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Stoker, Bram

It was stated by one of Stoker’s biographers, Daniel Farson, that ‘Stoker has long remained one of the least known authors of one of the best-known books ever written’. Writing Dracula can be thought of as something of a cathartic experience for Stoker, who was, by all accounts, a model example of a respectable Victorian man. Unlike so many authors, who have lifelong experiences which feed into their writing, it was one event that compelled Stoker to create his novel – a hideous nightmare he had in 1890. Published extracts from his journal reveal he noted dreaming of a young man whom a young girl kisses on the throat, not the mouth, and is disturbed by an Old Count, furiously claiming that the young man belongs to him. These jottings eventually formed the entry from Jonathan Harker in Dracula after Harker’s encounter with the Sirens. It is not difficult to understand why such a nightmare was so frightening for Stoker, given the highly reserved and sexually repressed cultural norms of the time.

I have loved teaching Dracula over the years but what has surprised me the most is student reactions to the terror/horror of the novel. It is still a novel which I find to be inherently terrifying. This text with its irredeemable, demonic villain and the notion of creatures who can have such complete control over the human body and mind have always seemed to me universal horrors which would haunt the audience, contemporary or otherwise. However, I have often found that students do not understand why the Victorian audience, or in fact anyone, found the novel to be so horrifying. Perhaps we need only to look at the graphic violence of some popular modern media to see that the notion of what is ‘terrifying’ has changed considerably. Of course, it is also important to remember that Victorian rationalism, fear of the unknown and the stereotypical position of women also played a huge part in the horror created by the characters’ actions for the Victorian audience.

Critical analyses of Dracula certainly abound. Stoker was undoubtedly reacting to Victorian sexuality and repression when writing the novel, which sees numerous characters allowing their repressed urges to reach the surface. The oral nature of the blood lust and the vampires’ non-discriminate nature when choosing victims has also prompted critics to analyse areas of incest, necrophilia and homosexuality in relation to the novel.

Although certainly not the first to write about vampires, Stoker can be credited with defining the characteristics of the modern vampire, which have appeared throughout popular culture since the novel was published. These include: superhuman strength; powers of hypnosis and telepathy; control of the weather; control over animals; and weaknesses such as being repulsed by garlic, crucifixes and sunlight. Stoker created those features that have become stereotypical of vampires and his work has inspired around 200 films as well as stage adaptations, cartoons, comic books, short stories, games, radio plays, anime and manga, and appearances in numerous television programmes. It is clear that Stoker and his novel occupy a seminal place in both popular culture and literature, and seemingly all because of one terrifying nightmare.

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Bram Stoker was born in Dublin

Abraham (Bram) Stoker was the third of seven children born to parents Charlotte and Abraham Stoker. He was born at 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf, Dublin.

Grew up with a difficult childhood

Stoker was extremely sickly as a child and suffered a debilitating illness which confined him to his bed. However he admitted that this allowed him plenty of thinking time which undoubtedly inspired his later writing.

Tour Stoker's birthplace


Attended Trinity College, Dublin

Despite his difficult childhood, Stoker flourished at college. He was an athletic champion, President of the Philosophical Society and graduated with a degree in Mathematics.

Met Henry Irving for the first time

This initially led to Stoker's passion for theatre, with him soon becoming a theatre critic. Stoker and Irving became close friends after meeting years later in 1876 with Stoker eventually becoming manager of Irving's theatre – a position he held for 27 years.

Became acquainted with the works of Walt Whitman

Stoker read Leaves of Grass and declared himself a 'lover' of Whitman's work. In later years, Stoker began writing letters to Whitman admiring him and his work, which pleasingly Whitman replied to. Stoker later had the pleasure of meeting Whitman on several occasions.

Married Florence Balcombe

Aspiring actress Balcome had to choose between suitors, Stoker and Oscar Wilde. Although she chose the former, Stoker and Wilde remained friends and Stoker joined Wilde's circle of literary friends.

See the original marriage certificate


Spent summer holidays in Whitby, Yorkshire

Stoker's holiday to this small coastal fishing village was instrumental in the setting for, and writing of, Dracula. Also, it was here, in the Whitby Library, that Stoker discovered the name 'Dracula' in a seemingly boring book about Wallachia and Moldovia.

Find out more about the influence of Whitby on Dracula


Stoker's first work The Snake’s Pass was published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, Ltd.

Set in Ireland, the story focused on the relationship between an English tourist and an Irish peasant. The story foreshadowed Dracula with its setting which included storms, dangerous bogs and a village steeped in mystery.

Stoker made a trip to America

Stoker arrived in New York on 11th September 1895 on the Southwark from Southampton.

Dracula was published by Archibald Constable and Co.

A nightmare and his discovery of the name Dracula, among other things, led to the writing and publication of this epistolary and seminal literary work.

The Mystery of the Sea was published by Doubleday, Page & Co. of New York

Although Stoker is often only known for writing Dracula, he wrote many novels and short stories throughout his career. This one was received well upon publication and Stoker was sent a congratulatory note from Arthur Conan Doyle which described it as 'admirable'.

Stoker made another trip to America

Stoker arrived in New York on 20th October 1903 on the Minneapolis from London.

Stoker died

Mystery surrounds Stoker's cause of death, possible reasons being rumoured as stroke, exhaustion and even syphilis. Stoker was cremated at Golders Green crematorium, where his ashes still remain. Events were held at the crematorium to celebrate the centenary of Stoker's death in April 2012.

Read Stoker's original obituary


Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories was published posthumously

Stoker's wife had this collection of stories published after his death. Some critics claim that the title story was an original draft for chapter 1 of Dracula.

Read 'Dracula's Guest'


Florence died at the age of 78

Florence outlived her husband by 25 years. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, and her ashes were scattered at the Gardens of Rest. The original plan has been to keep her ashes and those of her husband's together in a display urn, but after Irving Noel Stoker died in 1961, his ashes were added to those of his fathers.

Dracula – The Un-dead was published

Stoker's great grandnephew (Dacre Stoker) wrote a sequel to the famous novel, along with screen writer Ian Holt. They used their ancestor's handwritten notes and set the story 25 years after Dracula's death at the end of the original novel. This sequel had mixed reviews, some found it a worthy successor others found it mirrored the terror of the original novel well.

The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker was published by Robson Press of London

The journal was edited by Dacre Stoker and contains brief entries Stoker made between 1871 and 1881 which offer an insight into his life in Dublin and some foreshadowing of ideas which led to the writing of Dracula.

Read more about The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker


Film/television adaptations

There are thought to be around 200 films which are either remakes of Dracula or use Stoker's vampire legend as inspiration. Countless TV programmes have done the same.

List of adaptations