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Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition
Bram Stoker, annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miller
McFarland & Company, 342 pages

Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition
Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker, third of seven children, was born in Clontarf, a suburb of Dublin, on November 8, 1847. He was a sickly child who made a curious recovery by the age of seven. He attended Trinity College in Dublin where he was both a debater and an athlete; he graduated in 1870 with honors. He began working as a civil servant at Dublin Castle, but also pursued private interests. He obtained an advanced degree in mathematics and wrote theatre reviews for the Dublin Evening Mail, a pastime which led to a friendship and professional relationship with the English actor Sir Henry Irving.

In 1878 Stoker married Florence Balcombe, a noted Victorian beauty; their son Irving Noel Stoker was born on December 31, 1879. Stoker became the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London (owned by Irving) and remained in that position for 27 years. In addition, he wrote many novels and short stories as well as non-fiction.

Dracula, a chilling masterpiece of Gothic horror, was first published in 1897 and has never been out of print since. Although it was not the first story about a vampire, it became the most well-known and has since had a huge impact on popular culture as respectful interpretation as well as imitation and parody. It has been estimated that over 1,000 films have been inspired by the Dracula story.

Stoker died in London on April 20, 1912.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Richard A. Lupoff

Talk about expectation versus experience! I will confess that I thought this book was going to be a total snoozer. A facsimile of a hundred or so pages of dubiously legible notes by a long-dead author, for a novel that he wrote well over a century ago. The author was Abraham "Bram" Stoker (1847–1912) and the novel was Dracula (1897).

Was I ever wrong!

First of all, I've tried to decipher Stoker's handwriting on the facsimile pages of this book, and it is indeed a daunting chore. Fortunately, the editors have painstakingly worked over the manuscript pages and provided a clear transcript, including alternate interpretations of those words upon which scholars disagree. Beyond this, they furnish an exegesis of every one of Stoker's notes. Here is a typical example:

Kate Reed to Lucy Westenra telling of Harker's visit to the school to see Mina Murray & of Mina's confidence & her story -- with postscript telling how she thought after writing it would be well to ask Mina's permission before telling her story -- she knows it all over long ago & that she goes to stay with her on summer holiday at Whitby

Eighteen-Bisang and Miller:
Kate Reed is probably the unnamed messenger Lucy alludes to when she says, "Someone has evidently been telling tales (5:56). McNally and Florescu believe that "Mrs. Westenra seems to have taken [Kate Reed's] place... in the novel (26). Frayling renders "over" as "dead." However, either wording supports his conclusion that Kate Reed had "some 'story' which is of interest to Mina" and the fact "that 'it is all dead long ago' " allows them "to remain friends." He then wonders, "Could it possibly have been a romance with Jonathan?"

As you can see, there is an ongoing "conversation" among such Stoker / Dracula scholars as Raymond McNally, Radu Florescu, Christopher Frayling, and the current commentators. It is fascinating to observe their discussions at the same time that one follows the development of Dracula in Bram Stoker's mind and in his notes. There is not a single, coherent Stoker notebook, however. The author was a busy man with a "day job" as manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, as well as having a home and family life. He made notes on any scrap of paper that was handy, including the backs of Lyceum Theatre letterhead. He went back over his notes repeatedly, changing references, crossing out lines and adding others.

The location of Count Dracula's home was apparently Germany in Stoker's earliest version of his plan. He moved the infamous castle to Styria, a province of Hungary, and thence to Transylvania, providing that otherwise little known region with worldwide fame. The great anti-hero himself was originally described only as a dead old man, brought back to life. Then as Count (blank), then Wampyr, and finally Dracula.

Characters and scenes appear and transform and disappear from the book as it continues to evolve. There are werewolves in the story, then there are no werewolves. There is a fabulous dinner party for thirteen bizarre storytellers including Dracula himself. The incident mimics the Biblical Last Supper, with Dracula playing the role of the Anti-Christ. The scene does not appear in the novel, although it was restored in at least one filmed version, long after Stoker's death. Was it ever drafted and discarded, or did Stoker decide to omit it before he wrote the book?

On and on the tale evolves, with Stoker's handwritten notes and later his typewritten pages carrying us ever closer to the completion of what has to be recognized as the greatest horror novel ever written. Stoker was a fairly prolific author. He published a dozen novels, most of them of a fantastic nature, as well as dozens of short stories and several works of nonfiction. But of course Dracula was his masterpiece. It is immortal.

The editors of the present volume found the treasure of Stoker's notes in the suggestively named Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. From there they traced the odyssey of the notes back to their sale by Stoker's widow, Florence, in 1913, for two pounds two shillings. Roughly twelve dollars. Today, they are priceless.

This excellent book also contains period photographs (including one of the Lyeceum Theatre) and documents, essays and appendices that make endless fascinating reading. The book is a treasure and a joy.

One word of warning. You may "know" Dracula through the endless adaptations of the novel that have appeared over the years since it first publication. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of stage plays, motion pictures, radio and televisions series, comic books and other versions of the story. My little grandson, not yet four years of age, is thoroughly familiar with the cuddly Count Von Count, a recurring character on Sesame Street. My own favorites are the silent Nosferatu (1922), dir. F. W. Murnau, with Max Schreck, Dracula (1931), dir. Tod Browning, with Bela Lugosi, and The Horror of Dracula (1958), dir. Terence Fisher, with Christopher Lee. But there are plenty of others to choose from. I imagine you could watch a Dracula motion picture every night for years on end, before moving on to TV series like Dark Shadows or Angel.

And of course, in addition to the direct adaptations of Dracula there are the endless run of more or less Dracula-esque vampire novels, from Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot (1975) to Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (1976) to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight (2005). Stoker was not the first author to write a vampire novel, but Dracula set the standard for the genre, and no other vampire novel -- or movie or comic book or role-playing game -- can ever or will ever surpass it as the definitive work in the field.

But -- and here's the big but -- you don't really know Dracula unless you've read Stoker's novel. And it is a gripping, thrilling, even frightening novel still. It remains in print in languages around the world in editions ranging from inexpensive paperbacks to deluxe collector-oriented volumes beautifully printed on fine vellum and bound in luxuriant gold-stamped covers. You can get it as audio if that's your preference, or download it free from several internet sites. You're wasting your time if you even try to read Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula without first reading the novel itself. But believe me, if you have read and loved this book, you will enjoy the Notes endlessly and you will understand and appreciate Stoker's great achievement even more.

Copyright © 2008 Richard A. Lupoff

Richard A. Lupoff has written a lot of books, some of them actually pretty good. His most recent is Marblehead: A Novel of H.P. Lovecraft; the next couple will be short story collections, Visions and Quintet: The Cases of Chase and Delacroix.

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