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Was Dracula an irishman??
We feel we have a special interest in Dracula, as this question heads some of our publicity material! But maybe you'd like to read a little more about his background, so we are reprinting an article by our writer on the occult, Leslie Shepard, that appeared in one of the very early issues of INSIDE IRELAND.

Few themes in literature, theatre and cinema are so persistent and terrifying as the legend of the undead vampire, rising from his grave at night to suck the blood of the living!

Born in Dublin
His creator Bram Stoker (1847-1912) was a Dublin man who never set foot in Transylvania. The son of a civil servant, he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a civil servant himself, spending ten tedious years in the Petty Sessions Office at Dublin castle. His first book was the workaday manual "The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland" published 1879. As yet, the undead Count Dracula remained unborn.

Like so many Irishmen, Stoker had versatile talents. Originally a sickly child, he grew into an athletic giant and won many awards at Trinity for weightlifting and walking. On his twenty-fifth birthday he became auditor of the Historical Society at Trinity. He also became president of the Philosophical Society and his first paper was prophetically titled "Sensationalism in Fiction and Society." He gave lectures on such varied topics as King Lear, Shakespeare's Fools, the poetry of Keats and Votes for Women. He championed the poetry of Walt Whitman, becoming a great friend of the poet.

Drama Critic
He worked as an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Evening Mail. He had been electrified by the performance of Henry Irving at the Theatre Royal in Dublin, and thereafter became Irving's most loyal follower and friend.

In 1878 Stoker married Florence Balcombe, a beautiful woman who had been keeping company with Oscar Wilde. Five days later, the Stokers left for England where Bram took up an appointment as theatre manager to Henry Irving, a task which he performed with distinction until Irving's death in 1905.

Ghostly Tales
In between strenuous theatre company management, Stoker somehow found time to write short stories and novels, mostly of a ghostly or thriller kind. In 1897 he published his major work "Dracula" which has had a lasting influence all over the world ever since.

The novel is a classic of supernatural fiction - a tale of terror with an authentic background of old Transylvania, haunted castles, windswept English coasts and graveyards. For many years, scholars have debated the influences that produced this powerful story .

In his lifetime, Stoker himself told a whimsical anecdote about a nightmare after a late night supper of dressed crab, when he dreamed of a vampire king rising from the tomb, but the origins of "Dracula" grew from Stoker 's Irish background.

We know from his strange book of stories for children "Under the Sunset" (1881) that themes of bloodletting and a terrifying Angel of Death were present years earlier, probably stimulated by Stoker's sickly childhood and his mother's terrifying stories of a cholera plague in Sligo in 1832. The book has an illustration of the sinister castle of the King of Death, reminiscent of the later Castle Dracula.

Vlad the Impaler
Stoker was also influenced by an earlier Irish vampire story, Carmilla (1871) written by that other master of supernatural fiction, Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873). Stoker also learnt about a real life tyrant named Vlad Tepes, or "Vlad the Impaler", popularly called "Dracula" in fifteenth century Wallachia. The initial information came from the intrepid traveller Arminius Vambery, whom Stoker met at the Beefsteak Club in London after a performance by Irving, and again two years later at Trinity College, Dublin, when Vambery was awarded an honorary degree. The painstaking accuracy of routes and local colour of Transylvania stemmed from Stoker's careful researches at the British Museum Library, London, and at Whitby Bay, North Yorkshire setting for the shipwrecked 'Demeter' in Chapter VII of Stoker's novel.

Tales and Tours
"Dracula" has remained in print as a popular tale of terror for over a hundred years. It has been the inspiration for hundreds of movies, plays, short stories, comic strips, pop music, merchandising gimmicks (including ice lollies). It has stimulated the formation of associations liks the Count Dracula Society in California, the Count Dracula fan Club in New York, the Dracula Society in England and our own Bram Stoker Society in Dublin.

Some years ago the Bram Stoker Society persuaded the Dublin Tourist Board to erect a plaque to Stoker at 30 Kildare Street, Dublin, where the novelist lived in 1871. The plaque was unveiled by Ann Stoker, Bram's grand-daughter. Ivan Stoker Dixon, great nephew of the novelist has toured in the US and Canada with his one-man show "From Clontarf to Castle Dracula." Many tourists now visit Dublin to explore the Irish background to "Dracula." In addition you can see Trinity College, Dublin Castle (where Bram Stoker worked as a civil servant), and St. Ann's Church, Dawson Street (where Bram and Florence were married).

An allegory?
"Dracula" has now become the subject of higher criticism by American scholars who have written learned theses and books on the psychological motifs and symbolic aspects of the novel. Many have interpreted it as an allegory of the history of Ireland itself - the tortured past, heroes, heroines and blood victims, the struggle to become liberated from ancient evil. Perhaps there is a deeper message.

Once a year, all over the world, thousands of Irish exiles gather on St. Patrick's Day to recall their memories of Ireland. Often these are of a mythical land of the saints which has not changed in centuries, or of a country which exists only in the mind or the literature of poets and patriots. Stoker's allegory of the triumph of good over evil may also stimulate us to lay the ghosts of the past and come to terms with the new Ireland of the twentieth century.

Leslie Shepard is founder and Chairman of The Bram Stoker Society which can be found at: 43 Castle Court, Killiney Hill Road, Killiney, Co. Dublin where Mr. Albert Power is the Registrar.

The Society has fraternal relations with the Count Dracula Fan Club founded by Dr. Jean K. Youngson in New York.

There is a Bram Stoker International Summer School lasting for a week featuring lectures from various experts, and a Gothic art exhibition as well as a comprehensive gothic library, and this year The Bram Stoker Clan was founded by the School's director, Dennis McIntyre. The organisation welcomes members from all over the world - young and old, male and female irrespective of race or creed. Contact:

Dennis McIntyre, 101Foxfield Grove, Raheny, Dublin, 5, Ireland. Fax +353 1 833 0356.

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