In a Glass Darkly

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Press: Cosimo Classics (November 1, 2008)
Author Name:Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan


The foremost teller of scary stories in his day and a profound influence on both the novelists and filmmakers of the 20th century, Anglo-Irish author JOSEPH THOMAS SHERIDAN LE FANU (1814–1873) has, sadly, fallen out of scholarly and popular favor, and unfairly so. 
To this day, contemporary readers who happen across his works praise his talent for weaving a tense literary atmosphere tinged by the supernatural and bolstered by hints of ambiguous magic.
First published in 1872, In a Glass Darkly is a collection of Le Fanu’s short fiction, and includes: • “Green Tea” • “The Familiar” • “Mr.
Justice Harbottle” • “The Room in the Dragon Volant” • “Carmilla” With a series of new editions of Le Fanu’s works, Cosimo is proud to reintroduce modern book lovers to the writings of the early master of suspense fiction who pioneered the concept of “psychological horror.”

About the Author

Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (1814 - 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. 
He was a leading ghost story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era.
James described Le Fanu as "absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories".
Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carmilla and The House by the Churchyard.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Literature & Fiction,Genre Fiction,Horror,Science Fiction & Fantasy,Fantasy,Literary

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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     This book seems to have been printed days before arriving at my doorstep. That in itself isn't a problem, but there clearly wasn't any quality control, because in large part there...
  •     This is a classic work of Gothic horror fiction. Introduced as being a transcription of selected notes of a physician Dr. Martin Hesselius, I thought this was going to be a "paranormal investigator's casebook" type of short stories serial, and instead it was more in the nature of a collection of general short horror stories, only the first two of which involved the named physician. Written in the nineteenth and set in the eighteenth century, these stories retain their entertainment value due the timelessness of the subject areas, including ghosts, spectral imps, and vampires. On the other hand, some of the European and period specific elements are also charming: sabre carrying German officers, horses and carriages, masked balls, and crumbling ruined castles. The final story in the collection is the often anthologized "Carmilla," which is a vampire story published in 21 years before Dracula, and hence not influenced by that later work.I purchased the Kindle edition by Waxkeep Publishing, and found the text conversion to be perfect with no obvious defects and well type set. It was easy to read on my original Kindle Fire.
  •     I have the paperback version by Elibron Classics. This book has been scanned by a computer and poorly edited so there are plenty of computer errors sprinkled through the book. When reading Victorian literature, you often have to puzzle over a word or a form of a word to understand the meaning. This slow down in your reading is preferable to getting up and pulling out a dictionary. Many times I stopped to wonder about the use of a word or the grammar only to realize it was just a dumb computer substitution. Get a copy from an established publisher. This is a crap edition.
  •     A stunning use of socio-historical issues being tackled in the form of a ghost story. The first two stories address secularization and Irish implications in British imperialism so...
  •     Perfect book, no problems.
  •     Really scary
  •     It can be a little tough to read if you're not well acquainted with older novels, but reading each of the stories, it's easy to see how they would influence Bram Stoker's Dracula.
  •     I read Uncle Silas years ago, and absolutely loved it. Not sure why it took me so long to get back to reading Le Fanu. If you are into reading stories with a definite Gothic vibe, eerie and creepy, and have elements of the weird, odd or supernatural, then Le Fanu is your author, and In a Glass Darkly is your book. The collection is comprised of five of Le Fanu’s finest works, the first three more of the short story variety, the final two a bit longer novellas.The five tales are cases taken from a certain Dr. Hessilius, a physician who studies cases have some basis in metaphysical or supernatural type occurrences.The three shorter works all have a familiar set up in that each involves someone beings followed or stalked by something unearthly: “Green Tea”, the first in the collection, involves a clergyman who is followed by a “demonic” monkey that seems to know his every move and every thought. “The Familiar” deals with an individual being stalked by an evil dwarf. The third in the volume, “Dr. Justice Harbottle”, is about a cruel judge who begins to see visions in the form of spirits and an evil doppelganger. Perhaps these visions are the basis for revenge? Fascinating about all these stories is that the victims who are being hounded by something sinister all have some “inner” demons to work out as well.The two longer works that finish the collection, “The Room in the Dragon Valant” and the more popular “Carmilla”, are superb examples of storytelling.“The Room in the Dragon Valant” was my favorite. It involves a naïve young man stumbling upon a beautiful Countess and becoming instantly and foolishly enamored with her. As the young man is fascinated by this young beauty, he fails to see some pitfalls coming his way. This story is so multi-layered; there are so many subtle little hints that foreshadow events to follow. There are elements of the bizarre, rumors of a haunted room at an inn (which, of course, our main protagonist is rooming), and a bit of a Gothic feel (there is even a masquerade that adds to the atmosphere). The story has elements of romance, dark imagery, some twists, and great denouement. While the least “supernatural” of the works, I thought it was superb. “Carmilla”, Le Fanu’s classic vampire tale, was also a brilliant example of creating a sense of tension of foreboding. The narrator, Laura, relates an extraordinary tale. She becomes friends with a girl named Carmilla, a young lady who stays when Laura’s father agrees to look after Carmilla for three months. During Carmella’s stay, Laura begins to have frightful events happen to her in the form of being visited by unearthly beings during the night. Meanwhile, there are several cases of young ladies becoming deathly “ill” in the village, under odd conditions. It is clear to see how “Carmilla” has had influence on so many modern filmmakers and writers who have redone the vampire story.What Le Fanu manages to do in this collection, perhaps a lost art form, is give an opening of ambiguity to aspects of events, conversations, details, etc. This gives an added layer of dimension to the reads, builds the mounting tensions, and makes the reader active in following the rather bizarre cases and findings. Rather than tell, Le Fanu shows; and he does this quite effectively. The stories all have a build that rises and rises with subtle revelations that shock and awe the reader. Clearly, Le Fanu was a master at this craft of creating an ominous, uncomfortable, atmospheric, and unnatural feeling in his tales, and In a Glass Darkly is a brilliant illustration of such.These five works are all excellent, in my humble opinion, but I definitely thought the longer works, the final two in the collection, to be far superior to the three short stories that open because we can see this work unfold in a slow crawl that build and builds.
  •     I love this short story collection of concerning the papers of the late Dr. Martin Hesselius.Most of the tales have others telling the tales.
  •     All of the editing errors mentioned in the other reviews have been corrected. I didn't see any that stood out enough to be remembered.Interesting book..
  •     These old short stories are true to the Gothic horror genre. Although written over a century ago, the tales are easily understood and thoroughly enjoyable. My favorite, and the reason I bought this book, was the short story Carmilla which was inspiration for others, like Bram Stoker and his character Dracula.
  •     This a great collection of macabre stories by one of the meta-pioneers of the Gothic genre. The creepy, standalone stories are gathered under the literary umbrella of the collected letters of Dr. Hesselius, a ‘metaphysical’ doctor who was drawn to the borderline between ghosts and madness, between the biological and the ethereal, between hallucinations and manifestations of the spirit realm.The literary device of an ‘editor’ who collected and annotated the notes, along with the ostensibly first person accounts of the various afflicted souls, makes for an appropriately murky, reality-skewering Gothic nightmare of dread.My favorite, not surprisingly, was ‘Carmilla,’ about a languid, gorgeous vampire who insinuates herself into the families of wealthy, secluded country nobility to disastrous ends. But ‘The Familiar,’ in which an apelike demon stalks an unfortunate sea captain — revealed at first only by echoing footsteps — taps into a long-held fear of being stalked by unseen enemies.I’m a big fan of the writing style of this era, so found myself reveling in overblown sentences such as ‘Pen, ink and paper are cold vehicles for the marvelous…’ and ‘The moral effect of a really good dinner is immense..’ and ‘Love, if not a religion, as the oracle had just pronounced it, is, at least, a superstition. How it exalts the imagination! How it enervates the reason! How credulous it makes us!’A Gothic classic, and for good reason.
  •     Intriguing tales based on the professional files of Dr. Martin Hesselius, a metaphysical practitioner. Very well written, but the subject matter for this reader is a bit gruesome, thus the 3 stars. (It's not really THAT gruesome, but I prefer the more subtle Gothic of Anne Radcliffe or Wilkie Collins.) And what's not to like about a clergyman stalked by a demon monkey? The final tale is Le Fanu's well-known vampire novella, Carmilla. Creeeeeepy

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