Dates: b. 1847, d. 1912
Literary Movement: Dark romanticism
Famous Works: Dracula
Profile: While many of us know Bram Stoker as the mastermind behind the modern iteration of the vampire, in his life, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving. He was also the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. Though Stoker had a diverse set of interests and gifts, his contribution to the Irish literary tradition is important.
Born in 1847, Stoker came into the world in Clontarf on the northside of Dublin, Ireland. The third of seven children, he was bedridden with unknown illness for much of his childhood, only making a full recovery when he began school at the age of seven. Stoker did not develop any further serious illnesses and excelled as an athlete at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with a BA in 1870 and completed his MA in 1875. He was the auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society, where he published his first paper, Sensationalism in Fiction and Society.
Stoker’s interest in theater grew out of his BA education, and he eventually became a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail. Though theatre critics were often held in low esteem, he attracted notice by the quality of his reviews. Through this early career writing, Stoker attracted the attention of many Dublin-area intellectuals and artists. Several years into this stint, Stoker married Florence Balcombe, a former suitor of Oscar Wilde’s. The couple moved to London, where Stoker became acting manager (later business manager) of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre. Here, he became involved in London’s high society, meeting and interacting with major creative figures, such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Stoker began writing novels while working for Henry Irving. His first novel, The Snake’s Pass, was published in 1890, and Dracula was published seven years later. He went on to write several additional novels. Stoker spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. Dracula itself is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic but completely fictional diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship’s logs, and newspaper clippings. This added to the level of detailed realism that Stoker had developed as a newspaper writer.