Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish journalist and writer, credited with being the ‘father of the Victorian ghost story’. While he is best known for his novel about the ‘venerable, bloodless, fiery-eyed’ Uncle Silas it was his vampire novella Carmilla that defined his work and influenced Bram Stoker in his writing of Dracula.
Le Fanu was born in 1814 to noble Huguenot parents Thomas Philip Le Fanu, a clergyman, and Emma Lucretia Dobbin. In 1833 he entered Trinity College, Dublin to study law, graduating in 1839. He was called to the bar but never practiced, instead embarking on a career in journalism. In 1838 Le Fanu’s first story The Ghost and the Bonesetter was published in the Dublin University Magazine, which he was to become proprietor and editor of in 1861.
In 1844 Le Fanu married Susanna Bennett with whom he had 4 children. Sir Walter Scott was to influence his first novel The C’ock and Anchor (1845). His second novel The Fortunes of Colonel Torlogh O’Brien was published in 1847. In 1851 Le Fanu and Susanna moved to their house on Merrion Square, Dublin, where he lived until his death in 1873.
Excerpt from Carmilla (1872): ‘I saw a solemn, but very pretty face looking at me from the side of the bed. It was that of a young lady who was kneeling, with her hands under the coverlet. I looked at her with a kind of pleased wonder, and ceased whimpering. She caressed me with her hands, and lay down beside me on the bed, and drew me towards her, smiling; I felt immediately delightfully soothed, and fell asleep again. I was wakened by a sensation as if two needles ran into my breast very deep at the same moment, and I cried loudly. The lady started back, with her eyes fixed on me, and then slipped down upon the floor, and, as I thought, hid herself under the bed.’