Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Bibliography of Le Fanu


I love lists. I can pore over a list for hours, pondering the complex relationships between space, time, effort, success and obscurity that seems to make up the typical literary career. Swan River Press has just published a pretty damn concise bibliography of the works of J. Sheridan Le Fanu. A snip at nine Euros!

Some people, I suspect, feel that Le Fanu is one of those 'ought to' writers - you know, the ones you ought to read but can muster little enthusiasm for. To me he's one of the greats, for all his undeniable weaknesses. 'Carmilla' is the best vampire story ever written, easily head and shoulders above Dracula

His best-known ghost stories may have been touted by M.R. James - which perhaps contributed to their remaining in print and being much anthologised - but the best are very good indeed. And even his lesser novels, such as The Rose and the Key or The Wyvern Mystery, have a lot to offer to the patient reader willing to settle into them, as one might settle into an armchair whose stuffing has started to leak. And anyone who can't appreciate Uncle Silas needs to be locked up by a wicked relative.

Anyway, the new bibliography - it shows what a prolific writer Le Fanu was, and how much of his output consisted of reviews and poetry. He was a literary phenomenon and well-deserved the title 'Invisible Prince', dominating Dublin literary society while remaining almost unseen by it as a near-recluse. Good job he didn't change his name to 'Invisible Writer Formerly Known as Prince'. I'll shut up about that, now. The point is, the bibliography is very good, offering not only information on Le Fanu's books but also background on the magazine publication of serials etcetera. There are also notes on the better known stories and all the novels. I must seek out A Lost Name, simply because Le Fanu regarded it as his best work. Did I mention I love lists? Here's a list of the actual lists!

Contents: "A Preliminary Word" by Gary W. Crawford; I. Magazine Publications and Serialisations; II. Books; III. Manuscripts; IV. Misattributed Stories and Writings of Disputed Authorship; V. Early Articles and Studies; VI. Significant Studies and Criticism. The booklet also reproduces a selection of five title pages.

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