Latimer: Recently I did a post aboutmy reading-list, and how it’s never-ending.
The list keeps getting diverted, or side-tracked. During Halloween, I came across a free download of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on amazon. I had never read it, so I put Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Private Life aside (again) to read something else (I feel like I’ll never finish that book, even though it’s so good!).
I spent about a week reading Dracula. I was so taken with the story that for a while all I could see was Stoker and vampires. Every time I passed Kildare Street, on the way to work in Dublin, I would look up transfixed as the bus zipped past Stoker’s house. It looks odd – the door is very small, and painted a faint lilac colour; there doesn’t seem to be anything inside; the windows are small and dark, covered by white shutters… what goes on inside that strange little house?!
Well, after reading Dracula, I was spun off into Wuthering Heights – a book I often return to from time-to-time, but have mixed feelings about. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I never could take to the Heathcliff and Cathy romance. They aren’t easy characters to like and because I can’t like them, I don’t care much about their feelings.
But, if I don’t like them, why do I always sneak back to the moors?
Ah, well…! That would be for the half-story of Catherine Linton and Hareton Earnshaw!
The growth of that sweet little relationship is so lovely. She’s a spoilt princess, but she has a heart. And Hareton – ! He is such a wonderful character, he makes my heart bled that boy. He was the ‘most wronged’ but the one with the greatest capacity for forgiveness and love (the hero of the story).
When I finish the book, I always put it aside wishing that there was more about Catherine and Hareton (always). I feel so bereft for being denied that story… I know the book isn’t supposed to be about them, and probably the only reason their story exists in the story at all is to contrast the destructive nature of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship.
But, oh, I know Emily Brontë could have written that beautiful book. Even though Wuthering Heights has always been stuck in my head, I think the story of the spoilt princess and the gruff uneducated farm boy, wronged by his adopted father and scorned by everyone, would have been one of my favourite books!
Is it okay for me to mourn that non-existent story :(?
Does anyone else have a half-story that they wished was the main story?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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 🙂