Your Favorite Antiquarian Ghost Stories by Authors Other than M. R. James

Randy M.

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Antiquarian horror/ghost story is such a narrow sub-category dominated by M. R. James that I'm not positive this isn't actually tangential but off the mark entirely. My apologies if you feel that.

Anyway, I just posted this in "Book Hauls" and it might be of interest to anyone following this thread: Book Hauls!

Randy M.
 

Extollager

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Randy, I'm sure that Swain is considered a writer in the antiquarian ghost story vein by authorities such as Rosemary Pardoe, and R. A. Cram has made the cut with some readers, at least. No "tangent" problem with them, at least.

My main exploration of the antiquarian/James tradition was, I suppose, in the second half of the 1980s and the early 1990s. It seems Bernard Capes and the Benson brothers were also mentioned in this connection.
 

Randy M.

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Thanks, Extollager. I've read a little by Cram and Capes and that other Benson, and I wouldn't have put those exactly as antiquarian, so I thought a disclaimer was called for.

Randy M.
 

Extollager

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Randy, there are (so far as I know) just a few authors who wrote mostly or entirely in the vein of the antiquarian ghost story, such as James himself, A. N. L. Munby, and so on. Then there'd be authors who wrote some antiquarian ghost stories but also plenty of stories that wouldn't fit the definition. Russell Kirk would be an example.

Or take Lovecraft. It's a while since I read "The Shunned House," but I think that one might qualify as an antiquarian ghost story in the Jamesian sense. None of the "Cthulhu mythos" stories would, even though they may be loaded with antiquarian detail (e.g. "The Shadow Over Innsmouth").

Hmm -- okay, I think we could say this:

To qualify as a Jamesian antiquarian ghost story, a story must

--have a pronounced element of engagement with the past, involving tangible vestiges thereof; these might include manuscripts, artifacts (e.g. a whistle);
--suggest that some degree of scholarly learning is necessary for such resolution of the story as is to occur;
--observe a degree of reticence -- a Jamesian antiquarian ghost story cannot wallow in gore, and will never go in for explicit sexual content;
--include a haunter. However, this haunter need not be the shade of a human being, and indeed typically will not be such.

This last point might be worth discussing. Specifically, though the haunter must not be a living human being, must it be a supernatural being?

I'm thinking of the haunters in the Quatermass story about eerie phenomena, in which it transpires at last that the creatures responsible are Martians. Does the "science fiction" resolution mean that this story can't qualify?

I wouldn't be too quick to admit it to the canon of Jamesian antiquarian ghost stories. No, the more I think of it, the more I would disqualify it. The story eventually settles on a naturalistic explaining-away of the supernatural. It proposes that the devil and demons -- or, at least, the popular notion of horned beings as devils, which admittedly isn't necessarily the same thing -- are due to the Martians. I forget the details, whether there's an element of "race memory," & "telepathy," etc.

I would answer my own question above by saying that, yes, the haunter must be a supernatural being of some sort. It might be something that can be exorcised; it might be an "animated" dead thing that can be settled into death; but it can't simply be a thing that can be shot dead (unless maybe with a silver bullet?).

But now I'm wondering if the 20th-century "Martian" phenomena in the Quatermass story aren't represented as being psychic residua. Can we squeak them back in as "quasi" (whatever that means) supernatural phenomena? Obviously I'd need to refresh my memory of the Quatermass story. I think, though, that in the end I'm going to say it doesn't qualify as a Jamesian antiquarian ghost story (JAGS), but rather may be described as a science fiction story that cleverly uses elements akin to those of the JAGS.

So perhaps the criteria above will work for identifying a given story as JAGS or not, provided "haunter" is taken as something that retains its uncanny quality and is, perhaps, in fact, not susceptible of being quite pinned down according to the categories of daily rational inquiry.
 

Extollager

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Thanks to a gruesome bit in the climax, "Hawley Bank Foundry" from Rolt's Sleep No More is more of a horror story than the Jamesian antiquarian story usually is. Rolt's stories typically have an antiquarian element, this is another one that doesn't work with medieval or early modern documents as Jamesian stories often do. Rolt's stories, I think, tend to deal with "vengeance" as a theme more obviously than perhaps the "Platonic archetype" of a Jamesian antiquarian tale would do.

Btw I've been working for the past couple of weeks on another antiquarian tale, which will probably be called "The Pageant at Willowton." I'm hoping it will appear in an anthology from Nodens Books sometime this year.
 

Extollager

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Ghost stories — but Jamesian antiquarian ones as delineated here?

I don’t remember the Bowen. The Dickens is an outstanding tale.....but JAGS? Care to argue the case?
 

paranoid marvin

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I agree that The Signalman is quite close to James' work; which is probably why it was included amongst the BBC's 'A Ghost Story For Christmas' collection.

One thing about M R James is that his stories are wonderfully written, with the authoritarianism of factual events. Perhaps more than any other writer of ghost stories, his are the most believable. They say that the best lies are wrapped in truth; I think that the same goes for tales of the supernatural. One other thing about James is that others have tried to replicate his style, but I don't think that any come anywhere near matching it.
 

Extollager

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Paranoid Marvin, mostly I'd agree about others not matching MRJ, but there are a few exceptions (in my opinion!) as indicated earlier in this thread.

The Black Gate reviewer has kindly named the stories he liked, and I'll bet all or at least most of them can be found online at Project Gutenberg, archive.org, etc.

----MR James’ work is represented here by the two “ghost” stories he read at the Chit-Chat meeting on October 28, 1893 ( “The Scrap-book of Canon Alberic” and “Lost Hearts”) in slightly different versions from those included in his subsequent collections. The stories are too well known to require any specific comment in the present review.

EF Benson’s contribution is “ The Other Bed,” a classic ghostly tale conveying a strong sense of dread, set in a hotel room where a suicide had taken place.

RH Benson’s “Father Bianchi’s Tale” is a dark piece with a disturbing atmosphere, blending paganism and Christian religiosity.

“Basil Netherby” by AC Benson is an intense, unforgettable novella hinting at evil powers on the loose in a mansion where the past returns to haunt the residents.

In Maurice Baring’s “The Ikon,” an accomplished cautionary tale, the power of foreign idols are vividly described.

“Pargiton and Harby”by Desmond Mac Carthy is a great supernatural tale in which remorse and punishment affect the mind of a guilty man.---
 

paranoid marvin

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I'm looking to buy a new copy of M R James' collection of ghost stories. I'd ideally like one that has all of his tales in, and is made of good quality material.

Any recommendations?
 

Extollager

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I know there's a thing with some admirers of literary ghost stories about elegant limited editions &c &c. But aside from the money aspect, the printouts also have the advantages that I was able to print the stories in a relatively large print & that I feel no misgivings about reading them in the bathtub. That way I can enjoy a shudder when a furtive scratching at the door makes itself known (it's just a cat wanting in).
 

Lex Talionus

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I know I have come to this thread very late but I would like to add a list of some stories that I have personally listed (in my own research) as Antiquarian. My own interpretation is that the story must be about historical objects or those who are involved with history or books in a scholarly or professional way.

The prison window by Louis Auchinloss
Old Iron by Émile Zola
The last of the Daubigny fitzalans by Arnold Harvey (found in Rivals of Frankenstein by M.Parry)
At the heart of it by Michael Harrison
The traveller by A.C.Benson
The sweet singers by William Croft Dickinson
The pavement/Clairvoyance by D.K.Broster
Safekeeping by E.G.Swain
The mirror/The leather funnel by Conan Doyle
Flies by Anthony Vercoe
Dance! Dance! The shaking of the sheets by Alan.W.Lear
One,two buckle my shoe by Nugent Barker
The resurrection man by Ian Watson
The Chelsea cat by C.H.B.Kitchin
Teething troubles by Rosalind Ashe
Soft voices at Passenham by T.H.White
There's a time to stop looking by D.Pownall
Finders keepers/Watkin, comma by Joan Aiken
Ogre in the Vly by Avram Davidson
The pot of basil by John Gordon
The song in the house by Ann Bridge
The stone tomb by 'D'
The twelve apostles by Eleanor Scott
Spirits of another sort by Alan W.Lear
Black spirits and white by Ralph Adams Cram
The secret Chapel by Francis Marsden
Ghost of Fleur-de-Lis Court by Kenneth Myer
Execution of Damiens by H.H.Ewers
(Nearly) all of M.P.Dare. Some of Aickman. Some of Andrew Caldecott. All of a A.N.L.Mumby, all of Ingulphus. Most of Christopher Woodforde.

All of the above have history at their core.
I have just bought Ramsey Campbells' compilation 'Meddling with Ghosts' and I am working my way through the 'James Gang' Pardoe list at the back of the book.

An author to take note of is Daniel Mills (The Lord came at twilight)

I hope this is helpful. I've tried not to duplicate any stories mentioned in this thread.
 

Randy M.

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I'm not sure how many of those stress "antiquarian" but I've read the Cram and it's a good collection. And why I seldom think of "Soft Voices at Passenham" when talking ghost stories is beyond me.

Isn't Rosalind Ashe a pseudonym for Joyce Carol Oates? If so, I didn't know she used it for short stories.
 

Lex Talionus

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I've searched Rosalind Ashe and she appears to be, primarily, a children's author from Buffalo U.S.A.
When I was checking my spread sheets I realised that my Antiquarian list needed to be sub-divided and refined. Stories concerning ecclesiastical buildings feel as if they sit well in the Antiquarian field. But of course not all. Something like "The Resurgent Mysteries" by Edgar Jepson would hardly fit this theme as neither would "Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to Most Men" by John Whitbourn.
I will revisit "Soft Voices at Passenham" and see if I've gone astray!

I will analyse the threads that constitute the Antiquarian Tale in my experience. I'll tease out some kind of form to it. Subjectively, Ingulphus is the epitome of all things Antiquarian.
 

Extollager

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A friend in Idaho sent a picture of this magazine. If the bowhunter writes ghost stories, M. R. James could be a writer in the tradition of M. R. James.

1653671762533.jpeg
 

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