Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

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Episode 55 – A Vignette

September 12, 2016 | Episodes | Comments (22)

M.R. James memorial plaque, Great Livermere churchNearly five years to the day that we released Episode 1, we are pleased to bring you ‘A Vignette’, M.R. James’s very last story!

The episode also features readings from Robert Lloyd Parry and an exciting announcement about the future of the podcast!

Show notes:


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  1. A Rat In The Wall says:

    And there we have it! I can’t remember when I discovered this podcast, must have been a few years back at least, but it’s been quite the ride, and I’ve loved every second. I’m really glad to know you’re continuing, I’m interested to see what you’ll cover now.

    A note on James’ ghosts I’ve been thinking about, in particular this one, people like to read a psychosexual angle into their tactile nature but to me James is making it physical, he’s making it real and immediate. It feels like the whole tactile aspect of every ghost, elemental and demon, when they grab you or embrace you or have some sort of hairy or fleshy quality, it’s to say ‘it’s here, it’s real, it’s physical, and you cannot escape that fact, or it’. James brings the ghost out of airy, spectral realm of visions and chills and makes them as solid as the wall you have your back against. He makes them a reality to their victims almost in way as if he’s saying this world might exist all about us, all the time, which is why they’re so physical.

    Even Canon Alberic’s manspider demon, it doesn’t even touch Dennistoun, but it has every hallmark of the immediacy James puts into his horrors. It’s hairy, has dusky skin and glowing eyes, everything about it screams awful, terrible life and existence rather than just some fleeting spook in the twilight. It makes the impact of the wallop so much more, well, impactful, than if, say, Ager appeared on the beach and Paxton had a heart attack. Ager instead personally murders him. Even some of the weaker wallops like ‘A Neighbour’s Landmark’ where it’s just a scream, even then, in another story, all you would have heard was a chilling wailing in the distance, but in James it comes right up to you and shrieks in your ear.

    In this story, the ghost never approaches the narrator in any way, but it’s there, fleshy, hot, mad and a terrible reality for him. There isn’t a single really ghostly aspect to it, but all the same, it’s distinctly bizarre and unnatural. It’s a vision of a terrible other thing with an immediate existence.

  2. Michael says:

    First, congratulations on five years of fantastic podcasts! I’ve been a huge fan since day one.

    When you were discussing the pinkish faces in the story (and in The Rose Garden), I couldn’t help thinking of the Swine-Things in William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland (1908). Those are also presented as weirdly fleshy and alien. A bit of a stretch, maybe, but perhaps something was in the air then. No idea if Hodgson and James ever read each other’s work.

  3. Sylvain Durand says:

    This is the first time I leave a comment and it’s long overdue. I absolutely love this podcast! It deepened my knowledge and appreciation of M.R. James. Now that all his stories are done, I’m not saying that you should, but that you MUST keep going. I believe you once mentioned covering the authors that influenced Monty and I believe this is a splendid idea. All my best wishes from Montreal.

  4. Miggs says:

    I’ve been listening to this podcast since 2014, when reading books became a big deal to me again. I discovered M.R. James’s first volume of ghost stories online for free, and downloaded it despite not knowing who James was. When I finished reading them, I was hooked. And then later, while looking for a good book podcast on Itunes, I entered M. R. James in the search bar for fun and found you guys! Never would I have thought that there was an actual podcast entirely dedicated to this one author whose importance I didn’t realize until I dug a little more into his background. Yes, M.R. James is a big deal. And since then, I’ve been an avid listener of the show. I can’t tell you how often I’d listen to the older episodes while getting ready for work and putting on my make up.

    I’m really glad that you guys are sticking around and covering the authors and stories that inspired James’s work. You’re two are currently my favorite duo, right there with Game Grumps’ Dan and Arin.

  5. Joe says:

    Excellent run of podcasts – APTTC was the first cast I found and still one of only a handful I have stuck with. All around excellence.

    I was hoping you might proceed with another singular author (I was thinking LeFanu, of whom I know little) because of how well you explored and discussed the entire James milieu. But then, James is a singular author, and I’m not sure there is another Ghost Story author with the same possibilities, works, and talents. So – I look forward to what comes next – and hopefully you will throw in Jamesian shows as things come up – out of the mere, or not…

  6. RogerBW says:

    Congratulations, gentlemen! I think I found you around episode 10, early enough that I could catch up straight away, and while I haven’t been all that enthusiastic about some of the later material it’s been a fascinating journey.

    Looking forward to see what you do next…

  7. Lucy says:

    What a fantastic finale. I think you hit the nail on the head when you flagged up the sentimental note here – nostalgic, almost, and recognisably the work of a writer looking back rather than forwards. Please, gentlemen, keep going for another five years (another donation is on its way – put it towards some cider!). And a request – can you look at Lucy M. Boston? Robert L-P has done some sterling work with her stuff, and there is a Monty link to her life too…Thanks again for all your wonderful entertainment x

  8. Mike says:

    Thanks everyone for staying with us and your lovely comments! We’ll be back soon with more information about what we’re doing next.

  9. Marianne Salcedo says:

    ‘A Vignette’ is really your finest podcast. I do hope you continue with another author in the same genre. Best of luck to you both!

  10. Thanks for many wonderful hours of listening! I’ll definitely stick around if you keep it going & continue to talk about Victorian (& Edwardian) literature and spookery.

  11. Charles See says:

    I can’t believe I missed this for nearly a month. I tend to check up on your podcasts out of order. I reread my MR James stories before listening to whatever podcast of yours catches my fancy, but I had been planning to listen to this one as soon as it was released. Somehow I still missed for three weeks.
    This was a great finale for the first phase of your podcast. I’m grateful to both of you for all the effort you’ve put into this and have enjoyed every bit of it. I’m VERY happy that you will not be ending things now ,and look forward to seeing what you do for Halloween.

  12. RobP says:

    Thanks for all the hours of listening guys, has been wonderful! Look forward to whatever you have planned next

  13. jt says:

    I usually check sometime Sunday afternoon for new podcasts by way of the episodes page which I have bookmarked.
    Today, 23 October, I check and see A Vignette. Great, I think, a new podcast.
    Going to the episodes page I see the date 12 September and comments starting with A Rat In The Wall’s post from 14 September.
    So I’m left with the question, why, on all the Sundays that I’ve been checking up until last Sunday – 16 October, has the latest episode at the top of the episodes page been Episode 54 – Eton and Kings, part two?

    Anyway, I’ve just started to listen. I don’t know what the future of the podcast is, not got that far, but I’d like to say thanks to both of you and all the others who have contributed over the years.

  14. Luke says:

    Well done on 5 years of wonderful M.R James stories and tidbits. I’m glad you’re ending this podcast now and not dragging this thing out – seriously those 2 podcasts about James’s time at Cambridge and Eton wasn’t exactly fascinating listening. But please continue on – and may I make a suggestion? JS LeFanu stories now – James adored him and I think your listeners will too. Thanks guys for 5 great years!.

  15. Paxton's Spade says:

    Congratulations and well done. Have worked backwards and then forward through the podcasts over four years and they have been brilliant atmospheric company, especially during winter walking back to the park and ride car park through the narrow lanes and cloisters of a cathedral city after work. Nice to finish on Robert Lloyd Parry as well as I’ve seen him twice and wish he would come a bit further South on his tours these days. Started the podcast with an air of melancholy, echoed in the final MRJ final chapter feel, but greatly buoyed by your announcement to continue with the contemporaries/influences tangent. You’ve broadened my ghost story horizons and I look forward to keeping you,metaphorically, in my pocket – particularly as the clocks wind back, shadows lengthen and the long, dark evenings arrive.

  16. Spencer says:

    Like this one as usual. I think that the hooded figure was not a ghost and rather one of the fey folk. I’d like to believe that monty did see something strange at that gate.

  17. InheritedUncle says:

    Hope it’s not too late for posting comments, hope you read it. I feel I owe you both and ghave done so for a long time.
    I have been listening to the podcast since about mid-2013 and this is my first comment, well what can I say? Thank you, a huge TY for 4 years (going on 6 now) of pure pleasure lots of insights and adding immenseley to my enjoyment of M. R. James (despite my favourite ghost stories having been written by Sheridan LeFanu, E. F. Benson and E. Nesbitt, H. H. Munro(Saki) and the somewhat more unlikely Dickens & Kipling – unusual in that I am not a huge admirer of much of their main body of work – a Warning to the Curious has now joined them). I am delighted to know the podcast will go on, though it is bittersweet closing the M. R. James chapter and “A Vignette” seems singularly appropriate.
    Much obliged, looking forward to much more. It has been a privilege.

    P.S. … and may I just point out 28ºC is not really hot (it is in my book but not in the climate of my part of the world). Kudos to anyone who is still wearing socks by that point in the thermometer btw! 😉

  18. Laura says:

    Just wonderful!
    There is a story inspired by this in a book by egaeus press, A Midwinters Entertainment, a film company go to film in the old rectory

  19. Katie Millard says:

    Help please!! What is the music? I heard something on Youtube can’t find it now and there was the most amazing music, it was on Chapter 6 I ‘m sure that means something to someone. Need to know who wrote this wonderful sound. Many thanks KT

  20. Belinda says:

    Well done, guys – it’s taken you five years but I’m up to the end of Monty in six weeks. I’m enormously impressed with what you’ve done to date, and I’m coming on for the rest of the ride, into texts known and unknown. Thank you for the vast amounts of work this must have been.

  21. Melissa says:

    I stumbled upon this podcast while doing research for a class, and it has been extremely helpful! Thank you so much! I look forward listening to more of the podcast when I get the time.

  22. C Lancaster Marr says:

    Another great podcast, always a joy to listen to your episodes. This story really intrigues me because it seems to suggest a ghoul rather than a ghost. The drapery suggests a shroud but then there is that hot pink fleshy face which is not at all what you expect from a ghost/spectre. It definitely suggests to me that if you were unfortunate to run into this figure in the woods it would tear you up or even eat you. The description of it shambling off through the trees really stayed with me and made me think it hasn’t gone far and it will be back. MRJ left so much unsaid in this one which works in its favour and is all the more chilling. I wonder if this one was ever dramatized (I know not by the BBC) because I have a weird recollection of seeing it or something very much like it.

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