Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deathday: Bram Stoker, Father of "Dracula"

Abraham "Bram" Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

Early life

Stoker was born in 1847 at 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf.[1][2] His parents were Abraham Stoker (1799–1876), from Dublin, and the feminist Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley (1818–1901), who came from Ballyshannon, County Donegal. Stoker was the third of seven children.[3] Abraham and Charlotte were members of the Church of Ireland Parish of Clontarf and attended the parish church with their children, who were baptised there.

Stoker was bed-ridden until he started school at the age of seven, when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, "I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years." He was educated in a private school run by the Rev. William Woods.[4]

After his recovery, he grew up without further major health issues, even excelling as an athlete (he was named University Athlete) at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with honours in mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society, where his first paper was on "Sensationalism in Fiction and Society".

Early career

While still a student he became interested in the theatre. Through the influence of a friend, Dr. Maunsell, he became the theatre critic for a newspaper, the Dublin Evening Mail, co-owned by the author of Gothic tales Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. At a time when theatre critics were held in low esteem, he attracted notice by the quality of his reviews. In December 1876 he gave a favourable review of the actor Henry Irving's performance as Hamlet at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. Irving read the review and invited Stoker for dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel, where he was staying. After that they became friends. Stoker also wrote stories, and in 1872 "The Crystal Cup" was published by the London Society, followed by "The Chain of Destiny" in four parts in The Shamrock. In 1876, while employed as a civil servant in Dublin, Stoker wrote a non-fiction book (The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, published 1879), which long remained a standard work on the subject.[4]

In 1878 Stoker married Florence Balcombe, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Balcombe of 1 Marino Crescent, a celebrated beauty whose former suitor was Oscar Wilde[5]. Stoker had known Wilde from his student days, having proposed him for membership of the university’s Philosophical Society while he was president. Wilde was upset at Florence's decision, but Stoker later resumed the acquaintanceship, and after Wilde's fall visited him on the Continent.[6]

The Stokers moved to London, where Stoker became acting-manager and then business manager of Irving's Lyceum Theatre, London, a post he held for 27 years. On 31 December 1879, Bram and Florence's only child was born, a son whom they christened Irving Noel Thornley Stoker. The collaboration with Irving was very important for Stoker and through him he became involved in London's high society, where he met, among other notables, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (to whom he was distantly related). Working for Irving, the most famous actor of his time, and managing one of the most successful theatres in London made Stoker a notable if very busy man. He was absolutely dedicated to Irving and his memoirs of Irving show how he idolised him. In London Stoker also met Hall Caine who became one of his closest friends - he dedicated Dracula to him.

In the course of Irving's tours, Stoker got the chance to travel around the world, although he never visited Eastern Europe, a setting for his most famous novel. Stoker particularly enjoyed visits to the United States, where Irving was popular. With Irving he was invited twice to the White House, and knew both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Stoker was a great admirer of the country, setting two of his novels there and using Americans as characters, the most notable being Quincey Morris. He also got a chance to meet one of his literary idols Walt Whitman.


While working as manager for actor Henry Irving, and as secretary and director of London's Lyceum Theatre, he began writing novels beginning with The Snake's Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. During this period, Stoker was also part of the literary staff of the London Telegraph newspaper and wrote other works of fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911).[7] In 1906, after Irving's death, he published his life of Irving, which proved very successful[4] and managed productions at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic, but completely fictional, diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to his story, a skill he developed as a newspaper writer. At the time of its publication, it was considered a "straightforward horror novel" based on imaginary creations of supernatural life.[7] "It gave form to a universal fantasy . . . and became a part of popular culture."[7]

According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, Stoker's stories are today included within the categories of "horror fiction," "romanticized Gothic" stories, and "melodrama."[7] They are classified alongside other "works of popular fiction" such as Shelley's Frankenstein[8]:394 which, according to historian Jules Zanger, also used the "myth-making" and story-telling method of having "multiple narrators" telling the same tale from different perspectives. "'They can't all be lying,' thinks the reader."[9]

The original 541-page manuscript of Dracula, believed to have been lost, was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania during the early 1980s.[10] It included the typed manuscript with many corrections, and handwritten on the title page was "THE UN-DEAD." The author's name was shown at the bottom as Bram Stoker. Author Robert Latham notes, "the most famous horror novel ever published, its title changed at the last minute."[8]

Stoker's inspirations for the story, in addition to Whitby, may have included a visit to Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, a visit to the crypts of St. Michan's Church in Dublin and the novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.[11]


After suffering a number of strokes Bram Stoker died at No 26 St George's Square in 1912.[12] Some biographers attribute the cause of death to tertiary syphilis[13]. He was cremated and his ashes placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium. After Irving Noel Stoker's death in 1961, his ashes were added to that urn. The original plan had been to keep his parents' ashes together, but after Florence Stoker's death her ashes were scattered at the Gardens of Rest. To visit his remains at Golders Green, visitors must be escorted to the room the urn is housed in, for fear of vandalism.

Beliefs and philosophy

Stoker was brought up as a Protestant, in the Church of Ireland. He was a strong supporter of the Liberal party. He took a keen interest in Irish affairs[4] and was what he called a "philosophical Home Ruler", believing in Home Rule for Ireland brought about by peaceful means - but as an ardent monarchist he believed that Ireland should remain within the British Empire which he believed was a force for good. He was a great admirer of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone whom he knew personally, and admired his plans for Ireland[14].

Stoker had a strong interest in science and medicine and a belief in progress. Some of his novels like The Lady of the Shroud (1909) can be seen as early science fiction. Like many people of his time Stoker believed in the concept of scientific racism drawing on his belief in Phrenology and these fears form elements in novels like Dracula.[citation needed] This is also reflected in his interest in early theories of criminology - he read both Cesare Lombroso and Max Nordau and used them in Dracula.

Stoker had an interest in the occult especially mesmerism, but was also wary of occult fraud and believed strongly that superstition should be replaced by more scientific ideas. In the mid 1890s, Stoker is rumoured to have become a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.[15][16] One of Stoker's closest friends was J.W. Brodie-Innis, a major figure in the Order, and Stoker himself hired Pamela Coleman Smith, as an artist at the Lyceum Theater.


The short story collection Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker's widow Florence Stoker. The first film adaptation of Dracula was released in 1922 and was named Nosferatu. It was directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and starred Max Schreck as Count Orlock. Nosferatu was produced while Florence Stoker, Bram Stoker's widow and literary executrix, was still alive. Represented by the attorneys of the British Incorporated Society of Authors, she eventually sued the filmmakers. Her chief legal complaint was that she had been neither asked for permission for the adaptation nor paid any royalty. The case dragged on for some years, with Mrs. Stoker demanding the destruction of the negative and all prints of the film. The suit was finally resolved in the widow's favour in July 1925. Some copies of the film survived, however and the film has become well known. The first authorized film version of Dracula did not come about until almost a decade later when Universal Studios released Tod Browning's Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.

Because of the Stokers' frustrating history with Dracula's copyright, a great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, Canadian writer Dacre Stoker, with encouragement from screenwriter Ian Holt, decided to write "a sequel that bore the Stoker name" to "reestabish creative control over" the original novel. In 2009, Dracula: The Un-Dead was released, written by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. Both writers "based [their work] on Bram Stoker's own handwritten notes for characters and plot threads excised from the original edition" along with their own research for the sequel. This also marked Dacre Stoker's writing debut.[17][18]



The Snake's Pass (1890)
The Watter's Mou' (1895)
The Shoulder of Shasta (1895)
Dracula (1897)
Miss Betty (1898)
The Mystery of the Sea (1902)
The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903)
The Man (aka: The Gates of Life) (1905)
Lady Athlyne (1908)
The Lady of the Shroud (1909)
The Lair of the White Worm (aka: The Garden of Evil) (1911)

Short story collections

Under the Sunset (1881), comprising eight fairy tales for children.
Snowbound: The Record of a Theatrical Touring Party (1908)
Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (1914), published posthumously by Florence Stoker

Uncollected stories

"The Bridal of Death" (alternate ending to The Jewel of Seven Stars)
"Buried Treasures"
"The Chain of Destiny"
"The Crystal Cup"
"The Dualitists; or, The Death Doom of the Double Born"
"Lord Castleton Explains" (chapter 10 of The Fate of Fenella)
"The Gombeen Man" (chapter 3 of The Snake's Pass)
"In the Valley of the Shadow"
"The Man from Shorrox"
"Midnight Tales"
"The Red Stockade"
"The Seer" (chapters 1 and 2 of The Mystery of the Sea)


The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland (1879)
A Glimpse of America (1886)
Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906)
Famous Impostors (1910)
Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (2008) Bram Stoker Annotated and Transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller, Foreword by Michael Barsanti. Jefferson NC & London: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3410-7

Critical Works on Stoker

William Hughes, Beyond Dracula (Palgrave, 2000) ISBN 0312231369 [19]

References and notes

1.^ Belford, Barbara (2002). Bram Stoker and the Man Who Was Dracula. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press. p. 17. ISBN 0-306-81098-0.
2.^ Note, as location has led to multiple edits: The location was, and is, in the Civil Parish of Clontarf. Clontarf extends to the east side of the Malahide Road and borders Marino. Fairview is further west commencing just after Marino Mart.
3.^ His siblings were: Sir (William) Thornley Stoker, born in 1845; Mathilda, born 1846; Thomas, born 1850; Richard, born 1852; Margaret, born 1854; and George, born 1855
4.^ Obituary, Irish Times, 23 April 1912
5.^ Irish Times, 8 March 1882, page 5
6.^ "Why Dracula never loses his bite". Irish Times. last modified 2009. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2009/0328/1224243595688.html. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
7.^ Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale Research (1998) vol 8. pgs. 461-464
8.^ Latham, Robert. Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual, Greenwood Publishing (1988) p. 67
9.^ Zanger, Jules. Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture ed. Joan Gordon. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press (1997), pgs. 17-24
10.^ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122514491757273633.html
11.^ Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 412. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4.
12.^ "Bram Stoker". Victorian Web. last modified 1998. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/stoker/bio.html. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
13.^ Gibson, Peter (1985). The Capital Companion. Webb & Bower. pp. 365–366. ISBN 0863500420.
14.^ Murray, Paul. From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker. 2004.
15.^ Ravenscroft, Trevor (1982). The occult power behind the spear which pierced the side of Christ. Red Wheel. pp. p165. ISBN 0877285470.
16.^ Picknett, Lynn (2004). The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ. Simon and Schuster. pp. p201. ISBN 0743273257.
17.^ Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
18.'^ Dracula: The Undeads overview
19.^ http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/victorian_studies/v044/44.2glover.html

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