Review-ish: J.S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 1

J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 1 - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Found here on Gutenberg.

Wikipedia: Sheridan Le Fanu


This is one volume of five, and I'm lazy at the moment, so the theory is that I'll come back and link to the final one for a review. Or something. Part of the reason for this is that each of these volumes only has a couple of stories each - so I really should just review them as a whole.


Contents of this particular one:


Schalken the Painter (1851)

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street (1853)


Le Fanu is an author fairly well known for his ghost stories, mainly because they're in most of the anthologies - particularly the online ones that are free (or that the unscrupulous try to sell for money when all the contents are public domain material. Grrr.).


Also he's an author that I always think is French when he's actually Irish. Since I've been reading his stories for ages you'd think this would have sunk in by now.


Anyway, both of these stories are ones that are popular (anthology-wise), but I'll just share a quote from the first one, since it's more descriptive.


Schalken the Painter, opening paragraphs:

There exists, at this moment, in good preservation a remarkable work of Schalken's. The curious management of its lights constitutes, as usual in his pieces, the chief apparent merit of the picture. I say apparent, for in its subject, and not in its handling, however exquisite, consists its real value. The picture represents the interior of what might be a chamber in some antique religious building; and its foreground is occupied by a female figure, in a species of white robe, part of which is arranged so as to form a veil. The dress, however, is not that of any religious order. In her hand the figure bears a lamp, by which alone her figure and face are illuminated; and her features wear such an arch smile, as well becomes a pretty woman when practising some prankish roguery; in the background, and, excepting where the dim red light of an expiring fire serves to define the form, in total shadow, stands the figure of a man dressed in the old Flemish fashion, in an attitude of alarm, his hand being placed upon the hilt of his sword, which he appears to be in the act of drawing.


There are some pictures, which impress one, I know not how, with a conviction that they represent not the mere ideal shapes and combinations which have floated through the imagination of the artist, but scenes, faces, and situations which have actually existed. There is in that strange picture, something that stamps it as the representation of a reality.


H.P. Lovecraft was fond of Le Fanu, and I'm pretty sure he thought of this story when he was writing Pickman's Model (read the story online here). Which wins of the two for creepiness, though both are a pretty good short-story-double-feature.