Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla: Bram Stoker’s Inspiration for Dracula
“3 May. Bistritz. Left Munich at 8:35 p.m.” Abraham Stoker in this unassuming way begins his Gothic masterpiece, Dracula (The Annotated Dracula 1). Dracula has been called ‘imaginative’ and ‘original.’ , and Harry Ludlam calls it “the product of his own vivid imagination and imaginative research” (Senf 41). However, the originality of Stoker's Dracula is in doubt. By a similarity in the setting, characters and plot, in Bram Stoker’s Gothic work Dracula and the posthumously published short story “Dracula’s Guest,” Stoker is shown to have used Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic, Gothic, short story, “Carmilla”, as the basis and inspiration for Bram Stoker’s vampiric masterpiece, Dracula.
In 1897, Abraham Stoker published Dracula, a classic Gothic novel which continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of readers after nearly a century. The novel is written as a collection of journals, which are kept in a wide array of methods, letters and newspaper clippings. Dracula opens in Eastern Europe with a young solisitor named Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvanian castle. The castle’s owner, Count Dracula, is cruel in the manner of great evil, and uses Harker to have himself safely ferried to England and its fertile hunting ground of London. Dracula soon becomes embroiled in the lives of a small group of friends who see him for the fiend that he is. These young people, aided by the aging Dr. Van Helsing vow to see Dracula destroyed, and they succeed in driving him out of England and back to his homeland. They follow hard upon and catch him just before he reaches the safety of his castle. Within sight of safety, Jonathan Harker and Quency Morris behead the despotic Dracula and watch his evaporate into dust..
After Stoker’s death, his widow, a woman in need of money, published a volume of his short stories; included in the collection was “Dracula’s Guest,’ the deleted first chapter to Dracula. In recent years, “Dracula’s Guest” has received a large amount of critical attention due to Stoker’s obvious debt to fellow Irishman Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (Senf, 38). The story opens in Munich where a young Englishman is taking a holiday from his trek to the home of Dracula. The young Englishman of the story decides to take a walk to a deserted village despite the objections of others who know more than he about the area and its dangers. He is caught in terrible blizzard and is forced to find shelter. Shelter comes in the form of one Countess Dolingen of Gratz’s impaled tomb. Inside the tomb, he sees a young, pretty, pink-faced woman; the tomb is struck by lightening which destroys both the tomb and presumibly the woman. The Englishman is found, with the aid of a wolf’s yelps, by solders sent to search for him by Dracula.
In 1871, Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu published In A Glass Darkly, a collection of short stories including “Carmilla”, which can...