Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin on August 28, 1814; his father was of Huguenot descent and his mother was a niece of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Le Fanu spent most of his childhood in Chapelizod, a village west of Dublin near Phoenix Park, where his father was chaplain of the Hibernian Military School. In 1826, the elder Le Fanu elected to move to Abingdon near Limerick in the west of Ireland. As a minister of the established Church of Ireland, he was naturally resented by the predominantly Catholic peasantry who were supposed to pay tithes for his support; after a time, during the Tithe Wars, the tithes simply ceased to be paid.
The young Le Fanu was largely educated at home until he entered Trinity College in Dublin. He trained as a barrister but never practiced, his interests having shifted to journalism and fiction. From time to time, he was involved in the operation of various newspapers and of the Dublin University Magazine, in which much of his fiction first appeared. In December, 1844, he married Susanna Bennett, the daughter of a barrister; they had four children before her death in 1858. During her last illness, she was plagued by religious doubts, which Le Fanu apparently shared. In his uncertainty, he turned to Swedenborgianism, whose elaborate mythology of the spiritual world might have encouraged his interest in the supernatural. After his wife’s death, he became increasingly reclusive and died on February 7, 1873.