The Muse

(An International Journal of Poetry)

ISSN 2249 –2178


Volume-3                                                      DECEMBER -2013                                           Number-2




The Poetry of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: an Introductory Analysis

                              by Phillip A. Ellis


An examination of scholarship on Le Fanu reveals the paucity of items on his poetry:  six items are listed by Crawford in his bio-bibliography. Three of these are reviews of Graves's 1896 edition of Le Fanu's verse. Two others are also by Graves, who supplied much of the material for that collection. Further, of these six items, only one appeared after the First World War. So it can easily be seen that Le Fanu is neglected as a poet. However, this picture is complicated by the publication history of the poems. Many of them appeared numerous times. Several, notably “Shamus O'Brien” and “Phaudrig Crohoore” achieved a degree of popularity, the former chiefly as a recitative piece. A number also appeared in the context of Le Fanu's prose works, such as his “Song”.  This essay is the first to study Le Fanu’s poetry in any depth.  I focus on the technical aspects of the poems rather than on their themes. This reflects my fundamental interest in how a poem forms itself, rather than in what the poem talks about. However, that does not mean that I will totally neglect the poems' subject matter.


One thing that marks Le Fanu's output, despite its slimness, is its breadth of forms and genres. “Beatrice” is a verse drama, one influenced by the works of Byron, according to Crawford (25), and this is reflected not only in the story and setting of the poem in Italy, but also the verse employed, and the choice of the closet drama genre.“Beatrice” is not intended to be staged; rather it is intended for a private, recitative reading, which allows for the poeticality of its verse to be displayed. The other poems vary according to style, and subject matter, and mood, yet there is less of a sense, as we find with Poe, that each is unique in these ways. While a comparison with Poe is interesting, there is a sense that there is a distinct lack of that unity in diversity with Poe brings into play, or of Poe's variety of metrical forms. Further, Le Fanu attempts longer and more ambitious poems. While easily capable of being digested in one sitting, as according to Poe's dictum in “The Philosophy of Composition” (2001: 743), these poems challenge, not so much our patience as our powers of attention. There is more to be said for a lack of unity of mood, effect, or impression in the longest of Le Fanu's pieces, however, such unity was not one of the guiding principles in works such as “Beatrice”.


According to Graves, “Le Fanu had anonymously contributed half-a-dozen other poems to the Dublin University Magazine” (1896 vii). He had also used a pseudonym for some poems that appeared there. As a result, it is easy to see how a work such as “Shamus O'Brien” became attributed to Samuel Lover, since it was largely through Lover that the poem became known as a recitative piece. This suggests that, while much of Le Fanu's poetry anonymously, there are other poems yet to be ascribed to Le Fanu. As a result, only those poems known and strongly suspected to have been by Le Fanu have been included here.


“Beatrice” was, in part, one of those anonymous pieces: the third part of the original appearance is the only one credited, but to Le Fanu's pseudonym Hyacinth Con Carolan (Crawford and Showers 2011: 12). It takes the form of a verse drama, and lacks the “totality, or unity, of effect” that Poe prized (2001: 744). This is reflected in Graves' assessment of the piece as being a “lyrical drama with such a stamp appalling??? (1896 viii). This assessment is essentially positive: it recognises that Le Fanu, here, is attempting to evoke a specific emotional response in the audience.


According to Crawford, Beatrice was “Influenced by the work of Byron” (1995: 25). Such an influence is discernible in the verse techniques employed, and in the choice of setting, Venice. Most of the passages are rhymed, and there is a variety of rhyming patterns according to the speeches of the characters. Take, for example, the following, spoken by Beatrice after Julio leaves her:


And so the foolish dream is done;

I'm glad the saucy fellow's gone.

(A pause.)

Glad, too, he lighted here by night,

He'll never find it in daylight.

Yes glad―right glad―he'll come no more.

     (Listens for a longer time.)

    And so, the foolish dream is o'er,

'Tis very well―it was not meet,

   (Another pause as she listens vainly. She sighs.

And the song was wondrous sweet!


  Quite gone―I'm glad―it was too bold.

(A pause.)

And yet the song was passing sweet!

Thou tuneful gondolier! whom sight

Of mine shall ne'er behold;

For thy sweet song―good-night!

     (She closes the casement.) (1896: 15-16)


The overall effect here is related to the contrast between the earlier use of rhyming octosyllabic couplets, and of the later elaboration of the rhyme scheme and meter, as a reflection of Beatrice's mood and chain of thought. First, though, the couplets: their steady progression reflects the steady progression of Beatrice's thought. She starts by thinking “And so the foolish dream is done; / I'm glad the saucy fellow's gone.” She is initially dismissive of Julio, and of the emotions that his song has raised in her. Yet, despite the progression of her thought, there is a sense that she doth protest too much. The next two couplets are marked by an explicit return to both the thought that Julio will be incapable of returning, and that the emotions raised are a “foolish dream.”


The break comes when Beatrice says “'Tis very well―it was not meet, /... And the song was wondrous sweet!” It is, at this point, as if the rhyming couplets have continued, with the shift in thought a shift in rhyme scheme. The two reflect each other, after all. It would pay us well to pay attention to the passage in greater detail:


'Tis very well―it was not meet,

   (Another pause as she listens vainly. She sighs.

And the song was wondrous sweet!

     (Opens the casement and looks out. A Pause.)

  Quite gone―I'm glad―it was too bold.

(A pause.)

And yet the song was passing sweet!

Thou tuneful gondolier! whom sight

Of mine shall ne'er behold;

For thy sweet song―good-night!


The effect of the shift from the “meet” / “sweet” rhymes to the line ending “bold” is as if Beatrice is continuing to progress on her train of thought. However, this is immediately broken; she returns to the same thought, that “the song was … sweet” in the repetition with variations from “the song was wondrous sweet!” to “the song was passing sweet!” The effect is, realising at last the sweetness of the song, and indirectly the strength and validity of the emotions aroused, Beatrice must return to that theme, again, hence the employment of the exact rhyme (“sweet”) and the breakdown of the established pattern of the couplets. Thereafter, the couplets are abandoned, even though the rhymes are not. This can be demonstrated by schematically marking the rhyme scheme of this speech as follows: aabbccddedbeb. The overall effect is that, following her passage of thought until it reaches the understanding that she has fallen in love, Beatrice's thought is broken, can barely progress beyond returning to her earlier thoughts, but not as a continuation but as a negation, an antithesis. She is, that is, at first grateful that Julio cannot return; she later mourns, sorrows that he shall not return.


This passage was chosen for a specific reason. It is central to the narrative, as it is to the character of Beatrice, and to the characteristics of her relationship with Julio. It is indicative of the way the form interacts with the rhetoric of the dialogue, so that the overall effect is that, when successful, the verse works with the drama to create a sense of the narrative and characters. These passages are usually in contrast with the passages spoken by the chorus, whose role is not only to comment on the action portrayed, but to convey something of the events that are not shown. If we consider the action, the characters speaking as interacting as the playwright showing us, the chorus is the playwright telling us; exposition, that is, as opposed to the characters' action.


The following excerpt from one of the chorus' passages should demonstrate this:


There she sits with sea-gray eyes

      Gazing o'er the sea,

In sunset dreams, beneath the skies

      That dreamlike flash and flee.

And floats there in the fading light

A tender thought of yesternight? (Le Fanu 1896: 16-17)


The opening of this passage is pure exposition: it tells us that Beatrice “sits with sea-gray eyes /      Gazing o'er the sea.” This can be gathered from stage direction which notes that Beatrice is “in the casement, pensive, leaning on her hand,” however, the key elements, that she gazes “o'er the sea” is only made explicit in the words of the chorus. The passage continues to talk about the skies, a detail that one would expect in more naturalistic dramas to be made explicit through the stage directions, again, yet here the details are in the text, and allow for the possibility of the poem existing only as a recited piece, consonant with its nature as a closet drama. The couplet “And floats there in the fading light / A tender thought of yesternight?” is, again, pure exposition. There is no way, outside of dialogue, that the processes of thought can be displayed directly. It is possible to read thought into action, and it is possible to read the processes of thinking into the earlier stage direction, however, the information in this passage, while in a way essential to a fuller understanding of the character of Beatrice, and of the play's action, has been chosen to be revealed in a specific manner, one suited to the conventions of the closet drama as practised by Le Fanu.


As a result, there is a dynamic tension of action and exposition that is created in the poem, and this is in effect an experiment in narrative form. This is noted by Graves in his introduction, where he considers “Beatrice” and “The Legend of the Glaive” to be “clearly experimental and not always successful” (1896: vii). As a poem and closet drama, the demands of which require a balance of narrative and exposition, “Beatrice” is more effective than otherwise. However, without production as a play, by competent, committed and talented readers, its efficaciousness as a closet drama cannot be effectively discovered. This last point cannot be said regarding the other poems, given that they lack that dramatic element; “Shamus O'Brien”, made famous as a recitation piece, is one that shows Le Fanu's ability as a poet.


According to Graves, “Shamus O'Brien” “contains passages most faithfully, if fearfully, picturesque, and ... is characterized throughout by a profound pathos” (1880 xvi; 1896 xx). In the latter pieces he adds “and an abundant humour" (Graves 1896 xx), yet in the earlier memoir he writes, instead "and an abundant though at times a too grotesquely incongruous humour" (Graves 1880 xvi). It is this combination of pathos and humour that marks the poem, and adds to its success as a recitative piece.


“Shamus O'Brien” was attributed to Samuel Lover for a period, rather than to Le Fanu. The proper attribution to Le Fanu had been made by 1871, when the poem was published with Lover's “Father Roach” (Le Fanu), and it is true, as Graves notes, that “Lover added some lines of his own to the poem, made Shamus emigrate to the States, and set up a public-house. These added lines appeared in most of the published versions of the ballad, but they are indifferent as verse, and certainly injure the dramatic effect of the poem” (Graves 1896 xx; it is almost identical to the equivalent passage in the 1880 memoir: xvi-xvii). The lines do read more woodenly than the bulk of “Shamus O'Brien”, and their sentiment runs counter to the nationalist spirit of the narrative. It is exceedingly unlikely that Le Fanu would have considered emigration for his hero; Lover, appealing to the interests of a largely American audience, would always be far more likely the source of these lines.


The pathos, that was noted earlier, is largely present in passages here and there. The one passage, to be examined in some detail, is that of Shamus' capture; it reads:


An' twelve sodgers brought him to Maryborough jail,

An' the turnkey resaved him, refusin' all bail;

The fleet limbs wor chained, an' the sthrong hands wor bound,

An' he laid down his length on the cowld prison ground,

An' the dreams of his childhood kem over him there

As gentle an' soft as the sweet summer air;

An' happy remembrances crowding on ever,

As fast as the foam-flakes dhrift down on the river,

Bringing fresh to his heart merry days long gone by,

Till the tears gathered heavy and thick in his eye.

But the tears didn't fall, for the pride of his heart

Would not suffer one drop down his pale cheek to start;

An' he sprang to his feet in the dark prison cave,

An' he swore with the fierceness that misery gave,

By the hopes of the good, an' the cause of the brave,

That when he was mouldering in the cold grave

His enemies never should have it to boast

His scorn of their vengeance one moment was lost;

His bosom might bleed, but his cheek should be dhry,

For, undaunted he lived, and undaunted he 'd die. (lines 60-79; 1871: 9; 1896: 116-117)


The passage is marked by a language designed to render Shamus's plight in vivid and directly emotional terms. Previous to this passage, Shamus is described in ways that emphasise his positive qualities, in terms primarily superlative. This will not be quoted, however we can see an echo of that emphasis on his prowess, here, in terms that mark his bravery and courage. Although “the tears gathered heavy and thick in his eye,” it is “the pride of his heart” that “Would not suffer one drop down his pale cheek to start.” Further, while it is “the fierceness that misery gave” that provides the impetus for his oath, he swears by “the hopes of the good, an' the cause of the brave,” that “His enemies never should have it to boast / His scorn of their vengeance one moment was lost,” and that “undaunted he lived, and undaunted he 'd die” – all regarded, and supported by the events of the poem, as positive qualities.


It is also immediately marked by a passage that not only demonstrates his plight, but does so with pathos, in language designed to raise an appropriate response in contrast to the superlatives with which he had been previously described. Where that passage reads


The fleet limbs wor chained, an' the sthrong hands wor bound,

An' he laid down his length on the cowld prison ground,

An' the dreams of his childhood kem over him there

As gentle an' soft as the sweet summer air;

An' happy remembrances crowding on ever,

As fast as the foam-flakes dhrift down on the river,

Bringing fresh to his heart merry days long gone by,

Till the tears gathered heavy and thick in his eye.


The poem evokes the emotional response of sorrow, at Shamus's plight, and of fear for the outcome of his travails. It is [delete that is] an effective and poignant passage, and while it runs counter to the emotions attendant upon the passage of superlatives, it would be cavilling to complain about a lack of unity of emotion in the whole of the poem. As a narrative, the poem seeks to first establish the heroic qualities of Shamus, hence the superlatives, then to establish a dramatic situation where a frisson of fear for the endangered hero is evoked. Yet, in doing so, a change is evoked: at the low point, Shamus' heroic qualities are invoked, and the rest of the action is foreshadowed.


There is more work that needs to be done on the language, since the emotional burden of the language of the whole poem is designed to inspire a range of emotional responses that lead to an identification with, and support of, Shamus O'Brien. It also emphasises the narrative as a form of romance, rather than as a form of realistic narrative, and this form is successfully developed to a satisfying conclusion. Shamus O'Brien becomes a cultural hero, that is, a symbolic figure that stirs feelings of nationalism in the hearts of the listeners. Hence, in large part, the reasons for the poem's popularity.


Regarding “Shamus O' Brien”, Graves says that he has


“heard it said (though without having inquired into the truth of the tradition) that 'Shamus

O'Brien' was the result of a match at pseudo-national ballad writing made between Le Fanu

and several of the most brilliant of his young literary confreres at T. C. D. But however this

may be, Le Fanu undoubtedly was no young Irelander ; indeed he did the stoutest service as

a press writer in the Conservative interest, and was no doubt provoked as well as amused at

the unexpected popularity to which his poem attained amongst the Irish Nationalists.”

(Graves 1880 xix)


But Graves goes on to note that “And here it should be remembered that the ballad was written some eleven years before the outbreak of '48, and at a time when a '98 subject might fairly have been regarded as legitimate literary property amongst the most loyal” (Graves 1880 xix-xx). It would be nigh on impossible to be certain of the truth of such a claim, although there is no barrier between conservatism and nationalism. Though the truth may be lost, what remains is an excellent example of Le Fanu's skill as a writer and as a poet. After all, Graves notes that “There are evidences in 'Shamus O'Brien' and even in 'Phaudrig Croohore' of a power over the mysterious, the grotesque, and the horrible, which so singularly distinguished him as a writer of prose fiction” (1880: xxiii).


Regarding “Duan na Claev—Legend of the Glaive”, Graves has remarked that its “old-world idylls [are] so full of Gaelic glamour” (1896 viii), which is a fair enough assessment, however its influences and style lead towards the thought of a wider, Romantic origin for the poem. Graves, speaking in part about “Duan na Claev” notes that Le Fanu's poems “show him to have been capable of dramatic and lyrical creation on a distinctly higher plane than he had hitherto reached, although the forms in which the drama and the legend are cast clearly” (1896 vii). That latter point, about “lyrical creation”, concerns us here. While “Duan na Claev” is a narrative poem, it is marked by an intense degree of lyricism in its details. The following quatrain, marks the point in the narrative where the hero departs on his quest:


The hero's hair blew back and showed

His gleaming eyes and forehead broad;

His marble face and haughty head,

In resolve already dead. (1896: 89-90; lines 52-55)


The only action showed here is that of the wind blowing back the hair, and the quatrain serves as a lyrical interlude immediately after a laconic couplet, one that furthers the poem's actions: “With these words Cathair is gone, / And Fionula is alone” (1896: 89; lines 50-51) – the contrast is telling. In the couplet, the narrative drive takes precedence over the lyric impulse, so that what we have is a bare recitation of events. What follows is a passage that, while it fleshes out the details, adds nothing to the narrative. Rather, it impedes it, and this is the source for the problems with “Duan na Claev”.


The whole is badly integrated, so that it seems as if the poet has not been able to decide whether to present a narrative poem, or a lyric poem. While many of the details are notable, they are poorly integrated with the narrative, to the point that the poem does not satisfy as either a narrative or a lyric poem. This is similar to the problems that threaten to overwhelm “Beatrice”, but where, in the play, the lyric impulse is mastered and adds to the overall dramatic impulse, by articulating and creating character and revealing mental states, here it does little than gild an otherwise respectable lily.


Yet, according to Graves,


The same magnetic attributes of superhuman mystery, grim or ghastly humour and diabolic

horror which characterize the finest of his prose fictions meet us again. But these qualities

are often conveyed with a finer touch, and at times with a directness of suggestion that is

overwhelming. Again, the lurid terror of these narratives is happily relieved by interludes of

such haunting beauty of colour and sound, that we cannot but lament the lateness of this

discovery of his highest artistic self. (1896 vii-viii).


Where Graves sees some degree of success, I do not; had Le Fanu emphasised the basics of the narrative, in a style akin to the Border Ballads, perhaps, “Duan na Claev” would have probably been more successful.


Regarding “Phaudhrig Croohore”, Graves' reactions to the poem are interesting. While he notes that “Phaudrig Crohoore” “has the disadvantage, not only of being written after "Young Lochinvar," but also that of having been directly inspired by it” (Graves 1880 xv; 1896 xix), he notes that “although wanting in the rare and graceful finish of the original, the Irish copy has, we feel, so much fire and feeling” (Graves 1880 xv; 1896 xix). Graves does go on to say, in the earlier memoir, that "we may safely say that some of Le Fanu's lines are finer than any in 'Young Lochinvar,' simply because they seem to speak straight from a people's heart, not to be the mere echoes of medieval romance" (Graves 1880 xv). This reinforces the origin of a fair amount of Le Fanu's verse in Romanticism.


In some ways, “Phaudrig Crohoore” is an echo of “Shamus O'Brien”. Whereas the latter poem is more overtly nationalist in tone, “Phaudrig Crohoore” has aspects of the same nationalism. While the poem itself focuses upon his elopement with his beloved, the coda, that tells of his eventual death is interesting enough to quote at length; it goes:


But them days are gone by, himself is no more;

An' the green grass is growin' o'er Phaudrig Crohoore,

For he couldn't be aisy or quiet at all;

As he lived a brave boy, he resolved so to fall.

And he took a good pike—for Phaudrig was great—

And he fought, and he fell in the year ninety-eight.

An' the day that Crohoore in the green field was killed,

A sthrong boy was sthretched, and a sthrong heart was stilled. (1896: 133-134; lines 99-106)


While this is longer than the American coda that Lover attached to “Shamus O'Brien”, it is integral to a reading of the character of Phaudrig. The character is consistent with the rest of the poem, as is the style, and the lines employed. The poem reads satisfactorily as a whole, and Phaudrig becomes a nationalist hero by virtue of his consistent and admirable personality.


Again, as with “Shamus O'Brien”, the poem's language sets up that admiration. We have seen, in the extract quoted above, the use of “sthrong”, language that ties together the characters of Shamus O'Brien and Phaudrig Crohoore. We also see the same emphasis on courage and bravery, as well as resourcefulness. The final result of this is a sense that “Shamus O'Brien” is not as unique in Le Fanu's repertoire as it may seem.


Technically, the line of this piece tends towards doggerel, yet the strength of both the narrative and the language work together to diminish the effects of this roughness of metre. This can be seen if the poem is quoted; the following couplet demonstrates much of this: “Oh! Sorrow and love made the poor girl dumb, / An' she thried hard to spake, but the words wouldn't come” (1896: 131; lines 72-73). While the first of these two lines can be said to form a rough iambic pentameter, the second line is an equally rough iambic hexameter, and there is, in the rest of the poem, no real sense of any regularity of line length. While the poem is in doggerel, though, the effect of the use of dialect, and the general use of a demotic language work together to create a not displeasing effect, and the end result is a poem of vigour and charm.


The rest of the poems are, however, slighter, with fewer points of interest. As a result, there shall be no more than one paragraph of discussion for most of them, and they shall not be quoted to the same degree as the other poems. This does not mean that they do not have points of interest. Rather, that their neglect thus far echoes their diminished place in Le Fanu's poetic oeuvre.


“Molly, my Dear”is a slight piece, of little intrinsic interest, and notable only in that it demonstrates that Le Fanu was capable of romantic poetry that eschewed cliché to a point. Technically, it is undistinguished, with a rhythm that tends towards prosiness rather than towards musicality; the worst line in this regards, the one that most offends, is line five, which reads “When last I held your hand, you were goin' to be married, my dear” (1896: 135). It is written in lines that almost make fourteeners, but they are, properly, a doggerel that work against the poem's reception, and that do not mark the skill with which Le Fanu writes elsewhere.


With “Abhain au Bhuideil” , the irregular rhythm and rhyme scheme help make this more than just a slight piece, and since, technically, it has a number of points of interest, it demonstrates Le Fanu's ability as a poet. One of these points of interest is the way that the rhetoric of the piece, its argument, is partly reflected and partly shaped by the lines in question. So that lines like “The brain that was mad, and the heart that was sore” (1896: 140; line 60) work from the echo of their sense in their form, just as their form determines their sense. In this case, note the parallelism, and the accretion of detail.


In addition, passages such as the following


Where gauger never has trod

Sweet as the flowery sod,

Wild as the breath

Of the breeze on the heath, (1896: 137; lines 5-8)


reveal something of how the changes in rhythm work with the use of rhyme to develop a fluidity and musicality that develops the poem's strengths. In this specific passage, the use of the two couplets sees a diminishment from three stressed syllables in heptasyllabic lines to a couplet with two stressed syllables per line, and a variable number of syllables. This leads, not to the impossibility of a fixed scansion, of a set division into feet, but a form of rhymed proto-free verse. That is, there is no set metre for the poem, but there is a sense of freedom tempered with the use of rhyme as a unifying force, so that the poem acheives a balance of form and seeming formlessness.


“Song” is slight, and, when divorced of its context in the wider narrative of its embedding novel, of little intrinsic interest. Of some interest, though, are the effects caused by the alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes, evidence, again, of Le Fanu's skills as a poet. Such an alternation works with the almost unvarying rhythm to produce a sensation almost equivalent to reading a piece of six quatrains of short measure, however, all of the lines are iambic trimeter, and the division into the three octets, rhyming ababcdcd works against such an impression. One aspect of the poem that works towards that impression, however, is the way that each “quatrain” is demarkated by a final, end-stopped line terminated by a period. Not only does the sense of that “fourth” line end, that is, so too does the sentence that comprises that “quatrain.” So it can be seen that, while technically, this impression of six quatrains is diminished by the visual division of the poem into three octets, the sense of the sentence structures, and the rhyme scheme work against it. The end result of such a structure is apparent on thought about the poem, but not in a first or casual reading.


“Memory” is a slight piece, with little of note technically speaking. It is, metrically speaking, long measure, a quatrain of usually iambic tetrameter, rhyming abab for the first and fourth stanzas, and xaxa for the central two. The effect of this is not unpleasant, but the slightness of the piece does not lend any especial charm to it. The only real feature of note, though, is the use of feminine rhymes in lines ten and twelve. That of line twelve, “melancholy” (1896: 145), is particularly effective and memorable.


With “The Stream”, the effects of the use of  both masculine and feminine rhymes is again of note. While there is a standard rhyme scheme for all of the four quatrains, unlike “Memory”, this rhyme scheme being aababcccb, the use of the feminine rhmes is less exact. As a result the effect of the terminal unstressed syllables (as opposed to the terminal stressed syllables) has a different effect than it would had they been more regular, and this influences the reception of the poem. There is another element of the poem that lends to it a certain degree of charm, and that is the running on of the sentence and sense from the first stanza to the second, despite the first stanza ending with an end-stopped line.


“A Doggerel in a Dormant-Window” is considered by Crawford, in his 1995 bio-bibliography, to be “A charming, meditative poem written in the manner of Tennyson” (25). Crawford's assessment is sound, and the poem is, again, evidence of Le Fanu's skills as a poet: the poem is marked by rich, though not neccesarily lush, imagery and descriptive writing; contrary to its title, the use of rhythm is masterful, and the iambic trimeter works with the subject matter and rhyme scheme to bring a sense of forward momentum to the poem's argument, and a sense of the unfolding of the view; and there is also a sense of muted musicality to the words that both emphasize and accentuate his rhythms and meaning.


There are lesser lyrics, primarily juvenalia. These include “'There is hour ', about which Graves noted that the sentiments were “as secondhand as that pervading Tennyson's boyish lyrics” (1896: ix) even as “the medium of its expression [was] poetical” (1896: ix). Le Fanu's “My dear good Madam,” is, again by Graves, described as being “brilliant of doggerel as a valentine” (1896: x) Graves also notes that “'One wild and distant bugle sound' is undoubtedly his” (1880: xx) and proceeds to quote it in the following page of the memoir. The general impression of these poems is one of technical skill, even if Le Fanu is only developing as a poet. I will not, however, discuss any of these in any detail, save to note that the care placed into their composition is indicative of Le Fanu's ability as a poet, and of a like quality to his more mature productions.


This overview of Le Fanu's poetry has been sketchy by necessity. One hindrance has been the relative paucity of work about the poems. Though several gained some degree of popularity, and though a number appeared in relation to Le Fanu's prose works, the impression I have gained from that verse is that, whilst a minor element in Le Fanu's oeuvre, it was, at the same time, yet another aspect of his wider body of work. As a result, this article has aimed to serve to introduce the poetry of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, to talk largely about stylometric considerations and, to a lesser degree, about aspects of its value as verse. While there are some major poems, usually those of a greater length, there is something to be said for the shorter and less successful poems. Overall, what can simply be said of Le Fanu's poetry is that it is interesting, and that it adds to the pleasure of the attentive reader. However, it has its pleasures and strengths, and while Le Fanu remains a minor poet, he does remain a poet of interest.






Works Cited


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


Crawford, Gary William, & Brian J. Showers. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: a Concise Bibliography

(Dublin : The Swan River Press, 2011).

Graves, Alfred Perceval. The Book of Irish Poetry (London : T. Fisher Unwin, [no date]).

----, ----. “Introduction” to Le Fanu, Poems (1896): vii-xxviii.

----, ----. “Memoir of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu” in Le Fanu, Papers Vol. 1 (1896): v-xxxi.

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. The Poems of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (London : Downey, 1896).

----, ----. The Beautiful Poem of Shamus O'Brien: a Story of 'Ninety-Eight (London : J. Heywood,


Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Philosophy of Composition”, in Vincent B. Leitch (ed.), The Norton

Anthology of Theory and Criticism (New York : W. W. Norton, 2001):742-750.