1814 to 1873, Born and died in Dublin
Sheridan Le Fanu (he is descended from Huguenots driven from France to Ireland in the 16th century)
I have featured his work in all previous ISSM events and this month I decided to reread one of my favourite of his short works, “The Child That Went With the Fairies”, 1870.
Joseph Sheridan le Fanu (1814 to 1873, Dublin) is at the very least the best 19th century writer of ghost stories. He also created the first lesbian vampire, Carmilla. He is a really great writer and almost everyone who reads one of his works goes on to read lots more. I certainly have. He is descended from 17th century French Huguenots. Among his most famous longer works are Uncle Silas and The House by the Church Yard.
He seems to be the first author who made use of lesbian vampires in his stories. He was a very prolific writer of horror, gothic, and mystery fiction.
He had an interesting life that you can read more about here. I was also very happy to see that almost all of his novels and a lot of his short stories can be found online on the web page of the library of the University of Adelaide. His work is considered to have strongly influenced the work of Bram Stoker, also from Ireland, the author of Dracula.
A a deep seated belief in the supernatural seems to be an element in the Irish Short Story. Alongside the beliefs sanctioned by The Church is vast structure of beliefs in fairies, witches, evil omens, leprechauns and much more. This supernatural world is imposed on the mundane one we appear to live in. Historians tell us that such belief structures are often found among the powerless peoples in colonized countries as a form of coping with their frustration with their situation.
Le Fanu's prose style does not at all feel old fashioned or arcane to me. Much of the history and pain of the common Irish country people is wonderfully shown in "The Child That Went With the Fairies”.
The story is short and beautifully told and you can read it if you want in just a few minutes so I will not say much of the plot. The story is very Gothic, very atmospheric and very scary. A mysterious carriage, more beautiful than anyone has ever seen, is passing through the village. When young Billie comes out to see it, a beautiful women beckons him into the carriage with an apple. As the children look into the carriage they see a horribly ugly woman with face that would scare the devil sitting next to the beautiful woman. Billy gets in the carriage. His mother is driven to great despair as she fears Billie is lost forever. Once and a while he seems to appear at the door to her hut, her other children say they have seen him briefly in the village. Then he disappears for years. One day the mother returns and sees him in her house for sure. He is dressed in the worst rags, is filthy dirty, and looks starved. As the mother rushes to him, he disappears never to be seen again. I think this story is in part about how parents tried to cope with the starvation of their children in the great Irish famines of the 19th century in which millions died.