Stories that inspired M.R. James

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Episode 16a – The Residence at Whitminster

August 15, 2012 | Episodes | Comments (15)

Cockerel WoodcutJoin Mike & Will for the first in a two part special on ‘The Residence at Whitminster’ by M.R. James! No black cockerels were harmed in the recording of this podcast (OK, maybe one or two. It’s called research people).

This episode features readings by Hamish Symington and Peter Ross.

Show Notes:


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  1. A Rat In The Wall says:

    Ah, congratulations, Mike! All my good thoughts go out to you and Kirsty. Take as long as you need with that, man!

    Curious little story this one. I haven’t actually heard of this one before, I don’t know, but I’m quite enjoying your coverage of it, saves having to read it right now, I find non-linear narratives frustrating sometimes.

    I thought the scene with Frank and Saul being watched at their odd little play was quite bizarre and frightening, the whole thing reeks of occult weirdness, Saul is up to something daemoniac methinks!

  2. Count Magnus says:

    Congratulations Mike! Wonderful news for you, and all the best.

    A great job on the podcast too. I like this story but agree it can be difficult, especially if you get your introduction to James via the main cannon. Looking forward to part 2.

  3. Taha Yunus says:

    Patrick O’Brian offers this view on Irish peers in the novel _The Mauritius Command_, set circa 1810.

    “But he is a peer, is he not? A man of some real consequence?”
    “Bless your innocence, Jack: an Irish peer is not necessarily a man of any consequence at all. I do not wish to make any uncivil reflection on your country–many of my best friends are Englishmen–but you must know that this last hundred years and more it has been the practice of the English ministry to reward their less presentable followers with Irish titles; and your second-rate jobbing backstairs politician, given a coronet of sorts and transplanted into a country where he is a stranger, is a pitiful spectacle, so he is; a flash Brummagem imitation of the real thing. I should be sorry if the Irish peers, for the most part of them, were Irishmen.”

  4. RogerBW says:


    I don’t remember having read this story, though I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of James at some time or another, so it can’t have left all that much impression on me. It seems curiously advanced for its day with its seduction-of-the-innocent approach (bearing in mind The Devil Rides Out wasn’t published until 1934)… and not the sort of story for which I usually go to James. Looking forward to the conclusion, which (obJames) I trust will not be too long delayed by other matters. 🙂

  5. Dave C says:

    Discovered this site just a couple of weeks ago, and being a huge MR James fan I have to say I’m thrilled to have found something so genuinely attuned to my tastes! I’ve been listening to (mostly) one podcast per day for the last two weeks and really want to thank you guys for doing such an excellent job. You’ve made me look at some stories in a new way – something I didn’t think possible! – and given me a few laughs in the process! I’m very thankful for your efforts and look forward to many more Curious Podcasts.

    Delighted to hear that Mike and Kirsty are tying the knot. My best wishes to you both!

    As an afterthought, I realised over the weekend that there is indeed a link between Monty and the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’ (TM). The ‘sad’ painting of MR James you mentioned recently is in fact by the brother in law of Aleister Crowley. Gerald Kelly’s sister was married to the Great Beast 666 during a critical period of his career, (though later succumbing to alcoholism). It’s hard to imagine that the two refrained from discussing diabolism during the portrait sittings…

    Can’t wait for the next podcast. You’re really doing a terrific job!

    • Will Ross says:

      Wow! A solid Crowley connection after all! I wonder if James was aware who he was sitting for? The Crowley connection might be something Kelly would want to keep quiet about.
      Really glad you are enjoying the podcast, keep in touch, we are always keen to hear people’s thoughts on the stories!

  6. Taha Yunus says:

    I just relistened to this one and was moved to look up the value in contemporary money of 200 guineas in 1730…
    That earl really wanted his son out of his hair!

  7. James Barrett says:

    In addition to being the home of a biblical witch and the Ewoks, Endor is also the Sindarin (Grey-elven) name for Middle Earth.

  8. M. M. F. says:

    When you talked about the war and how it effect on Monty,
    it reminded me of “Goodbye Mr. Chips”.

  9. wrieder66 says:

    Well, it’s only taken 14 months, but (as you mentioned at the end of this episode) is finally getting around to Monty, with “Count Magnus”!

  10. Michael Cule says:

    As to why he stayed in whitminster for the next thirty years, I think that we can safely say that if an Irish peer leaves his son and heir with a clergyman and the next thing he hears said s&h is dust and ashes, the peer isn’t going to use his influence to promote the clergyman to a bishop’s throne.

  11. Henrik Johnny Sunnerfors says:

    Does not anyone get the feeling that maybe little Frank is, you know, playing lord Saul? That is, after he`s (hypothetically) discovered that Saul is playing him? I mean like, he begins to know lord Sauls agenda towards his death, and, young though he is, manages to set the hellhounds on Saul somehow before he dies? Maybe the theory that lord Saul has a darkened soul, that the dogs can`t get to Frank because his soul is pure and all that is more logical, but I think the revenge theory is cooler, what do you think? And, oh, thanks for a great podcast, guys.

  12. Richard Leigh says:

    I wonder what the Earl of Kildonan’s wife made of all this. A change of scene (Lisbon) might have been good for Saul; but the Earl seems desperate to be rid of him, and sends him to a man whom he had known at college many years before. It makes me think that Saul had known no more affection from his parents than he was to get from his new guardian. Perhaps he felt that the company of the dead was better than no company at all.

  13. Lisa W says:

    I have been binge listening to your podcast (I hope there will be more authors to come). Knowing M. R. James’ great fear of spiders, had to share this with you:

    Watching this led me to YouTube and videos of 10 inch tarantulas kept as pets…and proof that I can find just about anything cute.

  14. Uncle Bunkle says:

    Despite the real life Whitminster’s tenuous connection with the story, the surrounding area does perhaps have a Jamesian feel to the landscape. It’s low lying and flat, bisected by the now derelict Stroudwater canal, and to my eyes at least, has the look of a small piece of East Anglia transposed to the West Country. As others have pointed out the Stroudwater meets the Gloucester & Sharpness canal at Saul junction (that name again).

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