Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James

M. R. James Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

All this time a growing feeling of discomfort had been creeping over him—nervous reaction, perhaps, after the delight of his discovery. Whatever it was, it resulted in a conviction that there was someone behind him, and that he was far more comfortable with his back to the wall.

I read Ghost Stories of an Antiquary over the course of this past year as part of the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge. Each week I would draw a card from a deck of playing cards, and if it turned up spades, then I knew I was in for another creepy story from M.R. James. The Kindle edition I read from Open Road Media contained both the eight tales from Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) and the seven tales from More Ghost Stories (1911).

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James, Open Road Media Kindle Edition

Each and every story in this anthology was top-notch. James is a master of atmosphere, setting his tales in churchyards, labyrinths, and spooky old mansions. Many of the stories revolved around antique manuscripts or objects. According to the Wikipedia entry for M.R. James, he “perfected a method of story-telling which has since become known as Jamesian,” and which includes the following elements:

  1. a characterful setting in an English village, seaside town or country estate; an ancient town in France, Denmark or Sweden; or a venerable abbey or university
  2. a nondescript and rather naive gentleman-scholar as protagonist (often of a reserved nature)
  3. the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that somehow unlocks, calls down the wrath, or at least attracts the unwelcome attention of a supernatural menace, usually from beyond the grave

That describes this collection perfectly.

Below is the list of stories I read, along with their assigned card for the Deal Me In Challenge and the date I finished each one. Coincidentally, two of the stories appeared in Alfred Hitchcock anthologies I was reading for the Deal Me In Challenge, which also gives you some idea of their quality and content. Don’t pass this collection up. I especially recommend the Open Road Kindle edition, which is only 99 cents, and which has excellent formatting. You can also find these stories available online for free at Project Gutenberg.

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James
First edition London: Edwin Arnold, 1904 and 1911
Kindle edition Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller, 2015
Print length: 220 pages

From the 2017 Deal Me In Challenge

A♠ “Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book” – Finished 11/12/2017
2♠ “Lost Hearts”- Finished 2/27/2017
3♠ “The Mezzotint” – Finished 7/25/2017
4♠ “Number 13” – Finished 9/17/2017
5♠ “Count Magnus” – Finished 2/5/2017
6♠ “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” – Finished 6/18/2017
7♠ “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas” – Finished 2/19/2017
8♠ “A School Story” – Finished 11/19/2017
9♠ “The Rose Garden” – Finished 7/2/2017
10♠ “The Tractate Middoth” – Finished 10/29/2017
J♠ “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral” – Finished 3/13/2017
Q♠ “Martin’s Close” – Finished 3/19/2017
K♠ “Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance” – Finished 11/5/2017

6♦ “The Ash Tree” by M. R. James (From Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 12 Stories for Late at Night) – Finished 8/6/2017

10♥ “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James (From Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 12 Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV) – Finished 3/26/2017

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

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