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Paperback In a Glass Darkly Book

ISBN: 0199537984

ISBN13: 9780199537983

In a Glass Darkly

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Book Overview

'the ideal reading...for the hours after midnight'Thus Henry James described the style of supernatural tale of which Sheridan Le Fanu was a master. Known in nineteenth-century Dublin as 'The Invisible Prince' because of his reclusive and nocturnal habits, Le Fanu was fascinated by the occult. His writings draw on the Gothic tradition, elements ofIrish folklore, and even on the social and political anxieties of his Anglo-Irish contemporaries. In exploring...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

LeFanu's Masterpiece

"Horrific." "Superb." "Dark." "Masterful." "Gothic." "Brilliant." All these words and more spring to mind when attempting to describe In a Glass Darkly. This volume contains five tales ranging in length from thirty to seventy pages which purport to record a few of the many cases of the learned psychic investigator Doctor Martin Hesselius. The first tale, "Green Tea," is perhaps the best ever written by LeFanu. It is narrated by the Doctor himself and records the case of a young man who believes he has awakened a demonic creature bent on his destruction. Hesselius urbanely dismisses this and claims to effect a cure with nothing more than a change in diet. It is obvious that he has gravely underestimated the force assaulting his client, as the shocking conclusion shows only too well. The story is brilliantly carried out and is one of the most frightening stories I have ever read. It is widely anthologized and many readers may be familiar with it but ignorant of the majority of the tales in this book. This is a great pity as they were meant to be read together, and although each of the stories can be read on its own with great pleasure, the cumulative effect should not be missed. After "Green Tea" there appear two traditional ghost stories, "The Familiar" and "Mister Justice Harbottle." They lack the originality of "Green Tea," but both are quite chilling in their own right. Both stories handle the theme of the vengeful ghost with marvelous skill. The fourth tale to appear is "The Room in the Dragon Volant." I do not wish to prejudice readers against it and so will refrain from discussing this narrative. It need merely be stated that here LeFanu gives in to his weakness of adding humor to his stories. Unfortunately for us, his comedic skill was rather meager. The last story in the book is "Carmilla," the mother of all vampire stories. The horror of this novella can hardly be overemphasized. The description of Carmilla's nocturnal visits to her victim rank among the most grisly in all literature. There is only one trifling flaw in the entire narrative. This is the bizarre stupidity of the narrator, the young woman preyed upon. But this is more than made up for by the fascinating complexity of Carmilla herself. In this story, unlike most vampire tales of the period, Carmilla becomes a character instead of a mere monster. In conclusion, it seems fit to remark upon the interesting form in which LeFanu chose to convey his tales. They are novellas, which seem to work particularly well for the kind of story that he told. More detail is given than in regular short stories, but the book is free from the constraints of the novel. The result is a work of genius.

LeFanu's Masterpiece

"Horrific." "Superb." "Dark." "Masterful." "Gothic." "Brilliant." All these words and more spring to mind when attempting to describe In a Glass Darkly. This volume contains five tales ranging in length from thirty to seventy pages which purport to record a few of the many cases of the learned psychic investigator Doctor Martin Hesselius. The first tale, "Green Tea," is perhaps the best ever written by LeFanu. It is narrated by the Doctor himself and records the case of a young man who believes he has awakened a demonic creature bent on his destruction. Hesselius urbanely dismisses this and claims to effect a cure with nothing more than a change in diet. It is obvious that he has gravely underestimated the force assaulting his client, as the shocking conclusion shows only too well. The story is brilliantly carried out and is one of the most frightening stories I have ever read. It is widely anthologized and many readers may be familiar with it but ignorant of the majority of the tales in this book. This is a great pity as they were meant to be read together, and although each of the stories can be read on its own with great pleasure, the cumulative effect should not be missed. After "Green Tea" there appear two traditional ghost stories, "The Familiar" and "Mister Justice Harbottle." They lack the originality of "Green Tea," but both are quite chilling in their own right. Both stories handle the theme of the vengeful ghost with marvelous skill. The fourth tale to appear is "The Room in the Dragon Volant." I do not wish to prejudice readers against it and so will refrain from discussing this narrative. It need merely be stated that here LeFanu gives in to his weakness of adding humor to his stories. Unfortunately for us, his comedic skill was rather meager. The last story in the book is "Carmilla," the mother of all vampire stories. The horror of this novella can hardly be overemphasized. The description of Carmilla's nocturnal visits to her victim rank among the most grisly in all literature. There is only one trifling flaw in the entire narrative. This is the bizarre stupidity of the narrator, the young woman preyed upon. But this is more than made up for by the fascinating complexity of Carmilla herself. In this story, unlike most vampire tales of the period, Carmilla becomes a character instead of a mere monster. In conclusion, it seems fit to remark upon the interesting form in which LeFanu chose to convey his tales. They are novellas, which seem to work particularly well for the kind of story that he told. More detail is given than in regular short stories, but the book is free from the constraints of the novel. The result is a work of genius.

Super Reader

Perhaps the origin of the 'psychic detective' or ghostbuster genre, with the use of Doctor Heselius as a framing character for these stories as being part of his history of cases. Carmilla is a fine, fine tale, with a disturbing female monster. Le Fanu is well worth investigating for horror fans that have not done so in the past.

Great stories!

I disagree with the previous reviewer. I thought "The Room at the Dragon Volant" was one of the better stories. It was a little longer than it could have been, and yes, you figured out very quickly what was going on, but that didn't negate my enjoyment of it. (In fact, in most of the stories you have an idea of what's going to happen before it happens--like the end of "The Watcher.") You can enjoy it if you put yourself in the place of the (admittedly dorky) protagonist and read it as straight adventure."Carmilla" is a classic. I'd be amazed if it didn't provoke an outcry for its frank lesbian content. It must have been shocking at that time.

Simply A Must Have - Here's Why...

In A Glass Darkly is comprised of 5 lengthy short stories that are loosely woven together by the figure of Dr. Martin Hesselius, a "psychic doctor." Three of the five stories, "Green Tea," "Justice Harbottle," and "Carmilla," are classics of the Victorian ghost story genre, and are frequently anthologized. In my opinion, it is best to read them as they originally appeared, along with "The Watcher," and "A Room in the Dragon Volant," because Le Fanu had his reasons for ordering these five tales the way he did. This Oxford edition is better than the cheaper Wordsworth edition, and has great end notes. Also, Robert Tracy's introduction to Le Fanu is very accurate and well said. In conclusion, if you haven't read the first story, "Green Tea," then you don't know the full depths of Victorian horror fiction, and in my opinion, to get the fullest effects of "Green Tea," read "In A Glass Darkly" all the way through. You will not be disappointed--but you will get the shivers!
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