Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

February 12, 2014 | Episodes | Comments (12)

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 (
    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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  1. A Rat In The Wall says:

    Gotta agree, not spectacular, but some nice ideas. I especially love the idea of the novel imitating his life or vice versa, sort of like malign synchronicity. But sure, anything can happen in France.

    Also glad to hear the family is well!

  2. I quiet like these fragments where you have to guess what the story might have been. We need to remove the husband in a way that the wife can both know more than she tells people AND feel the loss of her husband acutely.

    Émile Giraud – “he was, SAID THE BOOK, a thoroughly reputable, honest, and amiable person”.

    My theory is that Émile Giraud is the bad thing in this story. Some sort of sorcerer or alchemist in league with “Satan” or assorted dark powers in exchange for wealth.

    After years of being married unaware Eugeiné finally catches him in the act of doing something diabolical. They scuffle and Émile winds up dead somehow, possibly while being distracted by Eugeiné something alchemical blows up in his face or the demon he had bound gets close enough to strangle him.

    EugeinĂ© decides to honor his memory by not telling anyone what had happened. The source of Émile’s wealth was diabolical, and hence the disappearance of the cash.

    At the climax of the story the narrator would go to the house and lift up the slab, and find the lair where Émile was working his diabolical arts, along with the sorcerers aged skeleton. There might be a sentence or two about how the narrator felt a rush of foul air upon lifting the slab, almost like a physical presence passed by him.

    Of course Eugeiné would meet a foul end shortly after, be heard screaming and raving at an invisible thing before falling to her death onto a spiked railing, something like that.

    The story would close out with the Narrator theorizing that the book he purchased was somehow haunted by Émile, it was one of the many things his widow had disposed of in the years since his death. It had lured him to Marcilly-le-hayer so the narrator could unwittingly help the evil spirit exact revenge on Eugeiné.

    That’s my theory anyway. Thanks for the great podcast!

  3. JakeTucker says:

    Congratulations Mike.

    Unless your a superman I expect the podcasts won’t be as frequent as they have been although there can’t be many more stories left to cover I think?
    In light of the new addition to the family Mike how about a podcast dedicated to The Five Jars? (tongue-in-cheek emoticon!)

    • A Rat In The Wall says:

      I think they’re gonna cover just about everything they can get their hands on, The Five Jars, Eton and Kings and Norfolk and Suffolk, then move onto other people, like the Benson Bros. or something, maybe LeFanu.

      • Anne says:

        I’d love to hear what they have to say about Schalcken the Painter. 🙂 And the DVD/BluRay set has finally been released…

  4. G Quinn says:

    Please have Helen Grant back on the podcast again soon! She was both lively and knowledgeable (like you chaps, of course)and I am now going to look into her works.
    Unlike Monty, we appreciate the feminine perspective!

    • Helen Grant says:

      Thank you for your kind words, G Quinn! I’m hoping the boys will let me back on the podcast again in future. If you’re interested in my MRJ articles, they are all on the Ghosts and Scholars website or my own blog.
      I’m also sure (re: JakeTucker’s comment) that there is a lot more podcast material in there. How can we ever get bored of talking about MRJ?

  5. Hi guys! I’ve been loving your show since a friend pointed it out to me last fall. I tore through the episodes and now like the rest of your listeners I have to wait on tenterhoods for the new ones to arrive.

    I was so pleased to hear Helen on the show for this episode — I corresponded with her when buying a copy of her Bad MĂĽnstereifel chapbook back in 2007. Somehow I’d missed the fact that she’s been writing novels since!!! So now I have been busily squirreling about looking for copies of them and am very excited to read the three I’ve managed to find so far.

    Thanks guys!!! Keep up the good work — I look forward to hearing more. 🙂

  6. Hey guys. I kind of agree with Quinn asking Helen back for more podcasts! I try to imagine this bicycle James used when he was cycling in france. I almost laughed out loud when you explained it as ‘this weird contraption’… Greetings from Sweden!

    And since I live in Sweden, I couldn’t help to just love that episode of “Count Magnus” for the fun of it. I can assure you, though, all padlocks are still in place and he’s going nowhere!

    / Daniel

  7. JakeTucker says:

    When the Cheylesmore double tricycle came up in the podcast I knew I’d seen it somewhere in a film, but could not remember which.
    Last weekend I watched a few old films including Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles from 1959. The character Bishop Frankland, played by Miles Malleson, walks with such a contraption at his side. Unless I missed it later we don’t see him attempting to ride the thing. The scene starts about 28 and a half minutes into the film.
    I was hoping I might be able to add that that the complete film is on Youtube but I don’t think it is. There’s a complete film labelled ‘Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the Baskervilles 1959’ but it’s the later version with Stephen Brett.

  8. First of all, congratulations to Mike and his partner!

    We have stumbled upon the podcast recently, and we have listened so far to the first and the latest episode. It is a well done podcast and we enjoy your conversations and the show. You did well on the audio since the first episode. Keep on the good work, have fun and satisfaction!

  9. Richard Leigh says:

    I suspect that Eugenie murdered Emile because that was the only way she could get her hands on his grimoire, after which……….

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