Choose another writer in this calendar:
by birthday from the calendar.
||Bram Stoker (1847-1912)|
Like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's
monster, Bram Stoker's Dracula
has become a cultural icon. It has been argued that the
novel, published in 1897, might have fallen
into obscurity with the rest of the author's works, if it had not been
adapted for the stage and film. To Stoker's disappointment, Dracula's royalties were meagre during his lifetime, and his last years were filled with worries of health and money.
"For, let me tell you, he is known everywhere that men have been. In old Greece, in old Rome, he flourish in Germany all over, in France, in India, even in the Chermosese, and in China, so far from us in all ways, there even is he, and the peoples for him at this day. He have follow the wake of the berserker Icelander, the devil-begotten Hun, the Slav, the Saxon, the Magyar. . . . The vampire live on, and cannot die by mere passing of the time, he can flourish when that he can fatten on the blood of the living." (from Dracula, 1897)
(Bram) Stoker was born in Clontarf in Ireland, the son
Stoker, a clerk with the British civil administration in Ireland, and
Charlotte Mathida Blake Thornley, a charity worker and writer. The
Stokers were staunch Protestants. In his early childhood, Stoker was a
semi-invalid, unable to stand or walk until the age of seven. To uplift
the mood of her bedridded son, Stoker's mother entertained him with
Irish ghost stories.
By the age of sixteen, Stoker had developed into an all-round
and full of energy. In Trinity College he
excelled in rugby,
race walking, rowing and gymnastics, and served a
president of the prestigious Philosophical society. Stoker was six feet two inches high, weighted twelve stone naked, had a
heavy jaw, big mouth, thick lips, a snubnose, and straight hair ('Bram Stoker's Correspondence with Walt Whitman (1872-6),'
in Bram Stoker: Dracula,
edited by Maurice Hindle, 2003, p, 408) The Irish Times
mentioned him the most popular man at
Trinity. During 1869-70, Stoker
with a BA (Hons) in science and acquired the Master's degree
five years later.
Following his father, Stoker worked as a civil servant at
Castle. He also frequented Dublin's theatres and was an unpaid drama
critic for the Dublin Evening Mail,
and editor of The Irish Echo
for four months. His first short
story, 'The Crystal Cup' (1872) came out in the minor periodical London
Society. More prestigious journals returned his further stories.
Stoker's first novel, The Primrose
Path (1875), serialized in the
newspaper The Shamrock, was
fallowed by 15 works of fiction. Stoker also wrote
the two-volume Personal
Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906).
In 1878, Stoker married Florence Balcome, an aspiring actress. Stoker lived next door to her family in Dublin. They had one son, baptized Irving Noel Thornley. It has been claimed that since the birth of their son, Florence refused sexual relations with her husband. The details of Stoker's personal life are sketchy and he never wrote an autobiography. It is still an open question whether he lived a double life. Stoker was rumored to be a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, attended by Wilde's wife Constance and many of the theater people he worked with. However, there is no evidence of his alleged membership.
Soon after the wedding, the couple left
Dublin for London. Florence had had a relationship with Oscar
Wilde. He described her as "exquisitively pretty . . . just seventeen
with the most perfectly beautiful face I ever saw and not a sixpence of
money". Stoker also knew
Wilde, who visited the family at their fashionable London residence on
In London Stoker
was employed by one of the greatest
Shakespearean actors of the Victorian age, Sir Henry Irving. Irving ran
the Lyceum Theatre; biographers have seen him as a model for Dracula,
who sucked all the energy from everyone near him. Stoker held his position as an
indispensable help, administrator, and deputy host to Irving for
27 years. Author Horace Wyndham recalled, that
"To see Stoker in his element was to see him standing at the top of the
theatre's stairs, surveying a 'first night' crowd trooping up them.
There was no mistake about it ‒ a Lyceum première
did draw an audience
that really was representative af the best of that period iin the
realms of art, literature and society." During North American tours Stoker
befriended Walt Whitman, whose poetry he admired, and Mark Twain, whom
he met in Chicago in 1883, and with whom he corresponded. Much of Stoker's writing was done during his spare time. Under the
Sunset (1882), based on Celtic
themes, was a collection of horror stories for children.
died on tour in 1905 and Stoker organized the return of
his body to London. The shock of the death of his employer caused
Stoker to have a stroke, which damaged his eyesight, but he
continued to produce novels, short stories, and essays. Moreover, he
Bright's Disease and according to Stoker's great-nephew, Daniel Farson,
he may also have contracted syphilis (see The Man Who Wrote Dracula,
1975). In 1910, his income totalled just £575. Stoker's final
novel was The Lair of the White Worm
died at his home on April 20, 1912. Among those who attended the
funeral were the novelists Hall Caine and Ford
Madox Ford. Stoker was cremated at Golders Green,
"My theory is that in fact Dracula is not only metaphorically and euphemistically about vampirism. Its real subject is the obsession of the fin de siécle, syphilis. Dracula is the great Victorian novel about VD, for which vampirism stands in as Stoker's metaphor." (Brian Aldiss & David Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, 2001, p. 147)
Before Dracula, the
most distinguished vampire story was J. Sheridan
Le Fanu's Carmilla
about a female vampire. Stoker had read the novella and acknowledged
his debt to it in a deleted chapter of Dracula, later
published as 'Dracula's Guest'. Florence Stoker sold its film rights to
David O. Selznick, who produced a low-budget sequel to Dracula (1931), entitled Dracula's Daughter (1936). This
neglected classic, which took almost nothing from Stoker's original
piece, portrayed a female vampire. As a metaphor, the vampire was not a novelty for the Victorian intelligentsia. Even Karl Marx wrote in Chapter 10 of Das Kapital: "Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks."
Dracula is an unique mixture of Gothic horror, travel narrative, erotic fantasy, and supernatural mystery novel. Stoker spent six years working on the book. In a letter sent to the former British Prime Minister William Glanstone he explained that the story has "I think pretty well all the vampire legend as to limitations . . . . The book is necessarily full of horrors and terrors but I trust that these are calculated to 'cleanse the mind by pity & terror.' At any rate there is nothing nase in the book and though superstition is brought in with the weapons of superstition I hope it is not irrelevant." On its apppearance, Dracula was not a literary phenomenon. The Observer wrote that "Notwithstanding the merits of the book, it is impossible to congratulate Mr. Stoker on his theme, which can but feel to be one quite unworthy of his literary capabilities."
In his notes for Dracula, Stoker did not mention any of his literary inspirations. Undoubtedly he knew John Polidori's novella Vampire (1819), which had been created as a response to Lord Byron's challege to a circle of friends to write a ghost story. The famous challenge also resulted in Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Polidori's hero, named Lord Ruthven, was a thinly veiled caricature of Byron, an aristocrat, traveller, and seducer.
According to a family story, Dracula had its genesis in
Stoker's nightmare about "a vampire king rising from the tomb to go
about his ghastly business" (A Biography of Dracula:
The Life Story of Bram Stoker by H. Ludlum, p, 100, 1962).
Moreover, the dream had much to do with "too generous helping of
dressed crab" that he had had for supper.
One of Stoker's major sources was Emily Gerard's essay
Superstitions' (1885). He made also a cursory research into the
fifteenth-century Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes (1431-1476). In general,
knowledge of Romanian history remained sketchy, he never traveled to
Transylvania, and he did not base his
Count on Vlad Tepes (see Dracula:
Sense and Nonsense by Elizabeth Miller,
although this historical figure is mentioned in
Chapter 18 in Mina Harker's Journal. Vlad Tepes means "Vlad the
Impaler", he was also called
("son of the dragon" or "son of the devil"). Due to his resistance
against the invader, the Turks, the official Communist Party historians
Vlad as a national hero. Stoker located his
fictional castle miles away from the authentic one in Schassburg
(Sighisoara in Romanian), where Dracula spent his early
childhood. Dracula's main palace was at his capital city,
The story opens with the
diary of Jonathan Harker, a London solicitor, who meets Count Dracula
in his Transylvanian castle. "His face was a strong ‒ a very strong ‒
aquiline," Harker describes, "with high bridge of the thin nose and
peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing
scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were
very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that
seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see
it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with
peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose
remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his
years." Dracula also had hair on his palms and bad breath.
While the count is on his way to England, Harker plans to escape from the castle and Dracula's bloodthirsty wives. His journal ends here. Dracula is shipwrecked at Whitby, where the story is taken up in accounts by Harker's fiancée Mina Murray, her sleepwalking friend Lucy Westenra, who has nightmares, and Dr John Seward. After Harker is released from a hospital in Budapest, Mina helps nurse him back to health. Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor and expert in vampirism, tries to save Lucy's life by hanging garlic flowers around her neck and rubbing garlic all over the room. Lucy transforms into a vampire, but her soul is saved by hammering a stake through her heart. Dracula then turns his attention to Mina, who is forced to such his blood. Through her psychic link to Dracula, the vampire hunters follow the count back to Transylvania, where he is finally destroyed and Mina is cleansed of evil.
Just months prior the publication of Dracula,
Stoker organized a stage reading of his novel at the Lyceum Theatre,
mainly for to establish its theatrical copyright. Irving, however, was
not interested in the role of the count. Hamilton Deane adapted Dracula
for the stage 12 years after Stoker died. This reinvention of the novel
was a huge success. John L. Balderson created with Deane a revised
version which helped to launch Bela Lugosi's American film career.
Since its publication, Dracula
has never been out of print, but it is
not the novel, but rather the numerous film adaptations – many of which
have nothing to do with the original work – that have secured Dracula's
afterlife as an iconic character in Western popular culture.
The book emerged in fiction around the time of the birth of cinema.
himself had a great interest in science and technology. On several
occasions Stoker refers to contemporary technology, to typewriters,
phonograph diaries, Kodak cameras, telegrams, and so on.
F.W. Murnau lifted the plot line of the novel for his film, Nosferatu,
eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922). The script was written by
Galeen, who changed the names of the characters and towns and set the
events in 1838. At that time the book was still under copyright and despite the
changes Stoker's wife sued Murnau, and gained an order forcing the
director to destroy the negative and all prints of the film. However,
several pirated prints survived. Max Schreck as Graf Orlock had claws,
long fingernails, pointed front teeth, bald head; he looks like a giant
rat. Like Dracula, he was portrayed as a foreign threat, "a Shylock of
the Carpathians". The word "nosferatu" was taken from Stoker, but its
etymology is unclear: it is not a synonym for "vampire" in the
Romanian languages. Tod Browning's Dracula
(1931), starring Bela
Lugosi, was adapted from the original Broadway play. This production
introduced all the conventions of vampire film, except that Lugosi
refused towear the fangs, mentioned in the script.
Bela Lugosi had done before the WWII, Christopher Lee defined the
vampire for a generation of viewers in the 1950s and 1960s in Horror of Dracula (1958, released
as Dracula in Britain). Its success
launched a wave of sexually oriented Hammer vampire films. Lee was
outfitted all in black; red contact lenses gave his eyes a demonic
look. In contrast to Lugosi's exotic seducer, Lee developed the
character as a complex human, who is cruel and intelligent, and whose
whole being oozed with sexual menace. In one scene, he turned to the
camera baring his fangs; this act would be repeated in subsequent
films. Since Lee's portrayal of Dracula, no major actor has been
associated with the role in a similar way. Francic Ford
Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula
(1992) returned, briefly, the novel to the bestseller lists in the