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In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

In a Glass Darkly (1872)

by Sheridan Le Fanu

Other authors: Edward Ardizzone

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,1392111,908 (3.8)1 / 106
This remarkable collection of stories, first published in 1872, includes Green Tea, The Familiar, Mr. Justice Harbottle, The Room in the Dragon Volant, and Carmilla. The five stories are purported to be cases by Dr. Hesselius, a 'metaphysical' doctor, who is willing to consider the ghosts both as real and as hallucinatory obsessions. The reader's doubtful anxiety mimics that of the protagonist, and each story thus creates that atmoshphere of mystery which is the supernatural experience. This new annotated edition includes an introduction, notes on the text, and explanatory notes.… (more)

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English (19)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
After reading Carmilla by itself last summer, someone suggested that I keep reading J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s works. I picked up a beautiful edition of In a Glass Darkly and read it during the last few months. I moved slowly, due to being busy and distracted, but also so that I could savor his writings. This collection of five stories (three short stories and basically two novellas) were so perfect for me that this volume has jumped high onto my favorites list.

Since I mentioned the physicality of the book, let me start there first. It’s a very nice, 1929 edition from Peter Davies, with many small, beautiful illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. There’s something to be said for a physical book. The paper is thick, the boards firm and heavy. It was solid in my hands and just a pleasure to hold. I bought it from Any Amount of Books, a fantastic shop on Charing Cross Road in London.

Turning to the stories, I’d only ever read Carmilla. At the time, I praised it as a fantastic story that predated Dracula and was just something I couldn’t stop reading. Like Laura, I was drawn to Carmilla but couldn’t explain it. The story was just as good, perhaps better, the second time through.

I had heard the name Green Tea, the first story, but knew nothing of it. It was great. The spectral monkey was awesomely spooky and terrifying. Le Fanu describes so little but says so much. Like the spectral monkey of Green Tea, the footsteps heard by no one there was simply terrifying in The Familiar, his second story. I never really was gripped by the third story, Mr. Justice Harbottle. But, I know I will return to this volume again and again over the years, so perhaps it will grow on me. The Room in the Dragon Volant was brilliant, closest to the beauty of Carmilla. The terror of paralysis, almost being buried alive, and love betrayed made for a fantastical story.

I like how Le Fanu talked about writers. In Green Tea, he talked about the relationship between writers and stimulants, something that I can relate to: “I believe that every one who sets about writing in earnest does his work, as a friend of mine phrased it, on something– tea, coffee or tobacco. I suppose there is a material waste that must be hourly supplied in such occupations, or that we should grow too abstracted, and the mind, as it were, pass out of the body, unless it were reminded often of the connection by actual sensation” (p. 23).

If I could give this book six stars, I would. I highly recommend it.
( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
I enjoyed these subtly creepy tales. ( )
  charlie68 | Jan 9, 2020 |
This is a collection of five stories - three short stories and two novellas, by this 19th century Irish author of supernatural and horror stories. The five stories are all linked as being supposedly papers from the collection of a scholar of paranormal phenomena, Dr Martin Hesselius. Of the five, by far the best is probably Le Fanu's most famous story, the vampire novella "Carmilla", a superb classic of horror literature and the most significant influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula and the horror film spin offs of the last century or so, containing all the tropes of vampire literature, i.e. the isolated castle somewhere in the middle of Europe, the extinct noble family with a dark secret, etc.

None of the other four stories are of the same standard, in my view. The other novella, "The Room in the Dragon Volant", about the adventures of an English milord in France in 1815 after Napoleon's fall, was rather long-winded, and indeed almost a full novel, consisting of 26 short chapters. It started off feeling a bit like a Conan Doyle Brigadier Gerard story and finished dramatically like an Edgar Allan Poe story, but meandered too much in between. The three short stories all featured people haunted to death by spectres, and all successfully built up an atmosphere of creeping dread, while lacking the majesty and rich atmosphere of "Carmilla". The best of these was probably "Mr Justice Harbottle", where an 18th judge is haunted to his death by the ghost of a man he wrongly convicted to the gallows. "The Familiar" was a similar haunting, though for a more ambiguous reason, while in "Green Tea", a man is haunted by a spectral monkey due to having drunk too much of the eponymous beverage, which allegedly unduly exposes the brain of the drinker to disembodied spirits (!). So, overall a mixed collection. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Dec 30, 2017 |
First things first, Wordsworth Classics is just the worst for evidently having zero editors on staff. They produce books cheaply, but it's because they seem to have pulled a free and poor-quality Project Gutenberg text and just printed it off in book form without even a cursory glance at whether their exclamation points have become the number "1" or if the "TH" in "the" has been read as a lower-case "B" somehow. It makes for a very frustrating read and I need to always remember this and never ever buy their books.

That major frustration aside, I chipped away at this book for quite awhile. I got through the first three stories mainly because I had a lot of time to kill in the repair shop lounge while getting our car ready for a cross-Canada trip that it never ended up taking. Then I skipped on to "Carmilla" because that was the real draw, and there I was not disappointed.

"Carmilla" deserves its fame and fascination. It persists as one of the greatest vampire stories, and that's after more than a century of imitations and derivations. I always meant to read it and wish I hadn't waited so long because it's such a maddeningly perfect Gothic tale. I knew about the "lesbian vampires" reputation before reading it, but that only made me expect it would be way more of an undertone. I thought I'd have to read pretty deeply into the text. I thought I'd have to rely on my knowledge of 19th-century inferences to sexual deviance. I didn't expect it to be as blatant, as passionate, as... endearing? I loved it.

I was also surprised at how much I liked "The Room in the Dragon Volant," which I read a bit later. I thought it would be work the way "Green Tea" or "The Familiar" was, but I ended up really enjoying the naive narrator, self-absorbed and utterly human for it, and even without a trace of the supernatural it was still the most shiver-inducing of all the stories in its climax.

I feel I've got to read [b:Uncle Silas|49190|Uncle Silas|Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1367864839s/49190.jpg|2847087] still, and then likely feel done with Le Fanu for the time being. Maybe in the lead-up to Hallowe'en next year. ( )
1 vote likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Carmilla alone deserves a 5 star (incredible vampire story that inspired Bram Stoker). However, I felt the rest of the short stories were very repetitive. ( )
  hglotzbach | Jul 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sheridan Le Fanuprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ardizzone, Edwardsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Breyer, ChrisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell-Notman, FinnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, PatrickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McGrath, PatrickForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pritchett, V.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tracy, RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Though carefully educated in medicine and surgery, I have never practiced either.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Oxford World's Classics edition contains short stories: In a Glass Darkly, Green Tea, The Familiar, Mr Justice Harbottle, The Room in the Dragon Volant, Carmilla.
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Book description
Includes Green Tea, The Familiar, Mr Justice Harbottle, The Room in the Dragon Volant, Carmilla.
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