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Draculaby Bram Stoker
About the Author
Bram Stoker--the Irish novelist, short-story writer, biographer, essayist, and critic best remembered today as the author of Dracula--was born in Dublin, on November 8, 1847. His father was a civil servant at Dublin Castle, his mother a social crusader and feminist advocate concerned with the plight of impoverished women. Bedridden until the age of seven with an unexplained illness, Stoker delighted in the eerie Irish folktales recited by his mother. In 1864 Stoker entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he distinguished himself in athletics and graduated with honors in mathematics. It was while attending Trinity that he first saw Henry Irving, the great English actor with whom he would form a lasting association, in a production of Sheridan's The Rivals. The evening kindled in Stoker a lifelong passion for theater. Another formative experience was the poetry of Walt Whitman; Leaves of Grass affected him deeply.
Following in his father's footsteps, Stoker entered the Irish civil service in 1870 as a clerk at Dublin Castle; he later published The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland (1879), a manual for court officials. He began reviewing plays as an unsalaried drama critic for the Dublin Evening Mail and frequenting the illustrious Saturday 'at homes' of Sir William and Lady Jane Wilde, whose son Oscar had been a Trinity classmate. In 1875 Stoker enjoyed a modest success with 'The Chain of Destiny,' a horror story about a phantom fiend, serialized in The Shamrock magazine. The next year he forged an enduring friendship with his idol Henry Irving, who had returned to Dublin to appear in Hamlet. In November 1878 Stoker resigned from government service to become the actor's manager. Three weeks later Stoker wed Florence Balcombe, a childhood sweetheart, who had also been courted by Oscar Wilde.
In 1879 Stoker resettled in London. As co-director of Irving's famous Lyceum Theatre Stoker met many literary giants of Victorian England, including Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. While touring the United States with Irving's troupe Stoker met Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and other luminaries. A Glimpse of America (1886) records Stoker's impressions. Despite a demanding schedule, Stoker found time to write romances and Gothic fiction. The Snake's Pass, his first novel, appeared in 1890; a second, The Watter's Mou', came out in 1894.
Although he claimed that the idea for his classic tale of Count Dracula came to him in a nightmare, Stoker was doubtless influenced in part by Arminius Vambery, the celebrated Hungarian adventurer and folklore expert who introduced him to the vampire legends of Eastern Europe. The publication of Dracula in 1897 earned Stoker widespread recognition. Of the many admiring reviews the novel received when it first came out, the most astute praise came from the author's mother, who wrote her son: 'It is splendid. No book since Mrs. Shelley's Frankenstein or indeed any other at all has come near yours in originality, or terror.' Arthur Conan Doyle concurred: 'I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years. It is really wonderful how with so much exciting interest over so long a book there is never an anti-climax.'
Stoker's next novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars (1904), was also highly praised. Critics hailed it as 'a tale of mystery and imagination equal to anything that ever emerged from the fertile brain of Edgar Allan Poe.'
After Irving's death in 1905 Stoker turned to journalism for a livelihood. He worked briefly for the London Daily Telegraph and contributed a series of interviews and profiles of celebrities--the young Winston Churchill among them--to the New York World. Though partially paralyzed by a stroke, Stoker managed to turn out several more books--including Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906), The Lady of the Shroud (1909), and Famous Impostors (1910)--before his health deteriorated to the point where he had to apply for charitable support from the Royal Literary Fund. He published a final novel, The Lair of the White Worm, in 1911. Bram Stoker died in London on April 20, 1912. Dracula's Guest, a collection of his short stories, appeared posthumously in 1914.
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