Bram Stoker

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File:Bram Stoker 1906.jpg
Bram Stoker 1906

Abraham "Bram" Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish writer who is best remembered today for writing the influential 1897 vampire novel Dracula.

Youth and early career

Stoker was born in Clontarf, County Dublin in Ireland.[1] He was one of seven children born to Abraham and Charlotte Stoker, who married in 1844; the births of all seven children were registered at Clontarf's Church of Ireland Parish.[2] Bram Stoker spent his early childhood in a state of ill health, being unable to even stand upright until the age of seven; it remains uncertain exactly what ailment he was suffering from.[3]

The young Stoker attended Bective House College, run by the Reverend W. Wood.[4] In November 1864, a few weeks before his seventeenth birthday, Stoker began studying at Trinity College Dublin.[5] Although his academic results were unremarkable, Stoker succeeded in becoming Auditor of the College Historical Society and President of the Philosophical Society;[6] he also showed impressive skill and versatility as an athlete.[7] He graduated in 1870.[8]

Interested in the stage since adolescence, Stoker became a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail in November 1871 after approaching its proprietor Dr Henry Maunsell.[9] September 1872 saw the publication of Stoker's story "The Crystal Cup", which was printed in the London Society.[10] In 1875 The Shamrock published three of his works: "The Primrose Path", "Buried Treasure" and "The Chain of Destiny".[11] He went on to write a non-fiction book entitled The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland.[12]

Lyceum Theatre

The home on Kildare Street, Dublin, in which Stoker once lived.

During his time as a theatre critic, Stoker wrote about a production of Hamlet starring Henry Irving. The actor was taken with Stoker's analysis of his performance, and subsequently arranged to be introduced to the writer.[13] The two men became acquaintances, and when Irving took over London's Lyceum Theatre, Stoker agreed to leave his job as a civil servant and become Irving's acting manager. Stoker swiftly married his lover Florence Balcombe so that they could emigrate to England as a couple.[14] Balcombe had previously been romantically involved with Oscar Wilde.[15]

Bram and Florence Stoker had a son, who was christened in 1880 as Irving Noel Thornley Stoker.[16] With their connections to the Lyceum, the Stokers became active participants in the London society of the period, mixing with such notable figures as Arthur Conan Doyle.[17] Bram Stoker also went on multiple American tours with the Lyceum, spending a total of more than four years in the country and traversed more than 50,000 miles by train.[18] Amongst the people Stoker met in the USA were Theodore Roosevelt[19] and Walt Whitman, a man whom Stoker idolised.[20]

Writings

While working at the Lyceum, Stoker began writing his first novel: The Snake's Pass, published in 1890.[21] His best-known novel, Dracula, was published in 1897. The novel is generally agreed to have been influenced by J. Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 vampire tale "Carmilla"; Paul Murray suggests that Le Fanu himself, who had reclusive tendencies, may have been one of the people who influenced the character of Count Dracula.[22] Other vampire stories that may have influenced Stoker include Polidori's The Vampyre and the anonymous Varney the Vampire.[23]

Stoker wrote Dracula as an epistolary novel, presented in the form of a series of documents written by multiple narrators; in this way, Stoker was able to lend a degree of credibility to his fantastic narrative. His usage of the technique was possibly influenced by the 1860 novel The Woman in White, written by his acquaintance Wilkie Collins, although epistolary novels have a longer history with which Stoker would have been familiar.[24]

After Dracula, Stoker went on to write The Mystery of the Sea (1902), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1907), The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). He also penned numerous short stories throughout his life.[25] In 1906, following Henry Irving's death, Stoker published a two-volume book about the actor entitled Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving.[26]

Stoker's 541-page manuscript for Dracula was discovered in a Pennsylvania barn; the identity of the private collector who owns it was unknown for some time, but the man in question eventually turned out to be Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.[27]

Beliefs and philosophy

Bram Stoker was brought up into a devout Irish Protestant family, although he utilised Roman Catholic symbols in his fiction.[28] Stoker formed his political views at a young age; he supported Home Rule for Ireland, taking a similar stance on the subject to his friend, the Irish nationalist Justin McCarthy.[29] He admired the Liberal statesman and Home Rule advocate William Gladstone.[30]

Stoker advocated the censorship of fiction. In a 1907 address, he declared that certain novels belonged "to the category of pestilence that must by stamped out"; a month later he said that an "intellectual police" should keep writers in check. In a 1908 essay, he wrote that "the only emotions which in the long-run harm are those arising from sex impulses", and decried the "filthy and dangerous output" of certain objectionable writers as a "plague-spot" that would necessitate censorship if it grew.[31]

Death

After suffering from declining health from 1906 onwards,[32] Stoker died at home on 20 April 1912 aged 64.[33] The circumstances of his death have given rise to speculation that he was suffering from syphilis; he had a reputation as a womaniser and may have contracted the disease from a sex worker in Paris.[34].

Biographer Paul Murray consulted the medical authorities Dr Siobhan Murphy, Professor J. B. Lyons and Dr J. D. Oriel. Murphy argued that the reference to "Locomotor Ataxia" on Stoker's death certificate points heavily towards tabes dorsalis, a nervous disease associated with syphilis; the stroke and failing eyesight suffered by Stoker are also consistent with the symptoms of tabes dorsalis. Dr Oriel concluded that Stoker had died of uraemia from chronic sephrities, although was probably suffering from syphilis as well. Lyons also concluded that the diagnosis of "Locomotor Ataxia" indicated syphilis, but argued that there is no firm evidence that the disease would have affected Stoker's fiction.[35] This is contrary to speculation that The Lair of the White Worm, generally considered a very strange book, showed signs of declining health.[36]

Stoker's cremated remains are housed in Golders Green Crematorium, London. Stoker's son Noel died in 1961, and his ashes were added to Bram Stoker's urn.[8]

References

  • Murray, Paul (2004). From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker. London: Jonathan Cape.
  1. Bram Stoker. Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. Murray (2004): p.13
  3. Murray (2004): pp.24-5
  4. Murray (2004): p.29
  5. Murray (2004): p.30
  6. Murray (2004): p.33
  7. Murray (2004): pp.40-41
  8. 8.0 8.1 Whitby Online: Bram Stoker (1847-1912)
  9. Murray (2004): pp.55-56
  10. Murray (2004): p.66
  11. Murray (2004): pp.67-68
  12. Murray (2004): p.47
  13. Murray (2004): p.71
  14. Murray (2004): pp.77-79
  15. "Why Dracula never loses his bite". Irish Times.
  16. Murray (2004): p.111
  17. Murray (2004): p.116
  18. Murray (2004): pp.104-5
  19. Murray (2004): p.147
  20. Murray (2004): p.133
  21. Murray (2004): p.155-7
  22. Murray (2004): p.61
  23. Murray (2004): pp.188-9
  24. Murray (2004): p.168
  25. Stoker, Bram. Encyclopedia of Fantasy.
  26. Murray (2004): p.236
  27. What a Tax Lawyer Dug Up on 'Dracula'. Wall Streetr Journal.
  28. Murray (2004): pp.27-28
  29. Murray (2004): op.144-5
  30. Murray (2004): pp.138-139
  31. Murray (2004): pp.253-4
  32. Murray (2004): p.265
  33. Murray (2004): pp.266-7
  34. Murray (2004): p.267
  35. Murray (2004): pp.268-9
  36. Murray (2004): pp.264-5