancisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Contains

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Canonical title
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People/Characters
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Important events
Related movies
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my husband
ANTHONY JOHN RANSON
with love from your wife, the publisher
Eternally grateful for your
unconditional love
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
This is an omnibus volume containing all the stories published in M.R. James' four original volumes of ghost stories. It should contain 31 stories. Please do not combine it with editions which are only selections, containing a smaller number of stories.
This book contains 34 stories - all stories from James' four short story collections, and three additional stories. See description for list of stories.
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
'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 closedrooms 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 creaturesseeking 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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
This book contains the following 34 stories:
Canon Alberic's Scrapbook
Lost Hearts
The Mezzotint
The Ash Tree
Number 13
Count Magnus
'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
Martin's Close
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
Two Doctors
The Haunted Doll's 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
Rats
After Dark in the Playing Fields
Wailing Well
The Experiment
The Malice of Inanimate Objects
A Vignette
Stories I have Tried to Write.
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