Biography of Bram Stoker

Writer of one of the world's most famous horror novels, Abraham Stoker was born to the loosely defined socio-cultural group known as the Anglo-Irish. A Protestant Dubliner, he was the son of a civil servant, and he was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. As a child, Abraham Stoker was a sickly child often on the point of death?by his own account, he never stood upright without aid until he was seven years old. But he grew into a physically robust youth, excelling in athletics during his college years. At Trinity College, he studied mathematics and became president of the Philosophical Society and the Historical Society.

In the years between 1870 and 1877, he was a civil servant at Dublin Castle. He maintained ties to Trinity College, returning there frequently to speak on a wide range of topics for the Philosophical Society. He was deeply interested in the Romantic poets, and during these years he established a correspondence with Walt Whitman. The two men exchanged letters until Whitman's death. Stoker also became an enthusiastic theatergoer and an ardent admirer and friend of Henry Irving, writing dramatic criticism and glowing reviews of Irving's work for the local papers. Many have argued that Henry Irving was an important model for the character of Count Dracula, and that the novel was a kind of unconscious revenge against the man to whom Stoker gave so much. During these years, Stoker's position in the Historical Society at Trinity put him in contact with Dublin's elite. He became a regular guest of Sir William and Lady Wilde, the parents of Oscar Wilde, and was drawn into Lady Wilde's literary and artistic circle of friends. He competed with Oscar Wilde for the hand of Florence Balcombe, a beautiful young woman who was the daughter of a lieutenant-colonel. Florence chose Bram, and the two were married in 1878, the same year he left for London and a new job as the business manager of Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre. That same year, he wrote The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, drawn from his experience as a civil servant. Stoker continued to work faithfully and tirelessly for Henry Irving until the actor's death in 1906.

The many years with Henry Irving were full of hard work and sacrifice, as Stoker frequently put his work before his family. His only child, Noel, was born in 1879. Noel later felt that Stoker's work for Irving wore out the devoted younger man. There was constant touring and promotional work to be done, throughout the British Isles and as far away as North America. It was during these years that Stoker wrote his greatest novel, Dracula (1897). In 1905, Irving collapsed and died while on tour in Sheffield. Stoker was so profoundly affected by the death of his friend and hero that he suffered a stroke. After Irving's death, Stoker continued to write fiction and do newspaper work until his own death in 1912.

Bram Stoker wrote numerous novels, short stories, essays, and lectures, but Dracula is by far his most famous work. His other works have not aged well, but the story of Count Dracula continues to sell steadily even to this day. Stoker coined the term "undead," and his interpretation of vampire folklore has powerfully shaped depictions of the legendary monsters ever since.

Study Guides on Works by Bram Stoker

The first edition of Dracula was published in June 1897. As late as May of that year, Stoker was still using his original working title for the novel, The Un-Dead. "Undead," a word now commonly used in horror novels and movies, was a term invented...