Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Abraham “Bram” Stoker, famous for his sensational novel, Dracula, was a sickly child, so weak that he was unable to stand up unaided until the age of seven. He outgrew his childhood weakness, however, and became a champion athlete while at Dublin University, from which he graduated in 1867. For the next ten years he worked as an Irish civil servant. From 1871 to 1876 Stoker served as an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Mail, work which won for him the friendship of the actor Henry Irving (1838-1905). As a result of their friendship, Stoker served as Irving’s manager for many years.
After touring America with Irving, Stoker wrote a series of lectures about life in the United States to deliver to English audiences. The success of the lectures when printed in pamphlet form caused Stoker to consider other kinds of writing. Dracula appeared in 1897. The novel, written in the form of journal entries and letters, tells of the vampire Count Dracula’s attempt to spread his evil to London and his eventual defeat. The tale has been produced on stage and in several film versions. The work represents a late nineteenth century development of the earlier gothic novel, and its marked success stimulated other authors to imitate the type. Other works by Stoker worth noting are The Jewel of Seven Stars and The Lair of the White Worm, both novels, and Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, which recounts Stoker’s life with Irving and with the Lyceum Theatre. During his last years Stoker was also on the literary staff of the London Telegraph.
IntroductionAbraham “Bram” Stoker wrote Dracula as well as many other gothic horror tales. He started life as a sickly child but regained his health as an adolescent and was a good athlete at Trinity College. While working in the Irish Civil Service, he reviewed several plays and worked at the Lyceum Theatre in London, which led to his interest in writing. His novel Dracula appeared in 1897. Opponents of the book said that it recounted an “unnecessary number of hideous incidents” that could “shock and disgust” readers. Parents were warned to keep the novel away from children because of the graphic horror depicted in its pages. While Stoker’s other works were well received at the time, they seem somewhat dated and melodramatic now. Except for Dracula, most have been forgotten.
- Stoker’s stories are interpreted and analyzed in many different ways, but most critics agree that they all contain an element of sexual repression.
- Stoker’s depiction of the vampire legend has been the most influential, and his Dracula has become a part of mainstream culture.
- Stoker married Florence Balcombe and had one son with her. Rumor has it that he competed with Oscar Wilde for her affections.
- Stoker and the famous Victorian actor Henry Irving had a lifelong friendship. When Irving died in 1905, Stoker is said to have suffered a stroke.
- The first film adaptation of the novel Dracula was Nosferatu. Stoker’s wife sued the filmmakers, claiming she had not been asked for permission or paid royalties.
Bram Stoker was born Abraham Stoker on November 8, 1847, in Clontarf, north of Dublin, Ireland. Stoker was the third of seven children, and he was violently ill as a child. When he was sick, Stoker read many books and listened to the horror tales his mother told him. These led Stoker to start writing ghost stories, even as a child. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin in 1868 with honors in mathematics, Stoker took a civil service position, but he most enjoyed going to the theater in his free time. In 1871, when local critics did not comment on a performance of Henry Irving— Stoker's favorite actor—Stoker offered to write an unpaid review of the performance for the Dublin Mail. Stoker continued to write unpaid reviews for the newspaper for several years. When Irving returned to Dublin to perform in 1876, Irving read Stoker's celebratory review of the actor's performance and invited Stoker to dinner. The two men struck up a friendship, and, in 1878, Irving leased the Lyceum Theatre in London and appointed Stoker as manager. Stoker married his neighbor, Florence Balcombe, and the two moved to England where Stoker worked both as the theater manager and as Irving's acting manager from 1878 to 1905.
At the same time, Stoker began to publish his own works. In 1882, Stoker published his first book, Under the Sunset, a book of twisted children's stories. Eight years later, he published his first novel, The Snake's Pass (1890). However, it was not until the 1897 publication of Dracula that Stoker received real attention from the critics, and even then it was mixed. However, although the critics were hesitant to endorse Stoker's horror novel, it was a popular success. Despite Stoker's good fortune, he remained loyal to Irving, whose bad business practices and failing career eventually led the two men to abandon the Lyceum Theatre. Following Irving's death in 1905, Stoker—who had always been in the actor's shadow—was distraught. Stoker had a stroke shortly after Irving's death, which incapacitated him somewhat. At the end of his life, Stoker and his wife became increasingly poor, and he looked to others for assistance. At the same time, he continued to write. His works in this late stage include Lady Athlyne (1908), The Lady of the Shroud (1909), and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). Stoker died of syphilis on April 20, 1912, in London. However, Stoker's Dracula has lived on and has since overshadowed its author.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Bedford, Barbara. Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of “Dracula.” New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
Hughes, William. Beyond “Dracula”: Bram Stoker’s Fiction and Its Cultural Context. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
Hughes, William, and Andrew Smith, eds. Bram Stoker: History, Psychoanalysis, and the Gothic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
Senf, Carol A. Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism. New York: Twayne, 1998.
Senf, Carol A, ed. The Critical Response to Bram Stoker. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.
Valente, Joseph. Dracula’s Crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the Question of Blood. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.