- First published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the most celebrated tale of terror ever written. Although the genre can be traced back to Gothic novels such as Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and .Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Stoker extends the element of horror to lengths hitherto unimagined. The book takes its title from Vlad IV, Prince of Wallachia (1431-1476). He was the son of Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Devil) and Dracula means ‘son of the Devil’. He was also known as Vlad the Impaler because of the cruelty of his punishments while imposing his firm government on his kingdom which was always under threat from the Turkish empire. Although Bram Stoker’s story has little to do with the historical Vlad, the folk memory of this remarkable ruler in the Carpathians contributes to the verisimilitude of the tale.
- It is told through the diaries, letters and journals of the protagonists: the young solicitor Jonathan Harker, his fiancée Mina, her friend Lucy Westenra and Dr Seward, the superintendent of a large lunatic asylum near Purfleet in Essex. Harker goes to Transylvania in connection with Count Dracula’s purchase of the estate of Carfax which adjoins Dr Seward’s establishment. In the chapel of Dracula’s dilapidated castle he finds fifty boxes of earth, taken from the Dracula family graveyard, in one of which is the Un-Dead Count Dracula, gorged with blood. Instructed to ship the boxes to England, Harker arranges for them to be sent via the Yorkshire port of Whitby and thence to Carfax. When the ship carrying the boxes arrives at Whitby, Dracula disembarks in the form of a wolf having devoured the entire ship’s company. He succeeds in vampirizing Lucy, and in spite of the attentions of Seward’s old mentor, Professor Van Helsing, she remains one of the Un-Dead until a stake is driven through her heart. Dracula turns his attentions to Mina, who escapes him, and forty-nine of the boxes are neutralized with fragments of the consecrated Host. The last box is reserved for the Count, and he is returned to Transylvania in it accompanied by Professor Van Helsing and the others. An exciting chase ensues, culminating in a thrilling climax.
- Bram (Abraham) Stoker (1847-1912) was born in Ireland and spent his early working years as a civil servant. In 1878, he left this occupation to become the manager of the celebrated actor-manager Sir Henry Irving, and he remained in this post for twenty-seven years. Other notable books by Stoker include The Jewel of the Seven Stars, The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm.
- Further Reading:
→ R. T. McNally & R. Florescu: In Search of Dracula, 1972
Wordsworth Classics, 'Complete and Unabridged', Paperback. 1993 (1996 reprint)
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