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.