M. R. James the dramatist

Ghosts, Short stories, Supernatural

And one more thing about M. R. James; he wrote his stories to be read out loud, and they still perform incredibly well. Come Halloween – or indeed any other cold, dark, spooky night – it’s well worth getting a few friends round, sitting down in front of the fire, and reading him to your (terrified) audience.

Quite apart from the spooky fun of it, it’s a fascinating insight into M. R. James the dramatist; his pacing, handling of tone, and character delineation and deployment are masterly.

Oh, and in a final chilling connection – while Provost at Eton, the aging MRJ taught the young Christopher Lee. The cold, bone white baton of spook was passed on to the next generation…

6 thoughts on “M. R. James the dramatist

  1. your reading of “oh whistle…” by candlelight in Bayswater one Hallowe’en is legendary.

    I agree lots of repressed emotions/sexuality going on in MR James – there always seems to be a young male companion around for bracing walks, tandem rides and church etchings etc. I also wonder if the mouth under the pillow is some twisted fear of the vagina dentata.

  2. Ho yes, totally agree there. Looking through various of the short stories just now it seems to broaden to a general horror of the bedroom / intrusion into the bedroom:
    Canon Alberic – ghost in bedroom
    Mezzotint – weirdness first seen in bedroom, banished from it for safety
    Number 13 – see above
    Count Magnus – victim found dead in bedroom
    Oh Whistle – see above, victim attacked in bedroom
    Treasure of Abbot Thomas – horror of close physical contact with ghost, no apparent bedrooms tho’ I was moving quite quickly by now
    A School Story – ghost observed from dormitory, attacks victim in bedroom, years later skeletons found one embracing the other
    Ran out of bedroom patience, but I think the pattern is pretty clear!

  3. It’s embarrassingly Freudian, isn’t it? Tho’ on a more practical level, I suppose if most ghosts manifest by night there will be more than usual levels of bedroomness in there…

  4. The factoid about M. R. James and Christopher Lee is the most wonderful thing I’ve learned all week! It’s set my imagination reeling…

    Thanks for passing that on.

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