Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer most remembered for his pioneering work in the horror genre. Many of his stories use Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane to unsettling effect.
His works include:
- In a Glass Darkly, in which Occult Detective Dr. Martin Hesselius sets down five accounts of supernatural visitations, the last of which is the influential vampire tale "Carmilla".
- Uncle Silas, a mystery-thriller in which a young heiress must extricate herself from the clutches of her Evil Uncle.
Works by Le Fanu with their own pages:
- An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street (1853)
- Wylder's Hand (1864)
- Carmilla (1872)
Other works by Le Fanu include examples of:
- Clear Their Name: Uncle Silas is suspected of murder. When his brother is dying, he arranges for his daughter Maud to go live with Silas, under the condition that if she dies before she reaches adulthood, he will get her inheritance. He assumes that Silas is innocent and such a 'test' will vindicate him, but he's very much mistaken.
- Dr. Genericius: Dr. Hesselius.
- Evil Uncle: Silas Ruthyn, the titular Uncle Silas, who conspires to murder his niece so her inheritance will pass to him.
- Hanging Judge: "Mr. Justice Harbottle" features a particularly corrupt hanging judge who is punished supernaturally.
- Herr Doktor: Dr. Hesselius is a German physician.
- Illegal Guardian: In Uncle Silas, Maud Ruthyn is made a ward of her uncle after her father dies, and her uncle tries to murder her so her inheritance will pass to him.
- Jury of the Damned: Implied to be the case in "Mr. Justice Harbottle", where the title character, a Hanging Judge, winds up on trial in the High Court of Appeal in the Kingdom of Life and Death. It doesn't help that the Judge is on trial before a monstrous version of himself.
- Literary Allusion Title: In a Glass Darkly comes from a passage in the first epistle to the Corinthians, in which Saint Paul says that we understand the world imperfectly, as if seeing it only dimly reflected in a mirror.
- Locked Room Mystery:
- Part of the plot of Uncle Silas involves a mysterious death in a locked room.
- Among the mysterious disappearances in "The Room in the Dragon Volant" which the policeman Carmaignac relates to Richard Beckett, there is a particularly puzzling case of a man who vanished from his room in the eponymous inn between the late evening and the morning while the room was locked from the inside, and nobody could have left the building unnoticed. By the end of the story, it has become clear that the lodger was targeted by con men who induced him to leave his room by way of a secret passage, and then murdered him.
- Mal Mariée: In "The Room in the Dragon Volant", Richard Beckett, a wealthy young Englishman travelling to Paris, makes the acquaintance of the elderly Comte de St. Alyre and his strikingly beautiful young wife Eugénie. As he is increasingly enamoured by Eugenie, he learns that the Comte (who is not much to look at) is a mean old miser who only married Eugenie for her inheritance, which he wants to pay his gambling debts with. Determined to deliver Eugenie from her unhappy marriage to a crusty old tyrant, Beckett resolves to elope with her. Only then does he find out that the Comte and his wife are in league with each other and confidence tricksters who are after his money.
- Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: "Green Tea" from In a Glass Darkly depicts clinical depression as harassment from an evil monkey spirit. People who don't have their third eyes open to be capable of perceiving spirits just see it as a medical condition.
- Never Say "Die": When Maud Ruthyn's father is dying, he tells her he is about to go away on a long trip. She doesn't realize what he means until he has died.
- No Honor Among Thieves: In "The Room in the Dragon Volant", the Count has counted the contents of Richard Beckett's lockbox, then locks the harvest up in a hidden closet and keeps only a bundle of ten thousand francs (a fraction of the entire sum) for Planard, saying he will tell him that it's half of the entire haul. Little does he know that Planard has already made a deal with the police to rat out his accomplices in exchange for exemption from punishment, and is only waiting for them to be arrested.
- Occult Detective: Dr. Hesselius is one of the Trope Makers.
- Prematurely Marked Grave: In "The Room in the Dragon Volant": Having secretly met with the Countess Eugénie in the Château de la Carque in order to elope with her while her husband is busy attending to the funeral of a distant cousin, Richard Beckett (aged 23), being left alone for a moment, looks into an adjacent room and is shocked to discover a coffin, the plate on its lid identifying it as the coffin of "Pierre de La Roche St. Amand, agé de XXIII ans". Eugénie quickly reassures a spooked Richard that the Count's cousin's body arrived too late at the Château and that the Count is waiting for it at the cemetery. It is left for the reader to sense (as indeed is made clear two chapters later) that the coffin is empty and intended for Richard Beckett himself.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: In "Green Tea", the demonic monkey that pursues Reverend Jennings has eyes that glow from within with a "faint but deep red light". Indeed the first thing Jennings notices when he first sees the monkey are its eyes, appearing as two "tiny discs of red" hovering in the darkness.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: "Green Tea". Is Rev. Jennings really being visited by a demonic monkey that no one else can see? Or is the green tea he drinks habitually slowly poisoning him, causing visual and auditory hallucinations? The story's narrator insists it's the latter, and is confident he can cure Jennings, but before he gets a chance to try, Jennings kills himself under the monkey's orders.
- Trial of the Mystical Jury: The corrupt protagonist of "Mr. Justice Harbottle" is put on trial by a jury of those he has had wrongfully executed and a judge who is a parody of himself.