Dracula, Master of the Blood Suckers

Happy Halloween! Let's jump in the wayback machine and visit May 26, 1897, the day the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker went on sale in London.

Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish author better known in his day as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, owned by the actor.

Although Stoker traveled a great deal, often visiting the United States which he particularly liked, he never visited Transylvania where his famous novel was set.

Instead, the English village of Whitby, Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, and the crypts of St. Michan's Church in Dublin were part of what inspired his novel. Another part of his inspiration were dark stories told Armin Vambery, a Hungarian writer and traveler.

After meeting Vambery, Stoker spent years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires.

The Form of the Novel

Most people have never read the original Dracula novel which was written as a collection of diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings thus making what is called an epistolary novel.

Stoker's original 541-page manuscript of the work was thought to be lost. In the early 1980's, the manuscript was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania. The typed manuscript held editing corrections and on the title page, handwritten, was the title THE UN-DEAD. The author's name appeared at the bottom as Bram Stoker. The title was changed at the last minute prior to publication to Dracula.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, purchased the manuscript. No price was given but suffice it to say that Allen is a billionaire. He's never put the manuscript on public display that I know of. By the way, a signed first edition of the book sold in the UK in 2013 for approximately $46,000 USD.

Dracula for Each Generation

If Stoker only knew how his vampire tale has morphed with each generation.

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 stories for over 20 years before Dracula saw the light of day, uh, perhaps not the best cliche since some vampire mythology calls for vamps bursting into flame in sunlight.

Popular From the Get-Go

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.

Takeaway Truth

The vampire novel wears many labels today: alternative reality, urban contemporary, paranormal, and others. Whatever it's called, the tale provides fresh inspiration to each new generation which then puts its own spin on the master of the undead.

No comments:

Post a Comment