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on December 6, 1999
The best ghost stories of J S LeFanu are among the best ghost stories ever written. This is an extremely fine collection, including all the stories from LeFanu's greatest book, "In a Glass Darkly", plus more than a dozen others. There are regional tales of the author's native Ireland; traditional tales of supernatural revenge; and, as the title says, much if not all of LeFanu's best work, which prefigures the best modern horror in its psychological sophistication and absolute lack of the sentiment and moralising common to many Victorian ghost story writers (as well as to far too many of the moderns). Is "Green Tea", for instance, the story of a supernatural visitation or merely, as the narrator would have us believe, of "the process of a poison"? Is Captain Barton, in "The Familiar", haunted by guilt alone or by something more? The collection also includes LeFanu's most famous story, the subtle vampire novella "Carmilla"; and the horrifying, tragic, repulsive and wholly inexplicable masterpiece, "Schalken the Painter". Grab it; read it; lie awake at night.
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on May 12, 2001
I have probably read this book more often than any other book on my shelves. In the creation of mood, the elaboration of motifs and their own inexorable progression beyond the veil of reality into the numinous, these tales have never been excelled. As highly respected a practitioner of the ghost story as Montague Rhodes James wrote:
"He stands absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories. That is my deliberate verdict, after reading all the supernatural tales I have been able to get hold of. Nobody sets the scene better than he, nobody touches in the the effective detail more deftly."
I first read "Green Tea" in the mammoth Modern Library anthology GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL at about the age of 11 after reading several tales by Poe. Poe I had found fascinating, feverish and disturbing, but this tale terrified me. Unlike Poe's often dream-like excursions, the settings in Le Fanu's works are quite concretely of this world. The characters are tied to this world by the same dull occupations and concerns with commerce or law that dog us to this day. However, a subtle intrusion is soon seen or otherwise makes itself felt, and from this point the conclusion, no matter how surprising, is inevitable. Nothing will save the seemingly upright man from "The Familiar." Nothing anyone does in their ineffectual way will keep the beloved of "Schalken the Painter" from her fate as a death-bride. A more lyrical version of the same motif appears in a less unified, but equally fine tale set in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion in Ireland. "Squire Toby's Will" both as document and motive force will have its way no matter how what is done in an attempt to circumvent it. The implications of the haunting in "Green Tea," wherein a man falls subject to demonic harrassment by making his presence know to those from outside through the slightest of infractions - I am abusing caffeine by way of sipping an enormous glass of green tea as I write this - terrified me when I read it 30-odd years ago and continues to terrify me to this day. "An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House," with its seemingly inexplicable haunting, "Mr. Justice Harbottle," which raises the question, "Whose justice are we seeing here?" "Carmilla", whose final line hints that the victimization may have ended only with the heroine's death, and the short novel "The Haunted Baronet," in which nature itself seems to be imbued with the evil genius presiding over the title character's doom are just a few of the tales in this volume that have haunted me for decades. There is nothing else quite like them in literature, their mixture of fantasy and reality, illusion and verisimilitude is so assured.
As bonuses to an already excellent volume, E. F. Bleiler's introduction and notes are exemplary and though a large paperback, it is solidly bound in signatures, with durable, laminated cover stock, uses acid free paper and is better made than a majority of hardcovers.
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Until the Dover edition of Sheridan Le Fanu's stories appeared in 1964, this nineteenth-century Irish author's tales were almost impossible to find. This is a shame, since M.R. James considered Le Fanu the best of all ghost story writers (I would put M.R. James at the top of my list, and J. S. Le Fanu, second). According to Jack Sullivan in "Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood," "...Nearly all of the early twentieth-century writers in the [supernatural story] field paced and structured their narratives in the Le Fanu manner."

This edition has an introduction by E.F. Bleiler who limns a brief biography of the author, and his influence on the ghost story writers who followed him. The sixteen stories in this collection range from 1837 to 1871. One is an essay presented as non-fiction, i.e. "An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House." Concerning this essay, Bleiler states, "Personally, I am inclined to accept Le Fanu's strong statement that he was not writing fiction in the guise of fact, and that he is simple reproducing what others had told him."

Some of the stories are obscured by dialect, e.g. "Madame Crowl's Ghost" and parts of "The Haunted Baronet." Lines like "...twad gar ye dodder to hear him" can usually be worked out in the context of the plot and Le Fanu's stories are worth the extra effort. Quoting Jack Sullivan again, "Le Fanu's tales suggest a world in which we are unbearably alone in situations of escalating awfulness." The little maid is sleeping alone in one of Madame Crowl's chambers when the old beldame's ghost appears, "her eyes as wide as saucers, and her face like the fiend himself." Rose in "Schalken the Painter" is deserted by her guardian and minister after she begs them not to leave her alone, and she is doomed. In one of my favorite stories, "An Account of some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street," two medical students move into a house once owned by an infamous, hanging judge. They are afraid to tell each other about their supernatural encounters for fear of being mocked--at least until one of them almost dies.

This book is the finest collection of Le Fanu stories ever compiled, and all ghost story connoisseurs should hasten to read it.
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on September 13, 2003
Probably the most distinguishing characteristic of LeFanu's writing to me is that he doesn't explain why something is happening in his stories. Ghosts search through drawers, skeletons are dug up, heroes disappear, and barons die of unseen causes, and we are never told what happened. LeFanu doesn't necessarily explain the motives and occurrences of his stories and loose ends are not all tied up. At first, I was unsure about what to think; what kind of ghost story doesn't explain all the events at the end? How am I supposed to be terrified if I don't know the ultimate cause of Baron X's demise? The method of storytelling began to grow on me, though, and I now feel that a lack of resolution on every issue creates a better story. Why should the supernatural be fully explained in 20 pages? When the reader is demoted from an omniscient viewpoint to that of only an eyewitness, the tale is more compelling.
My favorite stories are probably "Sir Dominick's Bargain" and "An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House," the former for its mood and atmosphere, and the latter for its minimalist telling. "The Haunted Baronet" is another excellent story, with strong attention to detail and background that help in the story-telling; it was a very satisfactory read. "The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh" is the same story told sans background and detail, and is clearly inferior. The other stories I enjoyed based on the setting, which is 19th century Ireland, which evokes a mood much like James'. Overall, it is the sort of book that makes you wish for a warm fireplace and a stormy night.
Enjoy!
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on December 5, 2009
This handsome Dover edition of Le Fanu's stories has been in print for over 45 years, and during that time I have bought and pored over many a copy of it. Le Fanu writes beautifully. His prose at its best, like that of Algenon Blackwood, is as evocative and timeless as that of Charles Dickens. The stories are powerful and haunting. I have spent countless hours enjoying Le Fanu and studying his techniques for so subtly and beautifully describing his characters and their responses to the mysterious world around them. His small masterpiece, Carmilla, is one of the most seminal vampire stories in the English language, influencing Bram Stoker as well as 20th century film makers. Welcome to the enchanting world of this very intriguing and brilliant writer. With Algenon Blackwood and M.R. James, Le Fanu is a giant in supernatural fiction.
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on April 21, 2006
Le fanu is the BEST writer of supernatual fiction there is...no questions!

I am the biggest fan...I collect all his works...old and new when I can find them.

The stories collected here are some rare ones indeed. The Haunted Baronet (from the Golden Friars) is a stunning gem of a novellete. Included in this volume are some very hard to come by edtions. And they have been reprinted exactly from the periodicals they were originally in.

I am sure you will not be disappointed in this book....like me you will read it again and again. The evocative power of Le Fanu is unparalled.
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on August 18, 2006
These are great stories for bedtime reading. Compared to today's scary stories, these are elegant and inspired. If you have a taste for the fiction of bygone eras -- don't draw the line with today's best sellers -- you'll find a lot of magnificent writing. I'm still reading this book, and I plan to pass it around to all my pals. PBS and British Telly buffs will adore this book.
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on October 22, 2007
For anyone who is looking for some excellent gothic ghost-stories,this is the book to start with.Le fanu is largely forgotten by today's reading public and the television absorbed culture.They don't know what their missing out on.Poe is the American grand-daddy of the mysterious horror story,yet the French-Irishman ,Sheridan LeFanu, is on the same level too.I can only recommend this gothic horror collection for all who what to be intellectually thrilled and pleasantly chilled .All before the witching hour surrenders,at the stroke of midnight,on the Eve of All-Hallows.For another year.Delicious reading for the Autumn season,til Samhain parts for another spell.-Beware of sleep,and Beware of Cats!
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on December 17, 2001
I don't much like ghost stories, but these and the ones by M R James really stand out from the pack. Atmospheric, inventive, and original. In "Carmilla" LeFanu invented the vampire story, and with its subtle horrors and hints of lesbianism, it is at least as good as Dracula. Rich and intricate prose.
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on October 23, 2013
I like reading scary stories during October, and I'm so glad that I found this book! A perfect collection of ghost stories for autumn nights.

The book came in great condition, too!
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