Uncle Silas (Paperback)
Dover Publications, 9780486217154, 480pp.
Publication Date: November 2, 2011
Perhaps no other writer in the history of English fiction so completely mastered the technique of creating an atmosphere of unrelieved suspense and terror as Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-73). This is surely evident in all of his supernatural fiction: such superb examples of the English ghost story as "Carmilla," "The Haunted Baronet," "Squire Toby's Will," and others (many available in Dover's Best Ghost Stories of J. S. Le Fanu). But nowhere is Le Fanu's success as great as in Uncle Silas.
Death prowls the 400-odd pages of this book in Maud Ruthyn, her father Austin, the grotesque Madame de la Rougierre, in the shadowy suspicion that surrounds Uncle Silas, in the chilly atmosphere at Knowl and the even more haunting terror pervading Bartram-Haugh, in the gloomy night thoughts and somber reflections about death that occur and reoccur. With consummate skill, Le Fanu has truly captured the secret fears and dreads that grip us all.
One of a half dozen or so nineteenth-century novels still read for pleasure rather than as a school exercise, Uncle Silas is the Victorian mystery story par excellence, displaying both Le Fanu's considerable narrative ability and his emotional power. It has remained in print since its first appearance in 1864, has been translated into several languages, and has been filmed in England as The Inheritor. Its longevity and perennial appeal are both well established and well deserved, for as Frederick Shroyer says in his Introduction, "It is one of the most effective, gripping novels of terror ever written. Today, as in the past, Uncle Silas continues to serve diabolically well to chill the reader's psychic bones."
Despite its continuous popularity, Uncle Silas has of late been virtually unobtainable in America. Now republished by Dover, this chilling Victorian novel will be a welcome treat for all Le Fanu admirers, mystery fans, English majors, and every reader who enjoys a well-told tale.