As mentioned briefly in an earlier post, I read this during my trip to England and loved it for lots of reasons. It’s as scary as I like to go (not too horrific for me), it’s epistolary, it’s Victorian, it’s a Sensation novel, it’s Gothic…
As I think most people have the basic idea of the plot, I thought I’d take a look at the life of the author as I knew next to little about him. Turns out that Stoker moved in very literary and theatrical circles that were pretty influential. Bram Stoker was born and educated in Ireland, going to Trinity College in Dublin for quite some time before he completed his undergraduate degree in maths (along with serious interests in philosophy and history). He was called “Abraham” at birth, but somewhere along the line, it was shortened to “Bram” which I just love as a name.
As a student, Stoker became interested in the theater of the time, and one of his first jobs post-college was as a Theater Critic for the Dublin Evening Mail (which happened to be owned by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu who was also a Gothic tale writer). After giving a positive review of Victorian superstar actor Henry Irving’s performance one night in Dublin, Irving and Stoker became friends and Irving asked Stoker to become his personal manager and also the business manager of the thriving Lyceum Theater in the West End of London. (Stoker was also on staff of the literary section of the Daily Telegraph newspaper and wrote other fiction. Irving was the first actor to be awarded a knighthood in 1895, btw. Irving was also satirized in the comedy novel, The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith which was published in 1892.Well I never…)
Through this and his friendship with Irving, Stoker met and married his wife (who was being courted at that time by Oscar Wilde), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes etc.) and an author from the Isle of Man called Hall Caine (which is who Stoker dedicated Dracula to in his forward.) Irving also was his link to Stoker visiting twice to the White House, and in fact, it’s been argued that Stoker used Irving’s mannerisms as the foundation for Dracula’s character in the book.
The original manuscript, long thought to have been lost, was found in a Pennsylvanian barn in the 1980’s and included all the original edits including the original title of “The Un-Dead”. The manuscript was bought by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (Just a piece of trivia for you.
Of interest to film buffs, perhaps, is that the first Dracula film (called Nosferatu) was released in 1922 after Stoker himself had died. His widow, Florence (the one who had been dating Oscar Wilde before they met) ended up suing the film makers as she had not given permission for the film to be made nor had she received any royalties from it. It took three years for this legal wrangling to get sorted out, and at the end of it, Florence had won and a lot of the copies of the original film were destroyed. The first authorized film version of Dracula was in the 1930’s with Bela Lugosi…
Well, now you know…!
(Does anyone else remember the early Goth-rock band Bauhaus and their song Bela Lugosi’s Dead? Am I the only one?… )