Bram Stoker

	As who should say, 'I am Sir Oracle,
	And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark.'
				-- William Shakespeare, 
				The Merchant of Venice [Gratiano]

	We thought her dying whilst she slept,
	And sleeping when she died.
				-- Thomas Hood, The Death Bed

Since Wilkie Collins left us we have had no tale of mystery so liberal in matter and so closely woven. -- The Bookman, August 1897

... her breast heaved softly ... And then insensibly there came the strange change which I had noticed in the night ... the mouth opened, and the pale gums, drawn back, made the teeth look longer and sharper than ever ... and said in a soft voluptuous voice, such as I had never heard from her lips: 'Arthur! Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss me!' -- Bram Stoker, Dracula

He was deadly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look which I knew too well ... -- Bram Stoker, Dracula

Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat ... I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited - waited with a beating heart. -- Bram Stoker, Dracula

There he lay looking as if youth had been half-renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. -- Bram Stoker, Dracula

Bram Stoker did not write the first vampire novel in English, only the most enduring. -- Marjorie Howes, introduction to Dracula, Everyman edition

There are two creatures of horror that are known to everyone - Dracula and Frankenstein - though in popular misconception neither bear much resemblance to their original creations.

Both Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have led to a whole genre of horror movies, though none bear much resemblance either to the original characters or to the novels in which they first appear.

Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897) was not the first novel to bring to the attention of the public the nature of vampires, but it was the one that gripped the public imagination, possibly because of its barely suppressed strong sexuality.

Lucy's vampire tendencies were associated with strong sexuality, the New Victorian Woman who longed for sexual freedom and liberty. Lucy had the desire to be had by at least three men, which she expressed with the thought 'Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her?'. She then quickly represses the desire reminding herself, 'But this is heresy, and I must not say it.' But once she becomes a vampire, she is free to indulge her sexual fantasies.

Jonathan Harker finds himself the hapless victim at Dracula's castle - the unwanted sexual attention of three voluptuous female vampires.

Prior to the publication of Dracula there were several accounts of vampires: Charles Maturin Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), John Polidori The Vampyre: A Tale (1819), of disputed authorship (possibly James Madison Rymer or Thomas Preston Prest) Varney the Vampire (1847), Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla (1872).

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1848), refers to the mad, sexually aggressive Bertha Rochester, the dark secret locked away in the attic, as a 'vampyre'. Both Charlotte's Jane Eyre and sister Emily's Wuthering Heights (1847) have their roots in Gothic horror.

John Polidori was present at the Villa Diodati when Lord Byron suggested they each tell a ghost story. Mary Shelley dreamt up Frankenstein, John Polidori's tale of vampires provides the link between Frankenstein and Dracula.

Dracula and vampires are now part of folk culture and mythology. We all know their life styles: vampires sleep during the day and go out at night, their bloodsucking habits, the need to lie within Transylvanian earth. Their victims become the undead. Holy water, silver crosses, and garlic offer protection. Vampires display no reflection in a mirror, nor do they cast a shadow. A vampire is killed with a wooden stake driven through its heart whilst it sleeps at night.

It is not only in horror that vampires either make an appearance or are alluded to. In Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun a sexually forward female who manages to anger her husband, other men and most women as a consequence of her prominently displayed sexuality, and who is of course the first character to be bumped off, is referred to by one of the other characters as a vamp.

Bram Stoker (1847-1912) was born in Dublin, the third of seven children. He was a sickly child and didn't gain his strength until he was about seven. He studied at Trinity College, then worked for a short time as a Civil Servant. As president of the university Philosophical Society, he introduced Oscar Wilde. He travelled to London where he became a close friend of Henry Irving. He was secretary to Irving, also manager of the Lyceum Theatre and Irving's theatre company. He met the American poet Walt Whitman (1884). He died in 1912 at the age of 64, possibly from syphilis.

Bram Stoker was the author of several books, the only success was Dracula, which has never been out of print.

Bram Stoker's first foray into Gothic horror was the short story The Chain of Destiny (1875), serialised in the weekly Shamrock. He wrote several other horror stories, the most notable, and weirdest, was his last, The Lair of the White Worm (November 1911), where the beautiful but evil Lady Arabella, was in reality a white worm living in a foul-smelling well beneath her mansion.

Apart from the previously published books on vampires, Dracula was firmly rooted in the Gothic horror genre whilst at the same time establishing a sub-genre of vampires.

Early examples of Gothic horror were: Horace Walpole The Castle of Otranto (1765), Anne Radcliffe The Mysteries of Udolpho (1749). Even Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1847) could be seen as Gothic horror.

Jane Austen, an author not usually associated with Gothic horror, even less, sexuality, was an avid reader of Gothic horror, and Northanger Abbey (1818) can be seen as a parody of the Gothic horror novel.

Wilkie Collins was also to influence Bram Stoker, especially with The Woman in White (1860).

There have been hundreds of Dracula movies, the only one to attempt to do justice to the novel was Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula.

JoAnne Soper-Cook has written several short vampire tales. Lacking even the thinnest veil of Victorian modesty she exploits the sexuality to the full.

Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a province of Hungary, it now forms part of Romania. Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania, though he did take a holiday in Whitby.

Suggested Reading

Bram Stoker, Dracula, Penguin Classics

The author of this page once took a holiday in Whitby.
Literature ~ Sheridan Le Fanu ~ Edgar Allan Poe ~ Mary Shelley
(c) Keith Parkins 1999 -- April 1999 rev 0