Who was Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873)?
In the “Prologue” to Madam Crowl’s Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery (1925), his invaluable gathering of Le Fanu’s hitherto uncollected stories, no less a practitioner of the form than M. R. James pronounced: “Le Fanu stands absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories. That is my deliberate verdict, after reading all the supernatural tales I have been able to get hold of. Nobody sets the scene better than he, nobody touches in the effective detail more deftly.”
Even though Le Fanu’s work makes a characteristically fugitive appearance in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939), and has attracted praise from writers as varied as Algernon Swinburne, Charles Dickens, Henry James, E. F. Benson, Montague Summers, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth Bowen, V. S. Pritchett, Robert Aickman, and Roald Dahl, he was long known, if at all, through two works: the locked-room mystery Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh (1864) and the collection of strange tales, In a Glass Darkly, collected the year before his death. Fortunately, this Irish jurist, poet, novelist, journalist, and editor has continued to grow in popularity and critical stature with every ensuing decade since James first published his accolade. We invite you to an exploration of his life and work, on what is the 208th anniversary of his birth.
Jim Rockhill received his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a minor in German from the University of Michigan in 1979, and subsequent degrees and certifications in healthcare. He has read widely in supernatural fiction with a particular emphasis on the works of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, whose 2014 bicentenary conference and celebration he attended in Dublin. JIm is one of the consulting editors for Centipede Press and Craftsman Audio’s series The Complete Ghost Stories of J. Sheridan Le Fanu.
Jim has edited the collected supernatural fiction of Sheridan Le Fanu (Ash-Tree Press, 2002–05), Bob Leman (Midnight House, 2002; Centipede Press, 2021), and Jane Rice (with Stefan Dziemianowicz: Midnight Press, 2003), a selection of Night Pieces by E. T. A. Hoffmann (Tartarus Press, 2008), the essay collection Reflections in a Glass Darkly: Essays on J. Sheridan Le Fanu (with Gary William Crawford and Brian J. Showers: Hippocampus Press, 2011), the anthology Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J. S. Le Fanu (with Brian J. Showers: Swan River Press, 2014), and a series of special editions devoted to the work of Le Fanu, co-edited with Brian J. Showers for Swan River Press, which includes My Aunt Margaret’s Adventure (2009), Reminiscences of a Bachelor (2014), a 150th anniversary edition of Green Tea (2019), and a planned edition of both Schalken texts. Additional introductions, essays and reviews have appeared in books on Clark Ashton Smith, M. R. James, vampires, the Gothic, and many more.
Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country.Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com