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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,512 ratings  ·  113 reviews
Eight classics by great Edwardian scholar and storyteller. "Number Thirteen," "The Mezzotint," "Canon Alberic's Scrapbook," more. Renowned for their wit, erudition and suspense, these stories are each masterfully constructed and represent a high achievement in the ghost genre. New introduction by E. F. Bleiler. 4 plates by James McBride.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 24th 2011 by Dover Publications (NY) (first published 1904)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Terry
This volume contains eight tasty little nuggets of supernatural horror that I found very satisfying. In each of them the story is told second or even third hand by a genial narrator whose acquaintances, who are themselves of a decidedly scholarly bent, have been the victims of supernatural intrusion into our world. Often the stories revolve around an ancient artifact able to invoke the otherworldly that is discovered by these particularly luckless individuals (though they often feel themselves l ...more
Bill  Kerwin

This is M. R. James first book of ghost stories, containing eight of his best. I believe six of these eight are among the twenty best tales of ghostly terror ever written--and the other two tales are very good too. If you like traditional ghost stories that unnerve the reader subtly by suggestion and indirection, this is a book you should read.
Charlene
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James
A fantastic collection of creepy atmospheric horror tales written back in the day. I felt that these stories lost nothing with the passage of time. In fact, I appreciated the fact that these tales weren't gory at all. I guess I've gotten used to explicit scenes in my horror, and these shorts served to remind me that blood and guts don't necessarily have to play a part. My imagination often supplies something scarier than the author may have intended a
...more
Jean
Sep 07, 2014 Jean rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jean by: Chris
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary is the first collection of stories by M. R. James, published in 1904, although some had been previously published in magazines. The next collection from 1922 is often nowadays combined with this volume. Montague Rhodes James was a noted medieval scholar and provost of Kings College, Cambridge. His scholarly work remains highly respected in academic circles.

Interestingly one incident in M. R. James's life could have come straight from his stories. His discovery of a
...more
Esdaile
Most reveiewers here feel that MR James is a master of the genre and I agree. There are certain expectations of a ghost story writer and for many readers these expectations are fulfilled. As in the case of Lovecraft, the stories tend to be disarmingly similar, which is at once a weakness in terms of the religious or philosophical horizon, but has all the strength of a discipline imposed and accepted. Charcateristic of the genre is an inciteement to fear of the inheritance of the past and fear of ...more
Michael
Full review from Badelynge
I love a good ghost story. M.R.James is one of the best at the short form of the genre. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary is packed with some of his best. All the stories here were written between 1894 and 1904 and were originally read to the author's friends at Christmas at Kings College, Cambridge where James was a noted British medieval scholar. I'd guess the best way to experience these chilling little stories would be to have them read to you on a dark night, in the de
...more
Nikoleta
Όποιος θέλει να τρομάξει πολύ, καλύτερα να επιλέξει ένα άλλο βιβλίο και όχι το Ιστορίες φαντασμάτων ενός αρχαιοδίφη, καθώς είναι περισσότερο μυστήριου παρά τρόμου, ίσως την εποχή που γράφτηκε να θεωρούνταν τρόμου… δεν γνωρίζω. Ο τρόμος μειώνεται με πολλούς τρόπους. Πρώτον ο ήρωας που έχει αίσιο τέλος στο διήγημα, η σωτηρία του προαναγγέλλετε με κάποιο τρόπο στην ιστορία μέσω του αφηγητή, ο οποίος αναφέρει ότι την ιστορία που μας διηγείται την άκουσε από τον ίδιο τον ήρωα. Δεύτερον η τρομακτική α ...more
Graziano
CANON ALBERIC’S SCRAP-BOOK

‘They were in the sitting-room of the house, a small, high chamber with a stone floor,
full of moving shadows cast by a wood-fire that flickered on a great heart.’ (p.13)

Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book was first published in 1904, although it was written in 1894.
The story is set in southern France.
An English tourist is photographing the interior of the cathedral of Saint-Bernard-de-Comminges at the foot of Pyrenees, when the cathedral’s sacristan tries to sell him a strange
...more
Sean
This is great collection of 7 classic ghost stories. Most relate to traveling scholars and their ghostly encounters. My only complaint is that many of these stories are very similar. Out of the 7, the story Number 13 is my favorite. This is a nice quick read if you are the mood for a few really good ghost stories.
Oscar
M.R. James fue uno de los mejores escritores dedicados al peculiar género de las ghost stories, o historias de fantasmas. Realmente, no se dedicaba a ello profesionalmente; creaba sus historias para contarlas a sus amigos y conocidos, siendo para él más una afición con la que disfrutar enormemente, eso sí, haciéndonoslo pasar "mal". Afortunadamente, se fueron publicando porque se trata, indiscutiblemente, de uno de los maestros del relato breve.

Sus cuentos son una delicia escalofriante. M.R. Jam
...more
Ben Thurley
These stories are a delight – finely-crafted ghost stories from the turn of the twentieth century, subversively witty and proceeding to build suspense, menace and even outright horror by insinuation and implication much more than bare narration or depiction.

The stories aren't particularly revolutionary, typically beginning with an energetic and atmospheric description of the setting before introducing an urbane and often scholarly narrator who will interact with a relic that provides a doorway t
...more
Tania Donald
As Leonardo is to painting, so M R James is to the short ghost story. He really is that good. These stories are like beautifully crafted little gems, rich in tiny, exquisite detail, and sparkling with dark beauty.
There is an indefinable rare something that marks out the greatest writers of supernatural fiction. H P Lovecraft had it, and M R James had it. It's a kind of mood, an atmosphere, but it's more than that. Effortlessly, these writers draw you into a world where the most strange and terri
...more
Jen
I was quite honestly surprised by just how much I enjoyed these stories. I am not, generally speaking, a fan of much horror and I felt that these stories may fall into that space. But, a friend recommended, and so I tried. What I loved about these was the suspense and how clear the characters were painted. It wasn't gory and it wasn't really scary. It was just good fiction. These would probably be best read aloud. My favorite of the tales was "Number Thirteen".

Three stars solely because it coul
...more
Erik Graff
Jun 05, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ghost story fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
M.R. James was known to me as the editor and translator of the Oxford editon of the Apocryphal New Testament. Finding ghost stories by such a scholar was intriguing and the reading of them was quite pleasant.
Dean
MR James's stories have nearly everything that a classic ghost story should have. Period settings, for us at least, although as an Edwardian he wrote a lot about the Victorian period. Geographic settings usually in cold and foreign climes, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, like us but foreign too. The anti-heroes are invariably bachelors who are also chaste University dons, like himself, alone singular and scholastic. Many are religious but are men of reason who have this reason challenged by much ol ...more
Μανώλης Σιμιτσάκης
Περίμενα πολλά περισσότερα από αυτό το βιβλίο. Δεν τα έδωσε όμως ούτε καν στον στοιχειώδη βαθμό. Δεν με άγγιξε, με άφηνε να χάνομαι σε άλλες σκέψεις και στα υγιή προβλήματα της καθημερινότητας. Ούτε μία ιστορία δεν με κράτησε σε αγωνία... να θέλω να μάθω τι θα γίνει παρακάτω.
Τρόμος; Ανύπαρκτος. Ίσως για την εποχή του να τα κατάφερνε, παίζοντας με τις θρησκευτικές αντιλήψεις - προσοχή, όχι παραδοσιακές - του αιώνα που πέρασε.
Κουβαλάει τον παλιό βόρειο αέρα, έχει στοιχεία που εμπλουτίζουν τις γνώσ
...more
Erin
First heard about this book on one of those "scariest books" lists you see pop up around Halloween. I wasn't familiar and put it on my wish list, then saw it was old enough to be in the public domain, so it's free - great!

Some of earliest horror or ghost stories are often considered incredibly frightening or massively influential (think Hawthorne, Lovecraft or Poe) - I get the second, but not the first (with the exception of "The Pit and the Pendulum" which might have scarred me for life after I
...more
Martha Sockel
I love discovering classic authors that I have previously not chanced upon.

M.R. James certainly falls into this category - Ghost Stories of an Antiquary contains several mesmerizing ghost stories that will stay with you long after you have read them. James' prose style is deceptively simple, but it has a hypnotic effect that allows him to really engage with the reader's imagination.

I do not want to say too much about the specific stories as I do not want to give away some of the terrific ideas
...more
Ken
A fantastic collection of classic horror short stories that should be on the must-read list of any fan of the genre.

4 STARS
Erika
This book feels like a 101 in horror stories. It's got so many features that have become classic themes on the horror genre. Cursed objects, demonic encounters, witches, haunting creatures, ancient hidden treasures.
The stories are narrated as real events experienced by acquaintances of the author or as discoveries he read on old books and such. I think this was a device to give the stories a feel of authenticity but I wasn't much taken by it. However, I enjoyed the inclusion of biblical referen
...more
Mary Storm
Understated creepiness at its best.
Matthew
3.5 stars. These were pretty interesting little ghost stories. They were much more simple than what we are used to today. They were almost more like supernatural vignettes, but they were very well written.

There's this interesting sense that these single manifestations, as simple as they generally were, were enough to elicit incredible horror. The context was always so mundane, so real, that it really emphasizes the horror of the actual event, making in some cases, a brief glimpse of some superna
...more
Rhys Thomas
I am a big fan of ghost stories, and enjoy nothing more than choosing a scary book to read over the Halloween period. And so you can imagine my joy when Amy introduced me to the works of M. R. James. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary was his first collection of ghost stories, published in 1904. The tales all follow a similar route – a build up of otherworldly hints topped off by a ghastly visitation – and all are very enjoyable. What I liked most about the stories were his descriptions of building. ...more
Kevin
Fantastic stuff. Occasionally the text feels a little dated and why shouldn't it? It's only a century old. Still, some of the chills delivered were better than anything I've read that was written in the last 10, so obviously James knew what he was doing. Highly recommended, free off of Gutenberg.

Now for a personal note:

I was reading the short story 'Count Magnus' and there was the barest glimmer of recognition near the end, and then I came across the following passage:

People still remember last
...more
Scott
"If any of these stories succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained." So wrote the renowned paleographer, manuscript historian, and educator M. R. James on Halloween, 1904, in the preface to his first collection of spooky tales, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary.

The eight tales that make up this ghastly anthology are replete with
...more
Rade
My rating: 3.5 (Goodreads really needs to introduce half a star rating system)

Good collection of ghost stories. Very well written, reasonably long, decent characters, and pretty neat story plots. A lot, if not all, of these stories have religious themes which did not bother me at all. A lot of the stories also mention Latin quite a few times and the author mentions a lot of historical figures and their works (some were fictional) which does not hurt the stories but I really did not know any of t
...more
Matthew Hunter
In honor of M.R. James reading these ghost stories out loud on Christmas Eve at Cambridge, I read these stories out loud to my family over a series of evenings. My primary impression? Enjoyable, but not very scary or chilling. Like M.R., most of the main characters are scholars. And for the most part, these scholars are not the ones narrating the story. That task is left to other scholars who stumble upon collections of letters, journals, or local histories that tell of prior events. This approa ...more
Mike Deruyter
A very fine collection of ghost stories from a wonderful writer. An obvious precursor to Lovecraft. Everyone hypes "Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad", but I found "The Mezzotint" to be my likely favorite of the bunch. The scares are rarely explicit, but there is a moment in each story that produces a wonderful horrible sense of dread in oneself. There are some wonderfully described horrors in this book. Hair and emaciation seem to be James's favorite details, which gets a bit repetitive ...more
Cody Gillespie-Lynch
Old fashioned ghost stories at their finest. Can't say whether the stories would scare me now, but when I read them several years ago, I found them rather chilling. Then again, I was reading them in a poorly lid, unheated room in the basement of an old house in Juneau Alaska, in midwinter.....so the chill may have had less to do with the actual stories, than the circumstance. Either way. I loved this little book :)
Suzanne
I can't believe I'd never read these, given how much I love ghost stories. I'm generally not into short stories, but these are tied together nicely through the single narrator conveying stories from his colleagues, all academics making inquiries of various kinds that lead them to the supernatural encounters. The stories are subtle and creepy and hold up well, despite their age. There's even a touch of humor from time to time. The story that had been recommended to me so highly in recent years, " ...more
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Montague Rhodes James, who used the publication name M. R. James, was a noted British mediaeval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905–1918) and of Eton College (1918–1936). He is best remembered for his ghost stories which are widely regarded as among the finest in English literature. One of James' most important achievements was to redefine the ghost story for the new century by ...more
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“At first you saw only a mass of coarse, matted black hair; presently it was seen that this covered a body of fearful thinness, almost a skeleton, but with the muscles standing out like wires. The hands were of a dusky pallor, covered, like the body, with long, coarse hairs, and hideously taloned. The eyes, touched in with a burning yellow, had intensely black pupils, and were fixed upon the throned King with a look of beast-like hate. Imagine one of the awful bird-catching spiders of South America translated into human form, and endowed with intelligence just less than human, and you will have some faint conception of the terror inspired by the appalling effigy.” 0 likes
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