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Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, featuring as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula.

Dracula has been attributed to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Structurally it is an epistolary novel, that is, told as a series of letters, diary entries, ships' logs, etc. Literary critics have examined many themes in the novel, such as the role of women in Victorian culture, conventional and conservative sexuality, immigration, colonialism, postcolonialism and folklore. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, the novel's influence on the popularity of vampires has been singularly responsible for many theatrical, film and television interpretations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Plot summary

Stoker's handwritten notes on the personnel of the novel
The novel is mainly composed of journal entries and letters written by several narrators who also serve as the novel's main protagonists; Stoker supplemented the story with occasional newspaper clippings to relate events not directly witnessed by the story's characters. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, journeying by train and carriage from England to Count Dracula's crumbling, remote castle (situated in the Carpathian Mountainsmarker on the border of Transylvania and Moldavia). The purpose of his mission is to provide legal support to Dracula for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer, Peter Hawkins, of Exetermarker in England. At first enticed by Dracula's gracious manner, Harker soon discovers that he has become a prisoner in the castle. He also begins to see disquieting facets of Dracula's nocturnal life. One night while searching for a way out of the castle, and against Dracula's strict admonition not to venture outside his room at night, Harker falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, the Brides of Dracula. He is saved at the last second by the Count, however, who ostensibly wants to keep Harker alive just long enough to obtain needed legal advice and teachings about England and London (Dracula's planned travel destination was to be among the "teeming millions"). Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life.

Not long afterward, a Russianmarker ship, the Demeter, having weighed anchor at Varnamarker, runs aground on the shores of Whitbymarker, England, during a fierce tempest. All of the crew are missing and presumed dead, and only one body is found, that of the captain tied to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey. These events led to the gradual disappearance of the entire crew apparently owing to a malevolent presence on board the ill-fated ship. An animal described as a large dog is seen on the ship leaping ashore. The ship's cargo is described as silver sand and boxes of "mould", or earth, from Transylvania.

Soon Dracula is menacing Harker's devoted fiancée, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her vivacious friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy receives three marriage proposals in one day, from an asylum psychiatrist, Dr. John Seward; an Americanmarker, Quincey Morris; and the Hon. Arthur Holmwood (later Lord Godalming). Lucy accepts Holmwood's proposal while turning down Seward and Morris, but all remain friends. There is a notable encounter between Dracula and Seward's patient Renfield, an insane man who means to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures — in ascending order of size — in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a motion sensor, detecting Dracula's proximity and supplying clues accordingly.

Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously. All her suitors fret, and Seward calls in his old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing from Amsterdammarker. Van Helsing immediately determines the cause of Lucy's condition but refuses to disclose it, knowing that Seward's faith in him will be shaken if he starts to speak of vampires. Van Helsing tries multiple blood transfusions, but they are clearly losing ground. On a night when Van Helsing must return to Amsterdam (and his message to Seward asking him to watch the Westenra household is accidentally sent to the wrong address), Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf. Mrs Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright, and Lucy apparently dies soon after.

Lucy is buried, but soon afterward the newspapers report children being stalked in the night by a "bloofer lady" (as they describe it), i.e. "beautiful lady". Van Helsing, knowing that this means Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Lord Godalming and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down, and after a disturbing confrontation between her vampiric self and Arthur, they stake her heart, behead her, and fill the mouth with garlic.

Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives home from recuperation in Budapest (where Mina joined and married him after his escape from the castle); he and Mina also join the coalition, who turn their attentions to dealing with Dracula.

After Dracula learns of Van Helsing and the others' plot against him, he takes revenge by visiting—and biting— Mina at least three times. Dracula also feeds Mina his blood, creating a spiritual bond between them to control her. The only way to forestall this is to kill Dracula first. Mina slowly succumbs to the blood of the vampire that flows through her veins, switching back and forth from a state of consciousness to a state of semi-trance during which she is telepathically connected with Dracula. It is this connection that they start to use to deduce Dracula's movements. It is only possible to detect Dracula's surroundings when Mina is put under hypnosis by Van Helsing. This ability gradually gets weaker as the group makes their way to Dracula's castle.

Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania, followed by Van Helsing's group, who manage to track him down just before sundown and destroy him by shearing "through the throat" with a Gurkha knife and stabbing him in the heart with a Bowie knife. Dracula crumbles to dust, his spell is lifted and Mina is freed from the marks. Quincey Morris is killed in the final battle, stabbed by Gypsies who had been charged with returning Dracula to his castle; the survivors return to England.

The book closes with a note about Mina's and Jonathan's married life and the birth of their first-born son, whom they name after all four members of the party, but refer to only as Quincey in remembrance of their American friend.

Background

Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker was a business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theatremarker in London, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most famous being the vampire tale Dracula published on May 26, 1897. Parts of it are set around the town of Whitbymarker, where he spent summer vacations. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker's formula of an invasion of England by continental European influences was by 1897 very familiar to readers of fantastic adventure stories. Victorian readers enjoyed it as a good adventure story like many others, but it would not reach its iconic legendary status until later in the 20th century when film versions began to appear.



Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions".

Though the most famous vampire novel ever, Dracula was not the first. It was preceded and partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu's 1871 "Carmilla", about a lesbian vampire who preys on a lonely young woman. The image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, was created by John Polidori in "The Vampyre" (1819), during the summer spent with Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley, her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron in 1816. The Lyceum Theatre, where Stoker worked between 1878 and 1898, was headed by the actor-manager Henry Irving, who was Stoker's real-life inspiration for Dracula's mannerisms and who Stoker hoped would play Dracula in a stage version. Although Irving never did agree to do a stage version, Dracula's dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms drew their living embodiment from Irving.

The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker's original titles for Dracula, and up until a few weeks before publication, the manuscript was titled simply The Un-Dead. Stoker's Notes for Dracula show that the name of the count was originally "Count Wampyr", but while doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the name "Dracula", after reading William Wilkenson's book Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them (London 1820), which he found in the Whitby Library, and consulted a number of times during visits to Whitby in the 1890s. The name Dracula was the family name of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, who took the name "Dracul" after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the Romanian language, the word dracul can mean either "the dragon" or, especially in the present day, "the devil".

The novel has been in the public domain in the United States since its original publication because Stoker failed to follow proper copyright procedure. In the United Kingdom and other countries following the Berne Convention on copyrights, however, the novel was under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker's death. When F. W. Murnau's unauthorized film adaptation Nosferatu was released in 1922, the popularity of the novel increased considerably, owing to the controversy caused when Stoker's widow tried to have the film banned.

Reaction

When it was first published, in 1897, Dracula was not an immediate bestseller, although reviewers were unstinting in their praise. The contemporary Daily Mail ranked Stoker's powers above those of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe as well as Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

According to literary historians Nina Auerbach and David Skal in the Norton Critical Edition, the novel has become more significant for modern readers than it was for contemporary Victorian readers, most of whom enjoyed it just as a good adventure story; it only reached its broad iconic legendary classic status later in the 20th century when the movie versions appeared. However, some Victorian fans were ahead of the time, describing it as "the sensation of the season" and "the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century". The Daily Mail review of June 1, 1897 proclaimed it a classic of Gothic horror:
"In seeking a parallel to this weird, powerful, and horrorful story our mind reverts to such tales as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, The Fall of the House of Usher ... but Dracula is even more appalling in its gloomy fascination than any one of these."
Similarly good reviews appeared when the book was published in the U.S. in 1899.

Historical and geographical references

Although Dracula is a work of fiction, it does contain some historical references. The historical connections with the novel and how much Stoker knew about the history are a matter of conjecture and debate.

Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, the supposed connections between the historical Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia and Bram Stoker's fictional Dracula attracted popular attention. During his main reign (1456–1462), "Vlad the Impaler" is said to have killed from 40,000 to 100,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals, and anyone else he considered "useless to humanity"), mainly by using his favourite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. The main sources dealing with these events are records by Saxon settlers in neighbouring Transylvania, who had frequent clashes with Vlad III. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Turks. His impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000 Ottoman Muslims.

Historically, the name "Dracula" is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (king of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and Holy Roman Emperor) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. The name Dracula means "Son of Dracul".

Stoker came across the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history, and chose this to replace the name (Count Wampyr) that he had originally intended to use for his villain. However, some Dracula scholars, led by Elizabeth Miller, have questioned the depth of this connection. They argue that Stoker in fact knew little of the historic Vlad III except for the name "Dracula." There are sections in the novel where Dracula refers to his own background, and these speeches show that Stoker had some knowledge of Romanian history. Yet Stoker includes no details about Vlad III's reign and does not mention his use of impalement. Given Stoker's use of historical background to make his novel more horrific, it seems unlikely he would have failed to mention that his villain had impaled thousands of people. It seems that Stoker either did not know much about the historic Vlad III, or did not intend his character Dracula to be the same person as Vlad III.

Vlad III was an ethnic Vlach. In the novel, Dracula claims to be a Székely: "We Szekelys have a right to be proud..."

The Dracula legend as he created it and as it has been portrayed in films and television shows may be a compound of various influences. Many of Stoker's biographers and literary critics have found strong similarities to the earlier Irish writer Sheridan le Fanu's classic of the vampire genre, Carmilla. In writing Dracula, Stoker may also have drawn on stories about the sídhe, some of which feature blood-drinking women. The folkloric figure of Abhartach has also been suggested as a source.

It has been suggested that Stoker was influenced by the history of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was born in the Kingdom of Hungary. Bathory is suspected to have tortured and killed anywhere between 36 and 700 young women over a period of many years, and it was commonly believed that she committed these crimes in order to bathe in or drink their blood, believing that this preserved her youth. No credible evidence of blood-drinking or other blood crimes in the Bathory case has ever been found, however the stories and influence may explain why Dracula appeared younger after feeding.

Some have claimed the castle of Count Dracula was inspired by Slains Castlemarker, at which Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl of Erroll. However, since as Stoker visited the castle in 1895—five years after work on Dracula had begun—there is unlikely to be much connection. Many of the scenes in Whitbymarker and Londonmarker are based on real places that Stoker frequently visited, although in some cases he distorts the geography for the sake of the story.

It has been suggested that Stoker received much historical information from Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarianmarker professor he met at least twice. Miller argues "there is nothing to indicate that the conversation included Vlad, vampires, or even Transylvania" and that, "furthermore, there is no record of any other correspondence between Stoker and Vámbéry, nor is Vámbéry mentioned in Stoker's notes for Dracula."

Adaptations

The story of Dracula has been the basis for countless films and plays. Popular films include Dracula (1931), The Horror of Dracula (1958), and Dracula (also known as Bram Stoker's Dracula) (1992). Dracula was also adapted as Nosferatu (1922), a film directed by the Germanmarker director F.W. Murnau, while Stoker's widow was alive, and the filmmakers were forced to change the setting and the characters' names for copyright reasons. The vampire in Nosferatu is called Count Orlok rather than Count Dracula.

The character of Count Dracula has remained popular over the years, and many films have used the character as a villain, while others have named him in their titles, such as Dracula's Daughter, The Brides of Dracula, and Zoltan, Hound of Dracula. An estimated 160 films (as of 2004) feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes. The number of films that include a reference to Dracula may reach as high as 649, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Most adaptations do not include all the major characters from the novel. The Count is always present, and Jonathan and Mina Harker, Dr. Seward, Dr. Van Helsing, and Renfield usually appear as well. The characters of Mina and Lucy are often combined into a single female role. Jonathan Harker and Renfield are also sometimes reversed or combined. Quincey Morris and Arthur Holmwood are usually omitted entirely.

"Dracula's Guest"

In 1914, two years after Stoker's death, the short story "Dracula's Guest" was posthumously published. It was, according to most contemporary critics, the deleted first (or second) chapter from the original manuscript and the one which gave the volume its name, but which the original publishers deemed unnecessary to the overall story.

"Dracula's Guest" follows an unnamed Englishman traveller (whom most readers identify as Jonathan Harker, assuming it is the same character from the novel) as he wanders around Munichmarker before leaving for Transylvania. It is Walpurgis Night, and in spite of the coachman's warnings, the young Englishman foolishly leaves his hotel and wanders through a dense forest alone. Along the way he feels he is being watched by a tall and thin stranger (possibly Count Dracula).

The short story climaxes in an old graveyard, where in a marble tomb (with a large iron stake driven into it), he encounters the ghost of a female vampire called Countess Dolingen. The spirit of this malevolent and beautiful vampire awakens from her marble bier to conjure a snowstorm before being struck by lightning and returning to her eternal prison. Harker's troubles are not quite over, as a wolf then emerges through the blizzard and attacks him. However, the wolf merely keeps him warm and alive until help arrives.

When Harker is finally taken back to his hotel, a telegram awaits him from his expectant host Dracula, with a warning about "dangers from snow and wolves and night".

Notes for Dracula

In 2008, Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller published Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (Jefferson NC & London: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3410-7) based on the materials from the Rosenbach Museum & Librarymarker, containing a complete set of Stoker's handwritten and typed notes. Notes are fully transcribed and annotated.

Notes and references

Bibliography

  • Dalby, Richard and Hughes, William. Bram Stoker: A Bibliography (Westcliff-on-Sea: Desert Island Books, 2005)
  • Frayling, Christopher. Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1992) ISBN 0-571-16792-6
  • Eighteen-Bisang, Robert and Miller, Elizabeth. Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition Toronto: McFarland, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7864-3410-7
  • Hughes, William. Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker's Fiction and its Cultural Contexts (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000)
  • McNally, Raymond T. & Florescu, Radu. In Search of Dracula. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. ISBN 0-395-65783-0
  • Miller, Elizabeth. Dracula: Sense & Nonsense. 2nd ed. Desert Island Books, 2006. ISBN 1-905328-15-X
  • Schaffer, Talia. A Wilde Desire Took Me: the Homoerotic History of Dracula, in: ELH - Volume 61, Number 2 (1994), pp. 381-425.
  • Spencer, Kathleen. Purity and Danger: Dracula, the Urban Gothic, and the Late Victorian Degeneracy Crisis, in: ELH - Volume 59, Number 1 (1992), pp. 197-225.
  • Wolf, Leonard. The Essential Dracula. ibooks, inc., 2004. ISBN 0-7434-9803-8
  • Klinger, Leslie S. The New Annotated Dracula. W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. ISBN 0-3930-6450-6


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