A discussion of 19th century books that go bump in the night would certainly not be complete without a look at two of the warhorses of all scary stories, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Regina will take a look at the former on Friday, while today we will sink our teeth (sorry, just couldn't resist!) into Dracula.
Dracula just squeaks in as a 19th century book, being published in May of 1897. Its author, Bram Stoker, was the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London and the right-hand man of the great actor Henry Irving, who owned the Lyceum. Managing the theatre and working for Irving led to a a great deal of travel for Stoker; this and his life-long interest in history and folklore were fodder for the short stories and books he wrote in his spare time, ranging from fairy tales for children and fantasy and horror novels to civil service manuals and travel memoirs (he became a friend of Teddy Roosevelt during visits to America and stayed twice at the White House).
Dracula is an epistolary novel, told via letters, journal entries, and faux newspaper clippings, which adds a creepy sense of reality to it. Also eerily familiar is the vein of forbidden sensuality that runs through it; today's vampire stories aren't breaking new ground there! Reviews of the book on its initial release were very good (the British Weekly said, "One of the most interesting and exciting of recent novels is Mr. Bram Stoker's 'Dracula. ' It deals with the ancient mediaeval vampire legend, and in no work of English work of fiction has this legend been so brilliantly treated."), though a few found the conquering of a supernatural creature with the tools of "modern" science to be jarring (The Spectator said, "The up-to-dateness of the book--the phonograph diaries, typewriters, and so on--hardly fits in with the mediaeval methods which ultimately secure the victory for Count Dracula's foes").
Dracula, however, wasn't the first popular vampire story of the 19th century. Twenty-five years before Dracula's release, Stoker's fellow Irishman, author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, published his novella Carmilla, the story of a young English girl nearly taken by a beautiful girl vampire staying with her and her father in a castle in Austria. And more recently, Bram Stoker's great-nephew has co-written a sequel entitled Dracula, The Undead that was just released this year.
Are you a Dracula fan? How do you think today's popular vampire fiction stacks up against it?