Awesome Men Throughout History: Bram Stoker
Happy post-Thanksgiving, everyone! Hopefully you’re all reading this with a turkey-and-stuffing-and-gravy burrito in one hand (trust me, those things are delicious) and a tall glass of egg nog in the other. Or, if you don’t observe Thanksgiving, I hope you had a fun holiday weekend of no cars on the road and plenty of parking because everyone went to their parents’ house to watch football as they slipped in and out of food comas.
I’ve been doing a bit of reading, and am about halfway through Dracula, which I last read in college as part of an assignment where I had to compare it to Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I didn’t retain much of Dracula then, but it’s honestly a pretty good book. And the guy who wrote it, Bram Stoker, was an interesting and—dare I say—awesome guy.
Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847, and like many writers of that era, he was a sickly, weak child who could barely stand upright until he was seven years old. Being born during the Great Potato Famine will do that to a person. He’d made a complete recovery by the time adulthood came knocking, though, and his reputation at Trinity College was that of a swaggering, athletic (in both soccer and track & field), articulate, ass-getting machine.
Indeed, Stoker’s gift with the ladies has two articles of proof to support it. It’s rumored that he died of syphilis, which isn’t often contracted in the friend zone, and he stole and married Oscar Wilde’s childhood sweetheart, Florence Balcome, who remained his wife until Stoker’s death in 1912. I think snatching a woman from the arms of one of the most charming libertines in Western history is enough to prove that Stoker had some game.
Stoker worked as a civil servant and theatre critic, and later as the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, owned by legendary Victorian actor Henry Irving. Stoker was also Irving’s personal assistant, which couldn’t have been a pleasant gig. That Irving was the physical inspiration for Count Dracula might say a lot about Stoker’s experience working for him.
While Stoker wrote a lot of novels, mostly crappy Victorian romances, to supplement his income (much like practically everyone in theatre today), Dracula is easily his most famous work. It was first published, in 1897, to glowing reviews that ranked him above contemporaries like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Bronte. Not sure if I’d go so far as to say he’s better than Poe or Bronte, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was terrible.
Stoker also continued the proud literary tradition of writing about crap he’d never seen, relying on journalistic research to compensate for having never been to Eastern Europe. Hell, he only wrote the book because he liked Emily Gerard’s “Transylvania Superstitions” so much.
But despite what the critics were saying, readers in Stoker’s day just appreciated Dracula as a good adventure story, and it didn’t reach iconic status until the 1922 film Nosferatu came out and Stoker’s widow tried to kibosh it altogether, which did nothing but drum up interest in the book. There have been over 100 movie adaptations of Dracula over the years, all of which are terrible except for the one where Bela Lugosi plays the title, but one has to give Stoker credit for being so good at his job that vampires have permanent place in both the main thoroughfares and the outskirts of Western culture. Even if it does mean stuff like Twilight happening every so often.
And hey, if you want to read the book yourself, it’s in the public domain, so you can do so for free. Go nuts, with Project Gutenberg’s blessing.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.