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Sheridan le Fanu:in A Glass Darkly

            In Victorian Supernatural fiction we see ourselves "in a glass darkly".
             "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I am known"1 Cor. 12.
             The above is quoted from the scripture of St Paul, and appropriated or indeed somewhat misappropriated by Sheridan Le Fanu as the title for his collection of five short tales published in 1872 under the title "In a Glass Darkly". The original quote, like most things written in scripture, is a somewhat ambiguous statement; in the generally accepted meaning, however it is taken as a reference to looking through a window pane, in a somewhat cloudy manner seeing only glimpses of that which is spiritual or indeed heavenly as analogy to life on earth. The inference being that upon arriving into the lord's arms in heaven, the vision will become clear. As Robert Tracy notes in his excellent introduction to the Oxford world's classics edition of "In a Glass Darkly", Le Fenu was the son of a clergyman and raised in a very religious household and therefore would not have occasion to "misquote scripture lightly" . The "glass" of Le Fanu's is believed a mirror in which "darkly" viewed we see a darker nature to our own selves. In both of the contexts of the quote however, is the implication of the desire to no longer see "darkly". While the use of glass can be seen as having two major but somehow polar opposite uses, that of looking through and that of reflecting, material glass in actuality is a much more indistinct substance, holding the ability to be seen through and to reflect; the reflective qualities of a window becoming all the more apparent when it is, of course, dark. The idea of Le Fanu's "glass" being that of a transparent but simultaneously reflective state adds an interesting new dimension too the critical analysis of the short tales within this collection.
             Sheridan Le Fanu was born 1814 in Dublin, Ireland, attended Dublin University and apart from brief periods to the contrary spent most of his life in that city; as a result much of his work is deeply entrenched in Irish folklore.

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