Talk:M. R. James

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[BBC at Christmas][edit]

Moved from the article:

I think the BBC still do a James story each christmas, but I'm not certain of this
I think the tradition of a new BBC dramatisation every Christmas ended some time ago but the BBC resurrected the "Ghost Story for Christmas" programme with a new dramatised version of A View from a Hill in 2005 (which was very good and very much in the traditional style, if anyone gets the chance to see it). I've made mention of this in the article. Zagrebo 14:52, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

Audio books[edit]

AuntDaisy - you've added another title to the list of audio recordings by Sir Michael Hordern, your entry being 'A Warning To The Curious'. I don't think that this is correct - I have that title and firstly it's not released by Argo but by ISIS Audio Books. Secondly it's not read by Michael Hordern but by Nigel Lambert. Thirdly it contains six readings, not five. Please can you confirm that your entry was for some other readings released by Argo and read by Michael Hordern, or if not perhaps amend the entry accordingly to distinguish between the two? Thanks. :) Gaunt 10:32, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

Looks like I was wrong, my apologies - there was indeed another collection narrated by Hordern. Now I'm desperately trying to find an original to add to my collection. :) Gaunt 10:56, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Article name[edit]

The main article should be M. R. James, the name the writer is most widely known by, with Montague Rhodes James being the redirect. See WP:NAME. Nareek 18:09, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Reggie Oliver[edit]

Reggie Oliver is a writer whose article has only been edited by one person, the user Cyprian Webb. While it is of course hard to say that whether or not this is a vanity article, I think it's safe to say that Oliver does not share the notability of Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell. Let us bear in mind that this is M. R. James' article; the fact that Reggie Oliver was influenced by James tells us something about Oliver, but gives us very little information about M. R. James.

Before reverting again, please discuss the change on the talk page. Nareek 13:45, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Child abuse[edit]

My assumption is that the paragraph preceding the quote from Kneale summarizes Kneale's argument--otherwise Kneale's quote would make little sense. It should probably say that more explicitly before being put back in. Anyway, I think that section is less essential than the preceding part describing James' work--I'm glad that we seem to be keeping that. Nareek 04:02, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Anthony Powell was specifically referencing James' relationships with his young male pupils when he wrote of his 'romantic affairs'. Indeed, one could argue that Powell's qualification that the affairs were platonic was motivated by discretion. However, in the absence of proof that James consumated any of these platonic relationships we must accept Powell's comments at face value rather than read between the lines. Notwithstanding this it is essential to qualify the quotation by informing people that it applied to James' pupils, otherwise people will automatically - and erroneously - assume that it applied to adult relationships. Chris Barker.

Response to "Child abuse"[edit]

The Kneale quotation has nothing to do with the preceding "argument," save as a red herring. The bizarre assertions in the paragraph I deleted are those of Christpher Barker, who himself added them to the article. If you question my judgment, I suggest that you refer to the edit histories of the articles "John Pelan," "Ramsey Campbell," and "Reggie Oliver"--others that he has also defaced (or, in the case of Reggie Oliver, created). I left the link to his Haunted River web site, to to which anyone who wants to can refer for an exposition of his decidedly idiosyncratic opinions. But I don't think they belong in a factual article about James.

As you can see from the edit history, my deletion of the paragraph preceding the one in question was an inadvertent error, which I immediately corrected. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 05:17, 13 December 2006 (UTC).

If that's the case then that passage should certainly be cut.
Funny about your restoring that paragraph--I hadn't noticed it--I must have edited that edit while thinking I was editing the one before. Nareek 05:44, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Oh dear, someboy appears to have a bee in their bonnet about Christopher Barker. The fact of the matter is that Reggie Oliver, posting as Cyprian Webb, created the Reggie Oliver article, not Christopher Barker (error no 1). The articles on Ramsey Campbell and John Pelan were indeed found to be overly puffed vanity pieces, resulting in their being toned-down by indepdendent parties (error no 2). Finally, on the subject of M R James, concerns over the cruelty in James's work - most notably, the misogyny and child abuse - have been widely documented by such mainstream authorities as Jonathan Miller (the playwright and director responsible for the Freudian adapations of works by Lewis Carroll and M R James), the historian Julia Briggs, the film expert Kim Newman, the film director Nigel Kneale, etc etc. Only last year in the British broadsheet newspaper 'The Observer' the television reviewer referred to the TV adaptation of M R James's 'Lost Hearts' as having a 'bleak theme of child abuse'. No, there is a very strong argument on this front, yet those who have a vested business interest in portraying James as possessing only a light side (and not a dark side) do not tire of trying to trying to marginalise the issue.

It is essential that this dark side to M R James' work be highlighted. They are after all harrowing horror stories. Indeed, the current Wikipedia article is quite tame given that arguments have been made elsewhere speculating that James may have been a frustrated paedophile, as has been suggested about Lewis Carroll (after all, James savagely murdered his children in a voyeuristic fashion in his work whereas Carroll merely wished to socialise with them). For this reason, I am surprised that the fans of M R James who wish to venerate their idol through rose-tinted spectacles dare to raise concerns about these minor POV revisions. Arguably they are getting off lightly.

If we're going to be throwing charges back and forth about hidden agendas, which was great fun at the Ramsey Campbell talk page, can we at least sign our posts so that we know which IP address is supposed to go with which hidden agenda? Better yet, create an identity so we'll have a pseudonym to match with the conspiracy theory.
If an interpretation of James' work is offered by reliable sources, by all means put it in the article and source it. Nareek 16:28, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Julia Briggs - Night Visitors: The Rise & Fall Of The Ghost Story [1977]

Jonathan Miller - Interview in 'A Pleasant Terror' [ITV documentary]

The Guardian newspaper Dec 17th 2005 - reviewing James's 'Lost Hearts' describes it as "a macabre revenge yarn that hints, bleakly, at child abuse"

Kim Newman - sleeve notes to Britsh Film Institure release of Miller's adaptation of 'Oh Whistle & I'll Come To You'

Christopher Barker - "Plagiarism & Pederasty: Skeletons In The Jamesian Closet" - Haunted River booklet [2003] - cites various references which point towards James's fascination with male adolescents

Anthony Powell (novelist) - recalled in his biography that M.R. James's romantic flirtations with young boys "were fascinating to watch"

The article has to cite specific ideas to particular sources--it's not enough to list a number of articles on the talk page, some of which seem to generally connect with the point you're trying to make.
You're aware, of course, that one can't get around the prohibition on original research by citing one's own writing as a source. Nareek 21:30, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Even "generally connect" is overstating the case. In the absence of specific citations to sources for "Children are usually the victims," "recurrent theme of child abuse," "James's fear of women," and "authorial revulsion of tactile contact with other people," perhaps this article needs to be locked for a time at Nareek's last edit to avoid the repeated back and forth of edits. (And the reviewer in the Guardian cited above was reviewing a television program and has explicitly denied that the expression "hinted, bleakly, at child abuse" was meant to refer to the James story on which the program was based.) Deor 22:08, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Child abuse is child abuse, and the adaptation in question is renowned for having been a very faithful one. In both an elderly man grooms three young twelve year olds; bids them to visit him in his study at midnight without telling anyone else; and then, after drugging them, cuts their hearts out from their living bodies. A more obvious metaphor for child abise would be hard to find.

Removed a bit more tendentious material and fixed some grammar. The deletion of the Guardian reference is explained above. Four or five stories out of more than 30 don't justify the statement "Children are often the victims." The reference to "grooming" linked to a page dealing with a television program that has nothing to do with the discussion, and it was inappropriate anyway. Can we live with the article as it stands now? Deor 14:20, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

I think this article is now a better and more balanced piece. I'm happy to let it stand in its current form. More famous mainstream writers are subjected to closer analysis as a matter of course; as James's popularity grows, speculation about the dark side of his writing is inevitable. It is far better to embrace this than shun it. For example, I am quite sure that friends, family and fans of Lewis Carroll were appalled when speculation about his interest in adolescent girls began to gather pace, yet the consensus opinion now arrived at has not undermined Carroll's achievements, with 'Alice In Wonderland' being more popular than ever, especially with those who have teased out the underlying psychological issues. M.R. James's romantic infatuation with his male pupils undoubtedly caused him much subconscious angst: if history comes to regard him as one who valiantly fought off the obvious temptations this involved, exorcising his emotion via prose, then it will stand heavily in his favour.


Among the writers influenced by James could be mentioned Jorge Luis Borges (with a reciprocal mention in that article) as James(and earlier still, perhaps Poe)was surely an innovator of the technique of disguising a story as an academic essay, as was Borges. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:27, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

Public Domain[edit]

I am somewhat concerned that comments that I posted to the Wailing Well link were removed, as was the general text. Be that as it may, the issue seems to be one of whether the stories in the anthology are now in the public domain or not, and whether this is the case in some countries (eg U.K., Canada) and not in others (eg USA). As the full text(s) of all the anthology stories are easily available online (and, indeed, most of them are on Wikipedia), I find it odd that there seems to be some dispute. As the net is not "in" any particular country, why does the fact that work may be "public domain" in one, but not in another, have any relevance ? In any event, could someone clarify this ? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:27, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

As I understand it, James' work is public domain in most countries, including all of the EU, and as you mentioned, Canada. However, because Wikipedia's servers are in the USA, we have to abide by USA copyright law, and the stories are still in copyright there. Wikilivres, a Canadian site does host the full text of many of Jame's stories, and can be linked to from here (but we can't directly include the text here yet). DuncanHill (talk) 16:31, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Here is the Wikilivres listing for M. R. James [1]. DuncanHill (talk) 16:34, 10 May 2010 (UTC)


Was wondering if anyone had any objections to improving the "media adaptations" to break it up into various media - tv/film, radio, theatre? Have gotten full details on most of the tv/film versions (names of productions not always identical to original stories):

Would also re-edit the current format (although not remove anything) to flow better.--Co fragment (talk) 09:28, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

**Changed my mind over this, although a list looks tidier, intergrating all the notes would look worse. --Co fragment (talk) 10:36, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Suggestions for article[edit]

I think the "Reception and Influence" section should come before the "Adaptations" one, as that seems to be the format for other writers on Wikipedia (i.e. H. P. Lovecraft).

Also, I think there should be a differentation between works generally influenced by James's work (e.g. the ghost stories of H. Russell Wakefield) and work specifically designed as a homage to James and his work (such as Kingsley Amis' novel The Green Man. (talk) 19:26, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

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