The Gothic horror novel written in 1897, by Irish author Bram Stoker, introduced one of literature’s most frightening characters, Count Dracula. The book tells the story of Dracula’s move to England, from Transylvania, to find fresh blood and to also spread the curse of the undead.
Although very charismatic, charming and debonair, Dracula was nowhere near the heartthrob today’s cool teenage vampire, Edward is. In fact, one of the most recognizable actors to play Dracula was Bela Lugosi in the 1931 movie, Dracula.
From 1879 to 1898, Bram Stoker was a business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theater in London. During this time, he supplemented his income by writing several sensational novels. Stoker’s most famous novel was, of course, Dracula.
Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, before writing Dracula. He was influenced most by Emily Gerard’s 1885 essay, Transylvania Superstitions. He would later claim that he had a nightmare, about a “vampire king” rising from the grave. This dream came to Stoker after eating too much crab meat covered in mayonnaise sauce for dinner before laying down for the night.
Stoker’s real-life inspiration for Dracula’s dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms was The Lyceum Theater’s actor-manager Henry Irving, who was also the first actor to be awarded a knighthood for his contribution to the stage.
The original title for Dracula was The Dead Un-Dead right up until just a few weeks before the novel’s publication. Stoker’s notes also showed that the original name for his character was “Count Wampyr”, rather than Count Dracula.
However, after doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the name “Dracula”, while reading William Wilkinson’s book Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them. In the Romanian language, the word dracul means “the devil”.
When it was first published, Dracula wasn’t an immediate bestseller, although critics were generous with their praise. However, literary historians have said the novel has become more significant for modern readers than it was for the contemporary Victorian readers of its time.
It wasn’t until the 20th century, when the movie versions appeared, that the story of Dracula reached its broad legendary status. It has also been claimed that Dracula has had a significant impact on the image of the vampire in popular culture, folklore and legend.
Some Victorian readers were ahead of their time when they described Dracula as “the sensation of the season” and “the most blood-curdling novel of the paralyzed century”.
In a letter to Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, “I write to tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading Dracula. I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read in many years.”
So, if you want to read a truly frightening horror story, that actually scares you, rather than makes you sick from all the blood and gore, as with today’s “horror” stories pick up Dracula by Bram Stoker.
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