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Stories that inspired M.R. James

Twelve tales of terror recommended by the master of the genre!

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Episode 34 – Marcilly-le-Hayer (with Helen Grant)

Le Chateau de Chavaudon, Marcilly-le-HayerThis episode Will and Mike are thrilled to be joined by top M.R. James scholar and author Helen Grant to help them struggle their way through unfinished M.R. James story fragment ‘Marcilly-le-Hayer‘.

Thanks to our readers this episode, Tom Hemmings and Debbie Wedge.

Show notes:

  • Marcilly-le-Hayer map (Monty’s World)
    You can view the eponymous French town on our mapping app Monty’s World.
  • Postcards of Marcilly-le-Hayer (www.famille-bretet.net)
    This website contains a great number of period postcards and photos of Marcilly-le-Hayer.
  • Story notes by Rosemary Pardoe  (Ghosts & Scholars)
    Rosemary Pardoe has provides some very useful notes on this story, including translations of the French passages.
  • Places I have tried to visit: Marcilly-le-Hayer (Helen Grant)
    This is the excellent article that prompted us to invite Helen to be our co-host. First published in Ghosts & Scholars, this article describes Helen’s visit to Marcilly-le-Hayer and her search for the locations featured in the story.
  • ‘Caroline de Litchfield’ by Donald Tumasonis (Ghosts & Scholars)
    In this article Tumasonis examines the real novel which James features in this story (albeit with a slightly mangled title!).
  • M.R. James and France by Percy Lubbock (Google books)
    Percy Lubbock’s all-to breif memoir of M.R. James features some revealing and entertaining insights into some of James’ many holidays in France.
  • Stories I have tried to write by M.R. James (The Albion Chronicles)
    In his essay ‘Stories I have tried to write’ M.R. James describes various stories which never reached publication, including one which is unmistakably ‘Marcilly-le-Hayer’.
  • A Whisper in the Ear by Sheila Hodgson (Youtube)
    Between 1976 and 1992 Sheila Hodgson wrote a number of stories for radio which were inspired by the stories mentioned in M.R. James’ essay ‘Stories I have tried to write’. This one is based on the fragment of ‘Marcilly-e-Hayer’ mentioned in that essay. The others can be purchases in ebook form.
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Episode 28 – After Dark in the Playing Fields

The Eagle Owl By Thomas BewickIn this episode, talking owls. Yes, you heard me correctly. Talking owls.

Has Monty completely lost his marbles? Mike and Will ask just that in this episode on ‘After Dark in the Playing Fields‘ by M.R. James.

Readings by kind permission of grand panjandrum and actor Robert Lloyd Parry!

The full reading of this story and many others can be found on Robert’s double-CD ‘Curious Creatures: The Shorter Horror of M.R. James‘ which is available to buy from nunkie.co.uk and is worth every penny.

Show notes:

 

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Episode 27 – There was a man dwelt by a churchyard

'There was a man dwelt by a churchyard' by Les Edwards (copyright Les Edwards)In this episode Mike & Will don their funeral garb and shuffle mournfully into ‘There was a man dwelt by a churchyard‘ by M.R. James.

A big thanks to Robert Lloyd Parry for giving us permission to use readings extracted from his excellent CD ‘Curious Creatures: The Shorter Horror of M.R. James‘, available to purchase from his website nunkie.co.uk!

An equally big thanks go to Les Edwards for giving us permission to use his gorgeous artwork inspired by this very story, just one of the many illustrations Les did for the recent M.R. James collection ‘Curious Warnings: The Great Ghost Stories of M.R. James‘. »

You can buy a print of this painting as well as many others from his website lesedwards.com

Show notes:

  • A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare (wikipedia)
    This title of this story comes from a line spoken by young Mamillius in Act 1 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s ‘A Winter’s Tale’. Our audio extract came from the BBC’s lovely Shakespeare Animated Tales version of the play, available to watch on YouTube.
  • Brass rubbings at Oddington, Oxfordshire (White Winds Brass Rubbing)
    In this episode M.R. James refers to an ‘old brass in a church with a figure of a person in a shroud’. While it may not be the exact brass James was thinking of, the shrouded figure at Oddington Church is certainly of a similar kind to the one he refers to.
  • Ghosts & Scholars story notes (Ghosts & Scholars)
    Rosemary Pardoe’s notes on this story throw some very helpful light on some of the more perplexing parts of this story.
  • John Poole, playwright (wikipedia)
    We forgot to mention it in the episode, but it is likely that M.R. Jame’s choise of the name ‘John Poole’ is a nod towards the English playwright John Poole (1786–1872) who was famous for this Shakespeare parodies.
  • “‘I seen it wive at me out of the winder’: The Window as Threshold in M.R. James’s Stories” by Rosemary Pardoe (Ghosts & Scholars Newsletter 4)
    This is the essay Will mentions in this episode which explores how James uses the window as a reoccuring feature of this ghost stories. Sadly the essay is not available to read online.
  • Will-o-the-wisp or corpse lights (wikipedia)
    In this story the smith asks John Poole if he has ever seen any ‘lights’ in the churchyard. Rosemary Pardoe suggests that this is a reference to ‘corpse lights’.
  • Ghosts & Scholars Survey (G&S)
    This story has an unenviable reputation for being voted one of the least popular M.R. James stories with readers of Ghosts & Scholars!
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