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Bram Stoker Essay, Research Paper

Writer of one of the world’s most famous horror novels, Abraham Stoker has shaped the remarkable Count Dracula into a legendary monster which numerous authors, directors, and play writers have emulated. His other works have not aged well, but the story of Count Dracula continues to sell steadily even to this day. Stoker created the term “undead,” and his interpretation of vampire myths has powerfully shaped depictions of the legendary monsters ever since.

Bram Stoker entered the world November 8, 1847 at 15 The Crescent, Clontarf, North of Dublin, the third of seven children (Wolf 378). For the first 7 years of his life Stoker developed myriad childhood diseases which afforded him much time to reading. By the time he entered college, Stoker somehow overcame his childhood complexities and while at Trinity College, Dublin, the honor student participated in soccer and excelled as a marathon running champion. He studied mathematics and got elected as president of the Philosophical Society and the Historical Society (Wolf 379). Florence Balcombe, only twenty years old when she married Bram Stoker, had their only child, Noel, in 1879 (Wolf 379).

His literary career commenced as early as 1871 and in that year he took up a post as the unpaid drama critic for the “Evening Mail,” while at the same time writing short stories. His first literary “success” arrived a year later when, in 1872, The London Society published his short story “The Crystal Cup” (Murray 287). As early as 1875 Stoker’s unique brand of fiction had come to the forefront. In a four part serial called the “Chain of Destiny,” initiated themes that developed Stoker’s trademark: horror mixed with romance, nightmares and curses (Murray 287). Stoker also evolved into an enthusiastic theatergoer and an ardent admirer and friend of Henry Irving, writing dramatic criticism and glowing reviews of Irving’s work for the local papers. Various people argue that Henry Irving plays an important model for the character of Count Dracula, and that the novel portrays a kind of unconscious revenge against the man to whom Stoker gave so much. Stoker, still very much the critic, bestowed Irving’s performance a favorable review. Impressed with Stoker’s review, Irving invited Stoker back stage and the resultant friendship lasted years.

A short time after Stoker embarked on his new career, the publishing house of Sampson, Lowe contacted him expressing interest in a collection of Stoker’s stories. In 1891, Stoker published Under the Sunset, a different genre then his previous works (Elfson 289). Stoker, fascinated with the notion of the “boundaries of life and death” (Murray 286) wrote this book too terrifying for children, at least in some of the reviewer’s minds. By the time Stoker received favorable reviews for his romance novel “The Snake’s Pass” (1890), he originated notes for a novel with a vampire theme, and by 1894 he returned to macabre themes. It appeared only a natural consequence that “Dracula” would follow in June of 1897 (Wolf 389).

“Dracula” received mixed reviews, and the book never yielded much money for Stoker. In a favorable review, the “Daily Mail” compared it with “Frankenstein” and Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” “The Bookman” found it likeable in spots, but commented that the “descriptions were hideous and repulsive (Wolf 390). Although the book enjoyed steady sales and provided the Stokers with an adequate income, it never brought the fortunes for Bram like it would eventually make for others after his death. Dracula reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s when a highly successful stage play adapted it (Wolf 375). Inexplicably, the master of detail management failed to secure an American copyright for his work, in which he never received a penny in payment from this country, where the book established immense popularity. On a succeeding tour to America, Stoker found that he advanced into a celebrity due to the publication of Dracula (Wolf 376).

For the next few years after “Dracula’s” publication, events took a downward spiral for both Irving and Stoker. Troubles start with Irving’s establishment and a fire destroyed part of the theater and Irving eventually sold it. Stoker did manage however to publish “The Jewel of the 7 Stars” in 1903, based on the information given to Stoker by an Egyptologist (Elfson 267). In 1905 Henry Irving died, leaving the aging Stoker without a steady jot for the first time in his life. A year after Irving’s death Stoker wrote “Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving” (Elfson 267). Stoker managed to write other novels after this point until the time of his death in 1912 at the age of 64 (Wolf 378). His death attracted relatively little attention in the world s press (Murray 288).

Stokers creation of the night delights and inhabits the nightmares of every generation between his and ours. Count Dracula progressed into an icon of evil, and perhaps the most widely recognized bogeyman in all of world literature. To date, there have been 156 films made about Dracula or other assorted vampires, not to mention countless novels, comic books, nonfiction works, toys, clubs and societies and even a children’s breakfast cereal celebrating the macabre myth of the undead count (Wolf 376). Dracula sells steadily even after Stokers death and has reignited both Europe s and America s craze for vampires (Murray 287).

Elfson, Robert. Bram Stoker. A Life of Mystery Writers. Ed. Jane Elco. New York:

Winter Town, 1994. 265-302.

Murray, Brian. Bram Stoker. British Mystery Writers, 1860-1919. Ed. Bernard

Benstock. London: Gale Research Inc, 1998. 283-289.

Wolf, Leonard. Bram Stoker. British Writers Supplement III. Ed. George Stade. New

York: Charles Scribner s Sons, 1996. 375-391.

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