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The Green Book 4


The summer weather in Ireland has been beautiful, sunny and warm, atypical for sure. Normally our summers are more like our Novembers with “great gusts rattling at the windows, and wailing and thundering among our tall trees and ivied chimneys” — well, maybe not the tall trees or ivied chimneys part. As I re-read Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas this summer, which was first serialised exactly 150 years ago, from July to December 1864, I wondered not only what the weather might have been like that summer — Le Fanu’s chilly prose is not exactly beach-blanket reading, though it is a page-turning thriller — but what would it have been like for readers to encounter this classic piece of literature for the first time as it unfolded in pages of the Dublin University Magazine.

Was the seventeen-year-old Bram Stoker among those Dubliners that summer following the plight of young Maud Ruthyn? Did he delight in the villainous subterfuges of Madame de la Rougierre? Did he wonder about the mysterious sins of Uncle Silas? We know that Stoker definitely read Le Fanu’s masterpiece at some point — he recommended it to his son Noel, who thoroughly enjoyed the novel, noting that his father had excellent taste in literature. (I hope you will forgive me for musing on questions other than: “So, did Stoker actually read ‘Carmilla’ or what?”)

This issue, which is truly a return to Bartram-Haugh, starts with a selection of contemporary reviews of Uncle Silas — an attempt to gauge public reaction as they read the novel for the first time. By the mid-nineteenth century, Uncle Silas was already considered a classic. So we also have introductions to two popular editions by confirmed admirers of Le Fanu’s work: M.R. James’s for Oxford University Press’s World’s Classics series (1926) and Lady Longford’s for Penguin’s Mystery & Crime series (1940). Rounding out these commentaries — spanning three centuries! — are fresh impressions from Irish novelist Jarlath Gregory, who, like readers in the summer of 1864, has only recently read Uncle Silas for the first time.

And just so you don’t think we’re neglecting “Carmilla”, we’ll also re-visit Styria with some words on Le Fanu’s classic vampire tale from the late Roger Dobson, while David J. Skal contributes an article on stage adaptations of “Carmilla”, including the recently re-discovered typescript of Lord Longford’s 1932 version. You’ll also find in this issue the final instalment of Albert Power’s survey of the Irish Gothic, and Megan Kuster’s ruminations on the supernatural tales of Elizabeth Bowen (who was not only born just a few doors down from Le Fanu’s former home on Warrington Place, but also wrote an introduction to Uncle Silas in 1947).

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to Dolorosa’s fine study of Le Fanu’s death mask on the cover, created with ash, charcoal, pastel, and pencil on the night of a full moon — a striking contribution to this issue.

Like Dracula, I don’t think Uncle Silas has ever been out of print, and today there are more editions available than ever before. So if you haven’t done so, find yourself a copy — I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the bicentenary of Dublin’s “Invisible Prince”, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Brian J. Showers
Rathmines, Dublin
3 August 2014

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"Editor's Note"
    Brian J. Showers

"Sufficiently High Praise:
Contemporary Reviews of Uncle Silas"
    Compiled by the Editor

"Who's Afraid of 'The Demon Lover'?:
Ireland and the Supernatural in Elizabeth Bowen's Short Fiction"
    Megan Kuster

"The Scarlet and the Black: "
A Curiosity in 'Carmilla'"
    Roger Dobson

"Introduction to Uncle Silas (1926)"
    M.R. James

"Introduction to Uncle Silas (1940)"
    Christine Longford

"Towards an Irish Gothic: Part Four"
    Albert Power

"The Lady who Munched: How Carmilla Stormed the Stage"
    David J. Skal

"On Uncle Silas"
    Jarlath Gregory

    Pádraic E. Moore’s A Modern Panarion (Rosa Abbott)
    Syracuse University Press’s Carmilla: A Critical Edition (Elizabeth McCarthy)
    Lawrie Brewster’s Lord of Tears (Bernice M. Murphy)
    Daniel I. Roddy’s A Wanderer Out of Time (Helen Conrad O’Briain)
    Paul Murray’s A Fantastic Journey (Anne-Sylvie Salzman)
    Swan River Press’s Dreams of Shadow and Smoke (Hunter Seitz)

"Notes on Contributors"

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