Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories

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

NOTE ON THE TEXT

The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James (CGS, 1931) has formed the basis of nearly every subsequent edition or selection. James wrote to Gwendolen McBryde on 4 February 1931 that 'Proofs of the Collected Ghost Stories come in almost daily—we are at p. 448 and I think it should run to nearly 600, which seems a lot.' To the extent that James corrected and presumably approved the proofs we might suppose CGS to represent his final textual intentions. But James was not a particularly good proof-reader; as he went on to tell Gwendolen: 'It's very hard to nail the mistakes: if the words are real words, everything looks all right.' More importantly, he never looked upon the texts of his stories with a possessive or a fastidious eye, and a study of the available manuscripts suggests that he submitted happily to an imposed house style, especially in the matter of punctua tion and paragraphing.

There is thus a case to be argued against duplicating CGS uncritically where manuscripts are available for comparison. In the end, this is largely a matter of removing redundant accidentals (commas, semicolons, and so on) and reverting to the freer use of punctuation apparent in the manuscript texts. Though such changes may appear trivial in isolation their cumulative effect can be significant for the narrative energy of a particular story. This is the first edition of James's stories to draw on manuscript readings in this way, though I have refrained from reproducing an exact transcript of existing manuscripts, which would have been a rather pointless exercise in pedantry.

Substantive discrepancies between CGS and manuscript are another matter and I have assumed that, on the whole, these were instigated, or at least approved, by James at proof stage. However, in one or two cases, indicated in the Explanatory Notes, manuscript readings seem worth reinstating: for instance, the wholly M. R. Jamesian aside about the quality of Vin de Limoux in 'Canon Alberic's Scrap-book' (see p. 9).

-xxxi-

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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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