Fun facts about Count Dracula and Bram Stoker, the man who created him
1. In early drafts of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula was originally named ‘Count Wampyr’. Bram Stoker’s original title for his 1897 novel Dracula was ‘The Dead Un-Dead’. However, he came across the story of Vlad the Impaler and was inspired to invent the character Dracula, whose name literally means ‘son of the dragon’. And that is how one of the most famous literary creations of the entire nineteenth century came into being – if it hadn’t occurred in quite this way, we might now be talking about Francis Ford Coppola’s film of Bram Stoker’s Wampyr.
2. The first theatrical adaptation of Dracula was actually staged before the novel itself had been published. Dracula was published on 26 May 1897; but eight days earlier, on 18 May, Stoker – who was also involved in the world of Victorian theatre – put on a stage adaptation of his novel, in an attempt to drum up publicity for the book but also to secure the copyright on his creation.
3. Bram Stoker was Sir Henry Irving’s manager and a friend of renowned actress Ellen Terry. She called him ‘Mum’. Stoker was well-known among the theatrical and literary world of late nineteenth-century London and managed Sir Henry Irving, the first actor to be knighted. Stoker had met Oscar Wilde, until his downfall in 1895 one of the most popular writers for the 1890s London stage, before the two men became leading lights on the theatre scene. Both men hailed from Dublin and Wilde was even one of the former suitors of Bram Stoker’s eventual wife, Florence Balcombe.
4. Dracula wasn’t exactly a bestseller when it was first published. Although Dracula sold reasonably well upon its publication in 1897, the novel didn’t quite fly off the shelves. In fact, it was outsold by another horror novel published in the same year, 1897: Richard Marsh’s The Beetle. Like Dracula, Marsh’s novel is a Gothic horror story set largely in London, which engages with notions of the ‘other’ which is figured as a colonial or racial ‘alien’ found in Victorian London. It was the numerous twentieth-century film adaptations of Stoker’s novel – beginning with Nosferatu, which brought a lawsuit against the film’s director from Stoker’s widow – that helped to make it a popular Gothic novel and a classic. Now, Dracula is the most-filmed fictional character ever, beating even Sherlock Holmes into second place.
5. The co-founder of Microsoft owns the original manuscript of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Paul Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, paid an undisclosed amount for Stoker’s manuscript of the book. The book remains perennially fascinating to fans of Gothic fiction – indeed, to fans of literature in general. Like the character himself, Dracula is a sort of ‘Un-dead’ creation, initially only a moderate success but later to take on a more powerful life, or afterlife, beyond anything his creator could have foreseen. In fact, Dracula has become that rarest of things: a true literary archetype.
Image: A screenshot from the trailer for the Hammer Horror film Dracula (1958), Wikimedia Commons.