on 2 February 2010
Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) was a distinguished scholar and a master of the English ghost story. Educated at Eton he became Provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905-1918) and Provost of Eton (1918-1936). His interests and academic research included church architecture, classics, the mediaeval period, languages and ancient manuscripts. It is his scholastic background which gives his stories a sense of belief and authority; the stories, originally written to be read to friends at Christmas, have the ability to unsettle with moments of real terror.
The Collected Ghost Stories (1931) comprises of his former published works: 'Ghost Stories of an Antiquary' (1904), 'More Ghost Stories' (1911), 'A Thin Ghost and Others' (1919) and 'A Warning to the Curious' (1925). The Collection contains all his published ghost stories except three: 'The Experiment', 'The malice of inanimate objects', and 'A vignette'.
Stories such as 'Casting the runes', 'Oh, whistle and I'll come to you, my lad', 'The tractate middoth', Canon Alberick's scrapbook', 'The rose garden' and 'Wailing well', gently unfold with subtle otherworldly menace; a dark unspeakable and ancient evil presides throughout, waiting for the opportunity to enter our world, usually by some academic protagonist meddling with an innocous looking artefact or book and unwittingly unleashing a terrible supernatural force or long dead spirit.
These stories are real works of art and beauty that leaves a lasting impression on the mind of the reader. Wonderful!