Everyone knows of or has heard of the story of Dracula. But do you know the man behind the book?
Here are some cool facts about Abraham (Bram) Stroker that I found!
Sick child to star college athlete.
Abraham (“Bram”) Stoker was born in 1847, one of seven children living in Clontarf near Dublin, Ireland. Although his family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, Bram’s early years were plagued by a mysterious and debilitating illness that kept him confined to bed until he was seven. According to Bram’s own account, he had “never known what it was to stand upright” until then.
Despite his mysterious childhood issues, Bram grew up to be a tall and athletic young adult. In 1864 he joined Trinity College Dublin, and though his academic performance was mediocre, Bram excelled at a host of extracurricular activities – mainly sporting activities. He became part of the college’s rugby team and enjoyed high and long jumping, gymnastics, trapeze, rowing, weight lifting, endurance walking, and other endeavors. His efforts were rewarded in 1867 when he became the “Dublin University Athletic Sports Champion”. Recalling those days later Bram remarked that he had been “physically immensely strong”.
He managed a famous actor, Sir Henry Irving.
When a civil servant, Stoker wrote theater reviews for the Dublin Evening Mail in his spare time. He did this to show dissatisfaction with how other newspapers were giving reviews to untrained writers with no theater expertise. When he offered to work for free, the owner accepted. Through this role, Bram met Sir Henry Irving, the renowned Victorian actor he greatly admired. Bram later described their meeting as “soul looking into soul” and their friendship was “profound, close, and lasting”.
Bram dedicated his life to Irving’s service. He was responsible for managing tours abroad, entertaining guests at dinner parties, and responding to more than half a million of Irving’s letters. He was also responsible for the Lyceum Theatre in London. During his lifetime, Bram experienced some fame as an author, but he was mostly known as Irving’s right-hand man. When he passed away in 1912, The New York Times credited Bram with contributing much to Irving’s success.
Dracula took years to write.
Bram supposedly said that the concept for his vampire novel came to him in a disturbing dream, after he ate too much crab at dinner. The author’s diary sheds light on just how much of the novel was derived from the dream; in addition, he drew inspiration from quite a few other resources: books on legends and superstitions, nature texts, and travel accounts. Plus, a trip to Whitby offered further insight into his character’s background.
Side note: He never visited Transylvania.
Bram toiled away for seven years on his novel, finding it difficult to manage his own creative chaos and battling constant self-doubt. Biographer David J. Skal commented that Stoker “had second, even third thoughts about almost everything” and doubted whether anyone would appreciate it when the book was finished.
He died not enjoying financial success from his writing.
Bram endured illness and hardship in his later years. In 1906, he had a paralytic stroke that left him with vision issues. With Henry Irving’s death a year earlier, he found other sources of income such as managing a musical production, being a journalist, and writing fiction to make ends meet. He asked the Royal Literary Fund for financial help in 1911, citing his “breakdown from overwork” and not knowing if he could continue his literary career. Unfortunately, Stoker passed away at the age of 64 on April 20, 1912.
Only a brief mention of Dracula was made in his obituary.
Now one of the most famous books in English literature, Dracula received no mention when Bram Stoker passed away. His obituaries instead focused on his professional relationship with Henry Irving. The New York Times stated that Bram’s “stories, though they were strange, were not of great significance,” and The Times in London prophesied that his biography of Irving would be his “greatest literary contribution”—only mentioning in passing that Stoker was also a “skilled author of particularly unpleasant and eerie horror stories.”
So today, in support of an author that opened up a world of writing styles to many of us, pick up a copy of Dracula or watch the movie, and remember the man behind the myth.
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