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4.3 out of 5 stars
In A Glass Darkly (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2000
This is a collection of uncommon merit, and readers will no doubt enjoy such stories as 'Mr Justice Harbottle' quite as much as the renowned vampire tale 'Carmilla'. But to those unfamiliar with the fourth story, 'The Room in the Dragon Volant' one can only say that this haunting, plangent masterpiece is likely to be the most memorable of all. This book contains the best of le Fanu's tales, better than 'Madame Crowl's Ghost', and represents the apogee of Victorian ghostly fiction.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2006
'In a Glass Darkly' is a collection of hair-raising tales selected from those recorded by Dr Martin Hesselius during the many years he spent working to understand and explain the seemingly supernatural incidents that came to his attention. The stories are:

1) 'Green Tea' - a clergyman believes himself persecuted by a malevolent monkey.

2) 'The Familiar' - an ex-naval captain is threatened by an aggrieved ghost from his past.

3) 'Mr Justice Harbottle' - a respectable gentleman is driven from his lodgings by the activity of a mean old judge who has been dead for some years.

4) 'The Room in Le Dragon Volant' - a rich English man on tour becomes enmeshed in an extraordinary scam whilst travelling from Brussels to Paris.

5) 'Carmilla' - the daughter of an English father, living in a schloss in Styria, is befriended by a young lady who has unusually needle-sharp teeth.

As Henry James quite rightly suggested, Le Fanu's stories are the ideal reading material after the chimes of midnight. These five stories provide a wonderful chill before snuggling down to sleep. They are longer than the tales in Le Fanu's 'Madam Crowl's Ghost' collection, where the stories are between 10 and 25 pages in length. The tales in this collection vary in length between about 30 and 100 pages.

I recommend 'In a Glass Darkly' to anyone who enjoys old-fashioned ghost stories.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2007
This is a superb collection. Green tea is probably the least good but still good. The Familiar is a great tale of a man haunted by his past and eventually destroyed by it. Mr Justice Harbottle is very endearing and one of my favourite ghost stories. The Room in The Dragon Volant is long but well worth it - what could have been the perfect crime, if only...Carmilla, the vampire tale, is to my mind superior to Stoker's overlong Dracula, and was its inspiration.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2009
Sheridan Le Fanu's classic collection of Gothic fiction is a delight for the connoiseur of weird tales. These stories are gathered as belonging to the papers of one Dr. Hesselius, a scholar who specialises in 'metaphysical medicine'. All of them are curtly introduced by his literary executor, who wisely excises the more theoretical observations of the good doctor so that the reader can cut straight to the yarns.

And what yarns they are! It always surprises me that people complain about Le Fanu being turgid, while his tales are so readable. Anyway, this collection contains:

'Green Tea', a famous story about a (supernaturally?) tormented clergyman. In a way, this is perhaps the most mundane of the tales. Well executed, but hardly remarkable.

'The Familiar', probably my favorite. At heart a simple supenatural revenge theme, but so very well written. Indeed, the jaded weird tales reader knows all the themes by now. It's the execution that sets the writer apart.

'Mr. Justice Hartbottle', a delightful and cruel comedy. The character of the Judge is deliciously evil, and so is his punishment.

'The Room in Le Dragon Volant', a short novel set in the tradition of the Gothic adventure. A young and reckless English adventurer gets caught up in a mystery in France. Another highlight.

'Carmilla', one of Le Fanu's most favorite tales and a direct influence on Stoker's 'Dracula'. Good, but perhaps not as good as the Goth crowd would have you believe.

As always with these editions, do not read the introduction beforehand. It will ruin the stories and taint your point of view. One reviewer noted the amount of typo's in the text. I found but two in the Mystery and Supernatural edition. Not worth you trouble.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2012
For anyone who loves the psychological suspense and mystery of authors such as Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, this collection of five stories by Sheridan Le Fanu is a must-read.

The first three stories are all excellent (albeit quite similar) suspense stories about the haunting of sucessful men by demonic apparitions. It amazes me that in an age before modern psychology, Le Fanu was able to so precisely describe the terrifying emotions and sensations felt as supernatural activities cross the thresh-hold of perceived delusion into reality. Le Fanu's stories start ordinarily with sometimes a brief historical background of the gentlemen in question, before mysterious, unexplained occurences slowly begin. After this, stories begin to gather pace before hurtling towards their terrifically climactic endings.

'The Room in the Dragon Volant' is possibly one of the most exciting stories I have ever read, and packs a novel's worth of villains and dramatic plot twists into a short novella. What I liked most about it was its slow build up, Le Fanu manages to make a story exciting even when nothing happens for the first 30 pages by laying out a complex setting with enigmatic, shadowy characters, all of which comes into focus unexpectedly much later as the story changes dramatically. The setting of Napoleonic France is also very captivating and very atmospheric.

'Carmilla' is to my mind the gem of this collection and perhaps the most frightening story of Le Fanu's. Without giving too much away, its again speaks volumes of Le Fanu's forward-thinking to create a demonic female villain who wickedly manipulates all of the virtues expected of women. A horror classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2012
Published in 1872, 'In A Glass Darkly' by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) is a collection of five short stories in the Gothic horror tradition. The stories purport to be actual cases collected from the papers of the German Physician and psychic investigator Dr Martin Hesselius. The five stories are: 'Green Tea', which features a demonic entity in the form of a malignant monkey that haunts a clergyman. 'The Familiar', a story about a sea captain persecuted by a dwarf; 'Mr Justice Harbottle'; 'The Room in the Dragon Volante', a mystery novella on a theme of being buried alive, and 'Carmilla', an otherworldly tale about a female vampire in Austria which contains lesbian overtones. Le Fanu is an imaginative writer and this classic book is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of the horror story, or simply likes a good old fashioned scarey tale! Fantastic!
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2007
Whatever the merits of Le Fanu's collection of short stories, the Wordsworth edition is dismal.

The typesetting errors are so frequent that it was only after some investigation that I began to believe that mine is not a bootlegged copy. The most common faults are wandering sem;i-colons, and all exclamation marks replaced with a space followed by a personal pronoun I this can cause confusion when placed in the middle of a sentence, as Le Fanu's old prose does not include capital letters following an exclamation mark.

Undoubtedly cheap, but only really worth it as an excercise in deciphering.
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on 19 February 2013
An interesting selection of supernatural short stories - you can certainly see how Le Fanu influenced Henry James, M. R. James and Bram Stoker. However as the introduction says, don't just read these stories to see how Le Fanu was the grandfather of the ghost story; the stories are intriguing and atmospheric in their own right. My favourites are the first three: 'Green Tea', 'The Familiar' and 'Mr. Justice Harbottle'.

I think Le Fanu was a far more eloquent writer than Stoker and it's a shame that 'Carmilla' isn't as well-known as 'Dracula', which in my opinion should never have been a full length novel.
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on 8 April 2013
An excellent story is contained within this book called 'Carmilla' which my reading group read and discussed. It was an enjoyable and thrilling read. This story was the inspiration for Bram Stokers 'Dracula'. I have only given the book four stars at this point because I haven't read the other stories yet as I'm far too busy at present. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book with relish.
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on 29 April 2013
Dorothy Sayers thought highly of Le Fanu, and I think highly of Sayers, so I thought I would give it a go. It is strange and gothic, but I am not a fan of the occult. There are some good ideas, but they seem to recirculate through the stories.
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