Biography

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 669

Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was descended from a Huguenot family that had left France for Ireland in the seventeenth century. Both his grandfather, Joseph, and great uncle, Henry, had married sisters of the famous playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan. His father, Philip Le Fanu, was a noted scholar and clergyman who served as rector at the Royal Hibernian School, where Le Fanu was born, and later as dean of Emly. His mother was from all accounts a most charming and gentle person, an essayist on philanthropic subjects and a leader in the movement for humane treatment of animals. With loving and indulgent parents and the excitement of life at the school, where military reviews were frequent, Le Fanu’s childhood was a happy one.

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In 1826, the family moved to Abington in county Limerick. Le Fanu and his brother, William, were not sent to a formal school but were tutored by their father with the help of an elderly clergyman, who gladly excused the boys from their lessons so he could pursue the passion of his life: fishing. Walking tours through the wild Irish countryside, conversations with friendly peasants, who told of fairies and pookhas and banshees, shaped very early the imagination of the boy who would become the creator of so many tales of the mysterious and supernatural. The Tithe Wars of 1831 and the resulting animosity of the peasants to the Le Fanus, who were seen as representative of the Anglo-Irish establishment, forced the young Le Fanu to examine his own Irishness. On one hand, he was intellectually supportive of the union and convinced that British rule was in the best interests of the Irish people; on the other, the courage and sacrifices of the bold Irish nationalists filled him with admiration and respect.

In 1837, Le Fanu graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. He took honors in classics and was well known for his fine orations before the College Historical Society. Called to the Irish bar in 1839, he never practiced law but entered a productive career in journalism. His first published work, “The Ghost and the Bonesetter,” appeared in the Dublin University Magazine in January, 1838. That magazine was to publish serially eight of Le Fanu’s fourteen novels after he became its owner and editor in 1861. During the early 1840’s, Le Fanu became proprietor or part-owner of a number of journals, including The Warder, The Statesman, The Protestant Guardian, and the Evening Mail.

In 1844, Le Fanu married Susan Bennett. The union was a happy one; the Le Fanus had two sons and two daughters. One son, George, became an...

(The entire section contains 669 words.)

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