'Inspiring a Mysterious Terror'

200 Years of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

by Jarlath Killeen (Volume editor) Valeria Cavalli (Volume editor)
Monographs X, 250 Pages
Series: Reimagining Ireland, Volume 76


Best known for his Gothic masterpiece Uncle Silas and the vampire story Carmilla, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was a prolific writer whose extensive body of work included historical, sensation and horror novels, poems and ballads, numerous stories of the supernatural, journalism and a verse-drama. While his name is well known to aficionados of the horror genre, much of his work still remains in the shadows. Indeed, despite his vampire creation, Carmilla, being the best-known female blood-sucker in the world, and despite an enormous scholarly and popular interest in the novella in which this character first appeared (an interest evident in the very large number of cinematic, televisual and even new media adaptations of the story), Le Fanu himself is almost completely unknown outside of the world of Irish Gothic scholarship, and most of his fiction remains difficult to obtain or is out of print.
To celebrate the bicentenary of Le Fanu’s birth, this collection brings together established scholars and emerging researchers in order to shed new light on some of his less famous fiction and celebrate his influential contribution to the Gothic genre. The main aim of the collection is to read Le Fanu in the round, expanding the critical focus away from its current obsession with a small proportion of his work and taking account of the full extent of his writing, from his other Gothic novels, The Rose and the Key, Haunted Lives and A Lost Name, to his short stories and journalism. The collection also considers Le Fanu’s relationship to Victorian Ireland and especially Dublin from a number of different angles, as well as addressing his status as an ‘Irish’ writer of substance.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1 Introduction: Forgetting Le Fanu?
  • 2 The Mask and the Void: Romantic Grotesque in Le Fanu’s Later Romances
  • 3 Richard Marston of Dunoran: A Tragedy across Three Decades
  • 4 The Cup of Madness: Religious Insanity in A Lost Name
  • The Cup of Madness
  • Bewitched and Haunted
  • 5 Le Fanu’s ‘Green Tea’ and Irish Victorian Calvinism
  • From Trifling To Terrifying
  • Cases of Conscience and Aestheticized Calvinism
  • 6 Hyphenated States: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Settler Gothic Fiction
  • 7 The Teller or the Tale? Narration, Genre and Irishness in ‘Squire Toby’s Will’
  • 8 Growing a Voice: Le Fanu and the Laboratory of the Dublin University Magazine
  • Introduction
  • The DUM, Le Fanu and Irish Culture
  • The DUM, Le Fanu and the German School of the Fantastic
  • The DUM, Le Fanu and Mesmerism
  • 9 Death and the Maiden: Theology, Gender and the Grotesque in Le Fanu’s Fiction
  • 10 The Bad Wall; or, Problems of History in Fiction
  • Against the Fashion of Fear
  • An Ever Closer Reading?
  • The Unfamiliar or Unheimlich
  • Hortus non Conclusus
  • History by Inference
  • Appendix
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Jarlath Killeen, ‘Introduction: Forgetting Le Fanu?’.

Figure 1.1 Irish Writers of the Fantastic. Courtesy of Brian Showers, Swan River Press.

Figure 1.2 D. H. Friston, Carmilla, The Dark Blue 3/13 (March 1872).

Alison Milbank, ‘Death and the Maiden: Theology, Gender and the Grotesque in Le Fanu’s Fiction’

Figure 9.1 Death and the Maiden sculpture, unknown artist, sixteenth century. Bode-Museum, Berlin.

Figure 9.2 Godfried Schalcken, A Candlelit Scene: A Man Offering a Gold Chain and Coins to a Girl Seated on a Bed, c.1665–1670. The National Gallery, London.

| ix →


Thanks must first go to the contributors to this collection who were also participants in a conference on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, held in the Long Room Hub, Trinity College, in October 2014. The conference was generously funded by the Arts and Social Sciences Benefaction Fund and the School of English, Trinity College Dublin, and The British Association for Victorian Studies. We would also like to thank the following individuals: Sheila Pratschke and Sarah Bannan at the Arts Council; Eve Patten; Bernice Murphy, Clare Clarke and Christina Morin who all chaired talks at the conference; Laura Habbe and Rob Brown; Sarah Dunne and Jürgen Barkhoff of the Long Room Hub; Brian Showers for his constant support and enthusiasm; Anna and Francis Dunlop for permission to use the photo of Le Fanu’s death mask for the cover image.

The title was kindly suggested by Richard Haslam, and is taken from a lecture by M. R. James called ‘The Novels and Stories of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’, delivered at the weekly meeting of the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 16 March 1923. The lecture was reconstructed from James’s notes and published in Ghosts and Scholars (1985).1

Valeria Cavalli would like to thank Paula Keatley, Ruth Doherty and Fidelma Slattery.

Jarlath Killeen would like to thank his fellow editor, Valeria, for both putting up with him and handling all the technical issues in relation to the production of this collection. Thanks also to Mary Lawlor and Eilís (for everything).

1 Adapted from a lecture by M. R. James, ‘The Novels and Stories of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’, Ghosts and Scholars, 7 (1985). <http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~pardos/ArchiveLeFanu.html>.

| 1 →


1 Introduction: Forgetting Le Fanu?

Given that, in 2016, the Gothic1 is still (very) big business, what is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s place in it – indeed, does he even have one? Cultural gatekeepers have, of course, tried their best to forget the whole Gothic business since it emerged in the 1760s, and have been treating it as something like a corny embarrassment for well over 250 years now, complaining vociferously about the ‘fashion’ for what a reviewer of the first edition of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) called the ‘absurdities of Gothic fiction’ with its ‘machinery of ghosts and goblins’.2 Famously, in the anonymous complaint against what he termed ‘Terrorist Novel Writing’ (1798), one reviewer looked forward to a day when no one would want to read such rubbish anymore: ‘as I observe that almost all novels are of the terrific cast, I hope the insipid repetition of the same bugbears will at length work a cure’.3 Instead of going away, though, the Gothic continued ← 1 | 2 → to get bigger and badder. Indeed, the nineteenth century witnessed not the death of the Gothic, but rather its diffusion. As Julian Wolfreys explains, after the 1820s, the Gothic cannot be ‘figured […] as a single, identifiable corpus’ as it slips out of a generic quarantine and into the culture at large like a horror monster escaping the control of the mad scientist who has created him. In the Victorian period, the tropes, props and stock characters of the so-called ‘first wave’ of Gothic fiction migrate elsewhere and everywhere so that ‘Escaping from the tomb and the castle, the monastery and the mansion, the Gothic arguably becomes more potentially terrifying because of its ability to manifest itself and variations of itself anywhere’.4 These monsters have remained at large ever since, and Western culture has been happily living with the creatures of the night for three centuries now.5 The Gothic changes and mutates like a crazed cultural meme, to adopt the remarkably unscientific language of the biologist Richard Dawkins, but it just won’t go away.6

Indeed, to call contemporary Gothic a major industry would be a serious understatement. Since the 1990s, a number of ‘phenomena’ have dominated popular culture: J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (1997–2007, not counting the bonus books and film versions), the Left Behind series (1995–2007, ignoring the spin-offs, graphic novels and adaptations), Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight quadrilogy (2005–2008, and attendant Twilight Saga film adaptations) and E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (2011–2012) – the last of which, incidentally, began life as an online fanfiction take on Twilight. There are very strong Gothic elements to each of these phenomena, populated as they are by ← 2 | 3 → vampires, werewolves, ghosts, goblins, mad monks, perverted priests, Catholic conspiracies and, in the last instance, a sex-crazed persecutor who gets his kicks by dominating women in a private torture chamber of his own, and who wouldn’t look out of place in Charles Robert Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). There is no sign of the Gothic mass production factory that is contemporary popular culture slowing down any time soon. If most of these enormously popular stories end with the Gothic threats being defused and (the appropriate) monsters being despatched or tamed, they have each gone on to inspire ever-more iterations of the formula on an apparently never-ending cultural conveyor belt. Scholars have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why it is that audiences are not just drawn to the same kinds of texts year in, year out (indeed, in very many cases, the same texts, more or less, with seemingly endless adaptations of Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde and Dracula still attracting big budgets and large audiences), but also why these texts feel obligated to use the same hackneyed tropes and conventions over and over again. The answers have been all-embracing and very inventive, from the claim that the Gothic helps us re-enact and resolve the Oedipal dramas of our early childhood, to the idea that ‘much like the symbolic games traumatized children typically like to play, for the true aficionado reading or watching horror on a regular basis amounts to a ritual displacement of trauma experienced but never resolved’.7 As Matt Hills has persuasively argued, however, perhaps too much attention has been directed towards the supposedly traumatic element in such repetition ‘anxiety’ and not enough on the pleasures of Gothic reiteration, the fun readers and viewers seem to have meeting the same two-dimensional characters and experiencing the same predictable frights over and over again.8 Of course, Le Fanu, as Albert Power and W. J. McCormack carefully show in their chapters in this collection, was ← 3 | 4 → no stranger to repetition himself, and recycled names, plots and stories throughout his career.

The Gothic may always be with us, but many of its major practitioners have been silently forgotten or at least sidelined, their names barely producing a flicker of recognition for even the most dedicated devotee. For example, so completely had the work of Maria Regina Roche been forgotten, that for generations even scholars assumed that Clermont (1798) – a novel on Isabella Thorpe’s reading list in Northanger Abbey (1817) – was something Jane Austen had made up. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, one of the most important of what have been termed the ‘lesser Victorians’, is certainly in the mix as part of a Gothic ‘tradition’, but he is clearly not remembered in popular culture terms in the way that, say, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson or Edgar Allan Poe are, and that is understandable enough. Popular culture has a very short memory span even as it interminably recycles the same materials. ‘Irish Gothic’ (a contentious enough formulation in itself), in the figure of Bram Stoker’s creation Count Dracula, has, of course, been central to the contemporary Gothic craze, discernible as a negative inspiration behind the vampires in Twilight (who are explicitly contrasted with him), one of the models for Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist in the Left Behind series, as well as being the basis for countless adaptations (Dracula has been sent everywhere, from 1970s New York, to outer space in the variations that capitalize on his name). Dracula is difficult to escape from, and even within contemporary Irish fiction his presence is considerable, ranging from the children’s fiction of Darren Shan, especially his Cirque du Freak series of novels for young adults (2000–2004), to Neil Jordan’s 2010 doppelganger novel, Mistaken, whose main character lives next door to the Marino Cresent house where Stoker was born.

Tucked into Mistaken are brief references to the other major practitioners of the Irish Gothic. As two characters, Kevin and Emily, discuss the ways in which repetition is central to the lives of many people, one remarks: ‘The pattern finds a way of replicating without the knowledge of the participants. Like a curse. Stoker knew that. Le Fanu. Maturin. All the Protestant ones’.9 Kevin here evokes a now much-debated notion that ← 4 | 5 → there exists a ‘tradition’ of Gothic fiction by Irish writers of Protestant faith (Maturin, Le Fanu, Wilde, Stoker). While Kevin, a character in an Irish Gothic novel by an Irish Catholic writer, can easily recall the major figures of this tradition, it is probable that very few others do. Obviously, Maturin, the author of Melmoth the Wanderer (to my mind, the greatest Gothic novel of all), is now an unknown quantity. When I greet new students every year with the news that Maturin’s masterpiece is to appear on their reading list, their initial responses are always the same: bewilderment over the identity of the author, and shock at the length of his novel. Christina Morin rightly complains that Maturin is now an almost completely overlooked member of the pantheon of ‘important’ Irish writers.10 Maturin’s relative disappearance can be partly explained by the fact that despite causing a huge splash in nineteenth-century European culture, especially becoming, as Victor Sage explains, ‘all the rage’ in France,11 even inspiring Honoré de Balzac to write a sequel, Melmoth reconcilié (1835), it was in high rather than popular culture where Maturin’s significance (or at least the significance of his creation) was grasped. Melmoth, rather than Maturin, has indeed attracted some continuing attention, but from the likes of the surrealist André Breton (whose preface appeared in an important 1954 French translation of the novel), and Irish literary (rather than popular) fiction writer John Banville (whose Birchwood (1973) contains a brief reference to the character).12 That Maturin has attracted Hawthorne rather than Hollywood is reason enough for the fact that he has almost disappeared from the cultural register, although a theatrical production of Melmoth by Big Telly Productions was successfully staged in 2012.13 The ← 5 | 6 → closest Maturin comes to pop culture fame is in the names of Anthony Trollope’s dodgy financier Augustus Melmotte in The Way We Live Now (1875), and Peter Boyle’s turn as Dr Sebastian Melmoth in Marty Feldman’s comedy In God We Trust (1980),14 but there have been no film adaptations of the novel itself.

In her brilliant study of Maturin’s fiction, Morin lamented that while there were festivals and summer schools aplenty devoted to other Irish writers, and while Maria Edgeworth, Thomas Moore, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith and others get their fair share of cultural attention, ‘Maturin has fallen by the cultural wayside. Although he continues to be remembered, talked about, and occasionally taught by academics, the average Irish person (not to mention English, American, Chinese, or any number of other nationalities) stares vacantly at the mention of Maturin’s name’.15 You won’t get much cultural traction by name-dropping Sheridan Le Fanu either, though. Recently, Dublin City Council and Fáilte Ireland cottoned on to the possibility that they could capitalize on the contemporary vampire obsession by establishing a Bram Stoker Festival in 2012 (it should probably, for reasons of honest advertising, be called the Dracula Festival, given that most of the activities that actually take place revolve around vampires and the Transylvanian Count, for obvious financial reasons), but the powers that be would take some convincing that Sheridan Le Fanu, a far better writer than Stoker, probably ‘deserves’ a festival a bit more.16 Cultural presence wins hands down over literary achievement in any discussion with most arts organizations over distribution of limited funding. In terms of how a particular nation or state remembers its literary ← 6 | 7 → giants, Ireland is an instructive case study. There is a real question of how, faced with the towering Nobel Prize prominence of W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, the world fame of Jonathan Swift (or, more precisely, Gulliver’s Travels (1726)), and the kind of cult obsession that circles James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, other Irish writers are supposed to even get noticed – a question that is acutely related to the construction of a tourist as well as a national canon. Even as Ireland continues to be marketed as simultaneously a land of myth and legend, ghosts and leprechauns and the best small country in the world in which to do business,17 as well as a kind of digital hub of the future (so that Ireland is both pre- and post-modern),18 a great deal of uncertainty persists in terms of what to do to draw attention to, or market, figures like Maturin and Le Fanu. Indeed, even in ‘Irish Gothic’ circles (and such circles do indeed exist) the focus on the unholy Trinity of Maturin, Le Fanu and Stoker forces out a number of other ‘Irish’ writers of ‘the Fantastic’, which has left some aficionados feeling irked. In response to what it described as the ‘ubiquitous’ Irish Writers poster that floats around Dublin, and an Irish Times’ response to that poster which featured only Irish women writers, Swan River Press, which is exclusively devoted to publishing ‘Fantastic’ fiction, created a poster of ‘Irish Writers of the Fantastic’, featuring Maturin, Le Fanu and Stoker (no Wilde, though!), amidst Lord Dunsany, Fitz-James O’Brien, Charlotte Riddell, Mervyn Wall, James Stephens, Lafcadio Hearn, Dorothy Macardle, C. S. Lewis and Elizabeth Bowen (see Figure 1.1). ← 7 | 8 →

Figure 1.1: Irish Writers of the Fantastic. Courtesy of Brian Showers, Swan River Press. ← 8 | 9 →

Unlike poor Maturin, whose house was demolished in the 1970s, you can at least still go and visit Le Fanu’s former residence, 70 Merrion Square, which now accommodates the Arts Council of Ireland, though it is unlikely that many would do so in the spirit of the crowds who flock to sites of literary tourist devotion such as Brontë country, where sightseers want to get close to the stone by the waterfall where Charlotte was supposed to have written Jane Eyre (1847). Sitting in the room where Le Fanu composed Carmilla (1871–1872)19 would probably not generate sufficient interest to justify real investment. Indeed, the argument could be made that what limited funds there are available should go into attracting the kind of crypto-religious reverence that is evidenced in the James Joyce industry. In the last ten years I have been approached by three different entrepreneurs enthusiastic about the possibility of creating a ‘Dublin Gothic’ tourist site, with a strong focus on Stoker and Dracula, of course, but promising separate ‘rooms’ devoted to Maturin, Le Fanu and other Irish Gothic writers. It is significant that, even at the height of the Celtic Tiger economic boom, none of these enterprises came to anything. While on the surface (where many of the pleasures of the Gothic lie) it might seem that ‘Gothic Dublin’ would have some limited cultural attractiveness, it would never be expected to match places like the Lake District, or even ‘Catherine Cookson Country’ – and could never, at this stage, rival Transylvania in terms of attracting Dracula tourism. Le Fanu alone could certainly never credibly be put forward as the main draw of this kind of literary tourism for anyone.

As has often been pointed out, such ‘heritage tourism’ attempts to create a version of a particular place that evokes uniqueness and specialness,20 something which a ‘Gothic Dublin’ would indeed achieve, but might be difficult to square with the simultaneous marketing of Dublin as a crucible of the postmodern future. Moreover, name recognition is required for ← 9 | 10 → heritage tourism to be effective: there is no point in marketing the Dublin of Maturin and Le Fanu if no one knows who they were or why they should care, and Dracula’s association with Transylvania creates a difficulty for re-pivoting Gothic tourism in an Irish direction. While David Herbert has convincingly argued that preserved homes of dead writers can become powerful nostalgic enticements to tourists, allowing a meaning-making ritual in which the visitor inserts themselves into the writing life (and also the fictional lives of the characters that the writer created),21 that kind of signification experience may not be possible when the best-known works of Irish Gothic fiction by Dublin writers are set in Transylvania, London and Styria. The Dublin of Stoker and Le Fanu could never become the kind of hyper-real site that Sherwood Forest or Baker Street, or even Forks, California,22 have for many tourists. ‘Joyce’s Dublin’ has, from that point of view, much more power given the way the real and the imaginative play out on in Ulysses (1922), and this helps to explain the mix of nostalgia and symbolic self-construction in evidence in a festival like Bloomsday,23 but such site-specific and place-specific spiritual payoffs are going to be difficult to achieve with regard to a Gothic Dublin (the Dracula Experience in Clontarf, for example, was, despite the best intentions of its creators, not an enormous draw for tourists). If visitors to Haworth can briefly imagine that Heathcliff or Cathy just might be spotted on the moors, a genuine devotee of Maturin, Le Fanu, Stoker and Wilde is more likely to experience such a frisson in a London asylum, the Whitby coast, or an East End opium den than in Merrion Square, despite all its charms. The writers of the Irish Gothic, then, understandably disappear from the kind of literary tourist map that allows even Edgeworthstown a significance, as Maria Edgeworth was at least much more locally specific in her fictional work. ← 10 | 11 → Gothic Dublin is doubly out of luck, in that for decades ‘the West’ was considered the location of an essential Irishness, and so far the capital’s only really successful literary link has been with a writer who, ironically enough, spent most of his time outside of the place. As Michael Malouf points out, ‘Traversed by walking tours and plaques, Dublin as a tourist entity, and as a European metropolis, derives its self-conscious identity in large part from Joyce’.24 In Joyce’s Dublin, Le Fanu is indeed only a footnote, meaningful because The House by the Churchyard (1861–1863) is a text referenced by the master’s most impenetrable work, Finnegans Wake (1939).25

It is, though, still true to say that Le Fanu has not disappeared as thoroughly as Maturin. For example, a fairly steady stream of actual adaptations of Le Fanu’s work has appeared. Uncle Silas (1864) itself has been filmed three times, including a television mini-series from 1987, called The Dark Angel, with a memorable turn by Peter O’Toole in the title role. The BBC produced a very powerful and faithful adaptation of ‘Schalken the Painter’ to a certain acclaim in 1979, and there even exists a (weak) television film based on The Wyvern Mystery (dir. Alex Pillai) from 2000, starring people you may have heard of, like Naomi Watts and Derek Jacobi. There is no sense, however, in which we can describe any of these as ‘major’ adaptations, unlike the very big budget treatments of Dracula. Nevertheless, there remains hope for Le Fanu’s global resurrection. Given that he is completely unknown to the vast majority of people – even to those who live on Le Fanu Road in Ballyfermot – users of the Google search engine must have been surprised when, on 28 August 2014, they were confronted by a ‘Doodle’ marking the bicentenary of his birth.26 Google Doodles often celebrate obscure or relatively unknown figures (recent ones have marked the 235th birthday of René Laennec, inventor of the stethoscope, and the ← 11 | 12 → 151st birthday of William Scoville, the first person to measure the ‘heat’ of a pepper), so the fact that the company devoted one to Le Fanu was not, in itself, perhaps all that significant. However, it did follow one which celebrated the 165th birthday of Bram Stoker on 8 November 2012. That two Irish Gothic writers have been honoured by a Doodle might suggest an agenda, though, that Google’s European headquarters are in Dublin be explanation enough. The image used in the Doodle does have some cultural significance, though, even if Le Fanu’s name doesn’t: it features a predacious female figure hovering over a sleeping girl and therefore obviously references Carmilla. The image is most probably a reimagined rendering of an original illustration from the story’s first appearance in The Dark Blue in 1871–1872 in which Bertha is the sleeping girl with Millarca/Carmilla on her bed (see Figure 1.2).27


Figure 1.2: D. H. Friston, Carmilla, The Dark Blue 3/13 (March 1872). ← 12 | 13 →

Interestingly, others besides Google noticed that a significant Le Fanu date had arrived in 2014, and most of them also used Carmilla as a starting point. For example, the Irish Mirror told its readers ten things they ‘needed to know’ about the ‘Irish horror writer’ Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, beginning with the crucial information that ‘his vampire novel Carmilla predates Dracula. Le Fanu wrote his vampire novel Carmilla 25 years before Bram Stoker shot to fame with the better known Dracula. He went on to inspire Stoker and also the makers of many vampire movies’.28 Le Fanu’s supposed inspiration of Stoker is a much touted though probably unprovable claim, but the Mirror is certainly right to note that his vampire story has attracted attention from the makers of horror films. When In a Glass Darkly (1872) was first released, the Saturday Review critic, in a coruscating review, dismissed its closing vampire tale as so hackneyed that he believed himself ‘more than justified in declining to analyse this silly and miserable story’.29 Given such an initial dismissal, it is somewhat ironic that it should be Carmilla that is now a standard presence on the multitude of courses dedicated to Gothic literature, and is the one Le Fanu text many will ever come in contact with. If it has caught the attention of the academic mind, Carmilla has also found favour in the Gothic industry. Interestingly, in his very instructive How to be Well Read (2014), John Sutherland recommends a single Stoker and a single Le Fanu for the general reader (Maturin, alas, is passed over silently). Carmilla is predictably the one Le Fanu text proposed by Sutherland, though he manages to get crucial details of the story wrong, and incorrectly claims it first appeared in In a Glass Darkly, failing to note its previous appearance in The Dark Blue periodical. Much of the entry is taken up with references to Dracula since, we are told, Stoker ‘plundered’ Le Fanu’s short novel for his own magnum opus, and originally set his novel ← 13 | 14 → in Styria rather than Transylvania. Sutherland zooms in on what has been decided is the most important ‘fact’ about the novel: that it is a story of lesbian sexuality. The ‘physical relationship’ between the narrator, Laura, and the vampire Carmilla ‘is described in the most overtly lesbian terms to be found outside Victorian pornography’ (and if this isn’t a endorsement, nothing will get you to read it).30 Indeed.

And it is with (and indeed in) Carmilla that Le Fanu’s cultural afterlife is now completely tied up. Tracking Carmilla herself through popular culture is not all that difficult, since she begins to seem almost as pervasive as Dracula after a while – and she is certainly the only female vampire with real popular culture power (her main rivals being Lily Herman and Morticia Addams). If the high culture Vampyr (1932) is a (very) loose adaptation by the Danish director Carl Theodore Dreyer, and almost ignores sexual shenanigans altogether, more popular adaptations resolutely stick to the reason why the text is remembered at all: there is a lesbian vampire in it. This erotic potential has been the basis for an extraordinary number of adaptations including Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses (1960), the Hammer Studios’ ‘Karnstein Trilogy’ (1970–1971) and vaguely related films like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (dir. John Hancock; 1971).31 As Kim Newman pointed out,

If Stoker is responsible for the lasting image of the vampire as cloaked, hypnotic mastermind, then Le Fanu’s Carmilla is the archetype of the provocative vixens who appear in Dracula in the form of the Count’s three wives and manifest in Hammer Films as terrifying, pearly-fanged starlets in low-cut shrouds. The Vampire Lovers [dir. Roy Ward Baker; 1971], a Hammer production, casts Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla, a more voluptuous and obvious temptress than the invalid cuckoo-in-the-nest character of the story. The Vampire Lovers even yielded sequels, Lust for a Vampire ([dir. Jimmy Sangster;] 1971) and Twins of Evil ([dir. John Hough;] 1971), making Le Fanu the creator of a minor, but persistent horror franchise.32 ← 14 | 15 →


X, 250
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (September)
Gothic Ireland Victorian
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. X, 250 pp., 4 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Jarlath Killeen (Volume editor) Valeria Cavalli (Volume editor)

Jarlath Killeen is Associate Professor in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. His most recent monograph is The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction (2015). Valeria Cavalli is a teaching assistant in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin, where she completed a doctorate on the treatment of insanity in the fiction of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.


Title: 'Inspiring a Mysterious Terror'
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