Bram Stoker 1847–-1912
(Full name Abraham Stoker) Irish short story writer, novelist, biographer, essayist, and critic.
The following entry presents an overview of Stoker's short fiction career through 1993.
Best known as the author of Dracula, (1897) Stoker also wrote adventure novels and romances, other horror novels, and several pieces of short fiction. These short stories have been overshadowed by Stoker's novels and have not attracted much critical attention. In fact, Stoker is regarded as a one-book author, his sole memorable contribution being the creation of the Transylvanian count whose name has become synonymous with vampirism.
Stoker was born on November 8, 1847, in Dublin. He was bedridden for the first seven years of his life. During this period of illness, his mother told him stories of her own childhood during the cholera plague in the Irish town of Sligo, recounting instances of live interment and corpse burnings. At Trinity College, Stoker made up for his early invalidism by excelling in athletics as well as in his studies. He graduated with honors in mathematics in 1870 and followed his father into the Irish civil service, where he worked for ten years. During this time Stoker also was an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Mail, contributing glowing reviews, more unabashed praise than criticism, of Henry Irving's theatrical performances. The two men became friends and, in 1879, Stoker left his job to become Irving's manager. He also discharged various managerial, secretarial, and even directorial functions at the Lyceum Theatre. Despite his extensive duties, Stoker wrote a number of novels, including Dracula. Following Irving's death in 1905, Stoker was associated with the literary staff of the London Telegraph. In his final years, Stoker was afflicted with gout and Bright's disease. Some biographers believe that he died of advanced syphilis, having contracted the disease about the time he was composing Dracula. He died on April 20, 1912.
Major Works of Short Fiction
As in his novels, Stoker's short fiction is primarily characterized by its macabre nature and focuses on such themes as family, male rivalry, ambivalence toward women, and the morality of good and evil. For example, “Dracula's Guest,” originally intended as a prefatory chapter to Dracula, is one of Stoker's best-known stories. The tale opens with Jonathan Harker traveling to Dracula's castle, only to be stranded alone in the countryside when his frightened driver refuses to complete the trip. He takes refuge from a violent storm in a mausoleum in a nearby cemetery. As he rests, a beautiful female apparition rises from the tomb and approaches him. Suddenly, he is thrown to the ground and later wakes to find himself warmed and protected by a werewolf. In another story, “The Squaw,” an American visiting Nuremberg drops a pebble from the top of a castle, killing a kitten. Its vengeful mother stalks the man, eventually causing his death.
Critics have focused on Stoker's novels, particularly the extremely popular Dracula, with very little reaction to his short fiction collections. However, anthologists frequently include his stories in collections of horror fiction. Reviewers of his short fiction works have faulted them for their stereotyped characters and romanticized Gothic plots; with the exception of aficionados of supernatural fiction, they are rarely read today. While critics have frequently decried Stoker's stiff characterization and tendency to melodrama, they have universally praised his beautifully precise place descriptions. Today, many of his short stories are perceived as precursors to Stoker's later novels.
Under the Sunset 1882
Crooken Sands 1894
The Man from Shorrox' 1894
Snowbound: The Record of a Theatrical Touring Party 1899
Dracula's Guest, and Other Weird Stories 1914
The Bram Stoker Bedside Companion: Stories of Fantasy and Horror 1973
Shades of Dracula: Bram Stoker's Uncollected Stories 1982
Midnight Tales 1995
Best Ghost and Horror Stories 1997
Erotic Tales of the Victorian Age [contributor] 1998
The Duties of Clerks of Petty Session in Ireland (handbook) 1879
A Glimpse of America (essays) 1886
The Snake's Pass (novel) 1890
The Watter's Mou' (novel) 1894
Dracula (novel) 1897
The Jewel of Seven Stars (novel) 1903
Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (biography) 1906
The Lady of the Shroud (novel) 1909
Famous Imposters (essays) 1910
The Lair of the White Worm (novel) 1911
(The entire section is 107 words.)
SOURCE: Review of Under the Sunset, by Bram Stoker. Academy XX, no. 501 (10 December 1881): 431-32.
[In the following review, the anonymous critic deems Under the Sunset too frightening for children.]
White vellum binding, gilt edges, and creamy paper make this [Under the Sunset] far too dainty a volume even for the book-spoilt children of the present age. Fortunately, its contents will be rather improved than injured by being orally conveyed to the minds of those for whom it has been written, for a word of explanation is occasionally needful; and a judicious mother may prefer to omit some of the Shadow-builder's dismal doings, which might banish sleep from the children's pillows. There is, too, a terribly grim picture (clever enough in its way) which might haunt any little one's imagination for many a night; while the words in which the scene is described are, in nursery language, decidedly “creepy.”
She wondered … if, as the people said, there were no more giants. So she thought and thought, as she went on with her work before the open window.
Presently she looked up from her work and gazed across the city. There she saw a terrible thing—something so terrible that she gave a low cry of fear and wonder, and leaned out of the window, shading her eyes with her hand to see more clearly....
(The entire section is 417 words.)
SOURCE: Ludlam, Harry. In A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker. London: W. Foulsham & Co., The Fireside Press, 1962, 200 p.
[In the following excerpt, Ludlam describes the plot and circumstances surrounding the creation of several of Stoker's short stories.]
In the summer of 1893 a wider public learned for the first time a little of the character of the man who stood in Irving's shadow, when Hall Caine gratefully dedicated his book Capt'n Davy's Honeymoon to Bram. With a burst of unusual effusiveness Caine wrote:
When in dark hours and evil humours my bad angel has sometimes made me think that friendship as it used to be of old, friendship as we read of it in books, that friendship which is not a jilt sure to desert us, but a brother born to adversity as well as success, is now a lost quality, a forgotten virtue—then my good angel for admonition or reproof has whispered the names of a little band of friends, whose friendship is a deep stream that buoys me up and makes no noise; and often first among those names has been your own.
Down to this day our friendship has needed no solder of sweet words to bind it, and I take pride in showing by means of this unpretending book that it is founded not only on personal liking and much agreement, but on some wholesome difference and even a...
(The entire section is 2576 words.)
SOURCE: Bierman, Joseph S. “Dracula: Prolonged Childhood Illness and the Oral Triad.” In The Critical Response to Bram Stoker, edited by Carol A. Senf, pp. 46-51. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1972, Bierman finds parallels between Stoker's Dracula and two of the author's short stories: “How 7 Went Mad” and “The Wondrous Child.”]
In the early summer of 1895, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula had a nightmare which he attributed to eating too much dressed crab at supper one night. He dreamed about a vampire king rising from the tomb to go about his ghastly business (Ludlam, 1962). Inspired by this dream, he set to work writing the novel, Dracula. By the fall of 1895, he was writing his first draft. Since it first appeared in London in 1897, Dracula has not been out of print. I would like to present one key answer, summarized from a wider study, to the question of what enabled and forced Stoker to write Dracula. The answer is based on an analysis of two autobiographical stories from an earlier book for children that can be considered as associations to his dream novel. The material of Dracula, and these stories, lend themselves to the application of Lewin's concept of the oral triad—i.e., the wish to eat, be eaten and sleep.
Stoker's distinctive early childhood is...
(The entire section is 3233 words.)
SOURCE: “Ghoulish Giggles.” Times Literary Supplement (11 May 1973): 517.
[In the following review, the anonymous critic finds The Bram Stoker Bedside Companion disappointing.]
Published seventy-six years ago and continuously in print ever since, Dracula is beginning to exhibit qualities of survival similar to those of such earlier romantic fictions as The Monk and Frankenstein; the main difference being that while Lewis's and Mary Shelley's books appeared in the early years of the Romantic Revival, Bram Stoker's coincided with Victoria's second jubilee. It was, in short, right from the start a story that both in its subject-matter and its narrative-manner harked back to earlier models, most of all perhaps to those provided by Wilkie Collins.
Because of the staying-power of this work, it is only fitting that Charles Osborne should have had the idea of resuscitating these ten further pieces of Abraham Stoker's writing [in The Bram Stoker Bedside Companion]. Frankly, they are a disappointment. Though not printed in chronological order, one can best gauge their author's quality by reading them in this manner, a process easily accomplished with the aid of Mr. Osborne's useful introduction. Taking them so, we start with a mawkish fairy-story, proceed to a pointless narrative in Oirish dialect (which, to be fair, is an excerpt from a novel), and go on to...
(The entire section is 778 words.)
SOURCE: Farson, Daniel. “A Literary Man on Holiday.” In The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker, pp. 88-104. London: Michael Joseph, 1975.
[In the following excerpt, Farson contends that Stoker's frequent travels provided settings and inspirations for his short fiction.]
With a stamina that seems colossal today, Bram Stoker managed the business affairs of the Lyceum, advised Irving on the productions, arranged the tours of America, and accompanied the actor on his journeys throughout Britain. It seems incredible that he could raise the energy and time to concentrate on anything else. Yet, during this period, he resumed his legal studies and succeeded in passing his examinations. He was called to the bar in 1890, which at least saved him the time-consuming chore of jury duty.
And he wrote books! By the time he quoted Stanley's ‘compliment’, ‘He should be a literary man!’, Bram had already published eleven books including Dracula.
In addition to all these activities, he cultivated friendships and somehow managed to escape on holidays of his own. Of necessity, these were not idle affairs: with his photographic memory he transformed the places he visited into locations for future stories.
Like Charles Dickens, he strode cheerfully through the countryside on long walking-tours, and in 1892, spending his Easter...
(The entire section is 6066 words.)
SOURCE: Twitchell, James B. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Wolfman.” In Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror, pp. 215-16. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
[In the following excerpt, Twitchell regards “Dracula's Guest” as “one of the best werewolf stories ever written.”]
One of the best werewolf stories ever written was a story by Bram Stoker. The story, now called “Dracula's Guest,” has a curious history. Initially intended to be the first chapter of Dracula, it is Jonathan Harker's description of an adventure that occurred between Munich and Bistritz. Briefly, what happens is that en route to Dracula's castle Jonathan is stranded in the countryside by a superstitious coachman who is unwilling to venture further on Walpurgis Nacht. Now on his own, Jonathan makes his way through a gloomy cluster of cypress trees into a cemetery where he takes refuge from the stormy night in a dank mausoleum. He reads the inscription: “Here lies the body of a Countess Dolingen of Gratz who sought and found death.” While Jonathan is recalling the local superstition that suicides become vampires on Walpurgis Nacht, up from the tomb comes “a beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips.” But before she reaches him Jonathan is thrown suddenly to the ground “as if by the hand of a giant,” and later wakes to find himself warmed, not by the passionate embraces of the...
(The entire section is 5889 words.)
SOURCE: Senf, Carol A. Introduction to The Critical Introduction to Bram Stoker, edited by Carol. A. Senf, pp. 1-41. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.
[In the following excerpt, Senf discusses the defining characteristics of Stoker's short fiction.]
UNDER THE SUNSET (1881)
Stoker's first book, The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland (Dublin, J. Falconer, 1879), was not reviewed though Dalby observes that it was for many years “recognized as the standard reference work” (7) for clerks in the Irish civil service. Dalby also cites Stoker's introduction to the work, which refers to the numerous works that he had to consult:
This book has been compiled from all the sources of information at my disposal—Statutes, General Orders, Circulars, Law Opinions, Files of Papers, Registry Books, Returns, etc. The collation of the enormous mass of such, accumulating since 1851 and following the slow growth of the splendid systems now in practice, has been a work of excessive labour. Thousands of documents—entries, briefs, etc.—have been consulted.
(Cited by Dalby, 7)
In the introduction, Stoker alludes to his work as a researcher, skills he will continue to use to prepare his fictional works.
His second book, Under the Sunset (London: Sampson...
(The entire section is 3672 words.)
Dalby, Richard. Bram Stoker: A Bibliography of First Editions, illustrated by Richard Dalby. London: Dracula Press, 1983, 81 p.
Contains information on Stoker's short fiction works.
Nayder, Lillian. “Virgin Territory and the Iron Virgin: Engendering the Empire in Bram Stoker's ‘The Squaw.’” In Maternal Instincts: Visions of Motherhood and Sexuality in Britain, 1875-1925, edited by Claudia Nelson and Ann Sumner Holmes, pp.75-97. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.
Highlights themes of gender roles and empire in Stoker's story “The Squaw.”
Rogers, Michael. Library Journal 123, no. 1 (January 1998): 150.
Positive review of Best Ghost and Horror Stories, a collection of 14 stories by Stoker.
Smith, Timothy d'Arch. “Impressions of Horror.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4243 (27 July 1984): 856.
Review of Richard Dalby's Bram Stoker: A Bibliography of First Editions, which cites the book as “admirable.”
Taylor, John Russell. “Devil Bat's Father.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 3168 (16 November 1962): 868.
Positive review of A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker, by Harry Ludlam.
(The entire section is 377 words.)