James, M[ontague] R[hodes]
- (1862–1936)British author of four celebrated volumes of ghost stories — Ghost-Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), and A Warning to the Curious (1925) — all of which HPL owned and spoke of enthusiastically in “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” (James also wrote a children’s fantasy, The Five Jars , which HPL read but did not own.) HPL came upon James at the New York Public Library in December 1925, when he began research for his essay. At that time he ranked James as one of the four “modern masters” (along with Machen, Blackwood, and Dunsany), but in later years he complained that James had no sense of the “cosmic,” and by 1932 he referred to him as “the earthiest member of the ‘big four’” ( SL4.15).Nevertheless, James’s structural complexity may have influenced HPL, especially in his longer tales. Richard Ward has made a good case for the influence of James’s “Count Magnus” upon HPL’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.James’s ghost stories were collected in the much-reprinted volume, The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R.James (1931). In his own day, James was better known as an authority on medieval manuscripts and a Biblical scholar. His edition of the Apocryphal New Testament (1924) long remained standard.See S.G.Lubbock, A Memoir of Montague Rhodes James (1939); Jack Sullivan, Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from LeFanu to Blackwood (1978); Richard William Pfaff, Montague Rhodes James (1980); Michael Cox, M.R.James: An Informal Portrait (1983); Richard Ward, “In Search of the Dread Ancestor: M.R.James’ ‘Count Magnus’ and Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” LS No. 36 (Spring 1997): 14–17.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.