The story of Dracula is without a doubt a classic. And as was discussed in my last post, Bela Lugosi has in time become the face of Dracula. Dracula and Lugosi have become one in the same. But had it not been for Bram Stoker, the Transylvanian tale would have never come to life and Lugosi would have never been cast in the role he is most famous for.
We begin Bram Stoker's story on November 8, 1847 when he was born in Dublin, Ireland. Stoker was the third child of the seven children in his family. At a young age, Stoker found himself incredibly sick. He spent the first seven years of his life bedridden and unable to walk. His mother often sat with him, telling him stories. This time spent listening to her stories sparked is creative curiosity. Miraculously, he came to recover completely and even excelled in sports while growing up.
As a young adult, Stoker attended Trinity College in Dublin where he participated in a variety of sports. Some reports have said that he studied mathematics while at Trinity College, but other reports dispute this. Regardless of those claims, Stoker gained an education to become a civil servant at Dublin Castle after he finished college.
While he was working as a civil servant, Stoker spent his free time exploring the world of theater. He became first interested in theater while he was in school, so when he wasn't working at Dublin Caste, Stoker had another job as a theater critic for the Dublin Evening Mail.
An opportunity of a lifetime arose for Stoker in December of 1876. He was assigned to write a review for Hamlet. What made this review so special was that the famous actor Henry Irving was performing. Stoker gave Irving a glowing review. Irving, thrilled with the review that was written on his performance, reached out to Stoker to come have dinner together. This was the start of a great friendship.
A couple years later, Stoker went on to get married. He and a woman named Florence Balcombe were married in 1878. Before the start of her relationship with Stoker, Balcombe had also been in a relationship with Oscar Wilde. Wilde and Stoker had actually met one another and become acquaintances while the two were in college. Balcombe's choice to leave Wilde and later start a relationship with Stoker soured things between Stoker and Wilde. In time, however, the two men let their uncomfortable past go and rebuilt the friendship that they held previously.
Around this same time, Stoker said goodbye to his career in civil service. He and his wife moved to London where he would be starting a new job as the business manager of Irving's theater. Stoker held the job at Lyceum Theater in London for 27 years. He spent his days writing letters for Irving as well as accompanying him when he would travel abroad for work.
Stoker's personal life also had happy developments. On December 31, 1879, Stoker and his wife welcomed their first and only child, a son that they named Irvin Noel Thornley Stoker. While I found no specific note about the first name of his son being the same as the surname of his good friend and colleague, Irving, I interpret this as an indication of how close their bond was. In addition to naming his son Irving, Stoker also made his dedication to Henry Irving through his memoirs.
While Stoker's work took him all around the world, he often would visit Cruden Bay in Scotland. As he worked to get more of his creative writing off the ground, this area often brought him inspiration. In fact, while staying at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel in 1895, Stoker began his work on what would in time become Dracula. From that hotel, the Slains Castle is nearby and is suggested to have potentially been visual inspiration to Stoker as it resembled the description of Castle Dracula.
The story of Dracula is set in Transylvania, however Stoker actually never traveled to the region in his life. He had made acquaintance with a Hungarian-Jewish writer named Armin Vambery. There is suggestion that his time listening to Vambery's stories of the Carpathian mountains that spreads across Central and Eastern Europe sparked parts of his inspiration. From those conversations, Stoker spent years diving into the mythological and folk tales that were common in Central and Eastern Europe. This led him to the base of his novel: a vampire.
Dracula was published in 1897. Shortly after it was published, there were critics that did not have favorable remarks. They found his novel to be unnecessarily terrifying. They felt that it was troubling that it could be filled with so many chilling and unsettling elements. While it appears that the novel was never officially banned on a large scale, there was one critic that suggested a certain level of censorship around the novel. The critic called for it to be kept far away from children and any adults that may not be able to handle such a novel.
The name Dracula is without a doubt a well known name. Most everyone knows of the infamous vampire. However, the vampire himself has overshadowed his creator. Some are entirely unfamiliar with the name Bram Stoker. And more than that, his family, friends, career, and what surrounded the inception of the classic novel.
As was stated before, Stoker only had one child. There has been suggestion that he may have been a repressed homosexual. As proof, people point to his extreme admiration of Walt Whitman, his close and intimate relationship with Henry Irving and Hall Caine, as well as various parts of the novel Dracula being deemed homoerotic. However, in 1912 Stoker demanded that all homosexual authors in Britain were to be thrown in prison. This event suggests the opposite, but some counter argue that this could have actually been due to self-loathing and to avoid any suspicion on the matter. In the end, all that we truly know is of his marriage that lasted through to his death.
In 1905, Stoker's close friend Henry Irving died. Not long after his death, Stoker suffered a stroke which was just the start of years of health troubles. On April 20, 1912 Stoker died in London. The official cause of his death is unknown, but it is suggested that it was either from another stroke, syphilis, or exhaustion.
Following his death, the Dracula legacy that he began lived on. His wife had a collection of his short stories two years after his death, and his great grandnephew produced his own version of a sequel. In this sequel, Stoker himself is among the cast of characters. And even now, over one hundred years following his death, Stoker's most well known novel continues to be read, adapted, the inspiration for a Halloween costume, as well as simply being one of the most well known vampires in literary history.