The Watcher and Other Weird Stories by J. Sheridan Le Fanu


Irish writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873) has long been a favourite of mine since I first discovered his weird tales in ghost story collections, still the place you’re most likely to find his work. His ghost stories are frequently superior to the more celebrated MR James (who edited a Le Fanu collection), they’re less formulaic and often quite inexplicable. Green Tea, from In a Glass Darkly (1872) chills for its atmosphere of apparently random and unjustified malevolence; it’s also alarming for the directness of its central idea which I won’t spoil if you haven’t read it. Anyone wanting to know why Le Fanu is still read today should start there.

Unlike MR James, Le Fanu has lacked for illustrators so I was surprised to find this edition of his work at the Internet Archive with illustrations by his son, Brinsley. The artwork isn’t of the highest quality, and it’s debatable whether tales as nebulous and evocative as ghost stories should be illustrated at all, but their singularity makes them worth a look. The Watcher and Other Weird Stories is a small collection which includes A Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter, a story memorably adapted for television by Leslie Megahey in 1979.

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2 thoughts on “The Watcher and Other Weird Stories by J. Sheridan Le Fanu”

  1. He’s also one of my favorite writers. I still remember that version of “Carmilla” that Roger Vadin made in the 60’s. The blonde vampire, whose name I forgot, was a bombshell, but Elsa Martinelli and her Louise Brooks haircut are still among my ‘faves’.

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