M. R. James

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I'm not at all sure that he was alive.

Montague Rhodes James OM (1 August 186212 June 1936) was a distinguished English biblical scholar, medievalist, palaeographer and bibliographer, but is best known for his Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and other works of supernatural fiction.


  • I heard one cry in the night, and I heard one laugh afterwards. If I cannot forget that, I shall not be able to sleep again.
  • "There was a man sitting or kneeling on Sampson's window-sill, and looking in, and I thought he was beckoning…He looked as if he was wet all over: and," he said, looking round and whispering as if he hardly liked to hear himself, "I'm not at all sure that he was alive."
  • A ghost story of which the scene is laid in the twelfth or thirteenth century may succeed in being romantic or poetical: it will never put the reader into the position of saying to himself: "If I'm not careful, something of this kind may happen to me!"
    • Preface to More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911); cited from Michael Cox (ed.) Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) pp. 337-8.
  • Reticence may be an elderly doctrine to preach, yet from the artistic point of view I am sure it is a sound one. Reticence conduces to effect, blatancy ruins it.
    • "Some Remarks on Ghost Stories", in The Bookman, December 1929; cited from Michael Cox M. R. James: An Informal Portrait (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986) p. 150.

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