Gothic Lesbian Vampires in Sheridan Le Fanu

Imagine my surprise when I realised the last story in Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly seems to be about a lesbian vampire who is the guest in an Austrian castle high in the wooded mountains of Styria. Very hammer horror in dead.

Le Fanu lends the scene where we first guess at the woman’s sexual persuasions a deal of eroticism, which must have been very racy for his Victorian authorship:

‘She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear … And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek.’

And the erotic tension is raised a page later:

‘…breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyse she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.”‘

We are not told that she is a Vampire, but Le Fanu knowingly lays all the clues for the reader. The pleasure is not in the mystery as such – we know roughly what the outcome will be – but in the languid pleasure of it’s telling.

I guess you could call this story horror – vampire’s and spirits are generally classified so. What is the difference between horror and fantasy – both deal with things are not supposed to be real?

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