Monday, August 28, 2017

Born Today August 28: Sheridan Le Fanu


Dramatic Irish gothic writer and lucid dreamer Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin, Ireland (than part of the UK) on this day.  He was born into a mixed heritage family of Irish, English and Huguenot ancestry (hence the surname); the family was a clan of writers, so to speak.   By 1826 the clergy family (hs father was ordained in the Church of Ireland) were living in country Limerick, and the children were being "taught" by a tutor, who was later dismissed for providing no education at all.  The result of this was that young Sheridan schooled himself by using his father's well stocked library.  Despite this, his clergy father was a rather rabid Protestant and raised the family in something like a Calvinistic tradition; as a result of this, Sheridan, who began writing poetry at the age of 15, shared the writings with his siblings and his mother, but never his father.  His father's "profession" would eventually land the family back in Dublin and in monetary straits, as there were so few actual Protestants in the country and the Catholics rebelled at paying government forced tithes to the Church of Ireland.  Sadly, when his father died, the family was forced to sell off his extensive library for money.  This enabled Sheridan to study law at Trinity College.  Because the educational system in Ireland at the time, home study was permitted and lecture attendance was not required.  This was the a situation the Sheridan took full advantage of, preferring to study at home.  He was actually called to the bar in 1839, but he never practiced law, opting instead to take up journalism.  It was not long before he began to contribute short stories to the Dublin University magazine.  This is where his first ghost story "The Ghost and the Bone-Setter" was published.  By 1840, Le Fanu owned several newspapers outright, the most prominent was the Dublin Evening Mail.  It was not long before he was married with a growing family.  By 1847, he and other newspaper men of means, took up opposition to the indifference of the government's position on, and lack of response to the potato famine, which had begun in 1845.  By mid-1850's his personal life had also become chaotic, with his wife demonstrating some sort of mental disorder that was, at the time, called neurosis.  What ever her complaint was, it claimed her life in 1858.  This sent Le Fanu, according to his diary entries, into a deep state of loss and guilt.  This caused him to leave off writing fiction.  He did not resume writing until after the death of his mother.  By 1861, he had become editor of the University magazine and took the magazine into "double publication;" serializing (serialising) it in Ireland and producing a copy intended for sale only on the English news stands.  By this time, he had also become a novelist.  He continued to write for the publication until his death. For more on his body of work, check out the Wikipedia link below.  Le Fanu died at the relatively young age of 58 on the 7th of February 1873 in Dublin.  In regards to film, several ground breaking early horror films have used his work, most notably Dreyer's Vampyr in 1932 (which is for all intents a partial silent film at best--very little dialogue); but his work was first used for a film in 1905.  The film was the UK produced Shamus O'Brien, or, Saved From The Scaffold.  One other silent film of the same work was produced in the U.S. in 1912. Vampyr would be the next occasion that he work was used, and really, the first time that his tales of horror were filmed.  His writing was first used in a television series in 1960 on The Dow Hour of Great Mystery in The Inn of the Flying Dragon.  From then, several horror films were made from his work Carmilla, which features lesbian vampire lovers, including the 1977 Alucarda, a Juan L. Moctezuma film.  Most recently the work was used to launch a gothic fantasy television series of the same name in Canada (the show priemered in 2014).  Another project Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla has been announced as a joint European production.  Sheridan was buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematoria in Dublin.

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