No book since Mrs Shelley's Frankenstein, or indeed any other at all has come near yours in originality, or terror - Poe is nowhere..."-Charlotte Stoker (Mother of Bram Stoker). Originally published in 1897, Bram Stoker's Dracula has spawned countless new editions, inspired over fifty films, and hundreds of reimaginings. The iconic and terrifying character of Stoker's imagination has permeated our conciousness in such away that Dracula is the seminal vampire of popular culture. Set across London and into the darkest corners of Eastern Europe, Dracula is told through the journal entries and letters of its protagonists as they strive to survive the presence of Count Dracula in their lives. Young lawyer Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to assist in a land transaction, but finds himself trapped in the Count's castle, tormented by strange and unearthly occurrences. After a miraculous escape, he returns to England, only to find that the Count has followed him to London and has begun tracking his fiancé, Mina... Reprinted in its original form, this edition of Dracula is perfect for a first time reader, or as a classic to keep forever.
Release date: April 5, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Print pages: 160
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It is easy, however, to misread the Irish nineteenth century, or read it too carefully, too singly, too much as an isolated place with its own isolated and disabling conventions, or lack of conventions. It is easy also to find within Irish literary confines a strange and haunting tradition made up merely of Gothic novels, novels such as Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas and Bran Stoker’s Dracula, and to read these novels as versions of an Irish unconscious, or as the only fictional versions we have of a dark and haunted country. It is easy to take stock of this fictional landscape filled with the graves of the unsettled dead, filled with a past that will not stay still, filled with superstitions and competing faiths, filled with history as the nightmare from which the living are trying to awake. It is easy, too, to see the Irish nineteenth century as a frightening place where only the undead feel welcome and at home, and thus a great gift to novelists who had little interest in describing the world of the living, unless it was ‘distorted nature in a fever’.
Out of this world thus came, the argument goes, the phenomenon of Protestant Gothic, which the critic Terry Eagleton defined as follows: ‘Protestant Gothic might be dubbed the political unconscious of Anglo-Irish society, the place where its fears and fantasies most definitively emerge … And if Irish Gothic is a specifically Protestant phenomenon, it is because nothing lent itself more to the genre than the decaying gentry in their crumbling houses, isolated and sinisterly eccentric, haunted by the sins of the past. Gothic carries with it a freight of guilt and self-torment, and these are arguably more Protestant than Catholic obsessions … For Gothic is the nightmare of the besieged and reviled … in this case a minority marooned within a largely hostile people to whom they are socially religiously alien.’
The novelist Elizabeth Bowen read Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel Uncle Silas ‘as an Irish story transposed to an English setting. The hermetic solitude and the autocracy of the great country house, the demonic power of the family myth, fatalism, feudalism and the “ascendancy” outlook are accepted facts of life for the race of hybrids from which Le Fanu sprang. For the psychological background of “Uncle Silas” it was necessary for him to invent nothing.’
Thus Irish Gothic has its roots in Protestant paranoia, a fearful colonial neurosis, the dread of those in possession that the very air around them is itself possessed by menacing ghosts, possessed by something so fundamentally unstable that only narrative in which the dead and the living share space would do justice to the world.
This interpretation would be simpler if the writers themselves had been actual members of ‘the decaying gentry’, or indeed had actually felt themselves to be members of an ascendancy in Ireland. It is important to emphasize that a writer such as Bram Stoker came from a modest middle-class family in what was, ostensibly, a deeply stable city. The historian Roy Foster in 1993 made clear how layered and various the backgrounds of the Irish Gothic writers were, and how the roots of Irish Gothic are worthy of careful, nuanced study. ‘The line of Irish Protestant supernatural fiction is an obvious one … It leads from Maturin and Le Fanu to Bram Stoker and Elizabeth Bowen and Yeats – marginalised Irish Protestants … often living in England but regretting Ireland, stemming from families with strong clerical and professional colorations, whose occult preoccupations surely mirror a sense of displacement, a loss of social and psychological integration, and an escapism motivated by the threat of a takeover by the Catholic middle classes – a threat all the more inexorable because it is being accomplished by peaceful means and with the legal aid of British governments. The supernatural theme of a corrupt bargain recurs again. Indeed, a strong theme in Protestant gothic is a mingled repulsion and envy where Catholic magic is concerned. The Jesuit order in “Melmoth” manipulated darker forces than the eponymous hero. In “Dracula”, Van Helsing is a Dutch Catholic who brings the Host, with a papal dispensation, to combat the undead at Whitby.’
In 1996 the critic Joep Leerssen, in his book Remembrance and Imagination, further attempted to refine the Irish ingredients which made certain Gothic novels produced by Irish writers so powerful and enduring. He wrote of the uneasy shadow of Irish history darkening the landscape of the nineteenth century, the ‘recurrence of the dead past, bursting into the living present’. He remarked on ‘the awareness of buried, unfinished business yet awaiting definitive settlement … present in so much of the tradition of the Irish Gothic … It is no surprise that the figure of the aristocratic vampire, undead remnant of a feudal past battening on the vitality of the living, is an appealing one for Irish authors. The frisson of Irish Gothic (from “Melmoth” to “Dracula”) and the appeal of the Big House theme … lay partly in the fact that “the lively expectation of the young” tended to be “devoured by the guilt and errors of their elders”. The theme reverberates with worried reservations as to the straightforwardness of time, with an uncanny sense that Irish history, the sheer weight and bloodiness and persistence of it, will trouble the present’s course to the future.’
Despite the fact that Ireland indeed produced conditions which may have nourished the Gothic, and also produced a number of Gothic novelists in the nineteenth century whose novels remain classics of the genre, it is perhaps too simple to suggest that this means there is a significant and specific Irish Gothic tradition or even that such books arose simply from Irish influences and conditions. In his book Dissolute Characters (1993), the critic W. J. McCormack wrote: ‘The conventional view that Maturin is succeeded by Le Fanu and Le Fanu by Stoker has been aggrandised to the status of a veritable tradition.’ McCormack emphasized, however, the distinctive nature of each of these writers and how far apart these novels were – Melmoth the Wanderer was published in 1820, Uncle Silas in 1864, Dracula in 1897 – and how much they were affected by the world outside Ireland, enough for us to question the very idea that Dracula, for example, comes in a direct line from other Irish books, or, despite all the evidence, that Stoker and other Irish writers in the Gothic style represent a discrete tradition.
In a recent essay, Roy Foster has returned to interrogate easy assumptions about Bram Stoker as a quintessentially Irish writer. ‘He lived his whole adult life in England, as Henry Irving’s invaluable manager and a great figure in theatreland; even his holidays were spent in Scotland and (of course) Whitby. An Irish conditioning, and even an escape from Ireland, may nonetheless be encoded in his one great novel: the Gothic imagination works by indirection and repression.’ Foster, while examining some of the possible inspirations for Dracula – some of them Irish, including Le Fanu’s novel Carmilla, some of them not – concludes that the ‘primary identity [of Dracula] is as English (or British) shocker rather than Anglo-Irish meditation – however wittily the Count and his earth-boxes may be interpreted as metaphor for declining Irish landlords. (Stoker was, of course, very far from being a landlord and his family had nothing to do with Big Houses.)’
Bram Stoker was born in Clontarf in Dublin in 1847. His father worked as a civil servant in Dublin Castle. He was a delicate child and was educated at home until the age of twelve under the care of his talkative mother, born in Sligo in the west of Ireland, who told him many Irish stories of ghosts and haunting, early deaths and pestilences. Stoker’s early illnesses did not persist and by the time he attended Trinity College Dublin he played rugby and was an oarsman and weightlifter, having grown to six foot two. He was popular at Trinity, a noted debater as well as a sportsman. When he was twenty-four, his father, having retired, broke up the household in which he had raised his family, and went with his wife to live on the Continent, where life was cheaper.
For some years Stoker followed his father’s career, working as a civil servant in Dublin Castle while also writing drama criticism for one of the Dublin newspapers. This sense of him as someone stage-struck, fascinated by actors, by illusion, by misrule and disorder, and also as someone with a sharp administrator’s mind, who liked control and order, would shape the rest of his life, and would inform also the best of his work as a writer. When sent outside Dublin as Inspector of Petty Sessions, he set about streamlining the court system in rural Ireland. His first book was called The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland. His work also put him in touch with the world of rural Ireland which had previously come to him from his mother’s stories.
For anyone writing about the theatre in these years, the figure of Henry Irving, who came to visit Dublin when Stoker worked as a drama critic, was the most fascinating. When he came to Dublin to play Hamlet in 1876, Stoker’s review pleased him enough that he agreed to see him. Stoker’s family had already left Dublin, his work as a bureaucrat bored him, and he now had a figure to worship and a new life to dream about.
It is fascinating to look at the lives of five figures, all Protestants, all Dubliners, all talented writers, all born within the same half century. They are Bram Stoker, born in 1847, Oscar Wilde, born in 1854, George Bernard Shaw, born in 1856, W. B. Yeats, born in 1865, and John Millington Synge, born in 1871. All of them as writers faced the same dilemma that Henry James articulated in his book on Nathaniel Hawthorne, which he published in 1879, where he tried to outline the problems facing a novelist in the unformed society of New England. He listed what was not available, beginning with: ‘No sovereign, no court, no personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church … ’ and including ‘no castles, nor manors, nor old country houses’. In Ireland, there was no parliament, no structured middle class, no industrial revolution; there was an earlier broken culture, but nothing of any significance had replaced it; there was no sign or hope of progress, something which many novelists depended on.
In his years in Dublin, Stoker gravitated to the house of Sir William and Lady Wilde, the parents of Oscar Wilde. Sir William, besides being a distinguished doctor, had published Irish Popular Superstitions in 1852 and worked as an amateur antiquarian. His wife, besides her poetry, would publish two volumes of Irish folklore and fairylore. Roy Foster has written of the influence of these books. ‘Her folklore volumes profoundly influenced the young Yeats … they may also have been read by Bram Stoker … Both of the Wildes were interested in Transylvanian legends, which may provide a possible link to “Dracula”.’ In the preface to her second book Lady Wilde wrote: ‘To the primitive races of mankind the unseen world of mystery was a vital and vivid reality; the great over-soul of the visible, holding a mystic and psychic relation to humanity, and ruling it through the instrumentality of beings who had strange powers either for good or evil over human lives and actions.’
Oscar Wilde had entered Trinity College Dublin when Stoker was in his final year there. Stoker knew both Oscar and his older brother Willie. In these years, when his parents had left the city, Stoker, working as civil servant and drama critic, moved address five times in seven years, living in the area around Harcourt Street, Baggot Street and Kildare Street in the centre of Dublin. In his late twenties he began to publish stories in magazines. With each of Henry Irving’s visits to Dublin he became more and more stage-struck, until eventually in 1878 when he was thirty-one, much to the horror of his parents, he agreed to give up his job and his pension in Dublin and move to London to work for Irving. By this time he had also decided to marry Florence Balcombe, whom Oscar Wilde had met and become infatuated with two years earlier. When news of her engagement to Stoker reached Wilde, he wrote to Florence asking for the return of a gold cross he had given her: ‘Worthless though the trinket be, to me it serves as a memory of two sweet years – the sweetest of all the years of my youth’, he wrote. When Florence asked him to retrieve the cross from Stoker’s house, he refused, writing to say it was ‘quite out of the question; it would have been unfair to you and the man you are going to marry’ and demanding that they meet at her parents’ home. ‘We should part where we first met’, he wrote. In London, in subsequent years, Wilde kept in touch with Florence and it is worth noting that the trial of Wilde, the exposure of his doubleness, came one year before Stoker completed Dracula.
Wilde and Stoker were Irish, but as the son of a doctor who had been knighted and the son of a civil servant who had himself become a civil servant, and as graduates of Trinity College, they were members of a ruling class in Ireland and thus they could move to London and live there as both insiders and outsiders, or indeed residents of a space in between. They were aware of Ireland’s past, they knew stories and superstitions; but they also knew the same rules as anyone living in the British Isles. In fact, they belonged fully neither to England nor to Ireland. Unlike W. B. Yeats and John Millington Synge, however, they did not spend any time worrying about their allegiances or their heritage; they did not become imaginatively involved in the creation of a new Irish culture, and did not write using its cadences. Instead, like George Bernard Shaw, they looked to London as a place created, as though by God, for Irishmen to re-invent themselves. What attracted them in London more than anything else was the world of the theatre. Even though they moved easily among the ruling class in London, their background in Ireland made a difference to them, offered them a sense, for example, that the supernatural was exciting and close, and that their knowledge of its power, which had been part of their lives in Ireland, would do wonders for their careers in England.
But there was also something about the very act of arriving and settling in London which involved for many writers a profound unsettlement in the self and in the imagination. In work by many outsiders who came to London in these years there is a sort of haunting, an interest in doubleness. In Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer, in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and in Dracula there is an intense exploration of the drama surrounding visitors, travellers, intruders; these novels and stories use violence and disguise, use stark imagery of isolation and fear.
If Ireland was unresolved, it merely reflected Stoker’s own imagination, and indeed nourished it. Indeed, a writer’s life – the real life which makes its way into the work – comes from something both larger and smaller than a nation or an island or a city. In London, in the years before he wrote Dracula, Stoker lived in a world of carefully created illusion, which he busily organized. He was the first to put numbers on theatre seats. He knew the night, and he may have witnessed the dawn, but he hardly ever saw the day in London, and hardly inhabited the domestic sphere. He was the servant to the tyrannical Henry Irving, who loved playing diabolical roles; he was under his control and at his command.
In Dracula, as in the other haunted work written by outsiders in London, there is a sort of fierce clarity in the outline; there is a sharpness in the way characters are named and introduced; there is dependence on plot, in how events twist and turn; there is a fervid, provocative and almost overheated erotic tension; and an emphasis on creating the moments when the reader must be truly frightened. While works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and Dracula (1897) are utterly clear in their essence, they are untidy in their structure, often questing in their tone, and formally uneven. They are filled with the night and elemental forces. This has meant that these works have been godsends to movie-makers, and also to Freudian literary critics who revel in their openness to interpretation.
It is interesting that Oscar Wilde had such success subsequently in the theatre, and that Henry James put so much energy in these years into achieving a similar success, and that Conrad wrote for the theatre. In the works of haunted fiction they wrote, the theatrical, the essential dramatic moment, the urge to achieve a look of horror on the reader’s face, and to build towards that, are more important than the slow stability, the idea of the gradual, which ordinary novels (including other fiction by James and Conrad) attempted to work with, or came to depend on.
Thus the idea that night after night in the years before he wrote Dracula, Bram Stoker watched plays such as The Corsican Brothers by Dion Boucicault about twin brothers joined at birth who, despite separation, retain a psychic bond, Vanderdecken by W. G. Wills, which is based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, which Stoker weaved into Dracula, and whose text he worked on with Henry Irving, and Macbeth (which Irving performed during the period of terror caused by Jack the Ripper). In trips to America with Irving, Stoker met Walt Whitman, whose work he admired enormously, and used his long white hair in his Dracula. (He also noted Franz Liszt’s hair when the composer came to the royal box to attend the ninety-ninth performance of Irving’s production of Faust.)
In 1890, after a hectic season at the Lyceum with Irving, Stoker went on holidays with his wife and son to Whitby. In his notebooks for Dracula he records the call number of a book he withdrew from the local library at Whitby, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia by William Wilkinson. It included the passage: ‘Dracula in the Wallachian language means Devil. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous by courage, cruel actions or cunning.’
Stoker’s first notes on Dracula were made in March 1890, when his first novel The Snake’s Pass had been completed; two years later, he had sketched out a plot; the novel was finished in March 1896 and published in May 1897 in a printing of 3,000 copies. The first American edition appeared in 1899 but it was not until the late 1930s after the silent films Nosferatu and the film Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, that the French and German editions appeared and the novel’s fame spread.
But even in the weeks after the book first appeared, it was clear that it was deeply and unusually frightening and disturbing. The Daily Mail reviewed it on 1 June 1897: ‘The recollections of this weird and ghostly tale will doubtless haunt us for some time to come. It would be unfair to the author to divulge the plot. We therefore restrict ourselves to the statement that the eerie chapters are written and strung together with very considerable art and cunning, and also with unmistakable literary power. Tribute must also be paid to the rich imagination of which Mr Bram Stoker here gives liberal evidence. Persons of small courage and weak nerves should confine their reading of these gruesome pages strictly to the hours between dawn and sunset.’
(Kept in shorthand.)
3 May. Bistritz.—Left Munich at 8.35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most Western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.
We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians. I found my smattering of German very useful here; indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.
Having some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps of the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a noble of that country. I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe. I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula, is a fairly well-known place. I shall enter here some of my notes, as they may refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina.
In the population of Transylvania there are four distinct nationalities: Saxons in the south, and mixed with them the Wallachs, who are the descendants of the Dacians; Magyars in the west; and Szekelys in the east and north. I am going among the latter, who claim to be descended from Attila and the Huns. This may be so, for when the Magyars conquered the country in the eleventh century they found the Huns settled in it. I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)
I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night under my window, which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty. Towards morning I slept and was wakened by the continuous knocking at my door, so I guess I must have been sleeping soundly then. I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was “mamaliga,” and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call “impletata.” (Mem., get recipe for this also.) I had to hurry breakfast, for the train started a little before eight, or rather it ought to have done so, for after rushing to the station at 7.30 I had to sit in the carriage for more than an hour before we began to move. It seems to me that the further East you go the more unpunctual are the trains. What ought they to be in China?
All day long we seemed to dawdle through a country which was full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes we saw little towns or castles on the top of steep hills such as we see in old missals; sometimes we ran by rivers and streams which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side of them to be subject to great floods. It takes a lot of water, and running strong, to sweep the outside edge of a river clear. At every station there were groups of people, sometimes crowds, and in all sorts of attire. Some of them were just like the peasants at home or those I saw coming through France and Germany, with short jackets and round hats and homemade trousers; but others were very picturesque. The women looked pretty, except when you got near them, but they were very clumsy about the waist. They had all full white sleeves of some kind or other, and most of them had big belts with a lot of strips of something fluttering from them like the dresses in a ballet, but of course petticoats under them. The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who are more barbarian than the rest, with their big cowboy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black moustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion.
It was on the dark side of twilight when we got to Bistritz, which is a very interesting old place. Being practically on the frontier—for the Borgo Pass leads from it into Bukovina—it has had a very stormy existence, and it certainly shows marks of it. Fifty years ago a series of great fires took place, which made terrible havoc on five separate occasions. At the very beginning of the seventeenth century it underwent a siege of three weeks and lost 13,000 people, the casualties of war proper being assisted by famine and disease.
Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel, which I found, to my delight, to be thoroughly old-fashioned, for of course I wanted to see all I could of the ways of the country. I was evidently expected, for when I got near the door I faced a cheery-looking elderly woman in the usual peasant dress—white undergarment with long double apron, front and back, of coloured stuff fitting almost too tight for modesty. When I came close she bowed, and said: “The Herr Englishman?” “Yes,” I said, “Jonathan Harker.” She smiled, and gave some message to an elderly man in white shirt-sleeves, who had followed her to the door. He went, but immediately returned with a letter:—
“MY FRIEND,— Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well to-night. At three to-morrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.
4 May.—I found that my landlord had got a letter from the Count, directing him to secure the best place on the coach for me; but on making inquiries as to details he seemed somewhat reticent, and pretended that he could not understand my German. This could not be true, because up to then he had understood it perfectly; at least, he answered my questions exactly as if he did. He and his wife, the old lady who had received me, looked at each other in a frightened sort of way. He mumbled out that the money had been sent in a letter, and that was all he knew. When I asked him if he knew Count Dracula, and could tell me anything of his castle, both he and his wife crossed themselves, and, saying that they knew nothing at all, simply refused to speak further. It was so near the time of starting that I had no time to ask any one else, for it was all very mysterious and not by any means comforting.
Just before I was leaving, the old lady came up to my room and said in a very hysterical way:
“Must you go? Oh! young Herr, must you go?” She was in such an excited state that she seemed to have lost her grip of what German she knew, and mixed it all up with some other language which I did not know at all. I was just able to follow her by asking many questions. When I told her that I must go at once, and that I was engaged on important business, she asked again:
“Do you know what day it is?” I answered that it was the fourth of May. She shook her head as she said again:
“Oh, yes! I know that, I know that! but do you know what day it is?” On my saying that I did not understand, she went on:
“It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full
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