Traditions and Trends
Edited By Elke D'hoker and Stephanie Eggermont
From Tale to Short Story: The Motif of the Stolen Child in Le Fanu’s Short Fiction
Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873) is best known as a writer of the fantastic, and the short stories collected in In a Glass Darkly (1872), which includes the famous ‘Carmilla’, have paved the way for the genre of the psychological ghost short story à la James. This collection of weird stories by Le Fanu was nevertheless preceded by numerous other short texts of fiction. Most of his short fiction was published in the Dublin University Magazine and in British reviews such as All the Year Round, Temple Bar, Belgravia or Dark Blue; some tales were immediately published in book form, such as his Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery (1851). Le Fanu’s early Father Purcell tales, published in the Dublin University Magazine from 1838 to 1850 were gathered posthumously in 1888 under the title of The Purcell Papers.
In his seminal Dover collections of Le Fanu’s short fiction, Best Ghost Stories (1964) and Ghost Stories and Mysteries (1975), Bleiber puts forward the variety and plasticity of Le Fanu’s sources of inspiration. One of these is the oral storytelling tradition with which Le Fanu was remarkably familiar, despite his Protestant upbringing and distance from a cultural tradition that belonged to Gaelic and Catholic Ireland. Indeed, in many of his stories, from ‘The Ghost and the Bonesetter’ (1838) to ‘Laura Silver Bell’ (1872), Le Fanu taps into Irish legendary lore, sometimes staging an intradiegetic seanchaí, and often using well known motifs of Irish folklore linked to the ‘good people’,...
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