Carmilla – Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Synopsis: Carmilla is a vampire who lived in Austria. The story is presented by Le Fanu as part of the book of Dr Hesselius and it is narrated by Laura, one of the main protagonists. Carmilla was the original prototype for many female vampires. The book was published 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula and influenced the famous author.

“I have been in love with no one, and never shall,” she whispered, “unless it should be with you.”

How beautiful she looked in the moonlight!

Shy and strange was the look with which she quickly hid her face in my neck and hair, with tumultuous sighs, that seemed almost to sob, and pressed in mine a hand that trembled.

Her soft cheek was glowing against mine. “Darling, darling,” she murmured, “I live in you; and you would die for me, I love you so.”

I started from her.

She was gazing on me with eyes from which all fire, all meaning had flown, and a face colourless and apathetic.

“Is there a chill in the air, dear?” she said drowsily. “I almost shiver; have I been dreaming? Let us come in. Come; come; come in.”

Carmilla was written in 1871 by an Irish author named Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. This is one of the first pieces of vampire fiction, later becoming a great influence on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was published 25 years later.

This is about Laura, an English woman who lives in a castle in Austria with her father. She begins by telling a story from when she was a little girl, of a time when a mysterious woman visited her in her sleep. Was it really just a dream or was it something more? Many years later, Laura & her father find themselves in the company of a strange guest. One that seems familiar to Laura.

If you know me at all, you know I struggle with most classics. It’s just not my style. I can acknowledge them for what they are, but I find the writing hard to get into. Except when it comes to the dark, Gothic classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray. That is some classic shit I can get behind! It’s the haunting emotions behind the writing, the building unease, the gloriously grim atmosphere. YES PLEASE!

Carmilla certainly had many of those qualities. Was it the best thing I’ve ever read? Not at all. But I fucking appreciate everything it gave writers going forward. Writers like Anne Rice, Stephen King, Richard Matheson & of course, Bram Stoker. It’s easy to see the elements that became a large part of vampire literature. It’s something I think people who enjoy the horror genre should read, just for the influence alone. The mystery surrounding the tale is no longer there for us, as it is well-known that Carmilla is a vampire story. No doubt this blew people away hundreds of years ago, centered around two female characters. Especially with the thinly-veiled lesbian undertones. THE HORROR!!!

“You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.” 

Carmilla was an atmospheric, albeit short, read. Haunting imagery paired with some utterly delicious passages, this is clearly an important piece of writing ahead of its time.

-Holly

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