English Literature
In A Glass Darkly

In A Glass Darkly

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An Insight into the Life and Literary Works of Sheridan Le Fanu

Sheridan le Fanu, a renowned Irish author, was born into a family with a strong literary background. His mother was related to Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a prominent playwright, and his father, the Dean of the Irish Episcopal College, provided him with a home-education in literature and theology. This extensive knowledge can be seen reflected in his collection of stories, In a Glass Darkly.

In this revolutionary collection, Le Fanu uses the metaphor of a mirror, rather than a window-pane, to symbolize the human psyche. As Robert Tracey explains in the introduction of the book, the title signifies that the mirror is a reflection of one's own darker nature, rather than a glimpse into a spiritual realm. This theme of self-reflection and exploration of the darker aspects of human nature is prominent in all five short stories in the collection.

Published in 1872, In a Glass Darkly comprises of five captivating stories: 'Green Tea', 'The Familiar', 'Mr. Justice Harbottle', 'The Room in the Dragon Volant', and 'Carmilla'. The stories are presented as cases collected by the narrator, a secretary to Dr. Hesselius, a psychiatrist. The first three cases are introduced in a prologue, followed by a logical explanation from Dr. Hesselius. The last two cases are presented as stories, with Dr. Hesselius providing his opinions and theories.

The concept of the "inner eye" or the "interior sense," described by Swedish scientist and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, is a recurring theme in the collection. Dr. Hesselius, taking a scientific approach, offers a rational explanation for this phenomenon by stating that the seat of interior vision is in the nervous tissue and brain, particularly above the eyebrow. In one of the cases, he even uses iced eau-de-cologne to treat a patient's delusions (Green Tea, Conclusion: A Word For Those Who Suffer).

The story of Mr. Jennings, a clergyman, is the first case presented in the collection. He meets Dr. Hesselius at a social gathering and confides in him about his occasional breakdowns during conversations and sermons. Jennings reveals that he has been researching paganism and has been using green tea as a stimulant for his studies. After encountering a small black monkey on a bus, Jennings becomes convinced that he is being followed by this phantom monkey. This experience leads to his eventual mental breakdown and tragic death.

In the story, the monkey with its red eyes symbolizes Jennings' repressed emotions and guilty conscience. It appears constantly in his life and makes him feel increasingly agitated and restless, particularly during moments of prayer or meditation. No matter how hard he tries, Jennings is unable to escape the monkey, and it ultimately leads to his downfall (Green Tea, Chapter 6 and 7).

Overall, In a Glass Darkly is a thought-provoking and spine-chilling collection of stories that delves into the darker side of human nature. Le Fanu's unique writing style and incorporation of supernatural elements make for an engaging read, and his exploration of themes such as self-reflection and the human psyche continue to resonate with readers even today.

Unsettling Encounters: The Strange and Mysterious Deaths of Barton and the Judge

Despite his efforts to avoid the street where he constantly hears footsteps following him, Barton's fears continue to persist. One day, while walking with a clergyman and some friends, a man approaches them, agitated and terrifying Barton. He becomes convinced that this is no mere mortal but a force pursuing him. Even when Miss Montague's father arrives in Dublin, determined to catch the culprit behind these strange visitations, the elusive man still manages to escape capture.

Sensing Barton's deteriorating mental state, Miss Montague's father suggests a trip abroad to lift his spirits. However, even in this new setting, the man appears to Barton, haunting him and convincing him of his inevitable demise. Lady L, a kind woman who owns a beautiful house outside of Dublin, offers Barton a place to rest and recuperate. His doctor prescribes seclusion, rest, and the company of cheerful individuals as treatment, and after a month, Barton seems to be on the road to recovery.

But one day, Lady L's maid returns from the herb garden with a disturbing tale. She encountered a sinister-looking man with a menacing presence lurking behind the hawthorn screen. This mysterious man has a message for Barton - he must reveal himself to his friends, as he usually does, or face a visit in his own chamber. Lady L instructs her maid to keep this encounter a secret. However, while walking in the courtyard, Barton sees the same man and faints. He is carried to his room and later found dead, with a stern and white face, a fallen jaw, and lifeless eyes, gripping the bed sheets in terror.

Before his death, Barton's servant hears two voices in his room, but only Barton's body is found. In a strange twist of fate, Miss Montague's beloved owl had flown in and out of the room just before Barton's death. It is later revealed that six years ago, Barton had a relationship with the daughter of one of his crew members. Unfortunately, the girl's father treated her poorly, leading to her untimely death. In retaliation, Barton used his position in the navy to inflict harsh punishments on the crew member, who eventually escaped the ship and died in a hospital in Naples.

Hesselius, the narrator, shares this story and admits that he can only make guesses about Barton's mysterious death as he was not present at the time. He suggests that hereditary conditions and brain disease may have played a role, but also acknowledges that perhaps the "inner eye" may have lost its protective layer. In his introductory note for this third case, Hesselius describes it as one of the most obvious instances of the "opening of the interior sense" he has encountered.

This strange tale is recounted by Mr. Harman, who hears about a haunted house in Westminster where two men dressed in 18th-century attire have been spotted, one carrying a rope. Intrigued, Harman enlists the help of a historian friend to uncover the history of the house. He receives a detailed report about the Judge who lived there in the 18th century.

According to the report, the Judge was infamous for being the wickedest man in England. One evening, in 1746, the Judge receives a mysterious visitor who leaves him visibly afraid. He sends his footman to gather more information about the visitor, who had hinted at a secret tribunal seeking revenge on judges like the Judge himself. The visitor also mentions Lewis Pykeham, a prisoner whose case the Judge is set to hear in Shrewsbury.

Despite his efforts, the footman fails to bring back any information as the visitor manages to escape. The Judge dismisses the incident as a mere attempt to frighten him. However, he remembers the name Lewis Pyneweck and their affair from six years ago when he had lodged at Pyneweck's house. Pyneweck's wife, now their housekeeper, despises her husband but still begs the Judge to do the best for him. The Judge, however, makes sure that Pyneweck is hanged.

Upon returning to London and the Old Bailey, the Judge is shocked to see Lewis Pyneweck present in the courtroom. He notices a bruised blue stripe around Pyneweck's neck, a sign of the noose's grip, and sends his court clerks to find him. To his dismay, Pyneweck has vanished.

Hiding in the shadows, Pyneweck's ghostly presence watches the Judge's every move. He sends a letter of warning to the Judge, addressed to Caleb Searcher, "Officer of the Crown Solicitor in the Kingdom of Life and Death". It seems that the Judge has not escaped his fate, doomed to be haunted by a vengeful spirit forevermore.

The Mysterious Tale of Carmilla in "In a Glass Darkly"

First published in 1872, "In a Glass Darkly" by Sheridan Le Fanu is a collection of five spine-chilling ghost stories set in the eerie region of Styria. The main character, Laura, is an Englishwoman living in a forsaken castle with her father. Nearby lies the ruined castle of the Karnsteins, her mother's ancestors. The villagers have long abandoned the area, harboring a deep fear of vampires. Laura and her father are left to reside in their own castle, in solitude with an abandoned village as their only company.

It all begins with a carriage accident that takes place outside the castle. The passengers are a young girl named Carmilla and her mother. With Carmilla injured, her mother entrusts her care to Laura and her father as she continues on her urgent journey. Carmilla is a mysterious presence, giving away very little about herself except for her tendency to sleep all day and wander at night.

But soon, strange things start happening. Laura falls ill and the family doctor notices two puncture marks on her neck, a telltale sign of a vampire attack. Suspicions are confirmed when they are visited by a family friend, a general, who shares that his niece died under mysterious circumstances and he suspects it to be the work of a vampire. His description of his niece matches that of Carmilla.

As they dig deeper into the matter, they uncover the truth - Carmilla is actually Mircalla, Countess Karnstein, who has been striking fear in the hearts of the region's inhabitants for centuries. The General reveals that the only way to rid their land of her evil presence is to destroy her body. They locate her tomb and drive a stake through her heart, decapitate her, and burn her remains.

In conclusion, the tale of Carmilla serves as a haunting reminder that danger may lurk in the most unexpected places. Whether it be the undead seeking their next victim or the treacherous schemes of those around us, one must always be vigilant and cautious. For without careful observation, one may fall prey to a fate worse than death.

The Mysterious Tales of "In a Glass Darkly"

In a small, secluded territory, plagued by visits from a vampire, the locals have finally found a way to rid themselves of the dark and unsettling presence. They throw the ashes of the vampire into the river, and the territory is never troubled again.

The macabre stories within the collection "In a Glass Darkly" each delve into the depths of human nature, exploring themes of life and death. Dr. Hesselius, a well-respected psychiatrist, serves as the common thread throughout the tales, offering a rational and scientific perspective on the supernatural occurrences. He speaks of the "inner eye" and its ability to reveal the deepest mysteries within our dual existence (Prologue).

The title of the book, borrowed from a quote by St. Paul, "For now we see through a glass, darkly," sets the tone for the eerie and unsettling stories that follow. Each one leaves readers questioning the true nature of humanity and the world around us.

Sheridan Le Fanu, the acclaimed author of "In a Glass Darkly," was well-known for his works of supernatural fiction. His tales often feature mysterious and sinister characters, making him a prominent figure in the Victorian gothic genre. "In a Glass Darkly" is just one prime example of his haunting and chilling storytelling abilities.

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