“The Child That Went with the Fairies”

This week’s bit of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Child That Went with the Fairies”, Sheridan Le Fanu, 1870.

I seem to recall seeing this story mentioned in Fortean Times as a good literary representation of fairy beliefs among the Irish. 

The story is fairly simple. 

It starts out with a description of the Slieveelim hills and a solitary road between Limerick and Dublin. 

In that area, lives the widow Mary Ryan with her four children. The magical protections around her simple cottage are several: mountain ash trees believed to be “inimical to witches”, two horseshoes above the door, bits of house-leeks along the thatch roof. Inside, Mary has her rosaries and holy water. 

The story takes place in the autumn and, in this area, out of fear of fairies, the so-called “Good people”, the locals get inside at twilight. 

After coming home carrying some turf, Mary asks her elder daughter Nell where the other three children are. She didn’t see them outsides. (This part of the story renders the conversation dialectically in, for me, an often times incomprehensible fashion.) Nell goes outside to look for her two brothers Con and Bill and sister Peg. She can’t find them by the nearby bog, and she casts an apprehensive eye towards the rocks of Lisnavoura, reputed home of the fairies. She remembers the stories she’s heard of children stolen by the fairies at nightfall. 

Nell comes back to the cottage to tell her mother she can’t find the children. Nell thinks they’ve just ran down the road, but Mary is sure “they’re took”. The nearest help is Father Tom, three miles away. 

Just then, mother and daughter see the rest of the children approach up the road. Except there are only two of them. When asked where Bill is, Con says “they took him away”. “He’s gone away with the grand ladies”, says Peg. 

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“Mr. Justice Harbottle”

There’s not much reading or blogging going on at my house right now, but I did finally read this subject of the Deep Ones group discussion over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Mr. Justice Harbottle”, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 1872.

Cover by Anyka/Fotolia

The story starts out with a complicated and dry prologue which explains this account, like Le Fanu’s “Green Tea”, comes from the papers of Dr. Hesselius with the notation it comes from “Harman’s Report” and Hesselius’ own interest in “The Interior Sense, and the Conditions of the Opening thereof”. This opening is the story’s weakest point, but it does tell us we will get an “intrusion of the spirit-world upon the proper domain of matter”.

From the prologue, I couldn’t exactly tell who is narrating this tale among the names given, but it doesn’t really matter. 

We open the story proper with that narrator telling us how, 30 years ago, a man showed up in his office for an early payment of a quarterly annuity he gets. He wants some money early because he needs to move out of his house “on a dark street in Westminster”. We get a nice description of the gloomy house which constantly has a sign saying it’s for sale or rent.

It seems to be haunted because, one night, the man saw a closet door open and two figures emerge.  One was a “particularly sinister” dark man. The other an older man,

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“Green Tea”

This week’s bit of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Green Tea”, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 1869.

This 1869 story is considered one of the first occult detective stories.

The narrator in this story, told as letters to his friend and former patient Professor Van Loo of Leyden, is the German doctor Martin Hesselius. He introduces or narrates (the anthology’s introduction is not entirely clear) the stories in Le Fanu’s collection In a Glass Darkly. However, this is the only story in the collection featuring Hesselius.

The story centers around the Rev. Jennings, a middle-aged man with a strange problem. He can’t officiate at his church in Kenlis. Partway through the services, he stops and can’t continue except with “solitary, inaudible prayer” and starts to shake and grow pale. One might expect some sort of slacking off from Jennings’ appointed duties. His dear friend Lady Mary Heyduke thinks it “nerves and fancy”. 

We then hear Hesselius’ impression of Jennings on their initial meeting. He initially observes Jennings without talking to him, and his impressions are favorable. He does note how Jennings frequently looks at the carpet with a sidelong glance. 

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“Schalken the Painter”

This week’s weird fiction is …

Review: “Schalken the Painter”, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 1851.

Like Vernon Lee’s “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady“, a work of art is at the center of this story. It shows a woman robed and partly veiled in white confronting a shadowy figure drawing a sword.

The painter was Schalken. The scene, the narrator tells us, was drawn from life.

Le Fanu presents a simple plot but with mysteries not completely answered.

When he was an apprentice painter, Schalken, an apprentice painter, was in love with Rose Velderkaust, the ward and niece of his master Gerard Douw. She is the woman in the painting.

One day a mysterious visitor shows up (and mysteriously leaves since Schalken doesn’t spot him in the street afterwards) and asks to talk to Douw. The stranger is curt, impatient, and unrevealing of his station, but he wants to make a deal to marry Rose and will pay a large some of money to do so.  Continue reading

Carmilla

I’m taking a break from the Lovecraft series to talk about somebody else’s weird fiction: Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla.

Review: Carmilla, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu with introduction and notes by Jamieson Ridenhour, 2009.Carmilla

Essentially, this is an annotated version of Carmilla presented in a package of supplementary criticism and other fiction that places it in the greater context of vampire fiction.

Even if you don’t pay close attention to vampire fiction, and I don’t, you’ve probably heard of Carmilla as the other great 19th century vampire novel besides Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

If you haven’t read it, spoilers are ahead. If you have read it, perhaps I’ll present new insights via Ridenhour.

And you’ve probably heard it’s a lesbian vampire story.

Is that true?

Yes and no. Continue reading