Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Biography (Books)
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 - 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M. R. 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.
Le Fanu worked in many genres but remains best known for his mystery and horror fiction. He was a meticulous craftsman and frequently reworked plots and ideas from his earlier writing in subsequent pieces. Many of his novels, for example, are expansions and refinements of earlier short stories. He specialised in tone and effect rather than "shock horror", and liked to leave important details unexplained and mysterious. He avoided overt supernatural effects: in most of his major works, the supernatural is strongly implied but a "natural" explanation is also possible. The demonic monkey in "Green Tea" could be a delusion of the story's protagonist, who is the only person to see it; in "The Familiar", Captain Barton's death seems to be supernatural, but is not actually witnessed, and the ghostly owl may be a real bird. This technique influenced later horror artists, both in print and on film (see, for example, the film producer Val Lewton's principle of "indirect horror"). Though other writers have since chosen less subtle techniques, Le Fanu's best tales, such as the vampire novella Carmilla, remain some of the most powerful in the genre. He had enormous influence on one of the 20th century's most important ghost story writers, M. R. James, and although his work fell out of favour in the early part of the 20th century, towards the end of the century interest in his work increased and remains comparatively strong.
several other writers have expressed strong admiration for Le Fanu's fiction. E. F. Benson stated that Le Fanu's stories "Green Tea", "The Familiar", and "Mr. Justice Harbottle are instinct with an awfulness which custom cannot stale, and this quality is due, as in The Turn of the Screw, to Le Fanu's admirably artistic methods in setting and narration". Benson added, "[Le Fanu's] best work is of the first rank, while as a 'flesh-creeper' he is unrivalled. No one else has so sure a touch in mixing the mysterious atmosphere in which horror darkly breeds". Jack Sullivan has asserted that Le Fanu is "one of the most important and innovative figures in the development of the ghost story" and that Le Fanu's work has had "an incredible influence on the genre; he is regarded by M. R. James, E. F. Bleiler, and others as the most skillful writer of supernatural fiction in English."
Le Fanu's work influenced several later writers. Most famously, Carmilla was to greatly influence Bram Stoker in the writing of Dracula. M. R. James' ghost fiction was influenced by Le Fanu's work in the genre. Oliver Onions's supernatural novel The Hand of Kornelius Voyt (1939) was inspired by Le Fanu's Uncle Silas.