That is what makes Lost Hearts particularly interesting as a M.R. James tale. It is remembered as extremely terrifying. And yet, the ghosts themselves have a noble purpose. They are not the ghosts of A Warning to the Curious: their victim, far from innocent, is the reason of their demise, and as such deserves little sympathy. The sympathetic character, the boy, is protected by the creatures. However, their appearance evokes the terror in the reader; the appearance of the boy and girl is pure nightmare fodder. Cleverly, despite their protectiveness, James' makes us fear the supernatural, not because of what it can do, but merely because it exists in the first place.

And it is not just any writer whose tales, supernaturally charged, can bring about the following worried letter:

“Dear Sir...I live in Lincolnshire – not so very far from Aswarby Hall [the setting of Lost Hearts] – are your stories real? Gathered from antiquarian research, or are they your own manufacture and imagination on antiquarian lines?”[48]

There are no records as to the Don's reply.

Comment on the Forums

[24] McBryde, Gwendolen, ed., Letters to a Friend: M.R. James (Edward Arnold Ltd, 1956) p26
[25] Cox, Preface p vii
[26] ibid
[27] Brother of horror story writer, E.F. Benson (The Room in The Tower, Negotium Perambulans) and writer in his own right. Arthur is best known as the writer of “Land of Hope and Glory”.
[28] Cox, page 134
[29] Cox p141
[30] Ibid p146
[31] Ibid, quoted from the Preface to More Ghost Stories
[32] Cox p137. For those wishing to know what the six stories James felt were acceptable were: “Scrapbook, Mezzotint, Ash tree, no. 13, Count Magnus, and the one about the whistle”
[33] Ibid, p137. Quoted from Edward Arnold's acceptance letter to M.R. James. James was to write two new stories for the anthology, but due to time constraints, only one new story – The Treasure of Abbot Thomas – was completed, thus saving Lost Hearts.

[34] Ibid p141
[35] Page One (using the same system as for The Signalman)
[36] Page One
[37] Page Two
[38] Page Two
[39] ibid
[40] As quoted on the blurb of the Collected Ghost Stories, not out of print since the man's death.
[41] Page Three
[42] Page Four
[43] Page Five
[44] Page Five
[45] Page Six
[46] Cox p143
[47] Stewart, Susan, The Epistemology of the Horror Story Author(s), The Journal of American Folklore, Vol 95. No 375. January/March 1982 p37, (University of Illinois Press, on behalf of the American Folklore Society)
[48] Cox p142