Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Green Tea" by Sheridan Le Fanu -A Famous 19th Century Irish Gothic Story

"Green Tea" by Sheridan Le Fanu (1869, 31 pages)

A Gothic Horror Story From The Leading 
19th Century Writer of Ghost Stories

Green Tea is my drink of choice and I loved the short stories by Sheridan Le Fanu I read in March for Irish Short Stories Week Year One so I figured I might as well read this story.   His creation, Carmilla (from his 1872 novella by that name) was one of the co-hosts for Irish Short Story Week.   Her literary claim to fame is that she was the world's first lesbian vampire.   Carmilla is now part of the staff of  The Reading Life.

Many consider Le Fanu the leading writer of 19th century ghost stories.   Several of of the participants in Irish Short Stories Year One discovered Le Fanu during the event and really liked his wonderful style.

Le Fanu is a very old fashioned story teller even for the 19th century.   He frames a lot of his stories as stories inside of stories with one party telling their story to another character.   As is fairly typical of Gothic works,  one of the characters is very learned in obscure metaphysics and lore.   He has kind of a mysterious quality but is considered an expert at dealing with mental disorders.   He meets another man, an even more learned,  who has heard of a now out of book print the other character wrote and he is thrilled to be given a copy of it.

This man then tells the first man his "story" and explains why he has come to see him.   He feels he is being stalked in some fashion by a demon in the form of an evil monkey (OK I laughed when I heard it first also).   He wants the other man to drive this demon away and he concedes he may be delusional.     Somehow they come to the conclusion that this may in part be caused by drinking too much green tea.

The plot is not that great.   I actually liked the other works by Le Fanu more than this one but it is very well written and creates a great atmosphere.

I recommend those new to Le Fanu start with his short story, "The Child Stolen by Fairies".   If you like that story and you like vampire tales then try Carmilla.

A lot of his work is online at the web page of the University of Adelaide, including all the works mentioned.

This is a quite famous Irish short story and is included by William Trevor in his great anthology, The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories.  

Mel u


Fred said...

Mel u,

Oxford World Classics has a collection of short stories by Le Fanu titled _In a Glass Darkly_.

It includes "Green Tea," "Carmilla," "The Familiar," "Mr. Justice Harbottle," "The Room in the Dragon Volant," as well as the title story.

It also includes a nice introduction and notes on the texts.

Mel u said...

Fred-I like Le Fanu's style a lot-thanks for the suggestions and as always for your visits and comments

Carl V. Anderson said...

This is the only Le Fanu story I can recall reading although he is an author I've wanted to read more of. I remember reading this after seeing the Hammer Horror film, The Vampire Lovers, starring Ingrid Pitt. It certainly plays up the sexual/homosexual aspects attributed to the story.

I've heard varying commentary on the whole idea that Carmilla is a lesbian. The argument against states that since this creature is not really human at all and her sexual preferences are not about sex but about dominance and feeding that she really isn't a lesbian character at all. Its been too long since I've read it to know how I feel about it, although I would suspect I would fall on that side of it. I've always felt the same way about the Dracula stories. There is certainly a sexual element but I don't see Dracula as being a sexual character so much as an evil creature who prays on women who are seen, in the time in which it was written, as the "weaker" sex.

Mel u said...

Carl v-very good points about Carmilla's sexual nature-I guess many, perhaps me, see a sexual elements in vampirism and can jump from her preference for women to a further conclusion that she is a lesbian but it is a claim unsupported by the text-thanks so much for your comments and your hard work on your event-

Risa said... Le Fanu is new to me, I'll take your advice and try the latter two recommendations.