Leeds University Library
Our website is changing

The Library website is changing. Our new website will go live at the start of semester 2.

What, no Dracula?

Published 24 October 2012

Letter from H. B Irving to Bram Stoker n.d. from Manuscripts Brotherton Collection MS 19c Stoker

A Bram Stoker collection with no reference to Dracula!

For Halloween we feature our Bram Stoker Collection, comprising correspondence and literary manuscripts.

It's a running joke that we have a Bram Stoker collection with no reference to Dracula, except for letters of thanks from friends and associates for their copies of his book. One such letter enthusiastically describes the effect the book had on them: "there isn't a drop of blood in my body that doesn't feel as if it has been in a cold-storage closet."

First published in 1897, and told through a series of journal entries and fragments of letters written by other protagonists in the story, Dracula has become his most famous work and his creation of the Count Dracula has endured as a notorious gothic horror villain. Famously immortalised in film by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, Dracula has become synonymous with the festival of Halloween.

Born in Dublin in November 1847, Stoker graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a degree in science and a master's degree in pure mathematics. He developed an interest in the theatre which was to be encouraged further upon meeting Henry Irving, a leading actor of the time. Irving later became owner of the Lyceum Theatre in London with Stoker as theatre manager, starting a partnership which lasted nearly thirty years. Stoker is credited as the first to number seats, to promote advance reservations, and to advertise seasonally rather than one play at a time. He was responsible for a large staff, handled all Irving's correspondence, and organised theatre tours, including to America, making the Lyceum Theatre the first company to tour with their own costumes and sets.

Stoker had been fascinated with the supernatural since childhood. The character of Count Dracula was formed from many influences, the most famous being the 15th century ruler Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, posthumously named  Vlad the Impaler. Stoker was also fascinated with Irish folklore and Count Dracula displays the Celtic phenomenon known as "shape shifting", the ability to become anything, as seen in many films portraying his change into bats, rats and even swirling mist.

But it is widely accepted that Count Dracula was an homage to Henry Irving, with Irving's looks and personality providing the model for the character which was to eventually become the eponymous Count.

So reader, beware All Hallow's Eve, and don't have nightmares.