Bram Stoker unleashed his horrific creation on an unsuspecting world over one hundred years ago. One could hardly imagine that his creature of the night would delight and inhabit the nightmares of every generation between his and ours. Count Dracula has become an icon of evil, and is perhaps the most widely recognized bogeyman in all of world literature. To date, there have been over one hundred films made about Dracula or other assorted vampires, not to mention countless novels, comic books, nonfiction works, toys, clubs and societies—even a children’s breakfast cereal celebrating the myth of the undead count. Dracula’s notoriety is of such epic proportions that it has all but obscured the man who gave us this deliciously terrifying character of fiction.
Abraham “Bram” Stoker was born in Clontarf, Ireland on November 8, 1847, the third of seven children. For the first eight years of his life, he never stood upright without aid and was constantly kept in bed with unidentified illnesses (“ClassicNotes”). These illnesses and his feelings of helplessness were traumatizing experiences, which are noticeable in his literary work. Everlasting sleep and the resurrection from the dead, which are the central themes of his Dracula, were of great importance for him, perhaps because he was forced to spend much of his youth in bed.
Although he remained shy and bookish, in his teenage years Stoker was anything but sickly. Perhaps to make up for his earlier frailty, by the time Stoker attended Trinity College, in Dublin, he had become a skilled sportsman and was named University Athlete for his impeccable skill in soccer and marathon walking. At Trinity College, Stoker studied history, mathematics, and philosophy, and became president of the Philosophical Society and the Historical Society. It was there that he was introduced to the works of American poet Walt Whitman, and became an instant and devoted fan. He wrote Whitman a long, gushing letter praising his work, but did not mail it until four years later. In 1870, Stoker graduated from Trinity with honors in mathematics.
A series of events occurred while at Trinity that would change the direction of Stoker’s life forever. A theatrical touring group came to Dublin offering a production of Sheridan’s The Rivals featuring a young actor named Henry Irving (born John Henry Brodribb), the most highly revered Shakespearean actor of the period. “He is credited with lifting the social status of the acting profession […] In 1895, he was knighted by Queen Victoria, thus becoming the first British actor to receive a knighthood” (Irving). Stoker was mesmerized by Irving’s charismatic performance, but was disappointed to find only a cursory mention of the event in the next day’s Dublin Evening Mail. A second tour by Irving four years later produced an equally unsatisfactory mention in the Mail, prompting an outraged young Stoker to march into the offices of the newspaper and offer himself for...