Sheridan le Fanu

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Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814--1873), was an Irish-born writer of short stories and novels concerning the strange and supernatural. His work is an early example of the genre of horror fiction.

Sheridan Le Fanu was born August 28, 1814 in Dublin to a noble family. His grandmother Alice Sheridan Le Fanu and her brother, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (J. Sheridan Le Fanu's great-uncle), were both playwrights. He studied law at Trinity College in Dublin and passed the bar 1839. But Le Fanu did not take up the legal profession, instead becoming a journalist. Thenceforth until his death he published stories. From 1861--1869, Le Fanu edited Dublin University Magazine, which also published many of his works in serial form. He owned several periodicals (including the Dublin University Magazine and the Dublin Evening Mail) in his late life. He died in his native Dublin on February 7, 1873.

His Work

Le Fanu's plots are well-crafted and vivid, though some find his prose too wordy and his characters frustratingly daft. He specialised in tone and effect rather than shock horror, often following a mystery format. Yet to the delicate sensibility, tales such as the vampire novella Carmilla can be profoundly effective.

Carmilla was to greatly influence Bram Stoker in the writing of Dracula. A very early work, A Chapter in the History of the Tyrone Family (1839), may have influenced Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. He is sometimes said to be the father of the Victorian Irish ghost story. Considering the influence of his work, it is surprising that Le Fanu is not better appreciated.

Other fiction by Le Fanu includes: The Purcell Papers, divided into three volumes; The House by the Churchyard (1863); Wylder's Hand (1864); Uncle Silas (1864), a mystery novel that is his best-known work; Guy Deverell (1865); Haunted Lives (1868); The Wyvern Mystery (1869); In a Glass Darkly (1872), an anthology containing Carmilla, Green Tea, and three other stories; and the posthumously published The Watcher and Other Weird Stories (1894), another collection of short stories.

External References

E-texts of many Le Fanu stories and information on his life is available at http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Fanu.html.

An electronic version of Carmilla is available at http://www.sff.net/people/DoyleMacdonald/lit.htp.


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