Stoker, Bram [Abraham] (1847–1912)
Writer of books on occult themes and creator of the deathless
vampire Dracula. He was born on November 8, 1847, in
Dublin, Ireland. Stoker was named Abraham after his father
but later preferred the short form ‘‘Bram.’’
He was a sickly child for some years although quite athletic
as a young man. Perhaps his brooding childhood first engendered
those imaginative horrors that found expression in his
great vampire story and other weird thrillers. His mother had
told him tales of the banshee, the Irish fairy whose terrifying
wails announce death in the family, and also of the great cholera
plague that had claimed thousands of victims in an Ireland
ravaged by starvation and foreign occupation.
Stoker studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a
member of the college’s Philosophical Society, later being
elected president. His first essay delivered to the society was titled
‘‘Sensationalism in Fiction and Society.’’ He was auditor
for the Historical Society and also developed a great interest in
theater. At age 19 he was electrified by a performance of the
great actor Henry Irving, whose company he later joined as a
manager.
Stoker graduated with honors in science in 1870 and spent
ten uneventful years as a civil servant at Dublin Castle. His first
book was the prosaic but quite useful The Duties of Clerks of Petty
Sessions (1879). In 1878 he married Florence Balcombe, a beautiful
woman who had been on friendly terms with Oscar Wilde.
After a period as part-time drama critic, newspaper editor,
and barrister at law, he became acting manager for Henry Irving,
accompanying him on his British and American tours.
Stoker was a hardworking manager and faithful friend to Irving
for 27 years until Irving’s death in 1905.
His masterpiece, Dracula, was written at odd moments and
weekends during a busy career. It owed the name of its basic
character to chance conversation with the intrepid Hungarian
scholar-explorer Arminius Vambéry (1832–1913), who visited
Dublin on a lecture tour.
It seems that Vambéry told Stoker about Romanian legends
of the bloodthirsty tyrant Prince Vlad Tepes (known as Dracula,
or ‘‘son of Dracul’’). Stoker also researched in libraries in Whitby
and London and perfected his knowledge of the background
of the Transylvanian countryside, in which he set his
fictional count. Some of the weird atmosphere of his story
probably derived from the vampire story Carmilla, written by
another Dubliner, Sheridan Le Fanu, and first published in
1871.
In addition to his immortal Dracula, Stoker published other
novels and stories The Snake’s Pass (1890), The Watter’s Mou’
(1895), The Shoulder of Shasta (1895), Miss Betty (1898), The Mystery
of the Sea (1902), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1904), The Man
(1905), The Gates of Life (1908), Lady Athlyne (1908), Snowbound
(1908), The Lady of the Shroud (1909), and The Lair of the White
Worm (1911). His volume of short stories Dracula’s Guest was
published posthumously in 1937; the title story was originally
a chapter in the manuscript of Dracula, deleted to shorten the
work. He died April 20, 1912. His greatest work, at least to himself,
was his biography of his mentor, Personal Reminiscences of
Henry Irving (2 vols., 1906). He also wrote an interesting volume
called Famous Impostors (1910).
Bram Stoker’s memory and his association with Gothic literature
is kept alive by various societies, notably the Bram Stoker
Society (co David Lass, Hon. Secretary, Regent House, Trinity
College, Dublin, 2, Ireland); the Dracula Society (36 Elliston
House, 100 Wellington St., London, SE10 QQF, England); The
Count Dracula Fan Club (29 Washington Sq. W., New York, NY
10011); and the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (P.O. Box
91611, Santa Barbara, CA 93190–1611). (See also Fiction, English
Occult)
Sources
Dalby, Richard. Bram Stoker A Bibliography of First Editions.
London, 1983.
Farson, Daniel. The Man Who Wrote Dracula A Biography of
Bram Stoker. New York St. Martin’s, 1976.
Ludlam, Harry. A Biography of Dracula The Life Story of Bram
Stoker. London Fireside Press, 1962.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book The Encyclopedia of the
Undead. Detroit Visible Ink Press, 1994.
Roth, Phyllis A. Bram Stoker. Boston Twayne, 1982.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London Constable, 1897.
———. Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories. London
George Routledge & Sons, 1914.