Dracula and Bram Stoker

What’s Bram Stoker got to do with Dublin?

Latimer: I admit that up until a few years ago, I didn’t know that Bram Stoker was Irish (maybe you do and you are gasping at my ignorance right now). It was actually a bit of a shock to me when I found out.

He is, for some unknown reason, not a writer we often talk about. He passes unnoticed.

While we wax lyrical about Joyce and Wilde, we never mention Stoker.

Another famous son 🙂

While vampire’s and vampirism literature were around long before Stoker’s time, he is now remembered as the creator of vampire lore. It just goes to show the power of his story-telling. He never even visited Romania.

Bran’s Castle, Vlad the Impaler’s castle

Bram Stoker started life as a very sickly child, spending his early years bed-ridden (up until the age of 7yrs). People say this is probably what led to the development of his fantastical imagination. Bram himself remarked later; “I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.”

When he grew up, he left the sick-bed behind. He attended Trinity College Dublin (TCD 🙂 ), played rugby and was a fantastic athlete like many other members of his family.

But, why am I talking about Stoker?

Recently I attended a talk about Bram Stoker’s medical family. And at this talk, I learned that this year is the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death and Dublin is readying itself to celebrate its, bizarrely overlooked son, with the first Festival of Bram Stoker, which will be held in October.

The Stoker’s shaped Dublin in many ways and were very influential at the time in Ireland.

They were a very well-to-do family. They lived in many grand houses dotted around Dublin. If you’ve ever been to the city, you’ll know there are lots of old Georgian style town houses around the streets. Bram Stoker’s family home is preserved on Kildare St (which is very near Trinity College). 

They were an intelligent family; there were 4 boys, including Bram, the 3 other brothers became doctors. And they had 9 cousins that also became doctors.

Sir William Thornley Stoker, President of RCSI

Bram Stoker’s brother, Sir William Thornley Stoker, was the former President of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI). Because his cousin William Stoker, was also a doctor, Sir William went by the name ‘Thornley’. I think that’s a cool name, Thornley Stoker… sounds, strangely enough, like a vampire hunter!  

Bram wasn’t interested in being a doctor. He studied mathematics in Trinity. He was also an active member of the University Philosophical Society. He petitioned for a young Oscar Wilde to join the society. He would eventually end up marrying Florence Balcombe, Wilde’s childhood sweetheart. When Wilde realised they were engaged, he left Ireland more or less for good, only returning twice more in his life. But, when Wilde was living in Europe (after his release from prison), Stoker would often visit him.

Lyceum Theatre, London

After a few years working in Dublin, Bram moved to England to become the manager of the Lyceum Theatre and of Henry Irving (the most famous and best actor of the day).

Bram also got to work on writing Dracula. He was a very methodical writer. He had a book that contained all of his notes, and timetables of events in the story. He would write down train timetables, to make sure that when trains appeared in his book, they ran according to the correct schedule. He also often wrote to his brother Sir William and would ask his medical opinion on any such events in the book. Sir William would write back and tell him, ‘yes, if he is hit here, this will happen’ and what pressure points should be detailed.

Brams notes

There was speculation that Bram got a lot of inspiration for the Dracula novel from stories his mother would tell him about the cholera epidemics in Sligo (where she was from). She would tell him stories about people being buried alive (which apparently they often were during the cholera epidemics).

Events and stories were noted in his notebook, along with newspaper clippings of strange events or interesting things that happened around him.

Dracula was published in 1897- and a first edition of the book, today is worth 250,000 euro!!

Original cover

The Bram Stoker society in Ireland is trying hard to get Stoker more recognised as an Irishman. They are collecting money to commission a statue of Bram Stoker to be put on display in Dublin.

The city is known for its statues… we have a lot!

Patrick Kavanagh, on the canal bench
Oscar Wilde in Merrion Park
Brendan Behan, Royal Canal just off Dorset Street
James Joyce, North Earl Street just off O’Connell Street
Children of Lir, Garden of Remembrance Parnell Square
Irish Famine statues, North Quays

Joyce and Wilde are happily on display… the poet Patrick Kavanagh sits (unhappily perhaps!) on a bench by the canal; but no Stoker!

Dublin is trying to reclaim Stoker- and why not? Hopefully it works; I think it would be nice to have a statue of Bram Stoker in Dublin. It was really interesting hearing about how his family shaped various parts of Dublin.

Myself and Ridley are primed and ready to go to the Stoker Festival! Stay tuned for that post 🙂

Bram Stoker Festival 2012 Post


23 thoughts on “Dracula and Bram Stoker

  1. It really is a mystery how he gets overlooked. He has been so influential, every horror writer from Stephen King to Darren Shan has credited Stoker with inspiring at least one of their novels, King basically said he ripped off Dracula for Salem’s Lot, which I hear sold a few copies. 🙂

    1. Haha. I know, it’s so strange, he’s such a strong influence on literature! You’d think we’d always be talking about how Dracula’s Irish (sort of!). I mean we’ve got blooms day- we should have had the stoker festival sooner! I’m looking forward to it! I also really hope they get that statue 🙂

  2. It’s amazing he has been left so far out of the loop! There’s a lot of great information here – thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    I need a new laptop 🙁

    1. Thank you dianne!!
      I know! I can’t get over overlooking Bram Stoker… that’s a bit strange!
      I’m happy with the laptop, but these new multi-touch mouse-pads are beyond frustrating… I miss the old ways!
      Hopefully you can get a new one soon 🙂

          1. Annyoing indeed! When people comment on my posts I try to get into thiers so I can read and comment and so I click on it and then put the washing on, do the dishes, and by the time I come back thier page has opened (mostly). Argh….. The pages that contain a lot of pictures are the worst for me (but I love pictures) ;(

  3. Reclaim the hell out of him! Without Stoker our world would be significantly different. Sure, we got some bad with the good, but all told he’s had a huge influence on literature and you should be very proud of him!

    Incidentally, the sculptor of Children Of Lir was Oisín Kelly; a relative of mine!

    1. Yeah! Hopefully the festival will drum up more interest and people will notice more!
      Wow, that’s pretty cool about the Children of Lir statue! It’s one of my favourites. With the name Kelly I’m guessing you have some strong Irish roots 🙂

      1. It’s interesting because so many people have hear of him but so few know he was Irish. I suppose people just either assume he was English or don’t even think about it! As you say, hopefully this festival will change that. What do they have planned?

        Yes, Oisín’s got a few statues in Dublin but Children of Lir is definitely his best. I’m glad you like it, I’m inordinately proud of him. I do indeed have strong Irish roots, my dad is Irish. He moved over here when he was six but he’s still very proud!

        1. Well, according to the flyers; its a celebration of all things Halloween and vampire, interactive literary and film events, walking tours and themed street animation activities (not sure what that might be, but interesting!!) and then the highlight is going to be a gothic spectacle apparently!! I’m intrigued anyway 🙂
          Ah right!! Very Irish so 🙂 !!

    1. I know! Me too Robin! I was so shocked when I found out- I always wondered why he wasn’t always on our famous Irish writers list!! Hopefully we’ll get that statue! It’s long overdue!!

  4. I find it interesting that he studied mathematics (I guess because I did too :), but also because Descartes also spent time in bed as a young man and supposedly watching a fly crawl around on the ceiling gave him the idea for the Cartesian coordinate system. I must confess I didn’t know that Stoker was Irish either. Good post. Enjoy that festival 🙂

    1. Thanks susan!! Glad i could pass on the info! Really interesting about descartes- i guess all that time in the sick bed let their minds soar. It must have been really horrible though, but they made use of their time which is really fantastic!! I have high hopes for the festival 🙂

  5. This is very interesting to me because My fathers name was Raymond Stoker Zent. I wonder if there is a connection long ago. I have researched my father’s last name but not the middle, However I believe the name Stoker came from my father’s mother. If you have and Stoker genealogy I would sure like to have a copy. Thanks.

    1. Thanks June!
      That’s really interesting about your father- the man giving the talk was actually a genealogist who was distantly related to Bram Stoker himself! I don’t have any info myself on the Stokers, but if you were at all interested in contacting him, his name is Douglas Appleyard (he did his own genealogy studies on the Irish Stokers). He’s a member of the Raheny Heritage society: http://www.rahenyheritage.ie/ (you might be able to contact him via them if you were interested in finding out what books he would recommend etc :)).

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