Posts from 29th November 2009

29
Nov 09

HAUNTOGRAPHY: Count Magnus

Blog 7 + FT + Pumpkin Publog13 comments • 3,281 views

My first M R James story was Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook, which is also the first in the book. I talk about it at some length here, and most of the way through it I have to confront the issue that I did not find it very scary as a ghost story. So now coming back to James and in particular Count Magnus I wondered if he had developed his hang on the chills which need to go with his detailed prose and his generally excellent pacing. And it is interesting that Count Magnus, a tale which shares a huge amount with Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook (including much of its plot) is by degrees considerably scarier, but only due to the use of what seems now like quite hackneyed set pieces. From the Canon to the Count there is a development which pre-figures Lovecraft by adequately also maps a general shift in how horror has developed in the last 100 years too.

Count Magnus is yet another of James’s second hand tales, this time our narrator is telling the tale of Mr Wraxall, a learned but potentially slippery writer of travel books. As is often the case James is comfortable with having his leads as academics, researchers or authors, but you get the feeling that Wraxall is seen in a less favourable light than Alberic’s Dennistoun. Wraxall is nearly a fellow of Brasenose, and yet his only published work seems to be of his travels in Brittany.

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