Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) was born on 1 August, the son of Rev. H. James, rector of Livermere, Suffolk. He was educated at Temple Grove School and then at Eton, coming up to King's in 1882 as an Eton Scholar. He studied Classics under Sir Charles Walston, and through this connection became assistant director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1886 (he was later Director, between 1893 and 1908). He was elected to a Fellowship at King's in 1887 and at different times took on the posts of Dean, Divinity Lecturer, Tutor and (from 1905) Provost. His interests lay in manuscripts and apocryphal writings, many of which he edited for publication. He catalogued the manuscripts held in the Fitzwilliam Museum and in several College Libraries, cathedral libraries and private collections. In addition to his reputation as a scholar, M. R. James was famed for his ghost stories, originally told to the King's choir-boys. In 1918 he returned to Eton, called by the Crown to be the new Provost. He died in June 1936.
For further biographical information see:
- James, M. R. 'Eton and Kings'(Williams & Norgate, 1926);
- Cox, M. 'M.R. James: An Informal Portrait' (Oxford University Press, 1983)
- 'Montague Rhodes James - Praepositus necnon amicus', reprints of his obituary notice from 'The Times', 13 June 1936; 'The Provost of Eton' from 'The Cambridge Review' by JHC; and 'In Memoriam, M. R. J.' from 'The Eton College Chronicle' by A. B. R., printed privately for the College at Cambrige University Press, 1936.
This collection contains the autograph manuscript work of MRJ, printed versions of his published and unpublished printed short stories, correspondence, College material, photographs and miscellany.
All the material in this collection, unless otherwise stated in the handlist, was selected from James's papers by the Librarian, A. N. L. Munby, in November 1947, at the request of James's executors; by whom they were then presented to the College Library.
Other material has been added from the Keynes Bequest and from the gift of Sir Shane Leslie; the former material was purchased at Sotheby's, and the latter was given to Sir Shane Leslie by Jane McBryde, and later, in accordance with her wishes, presented by him to the College Library.
The collection here catalogued was formerly divided into four boxes in the Miscellneous Collection of the Modern Archives as follows:
Old Section A: Misc 32; Old Sections B, C and D: Misc. 33; the MacBryde correspondence: Misc. 33A; the Dippersmoor Archive (Sir Shane Leslie's gift): Misc. 57A.
A bibliography of the writings of MR James compiled by Rosemary Pardoe is available in the locked bookcases in the reading room.
A first edition of 'Ghost Stories of an Antiquary' published in 1904 is available, please ask the Archivist (N.24.41).
MRJ's photograph album is Misc. 44/B/46. Printed books on the apocrypha and biblical scholarship bequeathed to the College by James can be located through the main library catalogue. The catalogue made by Richard Pfaff of the contents of the ten boxes of pamphlets, predominantly on the same subject as the books, is available in the printed copy of this catalogue in the Archive Centre reading room.
'The Dismal Tragedy of Henry Blew Beard Esquire' and 'Historia de Alexandro Barberion et XL Latronibus', both manuscript scripts are available, please ask the Archivist.
The catalogue was completed by Michael Halls in May 1981, and was edited for publication on the internet by Elizabeth Pridmore and Susanna Goldfinger in 2004.