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Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu
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Carmilla (original 1872; edition 2011)

by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu

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696None13,593 (3.66)132
Member:ChristinaDye
Title:Carmilla
Authors:Joseph Sheridan le Fanu
Info:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2011), Paperback, 72 pages
Collections:E-books, Favorites
Rating:*****
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Carmilla: a Vampyre Tale by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)

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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Carmilla is such a short book that it's totally inexcusable for any vampire fan not to have picked it up at some point. It's also a worthwhile read for people that are interested in depictions of homoeroticism in 19th century literature.

Carmilla is the story of a young girl who comes to meet the titular character after she falls ill near her family's home and she is allowed to rest there until her family returns for her. Of course, Carmilla is a vampire -- and a peculiar one at that that seems to prefer to prey on a specific subset of people. She is a sympathetic character despite her monstrousness, and at times it's hard to tell whether Carmilla is simply manipulating Laura entirely or legitimately has feelings for her. The truth about Carmilla is revealed gradually over the course of the story, as Laura falls further under her spell, and the build up is exciting and a little terrifying as you can tell that Laura does not want to believe what she does about her new friend, however ambivalent her feelings are about her. There were a lot of questions left unanswered, such as the nature of the group of people that leave Carmilla at Laura's home and I would be curious to read more about them. There are some attempts at bridging a history between Carmilla-of-the-past and Carmilla-of-the-future, but it's left sadly underdeveloped due to the length of the book. I'm tempted to go searching for expansions that I feel SURE must have been written later on by other writers featuring this character because she's so enchanting, but on it's own, Carmilla is still a brilliant early vampire book that really set the stage for a lot of the attributes we consider synonymous with vampires in fiction today. ( )
  vombatiformes | Apr 16, 2014 |
Published in 1872, this is considered one of the first vampire tales, predating Stoker's Dracula. The simple, short story is deceptive - it's a chilling tale, suspenseful and well-written. The characters are well-told, in particular the beautiful Carmilla. Haunting! A perfect read of the gothic tale enthusiastic or the vampire lover. ( )
  empress8411 | Mar 3, 2014 |
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

This is an old book,a classic. Published around 1872 and about 25 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is a must read for all vampire lovers.

I would consider this to be quite mild compared to many of today's versions of the Genre but there are many elements that still come through to today.

One of these that shows up markedly in Camilla is the lustful sexual nature of vampirism. In this instance it is of particular note in that there are undertones of lesbianism within the writing. Although it is circumspect enough, understandable for the time it was written, that it could be construed as a relationship of very close friends. It could even be considered as a cautionary tale about such friendships leading to no good.

This also chronicles the nature of the vampire stalking its prey with a persistence and a predatory nature that borders on both excessive compulsion to strange desire. It plays into the hypnotic nature of the vampire to the intended victim and the almost helplessness of that victim to recognize the danger they are in.

We also see that little bit about poking fun at itself in that there is an added explanation that when the vampires are among society they look normal and health as opposed to pale cyanic.

In their casket and grave they are still somewhat lifelike faint breathing but are surrounded by a pool of blood.

To be killed, they are staked and beheaded.

The story takes place in Styria a state in Austria. Laura and her father live in a remote castle whose nearest neighbor is an abandoned village where the family of Karnstein once lived.

Laura begins her story by recounting a nightmare she had as a child where a strange but beautiful woman comes to her bed. It starts out as a delightful comforting experience until she feels two needles poke her near her breast.

Fast forward to a young adult and she shows us how isolated and lonely her home is. She is hopeful for a visit from their friend, General Spielsdorf's, niece, Bertha Rheinfeldt. Much to her horror and dismay a letter is received explaining Bertha's untimely death. All of this figures into the story.

As fortune might have it one day while enjoying the evening air and the moonlight. This scene sounds like its straight out of those old black and white movies we loved so much and stayed up late watching on tv. A mist like smoke over the low ground like a transparent veil. Only in the story Laura makes it sound beautiful instead of foreboding. A carriage, almost out of nowhere, arrives in a seeming hurry that causes it to have a near catastrophe.

From the carriage come a stately lady and her, purported, daughter. The lady has some immense secret emergency and she fears taking her injured and sickly daughter too far. This seems to play on Laura's father's sense of chivalry and he offers to take the girl into his home to have Laura's governess take care of her and to afford companionship for Laura.

It is not until later inside the castle home that Laura discovers the face of this woman matches the face in her dream. Despite the horror it gives her Laura is inexplicably drawn to this woman. They become fast friends though many times the liberty that Carmilla takes with that friendship cause Laura uneasy feelings.

Camilla seems to be afflicted with some sort of illness and always seems weak. She is paranoid and has to lock herself in her bedroom at night, alone. She doesn't rise until around noon. She often lapses into moods where she expresses a very deep affection for Laura.

When reports start coming in of some malady killing women in a nearby village and Laura begins to have dreams similar to the one she had so long ago. Laura begins to feel tired and desperate, thinking she may be suffering from the unexplained illness that is going around.

It is not until the General comes back to the area to visit that things begin to unfold and make sense. But, Laura is conflicted by here feelings for Carmilla when she hears what must be the truth.

There is an interesting, perhaps signature aspect in this story. The vampire seems to go by names that are anagrams of her original name. Millarca, Mircalla, and Carmilla.

Any aficionado of Vampires should read this book to delve into the root of the earliest published tales of this type of fiction.

If I have one disappointment from this; it's that there seem to be a group of people aiding this creature in getting ingratiated with their victims who are mentioned and noted in two different instances but we never know what their true role is in all of this.

J.L. Dobias ( )
  JLDobias | Nov 10, 2013 |
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

This is an old book,a classic. Published around 1872 and about 25 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is a must read for all vampire lovers.

I would consider this to be quite mild compared to many of today's versions of the Genre but there are many elements that still come through to today.

One of these that shows up markedly in Camilla is the lustful sexual nature of vampirism. In this instance it is of particular note in that there are undertones of lesbianism within the writing. Although it is circumspect enough, understandable for the time it was written, that it could be construed as a relationship of very close friends. It could even be considered as a cautionary tale about such friendships leading to no good.

This also chronicles the nature of the vampire stalking its prey with a persistence and a predatory nature that borders on both excessive compulsion to strange desire. It plays into the hypnotic nature of the vampire to the intended victim and the almost helplessness of that victim to recognize the danger they are in.

We also see that little bit about poking fun at itself in that there is an added explanation that when the vampires are among society they look normal and health as opposed to pale cyanic.

In their casket and grave they are still somewhat lifelike faint breathing but are surrounded by a pool of blood.

To be killed, they are staked and beheaded.

The story takes place in Styria a state in Austria. Laura and her father live in a remote castle whose nearest neighbor is an abandoned village where the family of Karnstein once lived.

Laura begins her story by recounting a nightmare she had as a child where a strange but beautiful woman comes to her bed. It starts out as a delightful comforting experience until she feels two needles poke her near her breast.

Fast forward to a young adult and she shows us how isolated and lonely her home is. She is hopeful for a visit from their friend, General Spielsdorf's, niece, Bertha Rheinfeldt. Much to her horror and dismay a letter is received explaining Bertha's untimely death. All of this figures into the story.

As fortune might have it one day while enjoying the evening air and the moonlight. This scene sounds like its straight out of those old black and white movies we loved so much and stayed up late watching on tv. A mist like smoke over the low ground like a transparent veil. Only in the story Laura makes it sound beautiful instead of foreboding. A carriage, almost out of nowhere, arrives in a seeming hurry that causes it to have a near catastrophe.

From the carriage come a stately lady and her, purported, daughter. The lady has some immense secret emergency and she fears taking her injured and sickly daughter too far. This seems to play on Laura's father's sense of chivalry and he offers to take the girl into his home to have Laura's governess take care of her and to afford companionship for Laura.

It is not until later inside the castle home that Laura discovers the face of this woman matches the face in her dream. Despite the horror it gives her Laura is inexplicably drawn to this woman. They become fast friends though many times the liberty that Carmilla takes with that friendship cause Laura uneasy feelings.

Camilla seems to be afflicted with some sort of illness and always seems weak. She is paranoid and has to lock herself in her bedroom at night, alone. She doesn't rise until around noon. She often lapses into moods where she expresses a very deep affection for Laura.

When reports start coming in of some malady killing women in a nearby village and Laura begins to have dreams similar to the one she had so long ago. Laura begins to feel tired and desperate, thinking she may be suffering from the unexplained illness that is going around.

It is not until the General comes back to the area to visit that things begin to unfold and make sense. But, Laura is conflicted by here feelings for Carmilla when she hears what must be the truth.

There is an interesting, perhaps signature aspect in this story. The vampire seems to go by names that are anagrams of her original name. Millarca, Mircalla, and Carmilla.

Any aficionado of Vampires should read this book to delve into the root of the earliest published tales of this type of fiction.

If I have one disappointment from this; it's that there seem to be a group of people aiding this creature in getting ingratiated with their victims who are mentioned and noted in two different instances but we never know what their true role is in all of this.

J.L. Dobias ( )
  JLDobias | Nov 10, 2013 |
SHORT STORY: Carmilla
AUTHOR: Sheridan Le Fanu
This short story penned during the Victorian era by Sheridan Le Fanu is sort of a prelude to all other vampire based stories that are written after it, especially the novel ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker. The story uses many themes of vampirism which were new during the time when it was written which eventually makes the narrative a novel piece of literature at the time when it was published. Needless to say that ‘Carmilla’ is a Gothic horror story; the author has used many Gothic elements in his narrative like ancient castles, ruined chapels etc. The story itself is captivating & remarkable. The lucid descriptions in first person are quite conventional as well as the dialogues which are remarkable for a person living in the latter half of the 19th century. Sheridan Le Fanu surely has produced one of the legendary masterpieces of Vampire fiction. It seems a pity that many readers are unaware of this work of art by Le Fanu, the master of gothic horror.
The story is female centric where both of the main characters in the story are young ladies, one whose name is Laura who is narrating her experience in first person & the other whose name is Carmilla who happens to be a vampire.
The character of Carmilla itself is sort of a mystery & the author has used his literary powers to keep it that way. He reveals nothing about her which adds a lot to the suspense in the narrative. It is not to be misunderstood however that Carmilla has no personality at all…….she certainly does have one which intrigues & shocks the reader as well. She is a vampire who looks like she is only 20 years old. She is sensual like most vampires are but gets emotionally attached to only a few of her victims. She is diabolical but she does not seem so at all & can be a wonderful conversationalist. She indulges in harmless gossip but has certain eccentricities that shock the rustic people with whom she associates with…..in turn to plague them. As a historical character in this work of fiction, Carmilla the seductive vampire is actually the Countess of Karnstein whose real name is Mircalla. She was the victim of a vampire in her life & thus turned into one herself, endangering all who lived in the area. She speaks very little of herself to Laura who she grows emotionally attached to & the eager young girl Laura can simply only gain a few hints from Carmilla:
‘What she did tell me amounted, in my unconscionable estimation—to nothing.
It was all summed up in three very vague disclosures:
First—her name was Carmilla.
Second—her family was very ancient and noble.
Third—her home lay in the direction of the west.
She would not tell me the name of her family, nor their armorial bearings, nor the name of their estate, nor even that of the country they lived in.’
However towards the end of the text, we realize who Carmilla really is but it simply adds to the horror & mystery behind this strange woman created by Le Fanu. Indeed, the less we know of Carmilla, the more she seems to grow upon the mind of the reader.
Taking a cue from Le Fanu’s Irish descent, we can also suppose that Carmilla was some sort of a banshee (a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld) who not only heralded the death but also was the cause of the death of the members of her family as well as of the people she associated with. Le Fanu however took one step further & turned Carmilla into a horrid but graceful killer.
Being written during the Victorian age, it is obvious to the reader that the author has tried to curb the extent to which he describes Carmilla’s sensuality. However, all readers are well aware that vampires are definitely sensual creatures & seduce their victims to perfection. In this short story, there are many hidden undertones of Lesbian love which if brought out in the open would have greatly shocked the reader of its day. The author has taken precautions to dilute his vampire’s seductive nature to a great degree yet in some cases, the obvious train of thought that is wished to be produced by the author is quite visible:
‘Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.” Then she has thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling.’
Carmilla shows great affection towards the young & vulnerable Laura who finds her new friend’s embraces & kisses rather disturbing. Laura is at once appalled & disgusted by Carmilla’s advances but at the same time, also feels the same sort of ecstasy that her companion feels. Le Fanu brings also to the focus the great fear on the part of many people of his day & age about homosexual relationships. Carmilla seems however only to plague female victims. She kills many in a few days’ time, but serenades the ones who she falls in love with like Laura:
‘In these mysterious moods I did not like her. I experienced a strange tumultuous excitement that was pleasurable, ever and anon, mingled with a vague sense of fear and disgust.’
Although Laura tries to make some sense out her friend’s passionate actions, she ultimately is drained of most of her blood by Carmilla in the form of a giant black cat during the night. It is only with timely action by certain individuals in the story like General Spielsdorf, Laura’s father & Baron Vordenburg that Laura is saved from a fate worse than death.
Although Carmilla’s remains are burned & thrown into the waters of a nearby flowing river, Laura even nine to ten years after her last meeting with Carmilla seems to still be haunted by her. This psychological aspect to the narrative adds a vague tinge of terror towards the end of the text.
For an ardent reader of the Gothic horror literature, Le Fanu’s story immediately brings to mind a lot of scenes & incidences from the classic horror novel ‘Dracula’. Many themes & ideas from ‘Carmilla’ seem to have influenced the writer of ‘Dracula’. For instance both works are set in first person intending the reader to come to a logical conclusion about events that follow in both narratives. In both the stories the main vampire is able to either transform into a gigantic hound (Dracula) or a gigantic black cat (Carmilla). Both stories end in the ultimate defeat of the vampire by persons who delve into folklore like Van Helsing (Dracula) & Baron Vordenburg (Carmilla). There are other many such instances to prove that the author of ‘Dracula’ was definitely influenced by Le Fanu’s work.
Rapt in bold intense love scenes, Carmilla the female vampire seems to surpass her successors in evil & even in pathos. One simply at times finds Carmilla to be but a pathetic piece of fine feminine grace who is more a victim than her own blood drained young victims. Her sleep walking at nights & languid disposition adds to our thinking that Carmilla is but a sad woman in need of love.

( )
  pathan.fiza | Oct 14, 2013 |
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Joseph Sheridan Le Fanuprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Codd, RolandCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Prologue:Upon a paper attached to the Narrative which follows, Doctor Hesselius has written a rather elaborate note, which he accompanies with a reference to his Essay on the strange subject which the MS. illuminates.
In Styria, we, though by no means magnificent people, inhabit a castle, or schloss.
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Carmilla is the book that set the text for Dracula, that threw the light on our morbid fascination with the vampire legend. This is Carmilla, J. Sheridan LeFanu's classic novel of blood, terror -- and a love that dare not speak its name.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 856202225X, Paperback)

The vampire novella "Carmilla" set in Austria is one of Le Fanu's best tales and greatly influenced Bram Stocker, who published Dracula 25 years later. This is definitively a great book and a must for the lovers of horror tales.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:40 -0400)

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