Bram Stoker pp 173-187 | Cite as

Echoes in the Animal House: The Lair of the White Worm

  • David Punter


Very little has been written about Bram Stoker’s last novel, The Lair of the White Worm (1911), and most of what has been written has been shrouded in some embarrassment. Maud Ellmann, however, in her ‘Introduction’ to the 1996 Oxford World’s Classics edition of Dracula, is unusually forthright: she describes it as a ‘startlingly demented novel’, and adds:

Stoker was prude and pornographer at once, each of these impulses apparently exacerbated by the fury of the other. The conflict reached fever-pitch in The Lair of the White Worm, in which the beautiful Lady Arabella is revealed to be a huge white worm living in a noxious orifice beneath her house: a ‘round fissure seemingly leading down into the very bowels of the earth’, seething with slime, and stinking of ‘the draining of war hospitals, of slaughter-houses, the refuse of dissecting rooms … the sourness of chemical waste and poisonous effluvium of the bilge of a water-logged ship whereon a multitude of rats had been drowned’. Here Stoker’s obsessional imagination, skilfully controlled in Dracula, overflows all bounds.1


Human Form Obsessional Passivity China Clay Popular Fiction Deceased Husband 
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  1. 1.
    Maud Ellmann, ‘Introduction’, in Bram Stoker, Dracula (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) p. xiii.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bram Stoker, The Lair of the White Worm, in Dracula and The Lair of the White Worm: A Bram Stoker Omnibus Edition (London: Foulsham, 1986) p. 377. All subsequent references are to this edition, and are given in the text.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983); andGoogle Scholar
  4. Nicholas Royle, Telepathy and Literature: Essays on the Reading Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See, e.g., H.L. Malchow, Gothic Images of Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996) p. 142.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1988) pp. 232–309.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    See, for example, David Glover, Vampires, Mummies and Liberals: Bram Stoker and the Politics of Popular Fiction (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996) pp. 8, 98, 151.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Bram Stoker, The Lair of the White Worm (London: Arrow, 1974), p. 61. Subsequent references to this abridged edition of the novel will be given in the text.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Punter

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