Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Irish author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and one of the early works of vampire fiction, predating Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) by 26 years. First published as a serial in The Dark Blue (1871–72), the story is narrated by a young woman preyed upon by a female vampire named Carmilla, later revealed to be Mircalla, Countess Karnstein (Carmilla is an anagram of Mircalla). The character is a prototypical example of the lesbian vampire, expressing romantic desires toward the protagonist, and is depicted as a trait of antagonism inline with the contemporary views of homosexuality. The story is often anthologized and has been adapted many times in film and other media.
Le Fanu presents the story as part of the casebook of Dr. Hesselius, whose departures from medical orthodoxy rank him as the first occult detective in literature.
Laura, the teenage protagonist, narrates, beginning with her childhood in a “picturesque and solitary” castle amid an extensive forest in Styria, where she lives with her father, a wealthy English widower retired from service to the Austrian Empire. When she was six, Laura had a vision of a beautiful visitor in her bedchamber. She later claims to have been punctured in her breast, although no wound was found.
As she grows older, lonely Laura is thrilled when she becomes friends with the mysterious stranger, Carmilla, in this gothic vampire tale.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales, mystery novels, and horror fiction. He was a leading ghost story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M. R. James described Le Fanu as “absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories.” Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carmilla, and The House by the Churchyard.