In a Glass Darkly
is a collection of five short stories
by Sheridan Le Fanu
, first published in 1872
, the year before his death. The second and third are revised versions of previously published stories, and the fourth and fifth are long enough to be called novellas
The title is taken from 1 Corinthians 13, a deliberate misquotation of the passage which describes humanity as perceiving the world "through a glass darkly".
The stories, which belong to the gothic horror and mystery genres, are presented as selections from the posthumous papers of the occult detective Dr Martin Hesselius.
An English clergyman named Jennings confides to Hesselius that he is being followed by a demon in the form of an ethereal monkey, invisible to everyone else, which is trying to invade his mind and destroy his life. Hesselius writes letters to a Dutch colleague about the victim's condition, which gets steadily worse with time as the creature steps up its methods, all of which are purely psychological. The title refers to Hesselius's belief that green tea
was what unsealed Jennings's "inner eye" and led to the haunting. Emanuel Swedenborg
's book Arcana Coelestia
(1749) is cited on the power of demons.
A revised version of The Watcher
(1851). A sea captain, living in Dublin
, is stalked by "The Watcher", a strange dwarf who resembles a person from his past. He starts to hear accusatory voices all about him, and eventually his fears solidify in the form of a sinister bird, a pet owl owned by his fiancée, Miss Montague.
Mr Justice Harbottle
A revised version of An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street
(1853). A cruel judge in the Court of Common Pleas, Elijah Harbottle, finds himself under attack by vengeful spirits, and in a disturbing dream he is condemned to death by a monstrous doppelgänger
. The story is set between 1746 and 1748, and is retold by a Londoner called Anthony Harman from the account given in letters by an elderly friend.
The Room in the Dragon Volant
Not a ghost story but a notable mystery story, in 26 chapters, which includes the theme of premature burial
. A naive young Englishman in France attempts to save a mysterious countess from her intolerable situation.
A tale of a lesbian vampire
, set in Styria, Austria
. This story was to greatly influence Bram Stoker
in the writing of Dracula
. It also served as the basis for several films including Hammer's The Vampire Lovers
(1970) and Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer