Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Joseph Sheridan le Fanu is perhaps the best ghost story writer to emerge from the Victorian Age. His ghost classics include The Familiar, Devereux's Dream, Madam Crowl's Ghost, An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House and A History of a Tyrone Family, which was included in The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849 that I recently edited. And let's not forget his devil tales: The Drunkard's Dream and The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh that are the foremost of their kind. Green Tea is one of Fanu's most anthologized tales along with A Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter, included in The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849. While Fanu's 1872 Carmilla is one of the greatest vampire short stories of the nineteenth century. So when Fanu penned his most ambitious work, set in an ancient mansion, the literary community took notice. In "Uncle Silas" Fanu has given us one of the best Gothic novels of the late nineteenth century. This was a time when corpses remained in the house for three days after death and laudanum, a cocaine derivative, was taken for the nerves. "Uncle Silas" has some of the best characters Fanu invented and is time well spent over a few wonderful stormy nights.