MR James begins to write the rules
In the lead up to MR James’ 150th birthday this year, ROBERT LLOYD PARRY explores the great writer’s first full-length ghost story
Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook was the first full length ghost story that M R James wrote, and it’s one of his best. All the elements that made him so original and powerful a storyteller are here. The brilliantly described setting, in this case the tiny town of St Bertrand de Comminges in the French Pyrenees. An antiquarian object of desire that offers a glimpse into another, far more dangerous world: here a scrapbook containing the choicest cuts from a monastic library. The droll, donnish details – the Latin phrases, the biblical and art historical references – that lend such entertaining authority. And a gnawing sense of unease, a steady accumulation of sounds, shadows and images that finally meet in a single moment of sensational physical horror.