Discuss The Relationship Between Sexuality And Religion In The Stories Of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

2733 words - 11 pages

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was a man who employed his own kind of fiery shorthand to describe and explain the Irish society in which he lived. He was almost constantly at work throughout his lifetime as an author of fourteen novels, short stories, poetry and a verse drama. Although the majority of his novels are specifically set in the English countryside, they become clearer when they are transferred to an Irish setting. During Le Fanu’s last years, his mind become almost completely occupied by the supernatural and all the short stories he wrote at this time were of that nature e.g. ‘Carmilla’ and ‘Green Tea’. His peculiar habits of life contributed to this obsession and there can be little doubt but that many of these weird tales came to him in the form of dreams. Brinsley Le Fanu, his son, gave S.M. Ellis an account of his daily routine: Le Fanu wrote mostly late at night in bed, using copybooks for his manuscript and would always have two small candles lit on a bedside table beside him. At approximately 02.00, he would wake up amid the dark shadows of the heavy furnishings and hangings of his old fashioned room and continue to brew a pot of tea, of which he would drink continuously throughout the day. He would write for a couple of hours in that eerie period of night when human vitality is at its lowest ebb and the powers of the darkness are terrifying. ‘Carmilla’ is the last story in the collection ‘In a Glass Darkly’. It is an ‘orthodox’ account of the materialization of the disembodied dead in its grossest form, the vampire. Carmilla is the quintessence of vampire lore. Not the least horrible thing about Carmilla is the strain of lesbian perversity in her passionate declarations for Laura. ‘Green Tea’ is a story of a man who literally has a monkey on his back. It is the ideal introduction to Le Fanu’s other tales but especially to the entire ghostly school that he spawned. It was first published in Charles Dickens magazine ‘All Year Round’ in 1869.

In Green Tea we learn the story of the Rev. Mr. Jennings, through the letters of Dr. Hesselius. As Jennings accounts to him, he became afflicted by a peculiar problem. It happened one day when he started working ‘upon the religious metaphysics of the ancients,’ which was ‘not good for’ ‘the Christian mind.’ Having gone far out of the way to read a collection of particular volumes, he finds himself in an omnibus late at night. After the last passengers, but himself, got out when they ‘had reached an old house [...], with four poplars at each side of the door.’ Shortly thereafter, with his mind having gone back to the texts, he sees something. ‘I had observed in the corner opposite to me at the other side, and at the end next to the horses, two small circular reflections, as it seemed to me of a reddish light. They were about two inches apart, and about the size of those small brass buttons that yachting men used to put upon their jackets.’ He goes on thinking of what these objects could...

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