M. R. James, the bookish and precocious son of a curate, was born in Kent in 1862. He studied at Cambridge and remained there for most of his life, becoming director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Provost of King's College and later Vice-Chancellor of the university. A brilliant scholar, he translated the New Testament apocrypha and catalogued many of the university's medieval manuscripts. His first story collection, based on stories he read aloud to friends on Christmas Eve, was published in 1904 as Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and was followed by three more. He died in 1936.