Dracula an irishman??
We feel we have a special interest in Dracula, as this
question heads some of our publicity material! But maybe
you'd like to read a little more about his background, so
we are reprinting an article by our writer on the occult,
Leslie Shepard, that appeared in one of the very early issues
of INSIDE IRELAND.
themes in literature, theatre and cinema are so persistent
and terrifying as the legend of the undead vampire, rising
from his grave at night to suck the blood of the living!
His creator Bram Stoker (1847-1912) was a Dublin man who
never set foot in Transylvania. The son of a civil servant,
he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a
civil servant himself, spending ten tedious years in the
Petty Sessions Office at Dublin castle. His first book was
the workaday manual "The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions
in Ireland" published 1879. As yet, the undead Count
Dracula remained unborn.
so many Irishmen, Stoker had versatile talents. Originally
a sickly child, he grew into an athletic giant and won many
awards at Trinity for weightlifting and walking. On his
twenty-fifth birthday he became auditor of the Historical
Society at Trinity. He also became president of the Philosophical
Society and his first paper was prophetically titled "Sensationalism
in Fiction and Society." He gave lectures on such varied
topics as King Lear, Shakespeare's Fools, the poetry of
Keats and Votes for Women. He championed the poetry of Walt
Whitman, becoming a great friend of the poet.
He worked as an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Evening
Mail. He had been electrified by the performance of
Henry Irving at the Theatre Royal in Dublin, and thereafter
became Irving's most loyal follower and friend.
1878 Stoker married Florence Balcombe, a beautiful woman
who had been keeping company with Oscar Wilde. Five days
later, the Stokers left for England where Bram took up an
appointment as theatre manager to Henry Irving, a task which
he performed with distinction until Irving's death in 1905.
In between strenuous theatre company management, Stoker
somehow found time to write short stories and novels, mostly
of a ghostly or thriller kind. In 1897 he published his
major work "Dracula" which has had a lasting influence all
over the world ever since.
novel is a classic of supernatural fiction - a tale of terror
with an authentic background of old Transylvania, haunted
castles, windswept English coasts and graveyards. For many
years, scholars have debated the influences that produced
this powerful story .
his lifetime, Stoker himself told a whimsical anecdote about
a nightmare after a late night supper of dressed crab, when
he dreamed of a vampire king rising from the tomb, but the
origins of "Dracula" grew from Stoker 's Irish
know from his strange book of stories for children "Under
the Sunset" (1881) that themes of bloodletting and a
terrifying Angel of Death were present years earlier, probably
stimulated by Stoker's sickly childhood and his mother's
terrifying stories of a cholera plague in Sligo in 1832.
The book has an illustration of the sinister castle of the
King of Death, reminiscent of the later Castle Dracula.
Stoker was also influenced by an earlier Irish vampire story,
Carmilla (1871) written by that other master of supernatural
fiction, Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873). Stoker also learnt
about a real life tyrant named Vlad Tepes, or "Vlad the
Impaler", popularly called "Dracula" in fifteenth century
Wallachia. The initial information came from the intrepid
traveller Arminius Vambery, whom Stoker met at the Beefsteak
Club in London after a performance by Irving, and again
two years later at Trinity College, Dublin, when Vambery
was awarded an honorary degree. The painstaking accuracy
of routes and local colour of Transylvania stemmed from
Stoker's careful researches at the British Museum Library,
London, and at Whitby Bay, North Yorkshire setting for the
shipwrecked 'Demeter' in Chapter VII of Stoker's
"Dracula" has remained in print as a popular tale
of terror for over a hundred years. It has been the inspiration
for hundreds of movies, plays, short stories, comic strips,
pop music, merchandising gimmicks (including ice lollies).
It has stimulated the formation of associations liks the
Count Dracula Society in California, the Count Dracula fan
Club in New York, the Dracula Society in England and our
own Bram Stoker Society in Dublin.
years ago the Bram Stoker Society persuaded the Dublin Tourist
Board to erect a plaque to Stoker at 30 Kildare Street,
Dublin, where the novelist lived in 1871. The plaque was
unveiled by Ann Stoker, Bram's grand-daughter. Ivan Stoker
Dixon, great nephew of the novelist has toured in the US
and Canada with his one-man show "From Clontarf to Castle
Dracula." Many tourists now visit Dublin to explore
the Irish background to "Dracula." In addition you
can see Trinity College, Dublin Castle (where Bram Stoker
worked as a civil servant), and St. Ann's Church, Dawson
Street (where Bram and Florence were married).
"Dracula" has now become the subject of higher criticism
by American scholars who have written learned theses and
books on the psychological motifs and symbolic aspects of
the novel. Many have interpreted it as an allegory of the
history of Ireland itself - the tortured past, heroes, heroines
and blood victims, the struggle to become liberated from
ancient evil. Perhaps there is a deeper message.
a year, all over the world, thousands of Irish exiles gather
on St. Patrick's Day to recall their memories of Ireland.
Often these are of a mythical land of the saints which has
not changed in centuries, or of a country which exists only
in the mind or the literature of poets and patriots. Stoker's
allegory of the triumph of good over evil may also stimulate
us to lay the ghosts of the past and come to terms with
the new Ireland of the twentieth century.
Shepard is founder and Chairman of The Bram Stoker Society
which can be found at: 43 Castle Court, Killiney Hill Road,
Killiney, Co. Dublin where Mr. Albert Power is the
Society has fraternal relations with the Count Dracula
Fan Club founded by Dr. Jean K. Youngson in New York.
is a Bram Stoker International Summer School lasting
for a week featuring lectures from various experts, and
a Gothic art exhibition as well as a comprehensive gothic
library, and this year The Bram Stoker Clan was founded
by the School's director, Dennis McIntyre. The organisation
welcomes members from all over the world - young and old,
male and female irrespective of race or creed. Contact:
McIntyre, 101Foxfield Grove, Raheny, Dublin, 5, Ireland.
Fax +353 1 833 0356.
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