Irish author Joseph Thomas Sheridan LeFanu (1814–73) wrote mystery novels and Gothic tales, and today he is best remembered as the Victorian era's greatest teller of ghost stories. His other Dover books include The Wyvern Mystery and Best Ghost Stories of J. S. LeFanu.
Green Tea and Other Ghost Storiesby J. Sheridan LeFanu, J. Sheridan Lefanu
Regarded as the Victorian era's greatest writer of ghost stories, J. Sheridan LeFanu (1814-73) gave expression to the fears and dread that often haunt sensitive individuals. This collection contains four of his finest ghost stories, each crafted with remarkable ingenuity and storytelling skill. The title story offers a petrifying account of an English cleric's bouts with a malignant spectral presence; "Squire Toby's Will" recounts a sibling rivalry and disputed inheritance; "The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh" concerns a country gentleman's mysterious relationship with a sinister valet; and "Sir Dominick's Bargain" presents LeFanu's masterly variation on the theme of a pact with the devil.
All four tales embody not only the suspense and terror expected of a ghost story but also a subtlety, awareness, and psychological depth that elevate them far above most efforts in the genre. This inexpensive edition provides gripping entertainment as well as an excellent introduction to the intelligence and imagination that characterize LeFanu's work.
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LeFanu is by many considered the foremost of Victorian ghost story tellers, but (and I may now be incurring in literary sin) although his writing skills are undisputedly of the finest caliber, I did not find his stories as poignant and spine-tingling as Edgar Allen Poe¿s or his style as graceful and fluent as E. F. Benson¿s, for example; in fact, I¿d say there is something a little bit too elaborate and artful about some of the passages in this book as if LeFanu had thought it worthwhile sacrificing the pleasure of reading to the exquisiteness of his occasionally almost labored literary expression. There are actually instances in which I find it difficult to picture the scenes and characters in the narrative - take the descriptions of the inside and outside of Gylingden Hall (story 2) or of Sir Ardagh¿s castle (story 4) - though I recognize that such impressions may of course be unjust and ensue not from the text but from the limitations of the reviewer himself. The first and last of the four stories collected in this Dover edition are definitely the most exciting and convey a feeling of completeness which is rather absent from the second and third tales. A very striking feature of the story ¿Green Tea¿, for instance, is the razor-sharp precision with which LeFanu distinguishes between subjective and objective psychic realities, and between suggestion and predisposition. The reverend in the tale has suffered damage to the subtle involucre protecting his physical body against unwanted sensory impressions and the leaking out of vital force, and so has become permanently exposed not to hallucinations but to involuntary contacts with entities or energies pertaining to the lower psychic realms, the intimacy of which most of us are mercifully spared. The problem seems to be mendable by physically occluding the fissures produced in his natural defense and thus restoring his involucre to normality, but the reverend himself sees these deeply disquieting trials as a personal chastisement from God - an interpretation of the facts which is always a valid possibility - and eventually succumbs, not to the charges of the enemy but to his own weaknesses and inclinations. A complex and fine plot, indeed. The story ¿Green Tea¿ should be carefully examined by all whose job it is to treat or otherwise help people who suffer from psychic disorders or claim to be haunted by hallucinations - and by those, of course, who love to spend a couple of hours by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and a good yarn.