Sheridan Le Fanu

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Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Dublin, Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland
Death: February 7, 1873 (58)
Dublin, Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland
Place of Burial: Mount Jerome, Dublin, Ireland
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Philip Le Fanu and Emma Lucretia Dobbin
Husband of Susanna Bennett
Father of Eleanor Frances Le Fanu; Emma Lucretia Le Fanu; Thomas Philip Le Fanu and George Le Fanu
Brother of William Richard Le Fanu

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About Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu

Ex Barrister at law -Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. Three of his best known works are Uncle Silas, Carmilla and The House by the Churchyard.

Sheridan Le Fanu was born at 45 Lower Dominick Street, Dublin, into a literary family of Huguenot origins. Both his grandmother Alicia Sheridan Le Fanu and his great-uncle Richard Brinsley Sheridan were playwrights (his niece Rhoda Broughton would become a successful novelist). Within a year of his birth his family moved to the Royal Hibernian Military School in the Phoenix Park, where his father, a Church of Ireland clergyman, was appointed to the chaplaincy of the establishment. The Phoenix Park and the adjacent village and parish church of Chapelizod would appear in Le Fanu's later stories.

In 1826 the family moved to Abington, County Limerick, where Le Fanu's father Thomas took up his second rectorship in southern Ireland. Although he had a tutor, Le Fanu also used his father's library to educate himself. His father was a stern Protestant churchman and raised his family in an almost Calvinist tradition.

In 1832 the disorders of the Tithe War (1831–1836) affected the region. There were about six thousand Catholics in the parish of Abington, and only a few dozen members of the Church of Ireland. (In bad weather the Dean cancelled Sunday services because so few parishioners would attend.) However, the government compelled all farmers, including Catholics, to pay tithes for the upkeep of the Protestant church. The following year the family moved back temporarily to Dublin, to Williamstown Avenue in a southern suburb, where Thomas was to work on a Government commission.

Although Thomas Le Fanu tried to live as though he were well-off, the family was in constant financial difficulty. Thomas took the rectorships in the south of Ireland for the money, as they provided a decent living through tithes. However, from 1830, as the result of agitation against the tithes, this income began to fall and it ceased entirely two years later. In 1838 the government instituted a scheme of paying rectors a fixed sum, but in the interim the Dean had little besides rent on some small properties he had inherited. In 1833 Thomas had to borrow £100 from his cousin Captain Dobbins (who himself ended up in the debtors' prison a few years later) to visit his dying sister in Bath, who was also deeply in debt over her medical bills. At his death Thomas had almost nothing to leave to his sons and the family had to sell his library to pay off some of his debts. His widow went to stay with the younger son William

Sheridan Le Fanu studied law at Trinity College in Dublin, where he was elected Auditor of the College Historical Society. Under a system peculiar to Ireland he did not have to live in Dublin to attend lectures, but could study at home and take examinations at the university when necessary. He was called to the bar in 1839, but he never practiced and soon abandoned law for journalism. In 1838 he began contributing stories to the Dublin University Magazine, including his first ghost story, entitled "The Ghost and the Bone-Setter" (1838). He became owner of several newspapers from 1840, including the Dublin Evening Mail and the Warder.

The Irish Builder, February 15, 1873, p. 50.


Since our last issue Ireland has lost another racy novelist, for many years well known in English as well as Irish literary circles. He was a member of the Irish Bar, and contributed to the Dublin University Magazine and other Irish and English publications. He was also for some time proprietor of the above magazine, and chief editor and proprietor of the Warder newspaper. Of late years he relinquished all active connection with the newspaper press, and devoted his time to the production of some very successful novels. Mr. Le Fanu was the son of the Dean of Emly, a dignitary of the Irish Church, and brother to William Le Fanu, Commissioner of Public Works. At his death the late novelist was in his fifty-eighth year.

All the old compeers and colleagues who worked together on magazines and newspapers during the past thirty years in this city are disappearing, and soon we will have scarcely one left. The Dublin University Magazine possesses memories that are bright, though the fate of the magazine itself is a wayward one of late years. It still lives; but men who, like Le Fanu and Lever, helped to preserve its fame as well as its name, are gone from us.

J. Sheridan Le Fanu deserves a fitting memoir and tribute to his memory, and we hope that some of his old companions of the pen will supply it on an early occasion.

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Sheridan Le Fanu's Timeline

August 28, 1814
Dublin, Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland
September 12, 1814
St Marys, COI , Dublin
Age 30
18 Merrion Square, Dublin
May 21, 1846
Age 31
15 Warrington Place, Dublin, Ireland
September 3, 1847
Age 33
Dublin, Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland
Age 39
Dublin, Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland
February 7, 1873
Age 58
Dublin, Dublin City, Dublin, Ireland
February 11, 1873
Age 58
Mount Jerome, Dublin, Ireland