Friday Book Club: Bram Stoker’s Double Life

SWT-Book-Clubs

This month’s Friday Book Club is all about Dracula, by Bram Stoker.  Bram Stoker was an interesting guy – on the surface, frankly he’s pretty boring.   He was a civil servant and a business man, with a wife and a kid and possibly a picket fence.  Under the surface, he’s a man of mystery.  Here’s a short (very short) bio of the creator of Dracula.

photo of Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847.  “Bram” is short for “Abraham”.  He was born in Ireland, and in the first of many odd things about him, he was bedridden until he was seven years old.  Of what?  We do not know.  Nor do we know how he recovered.  But he did, and became a star athlete in college, where he studied math.

Bram Stoker graduated, became a civil servant, and wrote a book with the most boring title possible:  The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland.  He described it as “dry as dust”.  Then he met this guy:

Henry Irving

Henry Irving

Henry Irving suggested that Stoker become the business manager of the Lyceum Theater in London.  Stoker not only did that, but he also became “Irving’s secretary, confidant, accountant, public spokesperson, closest friend, business associate, and tireless companion”  (From:  The New Annotated Dracula).  Stoker married a woman named Florence Anne Lemon Balcobe, and had a child who he promptly named “Irving”.  Stoker was travelling or working most of the time, with Irving.

Here’s an interesting tidbit about Florence: she was also courted by Oscar Wilde.  In fact, Stoker and Wilde had a quite a falling out over it, although they eventually reconciled.  Needless to say, there is a lot of speculation about Stoker and Irving, who were far closer than even close platonic friends usually are.  Very little is known about Florence except that two very artistic and unusual men wanted to marry her.

Florence Stoker

Florence Stoker

The other bit of trivia I’m fond of is that Bram Stoker hired Pamela Colman Smith to work at the theater, and she is best known for illustrating the Rider-Waite Tarot.  Stoker was rumored to be a member of The Golden Dawn, an occult society.

Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897.  It was a solid seller, although not what we would think of today as a best-seller.   He wrote several other books, but his biggest hit during his lifetime was a two-volume biography he wrote of Henry Irving after Irving died in 1905, titled, Personal reminiscences of Henry Irving.

Bram Stoker suffered a stroke soon after Irving’s death.  He died in 1912 after several years of illness.

Thank you to the following two sources:  The New Annotated Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Notes by Leslie S. Klinger; and schmoop.com.  I highly recommend schmoop’s page of links – it’s a great resource!

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