General Introduction

1. Contexts of Our Edition

The short story originally published as “Strange Adventure in the Life of Schalken the Painter. Being a Seventh Extract from the Legacy of the Late Francis Purcell, P.P. of Drumcoolagh” in Dublin University Magazine (May 1839), later revised and retitled “Schalken the Painter” in Le Fanu’s 1851 collection Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery, is an early masterpiece by the Irish novelist, short story writer, and journalist Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873). Le Fanu is increasingly being recognized as one of the most accomplished writers in English of tales of the supernatural and mystery, and many scholars (Crawford, Coughlan, Haslam, James, Roop, Swafford) identify this story—which we will hereafter refer to as “Schalken the Painter” unless there is a reason to distinguish the different versions by their titles—as the first of Le Fanu’s masterpieces. Several critics (Coughlan, Roop, Swafford) specifically argue that “Schalken the Painter” and its inspiration by the works of the Dutch painter Godefridus Schalcken (1643-1706) is in fact the origin of the descriptive mastery of uncanny atmosphere and themes of guilt and doubling that are the signature traits of all of Le Fanu’s best work. Most critics follow Le Fanu’s bibliographer and biographer William Crawford in contending more broadly that the tale also “is the first [of a] new kind of Gothic fiction to appear in English literature in that it brings the Gothic to a much more personal and intimate level with an attention to character and motivation” (Crawford 17) that is a hallmark of Victorian Gothic fiction from Le Fanu’s own work to that of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.[1] The story is also one of a handful of Le Fanu’s works that have been adapted for the screen. In 1979, the BBC broadcast Leslie Megahey’s seventy minute television film Schalcken the Painter as part of its Omnibus series. The film has been much praised for its moody visual style and Gothic eroticism, and it was so sought after that in 2013 the British Film Institute (BFI) digitally remastered the film and issued it as a dual format DVD as part of its Flipside series recovering obscure British film classics (Collins).[2]

Even though the tale has thus been widely appreciated ever since it first appeared, few interpretations of “Schalken the Painter” have confronted the fact that the tale exists in two significantly different versions (one in two different editions), reflecting Le Fanu’s lifelong habit of rewriting and recycling material. “Strange Adventure in the Life of Schalken the Painter. Being a Seventh Extract from the Legacy of the Late Francis Purcell, P[arish].P[riest]. of Drumcoolagh” first appeared in Dublin University Magazine (May 1839), a textual witness hereafter abbreviated DUM. As its subtitle indicates, it was the seventh of twelve tales purportedly collected by an Irish Catholic priest and antiquarian named Francis Purcell and published after his death by an unnamed friend in Dublin University Magazine between January 1838 and October 1840 (Crawford and Showers 3-5; Crawford 15-18). This version was reprinted seven years after Le Fanu’s death in The Purcell Papers (London: Bentley, 1880), which was edited by the Le Fanu family friend, Alfred Perceval Graves, with the help of Le Fanu’s younger brother William, and included Graves’s “Memoir” of Le Fanu. This witness we hereafter abbreviate PP. Between these two texts of the original version, Le Fanu revised and retitled the tale “Schalken the Painter” for his collection Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery (Dublin: McGlashan, 1851), published by James McGlashan, one of the major Irish publishers of the nineteenth century.[3] Most notably, in this version Le Fanu removed the frame narrative related to Francis Purcell, added a Biblical epigraph,[4] and included an illustration entitled “The Rivals,” by “Phiz” (Hablot K. Browne), who illustrated many of the early works of Charles Dickens, among others. This version and witness we hereafter abbreviate GSTM.

As detailed in the final section of this introduction, “Schalken the Painter” is at once characteristic of and unique within Le Fanu’s corpus of work. Tilley’s excellent edition of Le Fanu’s collection In a Glass Darkly (2018; orig. pub. 1872), the bibliographies of Crawford (1995) and of Crawford and Showers (2011), and Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers’s 2011 collection of sources and critical essays, Reflections in a Glass Darkly (2011) show that scholars are beginning to recognize that Le Fanu deserves critical attention as a major writer in both the Gothic and the deeply-fraught Anglo-Irish literary traditions. This edition contributes to that critical consensus by for the first time offering a fully critical edition of “Strange Adventure in the Life of Schalken the Painter” / “Schalken the Painter” that not only makes fully visible to readers the differences between its textual incarnations, but also annotates its substance with a focus on informing readers about contexts they may not at first glance be aware this tale contacts.

As noted above, critics broadly agree that “Schalken the Painter” is the earliest of Le Fanu’s masterpieces, but as Haslam details, the lack of a accurate, critical edition of the story (as of many of Le Fanu’s tales) has comprised the validity of many interpretations.[5] More broadly, because throughout his life Le Fanu revised and repurposed material, the paucity of genuinely critical editorial work on his corpus remains a major obstacle to appreciation of its significance. We offer this edition as a contribution to (and we hope model for) the editorial work that remains to be done on one of the most intriguing and bibliographically complicated writers of the nineteenth century.


2. Le Fanu’s Life and Family

There are several excellent biographies of Le Fanu, the most authoritative being W. J. McCormack’s Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Victorian Ireland and William J. Crawford’s J. Sheridan Le Fanu: A Bio-Bibliography. Elizabeth Tilley’s introduction to her recent edition of Le Fanu’s collection In A Glass Darkly (2018; orig. 1872) is the best short summary of Le Fanu’s life and includes an excellent timeline that correlates Le Fanu’s life with major historical and literary events.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin on August 28, 1814, to Emma and Thomas Philip Sheridan Le Fanu. The Le Fanu family descended from French Huguenots who fled France after Louis IV revoked the Edict of Nantes, by which Henry IV had granted the Calvinist Huguenots effective civil equality with France’s Catholic majority. The Le Fanu family settled in Ireland after two brothers, John Le Fanu de Secqueville and Charles Le Fanu de Cresson, fought for William of Orange (William III) at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, where William defeated the deposed English King James II and put Ireland under the British rule that would last throughout J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s lifetime. The “Sheridan” part of his name, of which he was “very proud” (Crawford 4), came from the marriage of his grandfather Joseph Le Fanu to Alicia Sheridan, “daughter of Thomas Sheridan and the sister of Richard Brinsley Sheridan” (Graves vi; Crawford  3), author of School for Scandal (1777), among other classic comedies.

Le Fanu’s father, Thomas Philip, was a Church of England clergyman who in 1815 became chaplain to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin. He was appointed absentee rector of Ardnageehy in County Cork in 1817 and of Abington in County Limerick in 1823. In 1826, upon being appointed Dean of the parish town of Emly in County Tipperary, he moved the family to Abington in County Limerick, a locale that made it easier for him to fulfill all of his duties, since he was already (absentee) rector of Abington, Ardnageehy was just to the south in County Cork, and Emly was just to the east in County Tipperary (Crawford 4; Gallagher 89). The so-called English Ascendancy of which the Le Fanus were a part was deeply fraught over the course of Le Fanu’s lifetime, during which he witnessed, among other crises, the bloody Tithe Wars of the 1830s (during which Irish subsistence farmers violently resisted the requirement to pay tithes to the Church of England even if they were Catholics), the Irish famine of the 1840s, and the Young Ireland rebellion of 1848 as well as the Fenian movement that grew from it during the 1850s and 1860s (Tilley 11-3). Le Fanu witnessed the violence of the early Tithe Wars during his time in Abington, when, as Crawford puts it, “the Le Fanus were largely prisoners in their own home” (5). Crawford adds that Le Fanu “hardly ever spoke about” the Tithe Wars, “but his early fiction is marked by a sympathy for the Irish rebels, and he hoped all his life that both Protestants and Catholics could live in harmony” (5). Crawford indeed joins many other critics in arguing that Le Fanu “no doubt felt some sense of guilt for having conquered Ireland and reduced Catholics to a peasant status “ (Crawford 4; Swafford  49; McCormack Sheridan 76-8; Melada 24).

In 1832, Le Fanu returned to Dublin to attend Trinity College, where he earned “honors in Classics, and was active as debater and outspoken about politics” (Crawford 5). He thereafter studied law, travelling in the process to King’s Inns, one of the major London law inns, and was called to the Irish Bar in 1839. However, instead of practicing law, Le Fanu in 1841 chose a career in journalism, buying and editing The Warder, “a leading Protestant newspaper, which he owned until 1870” (Crawford 5). Le Fanu’s journalistic work is a bibliographical morass, leading Crawford to opine that the “no doubt countless articles Le Fanu wrote for the newspapers…will probably never be identified since they were published anonymously” (5). However, as will be detailed in the following section, Le Fanu’s lifelong engagement with the periodical press in both Ireland and England was key to his evolution from journalism into literature.

In 1843, Le Fanu married Susanna Bennett, the daughter of an eminent Dublin lawyer. By all accounts, their marriage was a very happy one, during which they bore and raised two sons and two daughters. However, following the death of her father in 1856, after which the family inherited and moved into his house at 18 Merrion Square in Dublin, Susanna entered into a crisis of faith in a loving God that clearly troubled Le Fanu’s own faith. Susanna died in 1858, and an aggrieved Le Fanu wrote no fiction or poetry until 1861, when (as detailed in the next section), he struck a deal with the London publisher Richard Bentley to write fiction “with an English subject and in modern times” (Bentley to Le Fanu 26 February 1863, British Library Add. MSS. 46, 642, transcribed in Edens 164; cf. Hall in Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers 174-88, esp. 183-5). Le Fanu died on February 10, 1873 of a heart condition that had plagued him since at least the death of his wife.


3. Le Fanu’s Literary Career

As noted above, from the late 1830s until very near the end of his life, Le Fanu was an active Irish journalist. However, his career as a writer of fiction and poetry falls roughly into what we might call an “Irish period” (1838-53) and an “English period” (1861-73), separated by an eight-year period during which Le Fanu appears to have published no fiction or poetry, no doubt in part because of the death of his father-in-law in 1856 and of his wife in 1858 (Crawford 7).[6] During his “Irish period,” Le Fanu wrote fiction and poetry set for the most part in Ireland and he published those works for the most part in Irish periodicals, principally the Dublin University Magazine, by most accounts the most important monthly magazine in Ireland, which aspired but never quite managed to unite both Protestant and Catholic readers in Ireland and Irish and English readers (Hall 174-5). Le Fanu bought the magazine in 1861 and edited it until 1869, when he sold it just as his “English period” was beginning (Hall 179, 184-5). Most of Le Fanu’s poetry was written during this period, and most of it adopts the oral style of the Irish ballad tradition. His most famous poem is “Shamus O’Brien—A Ballad” (1850), a rousing nationalist song set during the 1798 Irish uprising that became something of a craze among Irish immigrants to the United States (Crawford 20; Crawford and Showers 7). During this period Le Fanu published only three full-length novels: the historical novels The Cock and Anchor—Being a Chronicle of Old Dublin (Dublin: Curry; London: Longmans; Edinburgh: Fraser, 1845) and The Fortunes of Colonel Torlogh O’Brien—A Tale of the Wars of King James (Dublin: McGlashan, 1847), and The House by the Church-yard (1863), his last novel to be set in Ireland, which was originally serialized in Dublin University Magazine (1861-63) but then published in three volumes in London (Tinsley Brothers, 1863). During this period Le Fanu wrote mainly short fiction published in one (or occasionally two or three) numbers of Dublin University Magazine, although some of this short fiction was later expanded into novels published in London during his English period. Crucial examples are “Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess” (1838), which was retitled “The Murdered Cousin” in his collection Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery (Dublin: McGlashan, 1851) and later expanded into his most famous novel, Uncle Silas (London: Bentley, 1864); and “Some Account of the Latter Days of Richard Marston, of Dunoran” (1848), retitled as “The Evil Guest” in his collection Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery (Dublin: McGlashan, 1851) but also expanded into the novel A Lost Name (London: Bentley, 1868). The vast majority of this short fiction—like Le Fanu’s poetry and novels of the Irish period—is set in Ireland, although in a few instances—such as “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” (1839), set in Holland, and “Spalatro” (1843), set in Italy—Le Fanu chooses continental settings. As Crawford emphasizes, much of Le Fanu’s Irish short fiction and poetry is linked paratextually as part of the collection of thirteen tales collected by a friend after the death of Francis Purcell, who “for nearly fifty years discharged the arduous duties of a parish priest in the south of Ireland” and who was “a curious and industrious collector of old local traditions—a commodity in which the quarter where he resided mightily abounded” (Purcell Papers 1.1; Crawford 5). This paratextual framing that pervades Le Fanu’s writings during his Irish period notably anchors even a continental narrative like “Strange Adventure in the Life of Schalken the Painter” in Ireland and indeed in the history of Le Fanu’s family in Ireland, since Purcell hears the story of Schalken from a Dutch “Captain Vandael, whose father had served King William [III] in the Low Countries, and also in my own unhappy land during the Irish campaigns” (DUM 579) that culminated at the Battle of the Boyne, which brought Le Fanu’s own Huguenot forebears to settle in Ireland.

As already suggested, the transition from Le Fanu’s Irish period into his English one pivots around The House by the Church-yard (1863), his last novel to be set in Ireland, which was originally serialized in Dublin University Magazine (1861-63) but then published in three volumes in London (Tinsley Brothers, 1863). Its London edition caught the eye of Richard Bentley, one of the most important British publishers of the nineteenth century, who thereafter contracted with Le Fanu to publish Wylder’s Hand (Bentley, 1864), “the new work from your pen to follow” The House by the Church-yard on the terms that it be a “story of an English subject and in modern times; and sufficient in extent to form 3 vols. post 8 vo. of the usual size,” for which Bentley offered “to purchase the copyright” for “Two Hundred Pounds in cash one month after publication and a final sum of One Hundred Pounds on the sale reaching 1,500 copies” (Edens 164). Although Wylder’s Hand did not quite match Bentley’s hopes, losing sixteen pounds (Edens 170), for Le Fanu’s “new novel in 3 vols.,” Bentley was “willing to give you 250 for a thousand copies, leaving it open to make terms for future copies” (Edens 170). This “new novel” was of course Uncle Silas, which sold prodigiously and consolidated Le Fanu’s connection with Bentley, who thereafter published nearly all of his literary work up to and even beyond Le Fanu’s 1873 death, including the posthumously published Purcell Papers (Bentley, 1880). During Le Fanu’s English period, he wrote and published far more novels than during his Irish period, although he still continued to write tales and novellas, most importantly those published in In a Glass Darkly (London: Bentley, 1872), which contains what most critics regard as his best short fiction, most notably “Carmilla,” “Green Tea,” and “The Familiar.” During his English period, a substantial proportion (about twenty works) of his short fiction continued to be published in Dublin University Magazine, although a few of these were set on the European continent (e.g. “Borrhomeo the Astrologer” [January 1862]) or in England rather than in Ireland (Crawford 22-28). But increasingly, both his short fiction and his novels were not only set in England but originally published either by Bentley in three volumes or in London periodicals: ten (including “Green Tea”) were published in Charles Dickens’s All Year Round, four in Temple Bar, three in Belgravia, two in Cassell’s Magazine, and four in less widely-circulated periodicals, including “Carmilla” in Dark Blue (Crawford 28-36). Interestingly, from an editorial-bibliographical point of view, a good proportion of the novels published in three volumes by Bentley in London were more or less simultaneously serialized in the Dublin University Magazine, where nearly all of Le Fanu’s works from his Irish period appeared. In the 26 February 1863 letter to Le Fanu that settled the terms of their agreement on Le Fanu’s thenceforth writing fiction with an English setting, Bentley said “I have no objection to the new work from your pen to follow ‘The Old House’ [The House by the Church-yard] appearing first in Dublin University Magazine, and being published in a substantial form simultaneously with the last published in that Magazine” (Edens 164). Evidently, Bentley thereafter continued to be comfortable with some of Le Fanu’s works first appearing serially in that Irish magazine and indeed rarely seems to have sought entry into the Irish market. Most likely Bentley raised no objections to initial serial publication in Dublin University Magazine because his three-volume “substantial form” London editions of those novels were—in keeping with typical practice from the 1830s through the 1890s—published not “simultaneously” with the end of serialization, but instead roughly two months before the serial version concluded (Erickson 161-2; Altick 279ff), albeit that there were some slightly fraught negotiations in letters of December 1863 over whether Le Fanu could deliver the completed Wylder’s Hand (Bentley, 1864) to Bentley before the conclusion of its serialization (June 1863-February 1864) in Dublin University Magazine (Edens 166). Although Bentley seems to have been unthreatened and uninterested by the Irish market or in serializing Le Fanu’s novels in his London periodical Bentley’s Miscellany, Le Fanu in 1868 wrote to William Blackwood, proprietor of the prestigious Blackwood’s Magazine, offering to serialize his next novels there rather than in Dublin University Magazine (McCormack “J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Letters”). Blackwood evidently declined, and Hall argues that Le Fanu never attained the same level of popularity in Britain as his contemporaries Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Braddon in large part because his novels were never serialized in England, such that Le Fanu never established with English readers “the sense of rapport” and “familiarity and community between author and reader” that serial publication over fourteen months afforded (Hall 188). Towards the end of his life, the quality and quantity of Le Fanu’s writing diminished, but his public reputation and relations with Bentley manifestly remained strong enough for Bentley to agree to publish—seven years after Le Fanu’s death—The Purcell Papers (1880), which consisted of what its editor Alfred Perceval Graves called the “Irish Stories & poems” (Edens 253) that Bentley in 1863 had urged Le Fanu to abandon for “English subjects and modern times” (Edens 164). Indeed, Bentley published The Purcell Papers despite the considerable difficulty Graves told Bentley he had encountered in ascertaining whether or not Le Fanu’s dissipated son Philip held copyright to any of the material Graves proposed to include. [7]


4. A Critical History of “Schalken the Painter” in Le Fanu’s Career and of Le Fanu’s Place in Anglo-Irish Literary History

As noted above, in “Schalken the Painter” we find the atmospheric descriptions, the supernatural intrusion into domestic spaces and private lives, and the themes of guilt and religious doubt that characterize Le Fanu’s best work throughout his career. However, as one of Le Fanu’s best early tales, “Schalken the Painter” stands as one of the more intriguing case studies of how Le Fanu developed, mastered, and artistically organized his signature techniques and themes. In part “Schalken the Painter” offers an intriguing example of his art because in this tale both description and the narrative are grounded in a fictional painting by the actual historical painter Gottfried Schalcken. Yet the tale is also intriguing because its two versions capture Le Fanu artistically contemplating whether or not paratextual framing of a central narrative of terror enhances or disrupts his ability not only to create that terror, but also to make it thematically salient to readers in his own “real” world and time, and particularly to his contemporary Irish readers who were (whether Catholic or Protestant) reckoning (sometimes violently) with the politico-historical guilt and decline of the Protestant Ascendancy of which the Le Fanu family was a part.

Nearly all critics point to the tale as Le Fanu’s earliest masterpiece and the origin of the two signature hallmarks of his work throughout his career: the description of sinister atmospheres and the thematic obsession with supernatural intrusion and predation upon domestic spaces later showcased in “Carmilla” and Uncle Silas, his two most famous and popular works. In particular, critics regularly admire the ways that, in both versions of the tale, the opening and closing descriptions of the painting owned by the Vandael family, together with the almost tableaux vivant descriptions of the twilight scene in Douw’s studio when Vanderhausen first appears and of the vault where Schalken later encounters Rose and Vanderhausen in bed construct liminal atmospheres that aptly stage Vanderhausen’s demonic predation on private lives and “sacred” spaces.

Interpretively, scholarship on the story has largely followed three often interwoven strands: historicist, psychoanalytic, and (less frequently) a textual focus on the different effects of the DUM/PP and GSTM versions of the tale.

Historicists readings have mainly probed how the seventeenth-century Dutch setting of the tale sublimates Le Fanu’s anxieties about the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland and his own family’s role in that Ascendancy. Some critics stress how the fact that Vanderhausen does not supernaturally kidnap Rose, but instead bribes and defrauds Douw and Schalken into selling her to him registers Le Fanu’s guilt for the commercial profit (and swindle) implicit to the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Swafford, for example, argues that, by exposing Douw’s greed and Schalken’s stupidity in jointly signing a contract to marry Rose to Vanderhausen for a fortune, “Le Fanu is obliquely charging his forebears with acquisitiveness and abuses of power, which, though meant to secure the world for their children, have in fact brought those children disaster” (49; cf. Crawford 4; Coughlan 146-8; Swafford  49; McCormack Sheridan 76-8; Melada 24). More broadly, critics have focused on how, by fictionalizing the life of the actual Dutch painter Gottfried Schalcken, Le Fanu at once registers and represses (guilty) awareness that his family settled in Ireland after his Huguenot forebears helped King William III (1650-1702)—whose forebears by armed rebellion founded the Protestant Dutch Republic in which the tale is set—to subjugate Ireland to England at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne and thereby to secure the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. In Sheridan Le Fanu and Victorian Ireland, McCormack influentially argues that, by historically distancing their content, all of the early tales that Le Fanu originally framed as antiquarian curiosities collected by the now-dead Catholic priest Francis Purcell enabled Le Fanu (however consciously or not) to explore the possibility that recent violent Catholic resistance like the Tithe Wars was just retribution for the injustice of the Protestant Ascendancy (76-8). In making this argument that the historical distancing of The Purcell Papers invited Le Fanu to explore this guilt, McCormack judges “Schalken the Painter” to be aesthetically “the most successful of The Purcell Papers, being less crudely death-focused than its companions” (75-6), yet he only briefly notes that while “the Dutch setting seems out of place in The Purcell Papers, Le Fanu provides a provenance for the Schalken painting which involves a supporter of the House of Orange, a settler in Ireland” (76) like Le Fanu’s own family. Melada and Swafford (and less directly Roop) examine in more detail how the tale connects its seventeenth-century Dutch setting to the Le Fanu family’s (guilty) role in William III’s consolidation of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. For example, as Melada and Swafford note, in the DUM and PP version, the opening of the tale prominently alludes to the complex links through William III between the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland and the founding by William and his family of the Protestant Dutch Republic in which the tale is set: in the first paragraph, Purcell tells his interlocutor that he heard the tale “in my early days” from his acquaintance, “a Captain Vandael, whose father had served King William in the Low Countries, and also in my own unhappy land during the Irish Campaigns” (DUM 579; emphasis added).[8] On the other hand, as these and other scholars have underappreciated, by setting the tale in the relatively brief time (1662-4?) when Schalken (1643-1706) studied with Douw (1613-75), Le Fanu temporally and geographically distances the tale from the fact that the historical Schalcken joined William III’s court at Windsor Palace from 1692 to 1699—shortly after the Battle of the Boyne, precisely when the Le Fanu family were settling in Ireland—and during his tenure in court painted William III’s portrait (Yeager-Crasselt and Wheelock; Swafford 57).

Historicist readings of how the paintings of the actual Schalcken influenced the tale and Le Fanu’s lifelong obsession with framing, doubling and the liminal play of light and dark are, unsurprisingly, the basis for most psychoanalytic interpretations of “Schalken the Painter.” Roop, the first scholar to fully investigate the relations of the story to the art of the historical Schalcken, stresses that the painter’s stylistic signature was a chiaroscuro treatment of candlelight throwing shadows and that Schalcken excelled his master Douw in the complexity and depth of his pictorial framing, for example by placing different candlelight sources within different visual frames, as in Girl with a Candle, Drawing a Curtain, one of the closest parallels to the fictional Schalken painting described in “Schalken the Painter” (Roop 164-5 ; Swafford 50 and n. 2, 58). Swafford, working from Roop, makes the important historical-biographical point that Girl with a Candle, Drawing a Curtain was one of three Schalcken works bought by the Prince of Wales from 1803 to 1819 and “was (and still is) in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace,” where “Le Fanu could have viewed it when he was in London in May and June 1838” (Swafford 58, n. 2; McCormack 54). As indicated by the Prince of Wales’s purchases, Schalcken was undergoing something of a revival in Britain during the early nineteenth century, and Swafford stresses that in particular the above “painting was much admired in the 1830s,” being praised for its use of light and shade in such works as John Smith’s A Catalogue Raisonne of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters (London: Smith & Sons, 1833) and Gustave Friederich Waagen’s Works of Art and Artists in England (London: John Murray, 1838) (Swafford 58, n.2). Whether or not Le Fanu followed this vogue for the painting and went to see it while in London, he clearly knew about and had researched Schalken, since, as Swafford notes, in “Schalken the Painter,” the narrator repeatedly paraphrases opinions from Michael Bryan’s Dictionary of Painter and Engravers (London: G. Bell, 1816), “a standard reference work which Le Fanu had apparently consulted” (Swafford 50; cf. 51 and phrasings in DUM 580 and GSTM 108).

Psychoanalytic interpretations have largely focused on how the tale—and especially its doubled ekphrases of the fictional Schalcken painting on which the tale is based  near its beginning (DUM 579-80; GSTM 107-8) and end (DUM 590-1; GSTM 134-5)—dramatizes failures of patriarchal potency and agency in ways that subliminally express Le Fanu’s sexual and artistic anxieties and also, for a few critics, his anxiety about the (waning) potency of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Wilkinson and Walton, for example, focus on the fact that in both ekphrases of the fictional Schalken painting, Schalken has his hand on his sword, while in the description of the scene these critics presume the fictional painting depicts—when Schalken encounters Rose and Vanderhausen in bed in the crypt of the church where his father has been buried (DUM 590; cf. Haslam 350)—Schalken has no sword and faints at the sight of Rose in bed with the “bolt upright” (DUM 590) Vanderhausen. Both critics rather predictably interpret this discrepancy as Le Fanu using Schalken as a screen for his own sexual and artistic anxieties. Swafford is a good example of psychoanalytic interpretations building from historicist ones. As noted above, Swafford argues that by having Douw and Schalken sell Rose to Vanderhausen, “Le Fanu is obliquely charging his forebears with acquisitiveness and abuses of power, which, though meant to secure the world for their children, have in fact brought those children disaster” (49). However, he also contends that Vanderhausen is “nearly a personified phallus, with his ‘broad-brimmed conical hat’ and ‘firm and upright carriage’,” such that “Schalken’s unwitting signing of the marriage contract represent both his surrender to this mercantile society’s standards and a concession to his sexual weakness” (53, 54).

As Haslam’s careful textual scholarship on the tale shows, most of these latter, psychoanalytic interpretations of “Schalken the Painter” are compromised by the fact that they—like the majority of scholarship on the story—use the GSTM version of the tale, as egregiously edited by E. F. Bleiler in his widely-distributed 1964 Dover edition, Best Ghost Stories of J. S. Le Fanu. Haslam flags numerous transcription errors in Bleiler’s edition of the GSTM text that critics have used as interpretive fuel (348-51). More importantly, however, Haslam shows that, because Le Fanu in revising DUM into GSTM “wished to avoid redundancy of repeating many phrases and images from the opening ekphrasis” that in the DUM version recur in the closing one, Le Fanu carelessly deleted “a crucial passage [from the closing ekphrasis in DUM] that establishes the actual time and place depicted in the painting” (357) and hence himself “inadvertently triggered the hermeneutical conundrum” that has so exercised critics of why in the opening and closing ekphrases of the (fictional) painting, Schalken has a sword, whereas in the textual description of his finding Rose and Vanderhausen in bed in the crypt of the church where his father has been buried, Schalken has no sword (Haslam 350-7). Specifically, Haslam notes that in the closing ekphrasis in DUM (and PP), the phrase “there stands the form of a man apparently aroused from sleep, and by his attitude, his hand being laid upon his sword, exhibiting considerable alarm” (DUM 591) clearly indicates that the fictional Schalken painting described in both ekphrases “portrays Schalken’s first encounter with Rose in the church, which takes places in the sexton’s chamber, when Schalken is woken from sleep” by Rose “shaking him gently by the shoulder” (Haslam 357; DUM 590). By deleting this phrase from the closing ekphrasis in GSTM, Le Fanu opened the door to the many critics who (in Haslam’s view) far too ingeniously interpret Le Fanu’s careless revision as intentional metafictional art or unconscious self-revelation, having erroneously assuming from Bleiler’s flawed edition of the (carelessly) revised GSTM text that Le Fanu intended the ekphrases of the fictional Schalken painting at the beginning and end of the tale to depict the climactic scene (DUM 590) when Schalken rushes into the crypt at his father’s funeral and encounters Rose and Vanderhausen in bed, or, less frequently, the scene (DUM 587-9) when Rose returns to Douw’s house asking for food, wine, and a holy man (Haslam 350-7). As Haslam generalizes, too many interpretations of GSTM have hence deployed a “critical providentialism in which no element of a work is permitted to be accidental” (342) and theory is used to find artistic intention in textual faults resulting from “the contingencies of textual transmission and editorial interpolation” (340) that better textual scholarship would have revealed as errors. Haslam also notes that both Hablot K. Browne’s illustration for the GSTM text and the last of the three illustrations made by Le Fanu’s son Brinsley after Le Fanu’s death represent not the scene Haslam demonstrates that both ekphrases describe in DUM, but instead the “more dramatic confrontation with Vanderhausen in the crypt” that Le Fanu’s deletions to the final ekphrasis in GSTM made plausible as a subject for the fictional painting (359).[9] Hence, “Phiz” and Brinsley as artists drew “the more sensational picture—the one, perhaps, they thought Schalken should have made the subject of his ekphrasis” (360), anticipating the “critical providentialism” that Haslam bemoans in so many readings of the tale in our own times.

Swafford is one of the few critics besides Haslam to critically reflect on the differences between the DUM/PP and GSTM versions. His key textual point is that in GSTM, a “bothersome aspect of the narrator’s introduction” and narration of the story behind the painting “is its manipulative quality, the result of Le Fanu’s revisions” (51) to remove the Purcell frame and have Vandael in GSTM directly narrate the tale to the reader. Most pointedly, Swafford argues that in the opening of GSTM, “Father Purcell’s words, assigned to the new narrator [Vandael], become problematical” because, even though the GSTM narrator proudly proclaims both the “story and the picture have become heir-looms in my family” (GSTM 108; cf. Swafford 50), the narrator shows “vagueness in describing it—‘some antique religious building,’ ‘a pretty woman,’ ‘some prankish roguery’—[that] is excessively coy” (51). Interpretively, Swafford contends that the “manipulative quality” Purcell’s words have when reassigned to Vandael in GSTM creates irony on Vandael as someone who “presents family tradition, the version of history that the family preserves, as inevitable truth” (51), in ways that subliminally express Le Fanu’s knowledge—which “Le Fanu could not directly assent to”—that his own family attempted to “dismiss” the fact that they settled in Ireland as part of of the Protestant Ascendancy that began with the brutal 1690 conquest of Ireland by the Dutch-born William III (58). However, Swafford’s collation of the DUM/PP and GSTM versions overlooks several key revisions related to the removal of the Purcell frame that complicate this interpretation. First, Swafford fails to remark that in revising DUM into GSTM, Le Fanu adds two generations to the time between when Vandael’s forebears “learned” the story behind the painting from “Schalken himself” and “ultimately received the picture itself as a bequest” (GSTM 108. cf. DUM 580).[10] This increased temporal distance narratively justifies the vagueness Swafford interprets as the GSTM narrator being “excessively coy” and “manipulative” (Swafford 51) about the details of a “family heirloom” (Swafford 50; cf. GSTM 108). Second, Swafford fails to remark revised phrasings in GSTM that, far more than in DUM, condition Vandael’s knowledge of the story behind the painting by foregrounding it as an oral “tradition which has descended with the canvass” (GSTM 108) for two generations. In GSTM, Vandael says he will “attempt to relate” (GSTM 108) the “tradition which has descended with the canvass” from his “great grandfather” (GSTM 108). Le Fanu—like most of his Irish readers—understood very well that within oral culture, every narration of a “tradition,” whether intentionally or accidentally, altered the received narration, so these phrasings further justify the vagueness Swafford sees as “manipulative” even as (in keeping with Swafford’s larger argument) they encourage readers to suspect the accuracy of the GSTM text to the original narration “from Schalken himself” (GSTM 108). By contrast, in the DUM/PP version, Purcell tells his interlocutor and eventual executor that “I am enabled to submit to you a faithful recital of what I heard myself” from Vandael, who “appeared firmly convinced of its truth” (DUM 380) and led Purcell to the “assurance, that Schalken was an honest, blunt Dutchman, and, I believe, wholly incapable of committing a flight of imagination” (DUM 580). In DUM, Purcell can confidently claim to “submit to you a faithful recital of what I heard myself” from Vandael (380) because, as is stressed in the opening of the first of the Purcell Papers—“The Ghost and the Bone-Setter” (January 1838)—Purcell’s “love of the marvellous and whimsical” oral traditions he collected “had carried him so far as to prompt him to commit the results of his enquiries to writing.”[11] Hence, in context of the serialization of the Purcell Papers in Dublin University Magazine, in the DUM version, Purcell is implicitly reading to his executor his written transcription of the story as Vandael remembered hearing it from his father, whereas in GSTM, Vandael is making the first “attempt” to write down an oral tradition passed down for two generations within his family. Notably, all of the phrasings Swafford flags in GSTM as “excessively coy” (51) are unrevised from DUM, with the exceptions that DUM’s “some roguish trick” is revised in GSTM to the equally vague “some prankish roguery” (DUM 579; GSTM 107). DUM would hence fit Swafford’s argument about Vandael manipulating family history better than GSTM does, if not for the fact that in DUM Vandael is narrating the story behind the painting to his friend Purcell at Purcell’s request rather than, as in GSTM, to the reading public as a detail of provenance adding to the “real value” of the “remarkable work of Schalken’s” that Vandael’s family possesses (GSTM 107; cf. Swafford 50-1). Swafford also argues that in GSTM, the narrator “has a tendency to inflate critical opinion about this famous friend of the family” (51), and indeed the GSTM Vandael does so more vehemently than in DUM. However, again the fact that in DUM Vandael’s narrative answers a private request from his friend Purcell somewhat justifies his greater modesty about the artistic (and financial) value of the Schalken painting he owns. In the end, Swafford shrewdly foregrounds the ways that the removal of the Purcell frame and other more local revisions can make the GSTM Vandael seem untrustworthy as a narrator, but fuller collation of the two versions makes it very hard to say whether that effect is (subliminally) intentional—as Swafford would have it—or just another accidental result of Le Fanu’s carelessness in revising DUM into GSTM beyond those that Haslam points out in the opening and closing ekphrases.

In context of our edition of “Schalken the Painter,” the most salient implication of the above arguments is that neither the DUM/PP nor the GSTM version is intrinsically superior to the other as a unified aesthetic/ideological text or as an expression of authorial intentions. Removing the Purcell frame not only gives the GSTM Vandael narrator the “bothersome” and “problematical” (Swafford 51) shifts in voice and tone that Swafford foregrounds; it also elides the overt bearing of the Dutch-set narrative on the Le Fanu family’s vexed position within Ireland that Swafford, McCormack, and many other critics so gymnastically try to find sublimated in the GSTM text. Moreover, even though the GSTM text includes an illustration by the eminent illustrator Hablot K. Browne, the illustration is not Browne’s  attempt to realize the fictional Schalken painting Le Fanu twice describes in the story, but instead Browne’s independent representation of a “more sensational” scene from the narrative, which Browne evidently “thought Schalken [and implicitly Le Fanu] should have made the subject” of the fictional painting (Haslam 360). Through the Purcell frame, the DUM/PP version far more overtly and coherently articulates the seventeenth-century Dutch narrative with the troubled Ireland that Le Fanu and his original readers in Dublin University Magazine knew and lived in. However, as our edition for the first time remarks, in the original DUM version (and in PP), Le Fanu towards the end of the narrative seems to forget about the Purcell frame and addresses the reader of Dublin University Magazine directly. As our textual notes detail, in nine instances, the DUM narrator—i.e., Francis Purcell telling his friend and eventual executor the story he learned in his youth from the Captain Vandael who owned the fictional Schalken painting—shifts from the first person singular forms (e.g. “I,” “me”) in which Purcell in the frame otherwise addresses his unnamed friend to various first person plural forms of address (e.g., “we,” “our”), and in several instances he moreover addresses “readers” or “the reader.”[12] It was not uncommon during the nineteenth century for public speakers—from Members of Parliament to the editors of periodicals to the narrators of fiction —to adopt the first person plural or “editorial we” (OED “editorial”; cf. “we”), but previously the DUM/PP narrator always uses the first person singular, in keeping with the frame wherein Purcell is talking privately to a friend. The references to “readers” in several of these instances further violates the frame in which Purcell is telling his eventual executor the story he learned in his “early days”(DUM 579) from the Captain Vandael who owned the fictional Schalken painting. For, even though that executor did eventually publish Purcell’s papers in Dublin University Magazine, in none of these instances or elsewhere in DUM or PP does the executor narratively intervene to claim editorial responsibility that might justify the shifts in address to phrases like “our readers.” One can therefore only conclude that Le Fanu simply forgot about the Purcell frame towards the end of DUM, especially since Le Fanu in other works also struggles to adhere to the paratextual frames he himself constructs. For instance, as Haslam notes, in adding the Dr. Hesselius frame to the original serial version of Carmilla (1871-2) to make it consistent with In A Glass Darkly (1872) as the case studies of a “psychic doctor” that were posthumously collected and published by his longstanding “medical secretary” (Tilley 45), Le Fanu “overlooked the contradiction…between the ‘town lady’ as the explicit narratee of The Dark Blue [serialized] version of Carmilla and Hesselius as the implicit narrate of the In A Glass Darkly version” and thereby triggered a stream of “critical providentialism” like that triggered by Le Fanu’s careless deletions to the final ekphrasis in GSTM discussed above (Haslam 342; cf. 357) .

Largely because Le Fanu’s son Philip either lost or sold his father’s personal papers before he himself died on December 19, 1879 (see note 7), no direct evidence in letters or diaries exists to explain why Le Fanu revised the DUM version into the GSTM version by removing the Purcell frame and having Vandael narrate directly to the public. However, circumstantial evidence from the history of the other tales included in Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery (Dublin: McGlashan, 1851) suggest that Le Fanu did so of his own will, rather than at the advice of his publisher McGlashan or others. Besides “Schalken the Painter,” there are three other stories in Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery. Le Fanu revised each in different ways and to differing extents, but the general drift and intention of his revisions to all four stories is to remove whatever paratextual frames were attached to them when they were originally published in Dublin University Magazine and to replace those frames with Biblical epigraphs that frame the tales as cautions against sin and the futility of contending with supernatural entities. One, “The Murdered Cousin,” was originally published as “Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess” in Dublin University Magazine (November 1838: 502-29), as the fifth of the Purcell Papers and was later expanded into the novel Uncle Silas. Its Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery version removes the first three paragraphs of its original version that identify it as a “paper written in a female hand” that “was no doubt communicated to my much-regretted friend by the lady whose early history it serves to illustrate, the Countess of D—” (PP 2.1-3). Instead, the retitled Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery version adds an epigraph[13] followed by the unattributed and hence rather awkward statement that “[THIS story of the Irish peerage is written, as nearly as possible, in the very words in which it was related by its ‘heroine,’ the late Countess D—, and is therefore told in the first person.]” (Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery 70). Another, “The Watcher,” was originally published in Dublin University Magazine (November 1847: 526-45) with the subtitle “FROM THE REMINISCENCES OF A BACHELOR.” In Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery, this subtitle is replaced with another epigraph,[14] but otherwise the tale is identical to its original version. “The Watcher” was, however, later retitled “The Familiar” and revised to remove the 1851 epigraph and add a paratextual frame linking it to the other case studies of Dr. Hesselius in the collection In A Glass Darkly (1872) (Tilley 24-6). The novella entitled “The Evil Guest” in Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery was originally published as “Some Account of the Latter Days of Richard Marston, of Dunoran” in three installments (April 1848: 473-97; May 1848: 585-607; June 1848: 728-56) in Dublin University Magazine (Crawford and Showers 6). The Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery version seems substantively the same as the original serial version, except that, as with all the other tales in Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery, Le Fanu adds a Biblical epigraph.[15] Le Fanu later expanded “The Evil Guest” into the novel A Lost Name (London: Bentley, 1868), which Le Fanu at that point told the Bentleys he thought “much the best thing I ever wrote” (Crawford and Showers 6, 24; Edens 234-5). What motivated Le Fanu to unify these tales as quasi-Biblical parables at this particular juncture of his life is unclear, but certainly the epigraphs do give the collection a certain unity. So too does the removal of the original paratexts and subtitles, albeit that in both “Schalken the Painter” and “The Murdered Cousin,” removing the Francis Purcell frame creates some instability in the narrating voice, such as those Swafford remarks in the GSTM “Schalken the Painter.”

Much remains to be investigated and interpreted in Le Fanu’s writings, especially given what we have here stressed as his lifelong habit of revising works not simply at the level of phrasing and sentence—which many authors do—but more often revising by removing and adding paratextual frames, altering settings, and in the case of those works expanded from stories into novels (such as Uncle Silas itself), effectively expanding one work not into another version, but into an entirely new work. “Schalken the Painter” is a classic early example of this distinctive revisionary process, and it is by critical consensus the first masterpiece among his “ghost stories and tales of mystery,” to use his own 1851 titular phrase. We offer this edition as a critically edited and fully annotated doorway into further critical investigation of this fascinating early work and, we hope, of Le Fanu’s works more broadly.

Works Cited

Altick, Richard. The English Common Reader. Chicago: Chicago University, 1957.

Collins, Frank. “Schalken the Painter: BFI Flipside Dual Format Edition.” Review of BFI 2013 DVD reissue of Leslie Megahey, Dir., Schalcken the Painter (BBC Omnibus 23 December 1979). Cathode Ray Tube.

Coughlan, Patricia. “Doubles, Shadows, Sedan-Chairs, and the Past: The ‘Ghost Stories’ of J. S. Le Fanu.” In Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers: 137-160

Crawford, Gary William and Brian J. Showers. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: A Concise Bibliography. Dublin: Swan River, 2011.

Crawford, Gary William, Jim Rockhill, and Brian J. Showers. Reflections in a Glass Darkly: Essays on J. Sheridan Le Fanu. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2011.

Crawford, Gary William. J. Sheridan Le Fanu: a Bio-Bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995

Edens, Walter Eugene. “Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: a Minor Victorian and His Publisher.” PhD Diss. University of Illinois, 1963.

Erickson, Lee. The Economy of Literary Form: English Literature and the Industrialization of Publishing, 1800-1850. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1996.

Gallagher, Sharon M. The Irish Vampire: from Folklore to the Imaginations of Charles Robert Maturin, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017. 

Graves, Alfred Perceval. “Memoir of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.” In Sheridan Le Fanu, The Purcell Papers (London: Bentley, 1880). 3 vols. 1: v-xxxi. Rprt In Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers: 17-25

Hall, Wayne. “Le Fanu’s House by the Marketplace.” In Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers: 174-89

Haslam, Richard. “Theory, Empiricism, and ‘Providential Hermeneutics’: Reading and Misreading Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and ‘Schalken the Painter’.” Papers on Language and Literature 47, 4 (2011): 339-61.

Hogle, Jerrold. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Hughes, William, David Punter, and Andrew Smith. Ed. The Encyclopedia of the Gothic. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

James, M. R. “M. R. James on J. S. Le Fanu.” In Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers: 87-94

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family.” Dublin University Magazine 14 (October 1839): 398-415

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family.” The Purcell Papers. 3 Vols. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1880: Vol. 3, 29-135.

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Schalken the Painter.” Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery. Dublin: James McGlashan; London and Liverpool: William S. Orr and Co., 1851: 107-135.  [GSTM]

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter.” Dublin University Magazine 13 (May 1839): 579-91. [DUM]

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter.” The Purcell Papers. 3 Vols. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1880: Vol. 2, 184-254. [PP]

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “The Ghost and the Bone-Setter Dublin University Magazine 11 (January 1838): 50-4

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. Best Ghost Stories of J. S. Le Fanu. Ed. E. F. Bleiler. New York: Dover, 1964.

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. The Watcher and Other Weird Stories. With Twenty-one Illustrations [and a Preface] by Brinsley Sheridan Le Fanu. London: Downey, 1894.

McCormack, W. J. “J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Letters to William Blackwood and John Forster.” Long Room 8 (1973): 29-36

McCormack, W. J. Sheridan Le Fanu and Victorian Ireland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

Megahey, Leslie, Dir. Schalcken the Painter. BBC Omnibus 23 December 1979. Color, 70 mins.

Melada, Ivan. Sheridan Le Fanu. Boston: Twayne, 1987.

Milbank, Alison. Daughters of the House: Modes of the Gothic in Victorian Fiction.  London: Macmillan Press, 1992.

Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy: the Technologization of the Word. London: Routledge, 1982.

Punter, David. Ed. A New Companion to the Gothic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 267-287.

Punter, David. Literature of Terror. a History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day: The Gothic Tradition. London: Routledge, 2016.

Robbins, Ruth and Julian Wolfreys. Victorian Gothic: Literary and Cultural Manifestations in the Nineteenth Century. London: Palgrave, 2000.

Roop, Kel. “Making Light in the Shadow Box: the Artistry of Le Fanu.” In Crawford, Rockhill, and Showers: 163-173

Swafford, James. “Tradition and Guilt in Le Fanu’s ‘Schalken the Painter’.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 14, 2 (1989): 48-59

Tilley, Elizabeth, Ed. In A Glass Darkly, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2018; orig. pub. 1872.

Walton, James. “Vision and Vacancy: ‘Schalken the Painter’ and Le Fanu’s Art of Darkness.” Papers on Language and Literature 40 (2004): 353-83.

Walton, James. Vision and Vacancy: The Fictions of J. S. Le Fanu. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2007. 

Wilkinson, Robin. “ ‘Schalken the Painter’/Le Fanu the Writer. Etudes Anglaises 56 (2003): 275-84.

Wolfreys, Julian. Victorian Hauntings: Spectrality, Gothic, the Uncanny. London: Palgrave, 2002.

Yeager-Crasselt, Lara, and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. “Godefridus Schalcken.” National Gallery of Art NGA Online Editions.


[1] On the Victorian Gothic specifically, see Milbank, Robbins and Wolfreys, and Wolfreys. For broader contexts on the Gothic, see Hogle and Punter.

[2] The most often adapted works by Le Fanu are “Carmilla” (1871) and Uncle Silas (1864). Crawford (137-45) gives a partial filmography, but for a more current filmography of Le Fanu adaptations, see:

[3] McGlashan, along with William Curry and James Duffy, were “the three major figures” during the nineteenth century in “the limited Irish publishing industry.” Curry published Dublin University Magazine from 1833 to 1845, McGlashan from 1846 to 1855, and Duffy thereafter. Le Fanu clearly met McGlashan during McGlashan’s period as editor of Dublin University Magazine, during which Le Fanu published ten tales and poems therein, as well as a handful of essays (Crawford 18-20). McGlashan also published Le Fanu’s early historical novel The Fortunes of Colonel Torlogh O’Brien—A Tale of the Wars of Kings James (1847). Their relationship ended after 1855, when McGlashan began to show signs of senile dementia (Hall 184-5).

[4] “For he is not a man as I am that we should come together; neither is there any that might lay his hand upon us both. Let him, therefore, take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me,” based on Job 9: 32-35. See Swafford 55-6 for commentary on how Le Fanu rewrites the passage and its bearing on the story.

[5] Haslam most pointedly remarks that, although most critics of “Schalken the Painter” use the text (based on GSTM) in E. F. Bleiler’s Best Ghost Stories of J. S. Le Fanu (New York: Dover, 1964), Bleiler’s edition is rife with transcription errors and erroneous emendations (Haslam 349-51).

[6] The bibliographical details in this section are drawn from Crawford and from Crawford and Showers, which together offer a comprehensive, annotated bibliography of all known works by Le Fanu. Both divide their bibliographies of Le Fanu’s works into sections on those published in periodicals and as books. However, Crawford organizes the periodical publications chronologically within sections for different periodicals, while Crawford and Showers organizes periodical publications strictly chronologically. Both organizations are useful, and Crawford and Showers provides crucial corrections to Crawford, especially on the relations between periodical and book publications of the same works.

[7] Bentley contracted to publish The Purcell Papers despite the difficulties Graves communicated to him about verifying the copyright status of the works to be included. In a letter of 20 October 1879, Graves contracted “to receive £50 for collecting & editing LeFanu’s Irish Stories & poems in three volumes, if they run to that length—£30 if they fill only two volumes” (Edens 253). On 1 November 1879, Graves informed Bentley that although he had in “his last” said he had collected material for two volumes, he had since gotten “the following information from Mr. Wm. LeFanu, only brother of Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, which puts us in possession of material for a third volume” (Edens 253). This material was primarily “Shamus O’Brien” and other Irish ballads, supplemented with “a funny story of ‘three white rabbits ‘that William proposes extracting from Le Fanu’s 1847 historical novel The Fortunes of Colonel Torlogh O’Brien—A Tale of the Wars of King James in a 31 October 1879 letter from William to Graves that Graves says “I had better copy” and in his 1 November letter to Bentley (Edens 254, 253). Aside from proposing the above material for the third volume, William’s letter is concerned with his trying unsuccessfully to “ask my nephew Philip LeFanu (Joseph’s son) for his consent, as for aught I know he may have the copyright--& I cannot be sure what he might do hereafter.” I asked for this through his solicitor, Mr. Pelham Mayne--as I could hold no communication with Philip himself” (William Le Fanu in Edens 254). After transcribing William’s letter in full, Graves makes the following comment to Bentley:

To sum up: what with my memoirs, & the Purcell Papers, “The 3 White Rabbits” (permissn for the use of wh. shd. be obtained [i.e., retained] by the Publishers of Torlogh O’Brien) & the Poems above alluded to, there is a matter for three vols. (iii) The son Philip LeFanu may have the copyright to these stories and poems, tho’ this is very unlikely. His is a disgrace to his family, a confirmed scamp. I have lost sight of him, though without a rupture, & as we were friends as lads he will I think give his consent to the publicn of the stories if needful. You will remember that when some years ago you agree to publish these “Stories” I got the consent of Mr. Dunlop the then Editor of the Univ. Mag. to yr. publishing them. But the magazine has changed hand & it may be needful to get the consent of the present Editor. We certainly shd. be on the safe side. I apprehend no opposition: for it is unlikely that any but ourselves and W. LeFanu wd. know which LeFanu stories & poems are as they don’t bear his name & I have besides the permission of W. LeFanu & indeed his positive support in the matter. Philip LeFanu, if disagreeable, wd. I’m sure take a few pounds as the price of his permission. Pray advise me what you wish me to do in these matters. (Edens 254-5)

On 1 November, Graves wrote to Bentley saying, “I have received a letter from Philip LeFanu, son of Joseph’s, expressing satisfaction at the idea of my editing his father’s Irish stories” (Edens 255). Edens notes that “Philip had died somewhere in Dublin in December of the preceding year. Either Graves had received the letter long before or was leading Bentley on” (Edens 255, n. 2). However, McCormack documents that in fact Philip Le Fanu died on December 19, 1879, shortly after Graves wrote the above letter (Sheridan 272). McCormack also documents that “after February 1873, Sheridan Le Fanu’s papers were put on the market” and “the Dublin antiquarian William Frazer bought eight manuscript letters, two of which Le Fanu had published in the Dublin University Magazine in 1839”—precisely when Le Fanu was writing and publishing DUM in that magazine—but that “[n]one of Le Fanu’s literary papers sold at this time have been traced” or appear to be extant (Sheridan 271). In short, Philip Le Fanu played no plausible part in the collecting and editing of The Purcell Papers, and what Graves scorns as his “scamp” ways are mainly to blame for the lamentable fact that “the largest part of Le Fanu’s private papers were lost shortly after he died” (Showers 33; cf. McCormack “J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Letters” 29; Sheridan 270-2).

[8] See our in-text historical note to this phrase for details of the founding of the Dutch Republic.

[9] Brinsley’s three illustrations to “Schalken the Painter” are among twenty-one illustrations he published in The Watcher and Other Weird Stories (London: Downey, 1894), which also contains a brief “Preface” by Brinsley (see note 11). The first illustration appears just below the title “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” and is otherwise uncaptioned (Le Fanu Watcher 126 ); it depicts Vanderhausen entering Douw’s studio for the first time, when he encounters Schalken working late (DUM 581-2). The second illustration is captioned “THE WATERS OF THE BROAD CANAL SETTLING RING AFTER RING IN HEAVY CIRCULAR RIPPLES” (Le Fanu Watcher 163) and depicts what Schalken sees after Rose jumps from the window of Douw’s house when she reappears there after her wedding and demands wine, food, and a holy man (DUM 589). The third illustration, to which Haslam refers, is captioned “SHE DREW THE CURTAINS” (Le Fanu Watcher 167) and, as Haslam notes, depicts not Rose waking Schalken from sleep in the sexton’s room, but rather the subsequent scene when Schalken follows her into the crypts and she draws the curtains to show him Vanderhausen sitting up in a bed (DUM 590). We include all three of these illustrations on the homepage for this edition, although there is no evidence that Sheridan Le Fanu saw or approved these illustrations before his death.

[10] In DUM, Vandael tells Purcell, “My father knew the painter well, and from Schalken himself he learned the story of the mysterious drama, one scene of which the picture has embodied” (DUM 580) and that the “painting, which is accounted a fine specimen of Schalken’s style, was bequeathed to my father by the artists’ will” (DUM 580). By contrast, in GSTM, Vandael tells readers, “My great grandfather knew the painter well; from Schalken himself he learned the fearful story of the painting, and from him too he ultimately received the picture itself as a bequest” (GSTM 108).

[11] In “The Ghost and the Bone-Setter,” Purcell’s unnamed executor opens the series by foregrounding the differences between oral and written texts:

“In looking over the papers of my late valued and respected friend, Francis Purcell, who for nearly fifty years discharged the arduous duties of a parish priest in the south of Ireland, I met with the following document. It is one of many such, for he was a curious and industrious collector of old local traditions—a commodity in which the quarter where he resided mightily abounded. The collection and arrangement of such legends was, as long as I can remember him, his hobby; but I had never learned that his love of the marvellous and whimsical had carried him so far as to prompt him to commit the results of his enquiries to writing, until, in the character of residuary legatee, his will put me in possession of all his manuscript papers. (Dublin University Magazine 11 (January 1838): 50)

In “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family, Being a Tenth Extract from the Legacy of the Late Francis Purcell, P.P. of Drumcoolagh” (October 1839), Le Fanu inserted a note (in the voice of Purcell’s legatee) reiterating that Purcell wrote down the stories he heard. This note moreover defends both Purcell and his legatee (and implicitly Le Fanu) against accusations that Purcell’s written “legacy” adds supernatural elements to the stories he transcribed so as to pander to low tastes:

The residuary legatee of the late Frances [sic] Purcell, who has the honour of selecting  such of his lamented old friend’s manuscripts as may appear fit for publication, in order that the lore which they contain may reach the world before scepticism and utility have robbed our species of the precious gift of credulity, and scornfully kicked before them, or trampled into annihilation, those harmless fragments of picturesque superstition, which it is our object to preserve, has been subjected to the charge of dealing too largely in the marvellous; and it has been half insinuated that such is his love for diablerie, that he is content to wander a mile out of his way, in order to meet a fiend or a goblin, and thus to sacrifice all regard for truth and accuracy to the idle hope of affrighting the imagination, and thus pandering to the bad taste of his reader. He begs leave, then, to take this opportunity of asserting his perfect innocence of all the crimes laid to his charge, and to assure his reader that he never pandered to his bad taste, nor went one inch out of his way to introduce witch, fairy, devil, ghost, or any other of the grim fraternity of the redoubted Raw-head and bloody-bones. His province, touching these tales, has been attended with no difficulty and little responsibility; indeed, he is accountable for nothing more than an alteration in the names of persons mentioned therein, when such a step seemed necessary, and for an occasional note, whenever he conceived it possible, innocently, to edge in a word. These tales have been written down, as the heading of each announces, by the Rev. Francis Purcell, P.P. of Drumcoolagh; and in all the instances, which are many, in which the present writer has had an opportunity of comparing the manuscript of his departed friend with the actual traditions which are current amongst the families whose fortunes they pretend to illustrate, he has uniformly found that whatever of supernatural occurred in the story, so far from having been exaggerated by him, had been rather softened down, and whenever it could be attempted, accounted for. (“A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family,” Dublin University Magazine 14 (October 1839): 400; cf.  “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family” in The Purcell Papers (London: Bentley: 1880): 3.40-1)

The defensive tone of this note and the italicization of the phrase “pandered to his bad taste” both suggest that the note responds to a (bad) review of previous “extracts” from Purcell’s “legacy”—including “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter”—that had been published in Dublin University Magazine. However, despite extensive searching, we have been unable to identify a review or other comment that might have prompted the note. Most of Brinsley Sheridan’s Preface to The Watcher and Other Weird Stories (1894)—his posthumous, illustrated selection of his father’s stories—is devoted to quoting the above note, which he says “my father supplied” “[w]hen ‘The Purcell Papers’ were appearing in The Dublin University Magazine” and “was reproduced by Mr. Graves in his edition of the book.” Presumably Brinsley included the note because it defended his father’s use of the supernatural (and oral tradition) in the Purcell Papers, from which, “with the exception of ‘The Watcher’,” Brinsley selected the stories he wished to republish—with his own illustrations—twenty-one years after his father’s death. See note 9 above on Brinsley’s illustratons, which we include on the homepage for this edition.

For scholarship on the differences between oral and written cultures, see Ong’s classic Orality and Literacy.

[12] See our textual notes to the following phrases: “our readers” (DUM 589); “we are about imperfectly” (DUM 589); “we have already spoken” (DUM 589); “our rational readers” (DUM 589); “after the events which we have detailed” (DUM 590); “after the event we have narrated” (DUM 590); “we have above attempted to describe” (DUM 590); and “the reader will easily perceive, by our studiously omitting to heighten many points of the narrative, when a little additional colouring might have added effect to the recital, that we have desired to lay before him” (DUM 591).

[13] “And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own live. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of owner thereof,” based on Proverbs 1: 18.

[14] “How long wilt thou not depart from me? Thou terrifiest me through visions; so that my soul chooseth strangling rather than my life,” based on Job 7: 14-19 (Tilley 25).

[15] “When Lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth Sin; and Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth Death” (James 1:15).