Monday, October 8, 2012

James-A-Day: A School Story

A yew tree in a graveyard
"A School Story" is the first MRJ tale set at a school, but he wrote them more frequently later on.  This one dates from about 1906, and I think I like it better than some of the schooly stories he wrote later.

We never quite know what really happened; it's all more suggested or told from the perspective of someone who wasn't in on the events. Mr. Sampson has gotten mixed up with something he ought not, and it comes for payment.  Young McLeod seems--I don't know, a bit sensitive to what's going on?  More affected than others, anyway, since he does a bit of automatic writing and wakes up to see a summoning.  And then, years later, Sampson's body is found--why down a well?  With who else: a victim of his, or the thing that summoned him?

I got to listen to a bit of that podcast series I told you about, and they mentioned a biography of MRJ that really sounds interesting.  I might have to try to get hold of it one of these days.*  The two podcast guys mentioned a couple of tidbits about MRJ's boyhood that I thought you might like, so I went and found the quotations from the biography:

Quite a nice illustration of the story?
[At age 6] "...when recovering from a bad attack of bronchitis, he expressed a longing to see a certain seventeenth-century Dutch Bible which he had heard was in the possession of his father's friend..."

 [At Eton] ..."A boy who could, out of the pound given him as his half's pocket-money, spend on his way back to Eton sixteen shillings for the four volumes of John Albert Fabricius on the Apocrypha was obviously not as other boys."

Clearly MRJ started his antiquarian and scholarly interests very early indeed!

*Actually finding this biography might be difficult.  Maybe if I lived in the UK it would be easier.  But all I can find on it is at Google Books and the entry is clearly wrong.  It's listed as Montague Rhodes James, by Montague Rhodes James, CUP (I presume Cambridge University Press), 1936.  The book is not by James himself, but is a personal memoir written by a friend.  No title page is available.  The author's preface is signed S. G. L., and from other online sources I think the last name must be Lubbock.  More detective work is needed!

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