Google has marked the 200th birthday of Irish Gothic horror writer Sheridan le Fanu with a black and white Doodle on its homepage depicting a ghostly figure looming over a sleeping woman.
Le Fanu was a seminal figure in the genre, and his vampire novel Carmilla was written a quarter of a century before Bram Stoker’s better-known Dracula. Set in eastern Europe, it greatly influenced Stoker, as well as later vampire films.
Owing his name to his French Huguenot roots, Le Fanu was born in Dublin to an Irish clergyman.
Having made extensive use of his father’s library in his youth, Le Fanu went on to read Classics at Trinity College Dublin, before studying Law at King’s Inn in London.
While at university in Dublin, he wrote one of his first ghost stories, The Ghost and the Bonesetter, for the Dublin University Magazine. He would go on to have a financial stake in the magazine as well as the Statesman, and the Dublin Evening Mail. In 1839 he became the owner of a newspaper the Warder - cementing his career in journalism.
In 1844 he married Susanna Bennett, with whom he had four children. Financial problems and Susanna’s ill health made their marriage turbulent. When Susanna died aged 34 in 1858, he blamed himself, and became a recluse.
Having serialised his work in his own magazine, Le Fanu was urged by a London publisher to set his story in England to appeal to an English readership. Uncle Silas, set in Derbyshire, is among his best known works.
Le Fanu would go on to write as many as 10 “sensation novels” which drew on Gothic themes as well as romance and criminality, as well as over a dozen short stories. He died on 7 February 1873 in Dublin, aged 58.
A road and a park in Ballyfermot, near his childhood home, are named after him.
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