LeFanu, Joseph Sheridan

Joseph Sheridan LeFanu 28 August 1814 - 7 February 1873

Irish writer and magazine editor (last name sometimes written Le Fanu), well-known for his supernaturalist and mystery fiction (famous examples of the latter being Uncle Silas and The Rose and the Key. One of the major figures of C19 supernaturalism, LeFanu helped move supernaturalist fiction away from the Gothic's emphasis on external sources of terror and toward a focus on the effects of terror, thus helping to create the psychological basis for supernaturalist and horror lit that continues today.

Joseph Sheridan LeFanu
Includes links, chronology, and etexts. [Mitsuharu Matsuoka, Nagoya U]
Biographical note
[Authors Calendar]
Brief biographical note
Joseph Sheridan LeFanu site
Includes brief biographical note and other info, with a special emphasis on "Carmilla." Watch out for factual errors. [Paco Quilis-Gómez]
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Follow in LeFanu's
Brief biographical note
[Judy Edmonds]
Brief biographical note
Brief biographical note
[Columbia Encyclopedia, Bartleby]
Brief biographical note
[Gothic Labyrinth]
"A Memoir of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu" by Alfred Perceval Graves
From an early (unspecified) edition of The Purcell Papers. [U Adelaide Library]
Brief biographical note
[John W. Cousins, A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910]
J. Sheridan LeFanu: A Database
A very helpful collection of links to all things LeFanu, ranging from books and web pages to MA theses and adaptations of LeFanu's work. [Gary Crawford]
LeFanu page at Gaslight
Lists Gaslight etexts of LeFanu's works.
LeFanu Hyper-Concordance
Part of the The Victorian Literary Studies Archive, this concordance allows you to search etexts by LeFanu.
[National Portrait Gallery, London]

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One of the major texts of C19 supernaturalist literature is LeFanu's In a Glass Darkly, published in 1872, and given its importance I've arranged the etexts below to match the contents of that volume:

"Green Tea"
Originally published in Dickens' annual All the Year Round in 1869. For a very similar story that surely was inspired by this one, see Robert Smythe Hichen's "How Love Came to Professor Guildea."
- at Nina Auerbach's site (71K)  [Auerbach, UPenn]
- at Project Gutenberg (various formats)
- at U Adelaide Library (ToC)

"The Familiar" [1872]
The revised version of "The Watcher"
- at Gaslight
- at Arthur's Classic Novels

"Mr. Justice Harbottle" [1872]
see the note to "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances..." below.
- at Gaslight
- at Arthur's Classic Novels

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LeFanu's famous lesbian vampire story, first published in the coolly named magazine Dark Blue, from December of 1871 through March of 1872. According to E. F. Bleiler, "probably the best vampire story of all" [Guide to Supernatural Fiction, 302].
- at Lit of the Fantastic (Table of Contents)
- at Nina Auerbach's site (170K) [Auerbach, U Penn]
- at Gaslight (163K)
- at U Adelaide Library

"The Room in the Dragon Volant" [1872]
A mystery story that indulges so fully in Gothic atmospherics that it may readily be considered an "explained supernatural" Gothic thriller.
- at U Adelaide Library
- at Project Gutenberg (various formats)
- at Gaslight (280K)

Other LeFanu texts:

"An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" [1853]
LeFanu, like many C19 writers trying to make a living by the pen, frequently revised his works for later re-publication. This tale served as the basis for "Mr. Justice Harbottle," mentioned above.
- at Gaslight (53K)

"The Child that Went with the Fairies" [1870]
More of LeFanu's use of folkloric elements; the "fairy child" motif occurs also in "Laura Silver Bell," and the mysterious woman in the coach appears again in "Carmilla."
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts
- at Halloween.com

"The Dead Sexton"
- at Classic Reader
- at Literature Network

"Dickon the Devil"
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts

The Haunted Baronet
"The Evil Guest" [1851]
One of LeFanu's "locked room" mystery stories, heavily influenced by the Gothic.
- at LitGothic a LitGothic etext

"The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh"
First published in Dublin University Magazine in 1838, this tale was based on "Sir Dominick's Bargain." It was included in LeFanu's The Purcell Papers (1880).
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts this link opens a new window

"Ghost Stories of Chapelizod"
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts this link opens a new window

The Haunted Baronet [1871]
Thematically a variant of "The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardaugh," which itself was based on "Sir Dominick's Bargain."
- at Project Gutenberg
- at Online Literature
- at Classic Reader

"Laura Silver Bell" [1872]
One of LeFanu's lesser-known tales, it draws (as do so many of his tales) on Celtic folklore for its references to demon lovers, fairies of various sorts (including "dobbies"), witchery, folklore (the "running water" and "stolen child" motifs, among others) and a narrow escape — at least for the old wise woman Mother Carke. Laura Silver Bell, she's not so lucky. But that's what she gets for being greedy and superficial, no? Classic LeFanu moralizing what Gothic scholar E. F. Bleiler has identified as "one of LeFanu's best stories" (Guide to Supernatural Fiction, 305). It compares interestingly to LeFanu's "The Child that Went with the Fairies," Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" and, even, William Butler Yeats' poem "The Stolen Child," with its refrain popularized by the movie AI.
- at LitGothic a LitGothic etext; annotated PDF, with illustration.

"The Legend of Dunblane"
Attributed to LeFanu.
- at LitGothic a LitGothic etext

"Madam Crowl's Ghost"
- at Literature Network
- at Project Gutenberg

"An Authentic Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand"
Actually Chapter 12 of LeFanu's classic novel The House by the Churchyard (1863).
- at LitGothic  a LitGothic etext

jacket design for the 1851 edition
of Ghost Stories and Mysteries by LeFanu
(James McGlashan, Dublin) [GoogleBooks]
The Purcell Papers
This collection of 13 (of course) tales by LeFanu was first published in 1880; it collects pieces published by LeFanu in the Dublin University Magazine. All of the tales except "Billy Malowney's Taste of Love and Glory" were from early in LeFanu's career. An excellent source for the complete text of The Purcell Papers is the U Adelaide Library, which is the source for the individual titles linked below unless otherwise noted.
There is also an introductory memoir of the life of LeFanu, linked in the "Sites" section above.
"The Ghost and the Bone-Setter"
"The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh" [Corpus of Electronic Texts]
"The Last Heir of Castle Connor"
"The Drunkard's Dream"
"Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess"
"The Bridal of Carrigvarah"
"Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter" [Haunted Bibliophile]
"Scraps of Hibernian Ballads"
"Jim Sulivan's Adventures in the Great Snow" [U Adelaide Library]
"A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family" [Corpus of Electronic Texts]
According to E. F. Bleiler, "This, the short form of The Wyvern Mystery, is usually considered to be a source for Jane Eyre" (The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, 304). This tale was originally published in LeFanu's Dublin University Magazine in 1839; Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was published in 1847.
"An Adventure of Hardress Fitzgerald, a Royalist Captain"
"The Quare Gander" [LitGothic]  a LitGothic etext
"Billy Malowney's Taste of Love and Glory"
Written approximately 1850, this is the only tale in the collection not associated with the fictional Father Purcell.

"Sir Dominick's Bargain"
Originally published in Dickens' magazine All the Year Round, July 1872. Compare to LeFanu's "The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh," which in turn was the basis for "The Haunted Baronet."
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts

"Spalatro" a LitGothic etext [1843] (2 files, 60K and 56K, respectively)

"Squire Toby's Will"
First published in Temple Bar magazine in 1868.
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts

"Stories of Lough Guir"
- at Corpus of Electronic Texts

"Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter"
LeFanu's take on the "spectre bridegroom" motif, popular in much C18 and C19 Gothic fiction as well as earlier ballads.
- at The Haunted Bibliophile (58K)
- at Classic Reader
-- Discussion of this story [Weird Reviews at Violetbooks.com]

"Ultor de Lacy"
- at Red Moon Horror
- at Classic Reader

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Uncle Silas
E. F. Bleiler calls this "the finest Victorian mystery novel," yet it partakes so heavily of Gothic atmospherics and character touches that it belongs solidly in the (post-)Gothic tradition as well. Published in 1864, this is one of LeFanu's major works.
- at Project Gutenberg (various formats)
- at U Adelaide (ToC)
-- Discussion of this work. [Simon McLeish]

"The Vision of Tom Chuff"
- at Red Moon Horror

"The Watcher" [1851] (89K)  [Gaslight]
Early version of "The Familiar"

"The White Cat of Drumgunniol"
A riff on the Irish folklore motif of the banshee, and a nice color-companion to "black cat" tales such as Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" and Bram Stoker's "The Squaw."
- at LitGothic a LitGothic etext [printable, with explanatory notes]

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"Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling"
He's not really a captain, but he certainly is wicked — the old Captain "hated nearly everybody" — and when his dead wife's old Irish servingwoman curses him for his wickedness by binding his spirit to a candle, where it will remain until the candle is burnt away, well, let's just say the Captain puts in a return appearance after his death. This being a Le Fanu story, there's also some business about missing legal documents and, of course, themes of morality.
- at Red Moon Horror

The Wyvern Mystery [1869]
This work was filmed in 2000 as part of PBS's Mystery! series, which has a Wyvern website.
- at Internet Archive (various formats, 3 separate volumes)


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There are several excellent collections of LeFanu's works in print; one of the best is E. F. Bleiler's Dover edition of LeFanu that includes some of the Gothic-tinged mystery tales as well as some of LeFanu's best supernaturalist work.
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If it's just the great ghost stories you're after, well, E. F. Bleiler and Dover can accomodate that as well. This is a "must-own" for any fan of the Gothic.
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Essays and Reviews:

LeFanu Studies
An online journal devoted to LeFanu and his works. Highly recommended. [Gary Crawford]

"Baroque Intensity: Lovecraft, Le Fanu and the Fold"
Patricia MacCormack's academic study of baroque "mechanics" in LeFanu and Lovecrat. [Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies]

LeFanu Bibliography of Critical Sources
A bibliography of recent scholarly publications dealing w/ LeFanu; part of Frederick S. Frank's magisterial Guide to the Gothic series of Gothic bibliographies. [Frederick S. Frank, The Sickly Taper]

"Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Long Lost 'Spalatro'"
Jim Rockhill's discussion of this story, published in Spalatro: Two Italian Tales (Sarob Press, 2001). [Weird Reviews at Violetbooks.com]

Suicide in the Works of LeFanu
A Victorian Web extract from Barbara T. Gates' Victorian Suicide: Mad Crimes and Sad Histories (Princeton UP, 1988)

[LeFanu and Sensation Fiction]
Discussion of various aspects of LeFanu's work as it develops from and contributes to the tradition of the C19 sensation tale. [A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, Michael E. Grost]

Joseph Sheridan LeFanu's Ghostly Tales
An appreciation/overview [Weird Reviews at Violetbooks.com]

"M. R. James on J. S. LeFanu"
Initials instead of first and middle names, an old-fashioned sort of literary criticism, some good insights into LeFanu's techniques by a master of a different sort of supernaturalist story — break out the tea and crumpets and enjoy... [Ghosts and Scholars]

"Joseph Sheridan LeFanu."