Stories that inspired M.R. James

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Episode 67 – Through a Glass Darkly conference report

October 10, 2018 | Episodes | Comments (5)

Stained glass window, YorkThis episode it’s conference report time! We’ve just returned from Through a Glass Darkly, an M.R. James conference which brought together authors, academics and fans in ghost-haunted York for a 2-day Jamesfest of epic proportions!

The episode features interviews with:

  • Conference organisers Paul M. Chapman, Theresa Dudley and Mark Jones, who told us about how the chance discovery that M.R. James visited York in 1898 sparked the inspiration for the conference.
  • Writer and regular Ghosts and Scholars contributor Mark Valentine, who presented on M.R. James’s scholar protagonist and what they tell us about James, his life and audience.
  • Writer John Reppion, who had just presented on the challenges of adapting ‘Ghost Stories of an Antiquary’ for the graphic novel form.
  • Author Helen Grant, who presented the fascinating true story of Father Reinhardt, the Steinfeld monk who travelled to England to view Steinfeld’s missing stained glass windows, the whereabouts of which was revealed in ‘The Treasure of Abbott Thomas’.
  • Professor Darryl Jones, who told us about his exciting plans for the first full-blown M.R. James biography for over 30 years!

The podcast also features Will and Mike’s thoughts on the rest of the conference, including walking in the footsteps of M.R. James for a stained glass tour of two York churches, and performances from Robert Lloyd Parry and Patrick Smith. You can learn more about all the people we mention at the Friends of Count Magnus website.


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  1. Michael Connell says:

    Awesome nice one boys! Will save this for the weekend!

  2. Charles See says:

    I’ve followed this podcast since I found it three years ago but tend to be very late (by months) in catching the episodes. This is the first time I’ve gotten to one so recently. I have to say it was a great listen for October. I am so glad you have kept this podcast going and if you can get one more in during October, that would be great, but don’t kill yourselves. I’ve been re-listening to all the great M R James stories this month, and after I listen to each story, I re-listen to the appropriate entry of your podcast. You’ve helped me enjoy all these stories so much more.

    • Gary says:

      Like yourself, I came to the website and blog slightly later than I would have liked, for I have been an MR James fan for many years and it would have been great blogging along with others following the first broadcasts. But no matter. Like yourself, I have gone back to the original podcasts and listened to them. And good they are! In fact I’ve learned so much about these stories that I’d have never gleaned from simply reading the texts themselves. Many thanks to Mike and Will for such great listening and entertainment. And I keep returning to the site to see what’s new. I know it must be difficult, but I’d love to see a new one every month. Better still, twice monthly. But, nonetheless, still a fab site for lovers of the ghost story genre like myself.

  3. Dan says:

    The conference sounds great and I’d love to go the next time it’s on. One bugbear however was the chat with the chap who is working on the biography of James during which the “troubling views” of James were mentioned multiple times.

    It strikes me that there is an increasing tendency to view some of our historical heroes and heroines vie the lens of the modern world, applying the latest (and often over the top in my humble opinion) moral barometer to judge them, rather than to accept that they were a product of their time and that their views would not have been regarded in any way as controversial or disruptive by their peers. I have a nagging sense that his biography is going to be MR James viewed by a 21st Century social justice warrior (read hashtag MeToo / FBPE / I’m with Corbyn / etc) rather than as the interesting (and idiosyncratic) character he was in the late Victorian and Edwardian period. For most of his life the British Empire was still in its pomp, women didn’t have the vote, planes and cars were rare, televisions were unheard of and digital communication was inconceivable. We can sit and argue as to the merits of changing technologies and changing attitudes and what has been positive and negative and we’ll all have different views on that but it is ridiculous to apply them with retrospect to the likes of James and Churchill (another currently maligned individual) when they had no chance to exist within our own era.

    There is also the point that we cherish James for his conservative views in the context of his writing and much of his academic life. By this I’m not talking about his economics or politics, but his sense of conservatism for the past – cataloging medieval manuscripts, translating ancient scripts and writing wonderful ghost stories which invoke the spirit of the past. Even now (again in my opinion) this is something that should be cherished as it’s not a common quality and if we shun anyone who clings onto any aspect of the past as “not being progressive” then we’re guilty of ploughing blindly on and accepting all forms of change without question rather than understanding that many elements of our past and current are worth preserving.

    Anyway, just wanted to share my thoughts – I doubt many will agree and I hope the new book proves me wrong! Keep up the good work on the podcast.


    • Dale Nelson says:

      Well, Dan, I agree, and feel my heart warmed by your taking time to write as you have.

      Feel free to get in touch:

      gmail dot com

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