"Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone ..." William Wordsworth

19 December 2021

Tales.


Smithsonian
's plea to resurrect the Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories ...
Now I remember those old women’s words, 
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.

The Cambridge Critique seconds ...
The occasion is Christmas Eve. The place is King’s College Cambridge. The year is somewhere towards the beginning of the 20th century. And the time is nearing midnight. There is a mood of merriment, with the expectant hint of foreboding.  

The Christmas choir has just finished its rendition of "We Three Kings", and the fellows and students file out of the College chapel. After a warm helping of spiced beer, conversation flags and guests retire to bed - another year of festivities draws to a close within the cloistered quad.  But not all. With a nod of a head to each other, a select few make their way to the sitting-room of M.R. James. 

In his sitting room lit only by the open fire and a handful of flickering candles, the guests take their seats. Rows of books line the walls and leathered armchairs abut the thick burgundy carpet. Rare and ancient manuscripts clutter the corner desk. The fire crackles. The spine chilling Jamesian custom is about to begin. In the adjoining room M.R. prepares for the ritual. A rustling of papers follows. Then a clearing of a throat. The listening audience distribute their snuff and port and finish their sardines on toast. 

There is nothing left to do now but wait. 

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