M. R. James
Montague Rhodes James, Order of Merit and Fellow of the British Academy – the son of an Anglican vicar, was an antiquarian scholar, expert on medieval legends and biblical apocrypha, Provost of King’s College Cambridge and later Eton College. He was also the godfather of the modern British short ghost story.
The stories were written and read aloud by Mr. James to a selected coterie of academics and students who were invited to the Hallowe’en gatherings held in his Provost’s Lodge at King’s College Cambridge. These events were portrayed on BBC tv during the 1970s in the series ‘A Ghost Story for Christmas’, with Christopher Lee portraying M. R. James.
The first Jamesian story to be adapted for television was broadcast in 1968, with Michael Hordern starring as the lead character Professor Parkin in ‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You’.
Mr. James’s first collection of 8 horror tales, ‘Ghost Stories of an Antiquarian’, was published in 1904, followed in 1911 by a 7-story volume, ‘More Ghost Stories’.
In 1957, ‘The Casting of the Runes’ was filmed as ‘Night of the Demon’.
Notably, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Ruth Rendell, Paul Theroux, Sir John Betjeman and Mark Gatiss have all expressed admiration for M. R. James. In 2013, Mr. Gatiss directed a television adaptation of ‘The Tractate Middoth’ and presented the documentary ‘M. R. James: Ghost Writer’ which can be found here:
M. R. James left Cambridge in 1918 to become Provost of Eton College. He died there, in his chambers in 1936 and is buried in Eton Town Cemetery, near Windsor.
Entrance arch from Eton Wick Road
Entrance arch from the cemetery
The Grade II listed Eton Cemetery chapel, built in 1846, designed by James Deason in Victorian Gothic, Early English Style, viewed from Eton Wick Road.
Views of the chapel
SS&M photographer Stephen Smith in action.