1872 Carmilla (from In A Glass Darkly): Sheridan Le Fanu

1872 Carmilla (from In A Glass Darkly): Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Thomas Sheridan le Fanu (1814-1873) was an Irish journalist who worked steadily in his craft until the sudden death of his wife in 1858. He then turned his hand to writing Gothic and supernatural stories and produced several important works. The most important one is Carmilla, a short story published in a magazine, The Dark Blue, in 1871 and then, in the following year, in a collection of five short stories called In a Glass Darkly.

 The story is about a female vampire, Carmilla, the alias of Mircalla, Countess Karstein, who befriends and then preys on a young woman called Laura. The relationship between Laura and Carmilla is one of lesbian eroticism as well as vampiric, and some of the writing is very explicit for its time.

The story had been reprinted many times and has been the basis of several other books and several films. The iconic image below of Carmilla approaching a sleeping Laura, with Laura’s father watching in the background, was drawn by David Henry Friston, and first appeared in the magazine The Dark Blue in 1871. This image has been reprinted many times. 

It is this first appearance of Carmilla that is the collector’s most desirable version, but the first edition of In a Glass Darkly in 1872 is also very collectableAn interesting more recent edition of In a Glass Darkly is that published in 1929 by Peter Davies, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. 

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