Caroline's Book Crypt: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

People might think of Dracula as one of the first great vampire novels, but from 1871-72 Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu published Carmilla as a magazine serial, and it was pretty groundbreaking and inspirational for vampire and gothic novels to come, like for example The Turn of The Screw, The Vampire Chronicles, and obviously, Dracula. There are numerous works that mention Carmilla from TV series to video games. One book (series) I’ve enjoyed is Anno Dracula, which is jampacked with vampire and historical references. She is also a popular topic of gothic metal bands, which isn’t very hard to picture.


“But to die as lovers may - to die together, so that they may live together.”

The story is told through Laura’s eyes, a girl who had a dream about a beautiful girl visiting her in her bedroom when she was younger (she was apparently ‘‘punctured’’ in the chest, but there was no evidence of it). There is a carriage accident outside her and her father’s house, and they take in the girl from the accident; a girl Laura’s age named Carmilla - who happens to be the same girl from Laura’s dream. Carmilla recognizes her too. They become very close, and you immediately see the lesbian tones in this, which is quite surprising for that time!

But Laura also notices how strange Carmilla is, and if the reader didn’t know already, they’d quickly guess she was a vampire. Especially when girls and women nearby start getting sick and die, and Laura finds a portrait of a woman called Countess Mircalla of Karnstein dated 1698 who is a dead ringer for Carmilla.

Carmilla transforms into a cat and drinks from Laura’s chest, making her ill. Her father then takes her to Karnstein, and on the way there they meet General Spielsdorf, who tells them that he and his niece Bertha met a girl named Mirallca and her mother - and that the same thing happened to them as with Laura. He realized Mirallca was a vampire and tried to kill her, but failed, and Bertha died. Obviously by now the reader knows Carmilla AKA Mirallca AKA Mircalla is a vampire, and that she needs to be destroyed.

Then a guy called Baron Vordenburg shows up, who happened to be descended from Countess Mircalla’s lover before she was a vampire - he also rid the area of vampires, but not her. With his notes he finds her tomb. We get a spooky description of what she looks like resting in her coffin before she is destroyed. Laura is never the same again after the events of the story.


“I have been in love with no one, and never shall," she whispered, "unless it should be with you."
How beautiful she looked in the moonlight!

I just read this for the first time with the book club in the Gothy Discord server, which I now run. It was definitely finally time! I loved the way that it was written, the descriptions were wonderful. It was relatively well paced, it pretty much cuts to the chase, since it is a very short story after all. I was really surprised at how ‘‘graphic’’ the lesbianism and sexuality was in this. Vampires were definitely a metaphor for sex back in those days when you weren’t supposed to talk about or even DESIRE such things - especially women! But this one definitely takes the cake. Those who read the uncensored version of The Picture Of Dorian Gray need to compare these and let me know, haha! I love that forbidden victorian gayness, haha.

I really liked it, but even though it’s very short, it can have that ‘‘heaviness’’ that old novels from that time tend to have. But I’d still read it anyway, even though you’re not very used to victorian English! I give it a four out of five open coffins (in which the last one Carmilla rests).

4 out of 5.png

Next month I will talk about The Phantom Of The Opera by Gaston Leroux! As always, feel free to read along! I will probably take it with me to Øyafestivalen and M’era Luna so I can re-read it on the journey. When I come back from there, I will be posting a recap here of my reviews of The Cure’s entire discography which I’m doing on my personal blog nowadays, plus talk about their show at Øyafestivalen! I will also be posting about M’era Luna on my own blog. See you again in a couple of weeks!

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