Bram Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland on November 8th, 1847. His father was a civil servant in Dublin Castle, and his mother, Charlotte, was a women’s lib advocate. They had seven children in nine years; the third of which was Bram. The first seven years of his life he was bedridden with an undiagnosed disease which may have been anything from rheumatic fever, asthma or a form of nonparalytic polio. During these first years of his life as he laid in his bed he listened to stories his mother told him of the cholera epidemic of 1832; people buried alive, and entire families dying in a matter of days. At the age of 12 Bram left his home to attend school at Dublin’s Rutland Square under Reverend William Wood. During these years he made up for his childhood sickness by becoming involved in athletics and became an endurance walker. Following his older brothers lead in 1863, at the age of 17, he entered Trinity College in Dublin. Only ten years after he took his first steps he was now six foot two and 175 pounds. He joined several clubs and groups; he became president of the Philosophical Society, auditor of the Historical Society, he played soccer, was unbeatable in his walking marathons, and after two years he became the athletics champion of Trinity. In 1866 Bram took a one year leave of absence from Trinity to work as a clerk in the Registrar of Petty Sessions at Dublin Castle. Later in the year he saw the play The Rivals playing the lead, Captain Absolute, was the British actor Henry Irving, a person who would play a major role in Bram’s life. He was so impressed by Irving’s performance he wrote: “What I saw, to my amazement and delight , was a patrician figure as real as the person of one’s dreams, and endowed with the same poetic grace. A young soldier, handsome, distinguished, self-dependent; compact of grace and slumberous energy. A man of quality who stood out from his surroundings on the stage as a being of another social world. A figure full of dash and fine irony, and whose ridicule seemed to bite; buoyant with the joy of life; self-conscious; an offensive egoist envy in his love-making; of supreme and unsurpassable insolence, veiled and shrouded in his fine quality of manner.” He returned to Trinity after his absence and graduated in 1871 with a degree in science, he then stayed on to earn his masters degree in pure mathematics. After graduation he assumed a position as the unpaid drama critic for the “Evening Mail,” he also wrote short stories on the side. A year later, in 1872, The London Society published his short story The Crystal Cup, and in 1875 his four part serial The Chain of Destiny this was Bram’s first horror story. At about this same time he quit his job at the Evening Mail to take a job as drama critic at the Dublin Mail. Three years later he became editor of The Halfpenny Press, but quit after four months. In 1876 Henry Irving returned to Dublin, Stoker went to see Irving in the play Hamlet. Stoker praised the actor in his newspaper column when he wrote; “In his fits of passion there is a realism that no one but a genius can ever effect.” Irving read this the next morning and asked the manager of the theater to introduce him to Bram, they met that night for dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel. Stoker saw Irving in Hamlet two more time hoping to find some flaw in the performance. Stoker and Irving met often and soon discovered they had much in common and became quick friends. On December 11th, 1876 Irving was awarded two honors from Trinity College, the first was an address drafted by Stoker, the second was a performance of Hamlet starring Irving himself. After Irving left Stoker continued his job as a clerk at Dublin Castle. In 1878 he was promoted to Inspector of Petty Sessions, he received a pay raise but this also required him to travel for weeks at a time. Because of this he missed opening nights, so he resigned his job as drama critic of the Dublin Mail. In 1978 Bram wrote his first book entitled The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, this book outlined how clerks were to carry out their various responsibilities from how to deal with lunatics to how to license dogs. Irving returned several times to Dublin over the next year, he performed at Trinity College, and also performed pieces from Richard III, Othello, and Eugene Aram. Irving then returned to London to star in the play The Lyon’s Mail. Six weeks later Irving called Stoker to Glasgow and announced that he had bought the Lyceum Theater and could offer him the position of acting manager. He immediately resigned his position at Dublin Castle to get ready to go to London. Before he left he married his girlfriend 19 year old Florence Anne Lemon Balcombe on December 4th, 1878. After they were married they left for Birmingham to meet up with Irving, and then on to London. When Stoker arrived he joined Irving, and Loveday (the stage manager of the Lyceum) spending their time remodeling the 1,500 seat theater for the December 30th, 1878 opening night of Hamlet. By the time the theater finally opened they had amassed a debt of 15,000 pounds ($75,000). Fortunately the play was a hit and ran for 100 nights, at the end of the first season they had taken in 36,000 pounds ($180,000). After several months Iriving returned from a cruise and opened with The Merchant of Venice, which ran for 250 nights. When the season was over Irving and Stoker went on vacation, returning only for the christening of Bram and Florence’s only child Irving Noel Thornley Stoker born December 31st, 1879. During the theater season Stoker rose each morning, dressed, and took the ferry to the Lyceum, spent the day working with Irving, and took the ferry back in the evening. On the evening of September 14th, 1882 an elderly man jumped off the ferry Stoker was taking home trying to commit suicide. Stoker dove in after him and kept his head above water until a boat came. The man died later that night, but because of Stoker’s bravery he received a bronze medal from the Royal Humane Society. Stoker bestowed this honor on characters in his future stories The Man, and Lady Athlyne. About this same time the publishing house of Sampson, Lowe wrote to Stoker expressing interest in a collection of his stories. He published Under The Sun, a collection of children’s stories in 1881. Many critics thought the book was unsuitable for children because of the dark, and macabre stories that were in it. One story tells how an orphan girl tries to warn the people of her town of an impending plague, portrayed as a ghost that loomed over the town. In 1883 Henry Irving took the entire production on tour to America. They traveled by train from New York to San Francisco and from New Orleans to Montreal never once canceling a performance. Their first tour of America was such a success they toured every year up to 1887. In 1888 The Lyceum began the production of Macbeth, this was also the year Jack the Ripper terrorized the Whitechapel area. For the next few years the Lyceum Theater continued to bring in money with Irving, Stoker, and Loveday (who called themselves the Unholy Trinity) leading the way and each year they still did a sold out tour of America. In the spring of 1895 Irving became the first actor to receive a knighthood from the queen. In 1890, when his romance novel The Snake’s Pass was published, he was already making notes for a novel with a vampire theme. In August Stoker, looking for a quiet place to write, took a walking tour of the Scottish coast between Peterhead and Aberdeen, he returned to Cruden Bay, where he had been five years earlier to do research for the play Macbeth. He rented a room at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel in the small fishing village. The next morning he hiked to nearby Slains Castle which he used as his inspiration for the castle in his book. Here at the castle he began work on his most famous book Dracula. He didn’t finish the book at this time, he returned the next summer to write the final pages. The ending of the book was changed, perhaps to leave it opened for a sequel, in the manuscript the castle is destroyed but in the novel this 195 word ending is taken out: “As we looked there came a terrible convultion of the earth so that we seemed to rock to and fro and fell to our knees. At the same moment, with a roar which seemed to shake the very heavens, the whole castle and the rock and even the hill on which it stood seemed to rise into the air and scatter in fragments while a mighty cloud of black and yellow smoke volume on volume in rolling grandeur was shot upwards with inconceivable rapidity. From where we stood it seemed as though the one fierce volcano burst had satisfied the need of nature and that the castle and the structure of the hill had sunk again into the void. We were so appalled with the suddenness and the grandeur that we forgot to think of ourselves.(Belford, p.268)” Vampires in literature were nothing new by the time Stoker wrote Dracula; the first fictional vampire was Lord Ruthven from the book Glenarvon. This book was written in 1816 at the Villa Diodati, where Lord Byron asked his guests to each write a ghost story. It was at the same time and place that Mary Shelley created her famous novel Frankenstein. Other well known vampire novels include; The Vampyre, The Feast of Blood, The Castle of Otranto, and The Mysteries of Udolpho. Stoker found the name Dracula in a book he was researching entitled An Account of The Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. In this book there was a section on a prince of Wallachia “Voivode Dracula” who fought the Turks. Voivode Dracula was better known to the world as Vlad the Impaler, the cruel prince of Wallachia who ruled in the 14th century. Dracula in the Wallachian language means son of the devil, or son of the dragon. Stoker scrapped his original name for the main character who he was going to call Count Wampyr. On May 18th at 10:15am Stoker held a prepublication copyright reading of Dracula at the Lyceum Theater. The program that day read Dracula or the Un-Dead, Stoker was still undecided about which he liked better. The name was changed to the Un-Dead two days later, and to Dracula six days after that. Dracula debuted at booksellers on May 26th, 1897 On Friday October 13th, 1905 five nights into a six night run of Tennyson’s play Becket as he left the stage after the performance he followed his normal routine. He then got into a cab and rode to the Midland Hotel; when he entered the lobby he stumbled to the floor, after being helped to a chair he lost consciousness and died, he was 67 years old. One year later Stoker published his novel Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving. After Irving’s death Stoker served on the literary staff of the Daily Telegraph, wrote articles for the New York World, and wrote extensively on the censorship of novels of the day. On March 3rd, 1911 he began work on his last novel The Lair of the White Worm, which he completed on June 12th, that same year. Many historians attribute the books strange plot, about a 200 foot long and 2000 year old giant worm-woman named Lady Arabella, to drug induced hallucinations. In the last year of his life Stoker suffered from a number of illnesses from: Bright’s Disease (a painful kidney disease), gout, syphilis, and exhaustion. On April 15th, 1912 Florence Stoker rushed to her husbands bedroom to tell him that the luxury liner Titanic had sunk the night before. Five days later April 20th, the day the investigation into the Titanic disaster began, Bram Stoker died at the age of 64. His death certificate listed three causes of death: Locomotor Ataxy (tertiary syphilis), Granular Contracted Kidney (Bright’s Disease), and exhaustion. The story of Dracula has been played out many times over in Hollywood with the most famous being; Nosferatu (1928), Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi, Count Dracula (1971) starring Christopher Lee, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) starring Gary Oldman. It was first a Broadway stage play in the late 1920’s. It’s leading actor, Bela Lugosi, would go on to play the original Dracula and play the part in over 80 other horror movies. Dracula still remains the one work Bram Stoker is remembered for and today, over 100 years after it was published, it remains one of the most popular books of all time.
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