M. R. James is, along with J. Sheridan Le Fanu, the finest author of ghost stories in the English language. Although he is somewhat less prolific than Le Fanu, James's handful of elegantly crafted short fiction remains, since first being published, the standard by which all other contemporary ghost stories are judged. James was born in 1862 in Goodnestone, Kent. His early professional interests were in archaeology, later refined to antiquarianism. As a respected academic, he received a fellowship at King's College, Cambridge, in 1887, and later became its provost. James began writing his ghost stories as an entertainment for his friends; he would read these stories each year at Christmas to his colleagues at King's. The earliest of these tales include "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "Lost Hearts," both of which were later collected in his first anthology of supernatural fiction, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904). Perhaps James's single greatest story is the profoundly disturbing "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" (1904). James was a great admirer of the work of Le Fanu and was primarily responsible for resurrecting Le Fanu's work from undeserved obscurity. Like Le Fanu's short stories, James's supernatural fiction is generally understated and powerfully atmospheric.
Stephen Matterson is Professor of English and Head of the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Darryl Jones is Senior Lecturer in English at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.