Read by David Shaw-Parker (Unabridged: 58mins)
Montague Rhodes James is cited as perhaps the greatest English writer of ghost stories, an opinion few would disagree with.
James was born on 1st August 1862 at Goodnestone Parsonage in Kent, where his father was Curate but at age 3 the family went to live at Livermere, near Bury St Edmunds in East Anglia.
From early childhood he had a passion for mediaeval books and antiques. He was educated initially as a boarder at Temple Grove School in East Sheen, west London, before gaining a scholarship to Eton and thence Cambridge where he gained a double first, becoming a distinguished linguist and mediaevalist.
Before the Great War vacations were usually spent touring Europe absorbing cultures and references for his later writing.
A man of enormous knowledge it was said he timed his breakfast egg whilst he completed the Times crossword.
Many of his elegant yet terrifying tales were created by discarding the prevailing gothic cliches and placing his characters and narrative in a realistic setting. Thereby the stories gained atmosphere and menace on a grand scale and he was famed as the originator of the antiquarian ghost story.
Although story-telling and writing these 30 or so tales was a hobby, when published their effect transformed the genre and still chill the bones in our more modern times.
James was also a medievalist scholar and translator whose work remains highly respected. He was also Provost of Eton College between 1918 and 1936.
M R James died on 12th June 1936 at Eton in Buckinghamshire. He was 73.
His classic story ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ exquisitely reveals how a young professor on holiday chances on a buried whistle and folklore becomes terrifying fact.