Famous Horror Writers

Famous Writers: Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu

Stoker before Stoker

Today I want to write to you about vampires… Kinda.

I’ve spoken before about Carmilla, now let’s take a brief look at her Author, Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu.

Joseph was an Irish writer, born on 28 August 1814 and died on 7 February 1873 of a heart attack. His three best known stories are Carmilla, Uncle Silas and The House by the Churchyard.

Joseph was born into a literary family, both his grandmother Alicia  and his great-uncle Richard were playwrights his niece Rhoda was a successful novelist, and his mother was a writer.

In 1826 the family moved to Abington in Limerick, where Joseph used his father’s library to educate himself and by the age of fifteen he was already writing poetry

In 1844 Joseph married Susanna Bennett, and their first child, Eleanor, was born in 1845, followed by Emma in 1846, Thomas in 1847 and George in 1854. In 1856 Joseph’s personal life became difficult when his wife suffered from poor mental health. She had a crisis of faith and suffered from anxiety after the deaths of several close relatives, including her father. In April 1858 she suffered a “hysterical attack” and died the following day in unclear circumstances. Joseph’s diaries suggests that he felt guilt as well as loss. From then on he did not write any fiction until the death of his mother in 1861.

In 1861 he became the editor and proprietor of the Dublin University Magazine. He published The House by the Churchyard and Wylder’s Hand via this magazine. Joseph then signed a contract with his London publisher, which specified that future novels be stories “of an English subject and of modern times”, Joeseph then published Uncle Silas in 1864.