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Bram Stoker

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Bram Stoker

Have you ever heard of Count Dracula? This infamous, bloodsucking villain was the brainchild of Irish author Bram Stoker (1847 to 1912) in his most famous novel, Dracula (1897). As Stoker's characters often pursued romantic subplots while also navigating the presence of supernatural beings or themes, his works, including Dracula, are associated with Gothic Romance.

Gothic Romance is a genre of literature whose popularity peaked in the late 18th and early 19th century and has continued to various degrees into the present. Gothic Romance combines elements of Romantic and Gothic literature, often containing a mystery and elements of the supernatural.

Bram Stoker: Biography

During his childhood, Stoker developed an unknown illness that left him unable to stand or walk until the age of seven. Throughout this time, his mother, Charlotte Stoker, kept him entertained with true stories of the cholera epidemic in the northwest of Ireland which took place during her own childhood. Many of these stories involved mass graves and grim tales of people nearly being buried alive.

Do any elements from the stories told to Bram Stoker by his mother sound familiar to you? Do you think they could have influenced any of Stoker's later work?

Despite the health issues he experienced as a child, Stoker was highly athletic in his later youth. He played football at Trinity College in Dublin, from where he also graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1870. In 1897, Stoker was described by the Houston Daily Post as

An athletic man, with pointed blonde beard and the shoulders of a college oarsman.1

Following graduation, Stoker worked in the civil service at Dublin Castle. During this time he also volunteered as an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Evening Mail and wrote stories for magazines including 'Crystal Cup' which was published by the London Society in 1872, and 'The Chain of Destiny' which was published in four parts in The Shamrock in 1875.

Whilst volunteering as a drama critic, Stoker made the acquaintance of actor Sir Henry Irving who was an English actor. From 1878 until Irving’s death in 1905, Stoker acted as Irving’s manager. In 1878, Bram Stoker and his wife, Florence, moved to London where Stoker would go on to work for 27 years as Henry Irving's acting manager and the business manager of Irving's Lyceum Theatre.

Stoker's time as manager for Henry Irving opened many doors for him. Through Irving, Stoker became involved in London's high society and, among other famous authors and figures, Stoker met the British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is best known for creating the character Sherlock Holmes. Stoker also had the opportunity to travel the world as part of Irving's tours.

During this period in Stoker's life, he also ventured into writing fiction novels and, in 1890, published the romantic thriller set in bleak Western Ireland, The Snake’s Pass. Seven years later, in 1897, Stoker published the work that gained him global fame: Dracula.

Following Irving’s death in October 1905, Stoker published Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving in 1906. Other than continuing to write and publish novels, Stoker also managed productions at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Derived from his admiration of Henry Irving and the homoerotic themes present in Dracula, there has been some speculation among literary critics that Stoker was homosexual:

  • '"A Wilde Desire Took Me": The Homoerotic History of Dracula' (Schaffer, 1994).
  • 'Heterosexual Horror: Dracula, the Closet, and the Marriage-Plot' (McCrea, 2010).
  • 'The Mediation of the Feminine: Bisexuality, Homoerotic Desire, and Self-Expression in Bram Stoker's Dracula' (Howes, 1988).

Do you think that this critical analysis of Dracula (1897) would impact your own reading of the novel? Take a look at one or all of the articles above – what do you think of their arguments?

Only a few months after Henry Irving’s death, Stoker had a debilitating stroke. Following his stroke, Stoker mostly retired, however, he continued to write and publish works of Gothic Romance until the end of his life, including The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911).

During the final years of his life, Stoker had a private and financially unstable existence, and he received financial aid from the Royal Literary Society. Five days after the sinking of the Titanic, Bram Stoker died on 20 April 1912. Stoker’s death went largely unnoticed by papers that were crammed full of survivor accounts and the obituaries of wealthy society members from the sinking of the Titanic. The Times in London did contain an obituary for Stoker, but only on page 15.

The root of Stoker’s death is debated, but many believe that one of the causes was syphilis, for which there was no cure at the time.

Bram Stoker's Legacy

During his life, Stoker’s fame was not for his contribution to literature. Although he wrote a total of 12 novels, The Times' obituary for Stoker focused on his role as manager to Henry Irving and his contribution to the success of the Lyceum Theatre, and the only piece of Stoker's work mentioned in the obituary was Reminiscences of Henry Irving.

However, today Stoker is most known for being part of the Gothic Romance literary movement, producing works of Gothic and Romantic fiction. Dracula’s enormous cultural impact came much later, through its reproduction in TV, film and literature. From Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, Vampires remain a central feature of film and literature today – and Dracula is one of the blueprints.

Bram Stoker: Books

Books written by Bram Stoker are as follows

The Snakes Pass (1890)

The Snakes Pass is one of Stoker’s first Gothic Romance novels. The novel is set in West Ireland, and it follows the story of Arthur Severn who encounters a man named Jerry Scanlan at a local bar in Carnacliff. Scanlan tells Severn the story of Shleenanaher, a place where the King of Snakes remained after he was driven out of Ireland by Saint Patrick.

Arthur Severn is told a number of stories, including that of an evil villain in the town known as Black Murdock. As the novel progresses, a romance develops between Severn and the character of Norah Joyce, whose father lost his land to Black Murdock after taking out a loan from him. After many trials and tribulations, the novel’s protagonists take back Phelim, Joyce’s land, and Arthur Severn and Norah Joyce are eventually married.

Before it was published as a novel, the story was serialised in a number of publications, including The People (London, England), The Newcastle Courant (Newcastle Upon Tyne, England), and the Weekly Mail (Cardiff, Wales).

Dracula (1897)

Dracula is a piece of epistolary fiction, which means that it was written in the form of diaries and journals.

The diary entries and letters provide a variety of perspectives throughout the book, allowing the story to be told through the eyes of Jonathan Harker, Wilhelmina ('Mina') Harker (née Murray), Dr John ('Jack') Seward, and Lucy Westenra.

The novel tells the tale of a Transylvanian vampire, Count Dracula, who makes his way to England where he feeds on the blood of the innocent. Led by Dr Abraham Van Helsing, Johnathan Harker and his friends overpower and destroy Dracula.

Did you know: Dracula wasn’t the first vampire novel in English literature. John Polidori’s 1819 short story, 'The Vampyre', preceded Stoker’s novel by nearly 70 years.

The legacy of Dracula was supported by Florence Stoker, who published her husband's collection of short stories, Dracula's Guest, posthumously in 1914.

Furthermore, Dracula's reproduction in other literary works, television, and film, has led to its continued fame. The very first cinematic adaptation of Dracula, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, was a silent film released in 1922. In January 2020, the BBC released a three-episode TV series of Dracula that was very loosely based on Stoker’s novel. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola directed his own film version of Dracula, starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Keanu Reeves.

In 2009, over 100 years after the novel’s publication, Bram Stoker's grandnephew Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt produced Dracula: The Un-Dead, a sequel to the original novel set in London in 1912. The novel is based on Stoker's own notes from the original Dracula, and even includes Bram Stoker as a character!

Despite travelling widely, Stoker never visited Eastern Europe, one of the key inspirations for and settings of Dracula. However, prior to Dracula’s publication, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian-Jewish writer and traveller. Stoker was well underway with his writing of the novel, however, it is possible that some of its themes may have emerged from Vámbéry's stories of the Carpathian mountains.

The Lady of the Shroud (1909)

The Lady of the Shroud also takes the form of an epistolary novel. The novel follows Rupert Saint Leger, who inherits his uncle’s estate on the condition that he must live for a year in a castle in the Land of the Blue Mountains on the Dalmatian coast.

The novel centres on the theme of the supernatural. After being visited by a woman wearing a wet shroud, seeking warmth, Leger allows her to dry off by the fire, however, she flees the next morning. Over the course of the woman’s visits, Leger finds himself falling in love with her (and also thinking that she is a Vampire!)

This novel follows a heroic arc, in which Rupert Leger, the hero of the story, saves the woman (whose name he learns is Teuta) and her father from a party of Turkish troops. It is revealed that Teuta is the daughter of the local Voivode and was falsely declared dead (and then a Vampire) after she fell into a trance. After Rupert’s heroic rescue, the two are married, and Teuta reveals their marriage to her father, who accepts Rupert into the family.

Voivode: a local governor or ruler who is semi-independent from the monarchy.

The Lair of the White Worm (1911)

The Lair of the White Worm was published one year before Stoker’s death and is perhaps one of his most ‘unhinged’ novels. Unlike Stoker’s earlier works, this novel is a horror story with no romantic aspects.

The novel follows the journey of Adam Salton, an Australian who goes to meet his great-uncle, Richard Salton, in England after being contacted by him in 1860. Richard announces that, as Adam is his only living relative, he wishes to make Adam the heir to his estate called Lesser Hill. After travelling there, Adam finds himself at the centre of a series of mysterious events. The novel’s story is partly based on 'The Lambton Worm', the legend from North East England of a giant white worm with the ability to transform into a woman.

The Lair of the White Worm was adapted into a British horror film in 1988, starring Hugh Grant and Amanda Donohoe.

Key Themes in Bram Stoker’s works

Below are the themes used in Barm Stoker's works

The Weather

Dark weather is a common aspect of Gothic Literature. This technique is known as pathetic fallacy and intends to create a certain mood from descriptions of the weather. In the case of Stoker’s writing, bleak landscapes are utilised to create an eerie mood.

The Snakes Pass opens with a storm that interrupts the travels of the protagonist, Arthur Severn. Alongside this, dangerous events are often preceded by the presence of clouds or fog. There is also a 'shifting bog' in the novel, described as a 'carpet of death' by the townspeople. Arthur Severn chooses to remain in the town, partly to examine this bog that consumes anything in its path. Eventually, the bog consumes the novel’s villain, Murdock.

The Supernatural

From Cathy’s ghost in Wuthering Heights to Frankenstein’s inhuman creation (Adam) in Frankenstein, the supernatural is a fundamental part of Gothic literature that is also present in all of Stoker’s works of fiction.

In The Lady of the Shroud, the protagonist, Rupert, initially believes that his love interest, Teuta, is a vampire. Dracula follows the story of Count Dracula, an actual vampire who ventures to London to prey on innocent victims.

Real-life Locations

Many of the settings for Stoker’s writing were influenced by real locations he visited throughout his life.

Stoker took lengthy holidays to Cruden Bay in Scotland between 1893 and 1910. These holidays provided the time for Stoker to write his novels and the location acted as inspiration for some of his writing. Both The Watter's Mou' (1895) and The Mystery of the Sea (1902) were set in Cruden Bay.

Stoker started writing Dracula on a holiday to Cruden Bay in 1895. The nearby Slains Castle (also known as New Slains Castle) has been suggested to have provided the visual palette for the descriptions of Castle Dracula in Dracula (1897). The coastal town of Whitby which Stoker visited in 1890 is also said to be part of Stoker's inspiration.

Bram Stoker, a large derelict castle on a hill by the sea, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Slains Castle in Cruden Bay.

Bram Stoker: Facts

  • Bram Stoker was the third eldest of seven children.
  • The park adjacent to Bram Stoker's childhood home, 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf, is best known as 'Bram Stoker Park'.
  • Bram Stoker remains the only student at Trinity College Dublin to have held the positions of auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society.
  • Bram Stoker became acquainted with Oscar Wilde during his time as a student at Trinity College, and he proposed Wilde for membership of the university's Philosophical Society before proposing to Florence Balcombe, whose suitor had previously been Oscar Wilde!
  • While managing Henry Irving, Stoker visited the White House twice and met William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt while he was there.
  • Stoker's original typescript of Dracula was believed to have been lost until it was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania. The title of this script was 'THE UN-DEAD.'
  • Stoker was a member of The London Library and conducted much of the research for Dracula there. In 2019, Creation Theatre Company put on a production of Dracula in the library.

Famous Bram Stoker Quotes

I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.(Chapter II, Dracula)

I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.

(Chapter V, Dracula)

Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker

(Chapter X, Dracula)

She was young and very beautiful, but pale, like the grey pallor of death.

(Book III: The Coming of the Lady, The Lady of the Shroud)

After all, he was only a man, with a man's dislike of difficult or awkward situations.

(Chapter XIII, The Lair of the White Worm)

Bram Stoker (1847-1912) - Key Takeaways

  • Bram Stoker was an Irish novelist who lived from 1847 to 1912.
  • Stoker wrote a total of 12 novels in his life, the majority of them were part of the Gothic Romance genre.
  • Some of Stoker's most famous novels include; The Snakes Pass (1890), Dracula (1897), The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911)
  • Common themes in Stoker's work are the weather and the supernatural.

1 'Points about People.' The Houston Daily Post, Houston, Texas, 6 March 1897, published in The Bram Stoker Estate.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker was an Irish writer who lived from 1847 to 1912.

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897

Stoker likely had many inspirations for Dracula, one of them being the stories of the Carpathian mountains told to him by Ármin Vámbéry.

Stoker's most famous work is Dracula (1897)

We can't know for certain who Stoker based the character of Dracula on, however many believe it was Vlad the Impaler who was prince of Wallachia in the 15th century.

Final Bram Stoker Quiz

Question

When was Dracula published?

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1890

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Who is the author of Dracula (1897)

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Bram Stoker

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Which of these characters are not one of the protagonists in Dracula (1897)?

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Jonathan Harker

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What is epistolary fiction?

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A work of literature written in the form of letters or other documents

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What tone does Dracula (1897) have?

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Suspenseful with moments of melodrama


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What is the genre of Dracula (1897)?

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Gothic horror

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When is the novel's rising action begin?

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The novel’s rising action begins at its opening, when Jonathan Harker visits Castle Dracula to help Dracula finalise his purchase of an estate in England.

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When does the novel's conflict appear?

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The conflict of the novel appears when Dracula travels to England.

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When is the novel's climax?

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The novel’s climax occurs when Lucy’s vampirism is revealed by Van Helsing.

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When does the novel's falling action occur?

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The falling action occurs as the protagonists hunt down Dracula and eventually destroy him.

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True or false? Dracula (1897) has two climatic moments

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True! The first climactic moment is when Lucy's vampirism is revealed. There is a second climactic moment when Van Helsing and his allies catch up with and confront Dracula, finally destroying him.

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Why is Dracula (1897) still popular today?

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Dracula has stood the test of time because of its presence in popular culture, created by the novel's adaptations in television and film.

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Why is setting important in Dracula (1897)?

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Stoker’s descriptions of key settings is a key aspect of its gothic genre, developing suspense and indicating danger. 

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What theme does this quote represent?


'Thus are we ministers of God’s own wish: that the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters...'

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Good versus evil

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What theme does this quote represent?


'There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal.'

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Sexuality 

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What is Bram Stoker believed to have died of?

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An operation on his eye

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What did Bram Stoker's mother tell him stories about when he was a child?

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The cholera out-break in North West Ireland

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Who was Bram Stoker the manager of?

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Henry Irving 

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What was Bram Stoker's final novel?

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The Lair of the White Worm (1911)

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Which of these is a book not written by Bram Stoker?

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The Lady of the Shroud (1909)

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Who was Bram Stoker married to?

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Florence Stoker

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What is Bram Stoker's most famous novel?

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Dracula (1897)

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Which theatre did Bram Stoker manage while living in London?

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The Lyceum Theatre

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True or false: Bram Stoker visited the White House.

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True! Stoker visited the White House twice and met William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

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True or false: Bram Stoker had money troubles in his final year of life

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True! In his last year of life he received financial aid from the Royal Literary Society. 


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What historical event coincided with Bram Stoker's death?

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The sinking of the titanic, 5 days before Stoker died

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When was Bram Stoker born?

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1847

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When did Bram Stoker die?

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1912

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What is Dracula about?

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A vampire called Dracula, who comes to England. 

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What kind of novel is Dracula?

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An epistolary novel, meaning it is made up of journal entries and/or letters (epistles).

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Where is Dracula set?

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Transylvania, a part of Romania.

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Who wrote Dracula?

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Bram Stoker. 

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Which historical period is Dracula set in and written in?

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The Victorian period.

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What inspired Stoker to write Dracula?

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Folklore stories he heard while travelling through Romania. 

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When was Dracula published?

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1897.

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Where was Bram Stoker from?

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Ireland.

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What are the two main themes of Dracula

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Sexuality and gender.

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What is the name of the solicitor who visits Dracula at his castle at the start of the novel? 

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Jonathan Harker.

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