Horror Story Review: "Carmilla" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
October 11, 2016 9:51am CST
Laura, daughter of a minor English nobleman who lives on an isolated estate in the beautiful Styrian countryside of Austria, relates this horror story of an accidental guest. Laura is an only child; her mother died when she was an infant. She is lonely, with her nurse and governess as sole companions. When word comes that the niece of her father’s friend, who was to have come for a visit, has taken ill unexpectedly and passed away, Laura grieves for a the friend she might have made. Almost the same day the letter with this sad news arrives, the denizens of the castle (author Le Fanu uses the German word “schloss”) hear the sounds of a carriage hoof beats on the road. They are traveling too fast. All expect the carriage to overturn when it comes to the curve past the schloss, as indeed it does. Laura’s father and the household run out to see if they can be of assistance. No one seems to be hurt. The footmen right the undamaged carriage. The only thing amiss is that a young woman named Carmilla has suffered a shock. Her mother, by all appearance a noblewoman, says they are on an errand of life and death and cannot be delayed. Laura’s father offers her the hospitality of his schloss. He says her daughter will be company for his own daughter. After some reluctance, the woman agrees. She will return for her daughter in three months. The two girls become good friends immediately and almost as quickly odd things happen—not yet in the household, but in surrounding areas. A peasant woman dies. The two watch the funeral procession, and Laura joins in singing the hymn, something that makes Carmilla cover her ears, and not because of Laura’s singing voice. One of the things that surprised me when I read this years ago was the obvious lesbian overtones. There's no sex, of course. She held me close in her pretty arms for a moment and whispered in my ear, “Good-night, darling, it is very hard to part with you, but good-night; to-morrow, but not early, I shall see you again.” This is not unconscious. At the conclusion, Le Fanu speaks of the vampire pursuing its prey as akin to a “courtship.” This is a gothic novella, full of lurid pictures for the reader and dreams—or something like dreams—for the characters. At one point, Laura’s deceased mother warns her of to beware of an assassin. Laura feels chills like one might on stepping in to a river and meeting a chilly current. Realizing death is approaching she is frightened yet yielding. She doesn’t find the prospect entirely unpleasant. The story was an influence on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s often anthologized and has been made into movies a couple of times. One version I saw in the 70s was pretty hokey, I have to admit. Le Fanu himself anthologized it with several other stories and presented it, along with “Green Tea” and “The Familiar” and others, as part of a casebook of the (fictional) occult detective Dr. Martin Hesslius in a volume titled In a Glass Darkly in 1872. This novella is available from Project Gutenberg and as an audiobook from Librivox. _____ Title: “Carmilla” Author: J. Sheridan Le Fanu First published: serialized Dark Blue 1871-1872 Source: ISFDB
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• United States
11 Oct 16
The Vampire Lovers was based In Carmilla? I have read or seen Uncle Silas. Le Fanu isn't read much anymore except by people like myself, but he was influential for a long time. I think the movie I saw was called Carmilla. It had the priest swearing allegiance to the vampire. I'm not sure how it ended. I think I gave up after that.