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"A Warning to the Curious" and Other Stories by M.R. James

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A book by M.R. James

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Author: M.R. James
Publisher: Phoenix mass market p/bk
1 review about "A Warning to the Curious" and Other Stories...

Ancient crowns and curious field-glasses

  • Oct 3, 2004
"A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories" (1925) is a very satisfying volume of M. R. James's (MRJ's) supernatural stories. However, it only contains six of his short stories. Instead of purchasing this volume, you might want to consider one of his more complete collections. Ash-Tree Press's "A Pleasing Terror" (2001), contains the complete and heavily annotated supernatural writings of MRJ, and no true Monty fan should be without it.

The next best collection, "Casting the Runes and Other Stories" edited by Michael Cox, contains most of MRJ's supernatural stories and is quite a bit cheaper than "A Pleasing Terror."

The following stories are included in "A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories":

"The Haunted Doll's House"--This story was written for the library of the Queen's Doll's House, and somewhat resembles MRJ's "The Mezzotint" from the earlier "Ghost Stories of an Antiquary." Mr. Dillet buys an unusual doll house in the Strawberry Gothic fashion from an acquaintance, and sets it up in his bedroom. "It was quite six feet long, including the Chapel or Oratory...and the stable on the right." The house is completely furnished and has several inhabitants, including "a gentleman and lady in blue satin and brocade, respectively...and a white haired old gentleman in a long linen night-dress and cap." When the house seems to come alive, it tells a ghastly tale of murder and revenge from beyond the grave.

"The Uncommon Prayer-book"-- Mr. Davidson strikes up a conversation with an old gentleman on a train and is invited to view a disused Chapel. MRJ engulfs his reader in quaint British dialects in this story of a prayer book that would not stay shut.

"A Neighbour's Landmark"-- A gentleman spends a wet August afternoon in his host's library and discovers an old pamphlet with two lines from a country song, "That which walks in Betton Wood/ Knows why it walks or why it cries." When the weather clears, he explores the part of his friend's property that used to be called 'Betton Wood.'

"A View from a Hill"--A pair of field-glasses made by an old and rather unlikeable watch-maker reveal peculiar landscape features, including a gibbet and something hanging from it. The young man who spots the gibbet decides to pay a visit to it, even though his friend assures him that it no longer exists.

"A Warning to the Curious"--A young man discovers the hiding place of an ancient crown of East Anglia and is haunted by his finding. As in many of MRJ's stories, curiosity is severely punished.

"An Evening's Entertainment"--A rather tongue-in-cheek tale as told by MRJ through the auspices of an old grandmother, who is trying to persuade her young grandchildren to stay away from the "little lane that goes up past Collin's cottage." There is a gigantic figure of a man cut into a hill next to the lane, and once the body of a young man was found hanging from an oak nearby. His breast was quite bare and "the bone of it was split through from the top downwards with an axe!" After Grandma's gruesome goings-on, the children are afraid to be sent to bed without a light.

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