Yep, it was on this day, May 26, in 1897 that the novel Dracula went on sale in London. If Bram Stoker (given name Abraham) could only know how his vampire tale has morphed in the last couple of decades.
Instead of a Transylvanian vampire and English victims, we've had Lestat, the unforgettable vampire, and his sidekicks from the brain of Anne Rice; the comic Dracula played by George Hamilton for huge laughs in the movie Love At First Bite; Angel, the vampire with a soul on two television shows, both with a huge fan base; and a seemingly endless number of vampires in romance novels. Indeed, the vampire in romance seems to have been a bridge over which the undead crossed to the other literary genres. And it all began with Stoker who had published horror stories for over twenty years before Dracula saw the light of day, uh, perhaps not the best cliche since vampires burst into flame in sunlight. That sunlight allergy seems to be the only "rule" that most vampire stories follow.
London was primed for Stoker's novel because the horror genre, created almost entirely from European folk tales and legends, was very popular. The Gothic movement in the 18th century strengthened the genre so that it carried into the 19th century. Notable examples are Frankenstein, 1818, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886.
Stoker, born in Dublin, was bedridden the first seven years of his life, but later at the University of Dublin was an athlete. For a decade, he worked in civil service and wrote drama reviews. Later, he became the manager for an actor he admired, Sir Henry Irving, and stayed in that position for twenty-seven years.
Though he wrote several other novels before his death in London in 1912, Stoker never was able to equal the popularity of Dracula.
The vampire novel wears many labels today: alternative reality, urban contemporary, paranormal. etc. Whatever its called, it owes its origin to a man retelling a European folk tale 110 plus years ago.
Though it sounds rather incongruous, I'm forced to say, "Happy Birthday, Count Dracula."