The Chrismologist's Advent Calendar - Day 20

Monday 20 December 2010

Christmas has long been a time for telling tales around a roaring fire on a cold winter's night. There is, of course, the story of the Nativity, as related through the Bible, but another favourite of the festive season is the ghost story!

Probably the most well-known Christmas ghost story is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but it is by no means the only one. Some of the best Christmas ghost stories were written by M. R. James (1862-1936). Many of them were intended for reading aloud, to select gatherings of friends, as Christmas Eve entertainments.

So accomplished a writer of ghost stories was he, that his method of story-telling is now known as Jamesian. The classic Jamesian tale includes a characterful setting, a nondescript and rather naive gentleman-scholar protagonist, and the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that results in attracting the unwanted attention of some supernatural menace, usually from beyond the grave. James' intention was always to, 'put the reader into the position of saying to himself: "If I'm not careful, something of this kind may happen to me!"'

Continuing in this Jamesian vein, this Christmas, BBC 2 will be screening a new adaptation of Whistle and I'll Come to You (made famous by Jonathan Miller's unsettling 1968 adaptation), this time starring John Hurt and Gemma Jones.

Did you know...?
On this day in 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became the oldest ever monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days.


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