A Year: Day to Day Men: 8th of November

The Diamond Seal of Approval

November 8, 1847 was the birthdate of Irish author Bram Stoker.

Born in Clontarf, County Dublin, Ireland, Bram Stoker was an invalid in early childhood; he could not stand or walk until he was seven. Stoker outgrew his weakness to become an outstanding athlete and soccer player at Trinity College in Dublin, where he earned a degree in mathematics. He was employed for ten years in the civil service at Dublin Castle, during which he was also an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Evening Mail.

Stoker made the acquaintance of his idol, the actor Sir Henry Irving, in 1878 and, until Irving’s death twenty-seven years later, Stoker acted as his manager,  accompanying him on his American tours. Bram Stoker also managed the business of the Lyceum Theater which Irving owned.

While acting as Irving’s manager, Bram Stoker was writing his first book. His “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland”, a handbook in legal administration, was published in 1879. Turning to fiction late in life, Stoker published his first novel, “The Snake’s Pass”, a romantic thriller with a bleak western Ireland setting, in 1890.

Stoker was a deeply private man with an intense adorations of Henry Irving, Walt Whitman and Hall Caine, and shared interests with Oscar Wilde, leading to scholarly speculation that he was a repressed gay man who used his fiction as a possible outlet for his frustrations. Possibly fearful, and inspired by the monstrous image and threat of otherness that the press coverage of his friend Oscar’s trials generated, Stoker began writing “Dracula” only weeks after Wilde’s conviction.

His masterpiece, “Dracula”, appeared in 1897. The novel is written chiefly in the form of diaries and journals kept by the principal characters: Jonathan Harker, who made the first contact with the vampire Count Dracula; Wilhelmina Murray, Jonathan’s eventual wife; Dr. John “Jack” Seward, a psychiatrist and sanatorium administrator; and Lucy Westenra, Mina’s friend and a victim of Dracula who herself becomes a vampire.

The story is that of a Transylvanian vampire who, using supernatural powers, makes his way to England and victimizes innocent people there to gain the blood on which he survives. Led by Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Seward’s mentor and an expert on “obscure diseases”, Harker and his friends are at last able to overpower and destroy Dracula. The immensely popular novel enjoyed equal success in several versions as a play and later as a film.

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