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DRACULA by Bram Stoker


AVAILABILITY
Project Gutenberg various formats available.
amazon.com Kindle edition
planetebook.com PDF

HISTORY

Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, arguable his most successful being the vampire tale Dracula published on 26 May 1897. Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he spent summer holidays.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker's formula was very familiar by 1897 to readers of fantastic adventure stories, of an invasion of England by continental European influences. Victorian readers enjoyed Dracula as a good adventure story like many others, but it did not reach its legendary status until later in the 20th century when film versions began to appear.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions" which includes content about a vampire myth. Some historians are convinced that a historic figure, Vlad III Dracula, often called Vlad the Impaler, was the model for Stoker's Count although there is no supporting evidence. Stoker borrowed only "scraps of miscellaneous information", according to one expert, about this bloodthirsty tyrant of Wallachia and there are no comments about him in Stoker's working notes. Dracula scholar Elizabeth Miller has remarked that aside from the name and some mention of Romanian history, the background of Stoker's Count bears no resemblance to that of Vlad III Dracula.

Although a widely known vampire novel, Dracula was not the first. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published The Bride of Corinth (1797). Later J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (1871), about a lesbian vampire could have inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood, a lengthy penny dreadful serial from the mid-Victorian period by James Malcolm Rymer. John William Polidori created the image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, in his tale The Vampyre; A Tale (1819). (Polidori wrote Vampyre during a summer which he spent with Frankenstein creator Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, her husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and George Gordon Byron in 1816.)

The Lyceum Theatre where Stoker worked between 1878 and 1898 was headed by actor-manager Henry Irving, who was Stoker's real-life inspiration for Dracula's mannerisms and who Stoker hoped would play Dracula in a stage version. Irving never did agree to do a stage version, but Dracula's dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms drew their living embodiment from Irving.

The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker's original titles for Dracula, and the manuscript was entitled simply The Un-Dead up until a few weeks before publication. Stoker's notes for Dracula show that the name of the count was originally "Count Wampyr", but Stoker became intrigued by the name "Dracula" while doing research, after reading William Wilkinson's book An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (London 1820), which he found in the Whitby Library and consulted a number of times during visits to Whitby in the 1890s. The name Dracula was the patronym (Drăculea) of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, who took the name "Dracul" after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the Old Romanian language, the word dracul (Romanian drac "dragon" + -ul "the") meant "the dragon" and Dracula meant "son of the dragon". In the present day however, dracul means "the devil".

Dracula did not make much money for Stoker. In the last year of his life, he was so poor that he had to petition for a compassionate grant from the Royal Literary Fund, and his widow was forced to sell his notes and outlines of the novel at a Sotheby's auction in 1913, where they were purchased for a little over £2. But then F. W. Murnau's unauthorized adaptation of the story was released in theatres in 1922 in the form of Nosferatu. Stoker's widow took affront and, during the legal battle that followed, the novel's popularity started to grow.

Nosferatu was followed by a highly successful stage adaptation, touring the UK for three years before arriving in the US where Stoker's creation caught Hollywood's attention and, after the American 1931 movie version was released, the book has never been out of print.

However, some Victorian fans were ahead of the time, describing it as "the sensation of the season" and "the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century." Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle (of whom Stoker was a distance relative) wrote to Stoker in a letter, "I write to tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading Dracula. I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years." The Daily Mail review of 1 June 1897 proclaimed it a classic of Gothic horror, "In seeking a parallel to this weird, powerful, and horrorful story our mind reverts to such tales as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, The Fall of the House of Usher ... but Dracula is even more appalling in its gloomy fascination than any one of these." Similarly good reviews appeared when the book was published in the U.S. in 1899. The first American edition was published by Doubleday & McClure in New York.

PUBLICATION

Dracula was published in London in May 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company. Costing six shillings, the novel was bound yellow cloth and titled in red letters. It was copyrighted in the United States in 1899 with the publication by Doubleday & McClure of New York. But when Universal Studios purchased the rights, it came to light that Bram Stoker had not complied with a portion of US copyright law, placing the novel into the public domain. In the United Kingdom and other countries following the Berne Convention on copyrights, the novel was under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker's death.

(Taken from Wikipedia)

ADDITIONAL READING

In the Blood: Why do vampires still thrill?

TRIVIA
Top 10 facts about Dracula
10 Blood-Curdling Facts about Dracula
25 Blood-Curdling Facts about Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’


Christopher (Donut) | 150 comments Bram Stoker, Five Novels

Has anyone ever read anything else by Bram Stoker?

I read Dracula a few years ago and was impressed by how good it was. Certainly better than any Dracula movie I ever saw.

I hope I can read along this time.


message 3: by Deborah, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4468 comments Mod
Here in the states there was a very interesting PBS (public broadcasting system) documentary on the vampire myth - which still exists today. There are actual people believed to be vampires and their burial was done in such a way as to prevent their walking among the living.

A fun, can't put down modern read using the vampire myth is The Historian.


message 4: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 468 comments Christopher wrote: "Bram Stoker, Five Novels

Has anyone ever read anything else by Bram Stoker?

I read Dracula a few years ago and was impressed by how good it was."


I have a feeling I've read at least one of his short stories, but just looking through a list of them Wikipedia, none rings a bell.
I won't be joining you in reading this because I've read and reread it a couple of times. I'll certainly have a good snoop around in the discussion, though, and comment if I have anything pertinent to say ;-)


message 5: by Deborah, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4468 comments Mod
I’m very very late as I’m still reading, but some facts some of you may find of interest,

When this was written, very few were aware of the vampire legend. It would have been shocking to them. It makes sense that the characters don’t immediately figure out it’s a vampire.

The legend originally started when a count projected the Greek Orthodox from the Turks. The counts military strength was very small compared to the Turks so he got creative. Basically it was an early pr campaign. The count did gross and crazy things - heads on spikes on the wall, etc. in order to scare the Turks. He basically scared them away, saving the Greek Orthodox religion, and is now revered by that religion. Sorry I don’t have cute information. I got all of this by talking to a very knowledgeable friend.


message 6: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
That explains a lot. Thanks, Deborah.


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