I wonder whether Mr John Major (remember him?) has read these stories. They are the English of the English (more than you could say for him I guess) and evoke the sort of idealised tranquil Albion that I suppose he was harking after when he tried to present a vision of spinsters cycling through the eventide and so forth. If he has I trust he found them not unsplendid, as I do. I myself am Scottish although I have lived most of my life in England, and I like to think that the peculiar sense of Englishness that I get from M R James is one that a semi-foreigner can feel with special force. The mises-en-scene are cathedrals, canal boats, rural railways etc. It is partly these warm reassuring backgrounds that give the special thrill to James's glimpses of things old and sinister lurking in odd corners of the placid landscape. He never lays the effects on with a trowel as Lovecraft keeps doing, and to judge by other reviews I have read he is found all the more effective for that. I doubt that Lovecraft ever scared anyone, but for me James's Count Magnus is a candidate for the most flesh-creeping story I know, and when I told the story of Number 13 to my son aged c 7 or 8 at his own request and believing it to be innocuous, he forbade me for years even to mention it again. James's skill does not even depend on the degree of horror in the story. Count Magnus is horrific in the extreme, but what is probably James's best-known story? I would guess Whistle and I'll Come to You, where the story itself suggests that the apparition is one that only frightens not harms, and it frightens not a bit less for that. A lot of the trick is in introducing paganism into an ostentatiously C of E context, all archdeacons and vergers, and An Episode in Cathedral History is one of the best. Get an edition that is absolutely complete. Some of the stories, like A Neighbour's Landmark, read like ideas for stories rather than the final article, but the magic is there already and there are too few of them in total for anthologising to be sensible.