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M. R. James (Montague Rhodes James) Biography

(1862–1936), (Montague Rhodes James), Apocrypha, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robin’ [Iris Guiver Wilkinson] ‘Hyde Biography to Percy Janes Biography

British writer and scholar, born at Goodnestone, Kent, educated at King's College, Cambridge. In the course of a long academic career, he was Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge (191315) and Provost of Eton College (191836). He possessed an unrivalled knowledge of mediaeval illuminated manuscripts and was a leading authority on Biblical Apocrypha. He is best remembered for Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost (1919), and A Warning to the Curious (1926), four volumes of supernatural fiction which established him as a leading exponent of the ghost story. From an early age he had been much influenced by the surreal ghost stories of Sheridan Le Fanu, whose works he edited. Unlike almost all earlier supernatural fiction, which depended upon exotic backgrounds and gothic language, James's tales of revenge and dislocation were set in a calm and everyday world. Only slowly, as in his greatest story, ‘Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad’, would a horror emerge to colour the scene and the reader's consciousness. The theme which eventually manifests itself is the intrusion into the conscious mind of that which it has repressed, and it is this which continues to be of central importance in the contemporary ghost story. His Collected Ghost Stories appeared in 1931. In addition to his many works as a scholar, editor, and translator, he published the autobiographical Eton and Kings: Recollections, Mostly Trivial 1875–1925 (1926).

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