Illustrated by James McBryde
A new Folio edition of chilling tales by M. R. James, the undisputed master of the English ghost story, accompanied by rarely-seen original illustrations by James McBryde.
If any of [these stories] succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained...
Montague Rhodes James (1862–1936), better known as M. R. James, was an outstanding medieval scholar, Provost of both Eton and King’s College, Cambridge – and the greatest writer of ghost stories in the English language. Over one hundred years after they were first published, his eerie tales retain the power to unsettle and unnerve.
This new selection gathers sixteen of the very best, including the spine-tingling classics ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book’, ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ and ‘A Warning to the Curious’. Welcome to a world of lonely country houses, deserted cathedrals and ruined monasteries; obsessive scholars keen to lay their hands on rare manuscripts, precious artefacts or buried treasure; and the terrifying fiends whose attentions they inadvertently attract.
These stories are dedicated to all those who at various times have listened to them...
Many of James’ best-known stories were originally written to be read to friends in his College rooms on Christmas Eve, by the light of a single candle. They still retain the intimate tone of these dramatic live readings, laced with dry humour and skilful understatement. With his expert knowledge of arcane texts and obscure locations, James hooks and reels us in, relentlessly builds tension towards a shocking dénouement and leaves us with the disturbing feeling that ‘he knew whereof he spoke’.
Those who knew the artist will understand how much I wished to give a permanent form even to a fragment of his work...
This edition showcases the original illustrations from James’ debut collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, produced by his closest friend, James McBryde, who had attended the legendary Christmas Eve readings as a student.
Tragically, McBryde had completed just four pen and ink drawings – which he regarded as his finest work - when he died suddenly June 1904, following an emergency appendectomy. To honour his memory, a devastated James insisted that no other artist completed the illustrations, and the first edition of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary featured only these four pictures. In accordance with James’ wishes, we have reproduced McBryde’s haunting images, finally supplementing them with a fifth rarely-seen sketch, that remained unfinished at his death.
Montague Rhodes James (1862–1936), more commonly referred to as M. R. James, was an English scholar and writer. He attended Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, and would later be made provost of both. At King’s he excelled as a medieval scholar both as a student and lecturer. Between 1893 and 1908 he held the post of director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. He is best known for his supernatural stories and is considered by many to be the master of the English ghost story. His first collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, was published in book form in 1904 (the stories had previously been serialised in magazines and newspapers). His other collections include: More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919) and A Warning to the Curious and Other Stories (1925).
James Mcbryde (1874–1904) was an illustrator and friend of M. R. James. They first met when McBryde came to study at Cambridge in 1893. McBryde was one of the select few who attended his famous Christmas Eve readings. On leaving Cambridge and enrolling in the Slade School of Art, McBryde received a commission (his first) from James to illustrate Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. McBryde, already familiar with the stories, welcomed the opportunity and in May 1904 wrote excitedly: ‘I have finished the Whistle ghost ... I covered yards of paper to put in the moon shadows correctly and it is certainly the best thing I have ever drawn ...’ Sadly, it would be one of his last: he died a month later after post-operative complications, with only four illustrations completed and one unfinished. The publisher suggested another illustrator, but M. R. James was adamant that no one could replace McBryde and that the book should be published with only the four illustrations, as a tribute to his friend.
Please sign in to your account to leave a review for Ghost Stories.