Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin in 1814. He was the great-nephew of the playwright Richard Sheridan. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and called to the bar in 1839, but chose instead to pursue a career in journalism. He began his writing career by publishing a number of stories anonymously in the Dublin University Magazine, which had been founded in 1833 by a group of Trinity College students. Le Fanu went on to purchase the magazine in 1861 and became its editor. From 1840 onwards he bought and edited the Warden and the Protestant Guardian, among other magazines and newspapers.
His first two novels, The Cock and Anchor (1845) and Torlogh O'Brien (1847), followed the style of Sir Walter Scott. After purchasing the Dublin University Magazine, in which much of his writing was serialized, he wrote the tales that made him a bestseller. These novels use mystery and the supernatural to explore the psychological effects of fear, and often deal with a young, innocent person being drawn into a dangerous situation in which older people conspire to swindle and harm them, as in Uncle Silas (1864). His other works include The House by the Churchyard (1863), Wylder's Hand (1864), The Wyvern Mystery (1869) and The Rose and the Key (1871). In 1872 he collected and published the remarkable stories of In a Glass Darkly, including the famous story of a female vampire, 'Carmilla', which predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 25 years and formed the basis of the 1932 film Vampyr. After his death in 1873, Le Fanu's works faded in popularity, but interest was revived in 1923 when a collection of stories was published, entitled Madam Crowl's Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery.