In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bram Stoker

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Correspondence
  • Textual Materials
  • Politics and Ethnicity
  • Law
  • Theater

Victorian Literature Bram Stoker
by
Matthew Gibson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0164

Introduction

The affable and popular theater manager Bram Stoker was born in Clontarf, Ireland, to Abraham and Charlotte Stoker in 1847, into an Irish Protestant (although not Anglo-Irish) family. After a sickly childhood he grew into a robust sportsman, and attended Trinity College Dublin from 1864 to 1866, finally graduating with a BA in 1870. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the Irish Civil Service in 1866, where he had the opportunity to travel around Ireland as a clerk of Petty Sessions, while also becoming an unpaid theater reviewer for the Dublin Evening Mail from 1871 to 1878, and publishing his first short story, “The Crystal Cup,” in London Society 1872. This he followed with a short novel, The Primrose Path, and two short stories, “The Chain of Destiny” and “Buried Treasures,” all in the periodical The Shamrock in 1875. In 1878 he left Dublin with his wife Florence to take up the position of acting manager of Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London, and fulfilled this role until Irving’s death in 1905, also managing several American tours. In the earlier part of this period, Stoker managed to publish more fiction, including a first collection of short stories, Under the Sunset (1881), and then his first truly accomplished novel, The Snake’s Pass, set in rural Ireland, in 1890. Short but memorable pieces, “The Squaw” and “The Man from Shorrox,” appeared in periodicals in 1893 and 1894, and then two novels, The Watter’s Mou’, based on his knowledge of Cruden Bay near Aberdeen, and The Shoulder of Shasta, both 1895. Dracula, his most famous work, the product of seven years of research and rewriting, appeared in 1897, followed by a Restoration-era romance of much less merit, Miss Betty, in 1898. The Edwardian era saw his rate of productivity increase with The Mystery of the Sea (1902), another romance set in Cruden Bay, The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), a Gothic “mummy” story, The Man (1905), Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving in 1906 (his most successful work in sales terms), and Lady Athlyne and Snowbound (a collection of theatrical short stories), both in 1908. His final, post-theater years were beset with ill health and monetary problems, as he resorted to journalism to supplement his income. However, he also produced the topical Balkan romance The Lady of the Shroud in 1909, and the chaotic The Lair of the White Worm in 1911, before dying the next year, his vibrant personality quietly mourned by London society.

General Overviews

Several general overviews of Stoker’s work have been published since the 1990s, giving equal weight to both Stoker’s more famous works like Dracula (1897), and other novels like The Shoulder of Shasta (1895), Miss Betty (1898), and Lady Athlyne (1908)—works that are rarely if ever analyzed in critical collections or journal articles. The most comprehensive is probably Hughes 1999, with one of the most thorough treatments of Stoker’s short stories, but Maunder 2006 and Hopkins 2007 also attempt to give space to the many texts in Stoker’s work that, in Hughes’s phrasing, are “beyond Dracula.”

  • Hopkins, Lisa. Bram Stoker, a Literary Life. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230626416

    Hopkins’s overview places Dracula at the center, but analyzes connections in all the novels through various biographically important themes such as Stoker’s work for the theater and life in London. The book is well researched, with a keen eye for both historical events and other topical novels that inspired his writings, and pays welcome attention to Snowbound (1908) and “The Squaw” (1893).

  • Hughes, William. Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker’s Fiction and its Cultural Context. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1999.

    Hughes’s volume is still the most detailed and comprehensive work by a single author on Stoker, analyzing many short stories, and novels like Miss Betty (1898), Lady Athlyne (1908) and The Mystery of the Sea (1902). Rather than by chronology, it examines the oeuvre from the context of late Victorian culture in four distinct chapters, which take into account religious culture, medical science, attitudes to gender, and other factors.

  • Maunder, Andrew. Bram Stoker. Exeter, UK: Northcote House, 2006.

    This book is a very clearly written and well-researched introduction to Stoker’s work, which groups different novels under various themes, while also attempting to give some insight into Stoker’s personality. It provides much-needed attention to novels like The Primrose Path (1875), and Miss Betty (1898), although the groupings and emphases of its four main chapters perhaps sometimes lack a committed focus.

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