Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories

By M. R. James; Michael Cox | Go to book overview

OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS
'CASTING THE RUNES'
AND OTHER GHOST STORIES

MONTAGUE RHODES JAMES, author of some of the finest ghost stories in English and one of the most accomplished scholars of his generation, was born in 1862 at Goodnestone next Wingham in Kent, where his father was then Perpetual Curate, though the family moved soon afterwards to Livermere, Suffolk. He was educated at Temple Grove preparatory school, the setting of 'A School Story', and from 1876 to 1882 at Eton. At King's College, Cambridge, he took a First and became in due course Fellow, Dean, Tutor, and, in 1905, Provost. In 1895, the year he was awarded his D.Litt. degree, he published the first of his pioneering descriptive catalogues of manuscripts; the same year also saw the magazine publication of the two earliest ghost stories—'Canon Alberic's Scrap-book' and 'Lost Hearts'. Ghost Stones of an Antiquary, a collection of eight stories including these first two, appeared in 1904 after the death of his friend and illustrator James McBryde. This was followed by More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), and A Warning to the Curious (1925). His Collected Ghost Stories were published in 1931 and have remained in print ever since. In addition to the ghost stories and his many scholarly publications, James also wrote two popular architectural and historical guidebooks (Abbeys, 1925 and Suffolk and Norfolk, 1930) and a children's fantasy (The Five Jars, 1922), as well as publishing a volume of recollections (Eton and King's, 1926) and a translation of forty Hans Andersen stories (1930). In 1918 he accepted the Provostship of Eton, the place closest to his heart, and in 1930 received the Order of Merit. He died unmarried, a much-loved and revered figure, in the Provost's Lodge at Eton in 1936.

MICHAEL COX is a graduate of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and works in publishing. His long interest in M. R. James resulted in a widely praised bibliography, M. R. James: An Informal Portrait (Oxford, 1983; Oxford Paperbacks, 1986). He is also co-editor, with R. A. Gilbert, of The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories.

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Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction xi
  • Note on the Text xxxi
  • Select Bibliography xxxiii
  • A Chronology of M. R. James xxxvi
  • 'Casting the Runes' and Other Ghost Stories xxxix
  • Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book 1
  • The Mezzotint 14
  • Number 13 26
  • Count Magnus 43
  • 'Oh, Whistle, and I'Ll Come to You, My Lad' 57
  • The Treasure of Abbot Thomas 78
  • A School Story 97
  • The Rose Garden 105
  • The Tractate Middoth 117
  • Casting the Runes 135
  • The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral 157
  • Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance 172
  • The Diary of Mr Poynter 199
  • An Episode of Cathedral History 210
  • The Uncommon Prayer-Book 228
  • A Neighbour's Landmark 244
  • A Warning to the Curious 257
  • Rats 275
  • The Experiment 281
  • The Malice of Inanimate Objects 288
  • A Vignette 293
  • Explanatory Notes 299
  • Appendix - M. R. James on Ghost Stories 337
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