Bram Stoker pp 23-45 | Cite as

Early Life in Stoker’s Fiction

Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


Bram Stoker was born in Dublin on 8 November 1847. By his own account, his early childhood was one of entire invalidism: ‘till I was about seven years old I never knew what it was to stand upright’ (PR I: 31). This produced a particularly intense exposure to the company of his mother, Charlotte, and the horrific stories she told of her childhood in Sligo at the time of the cholera epidemic, some of which were highly dramatic: Stoker’s great-nephew Daniel Farson claims that his grandmother, Charlotte’s daughter-in-law, told him that towards the end of the cholera epidemic, ‘on one of the last, desperate days, Charlotte saw a hand reaching through the skylight. Seizing an axe, she cut it off with one tremendous blow’.1 The fact that the relationship between Stoker and his mother centred so much on stories was an important influence on his later fiction, particularly with regard to its typically conflicted depictions of motherhood. Charlotte appears to have been a powerful figure; Farson recalls that ‘My grandmother Enid married [Bram’s brother] Tom when she was little more than a girl, in 1891. She was not a fanciful woman and she told me that the family were in awe of Charlotte if not actually afraid of her’.2 Indeed Carol A. Senf suggests that ‘When [Charlotte] died, her son lost one of the most powerful influences in his life.


Early Life Short Story Female Character Maternal Role Egyptian Mummy 
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  1. 1.
    Daniel Farson, The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker (London: Michael Joseph, 1975), p. 15.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Carol A. Senf, ‘The Lady of the Shroud: Stoker’s Successor to Dracula’, Essays in Arts and Sciences 19 (1990), pp. 82–96Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Barbara Belford, Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), p. 296.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See Paul Murray, From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004), p. 69.Google Scholar
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    See Roger Luckhurst, ed., Late Victorian Gothic Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), introduction, p. xxvii.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
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    Talia Schaffer, ‘“A Wilde Desire Took Me”: The Homoerotic History of Dracula’, ELH 61 (1994), pp. 381–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 10.
    It may also have been pertinent for Stoker’s attitudes that Irving was rejected by both his mother and his wife, because of his choice of profession (see Jeffrey Richards, Sir Henry Irving: A Victorian Actor and his World [London: Hambledon and London, 2005], p. 151).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Andrew Smith, ‘Love, Freud, and the Female Gothic: Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars’, Gothic Studies 6.1 (2004), pp. 80–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    David Glover, Vampires, Mummies, and Liberals: Bram Stoker and the Politics of Popular Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), p. 89.Google Scholar
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    J. Sheridan Le Fanu, ‘Carmilla’ [1871], reprinted in Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Stories, ed. Pam Keesey (Pittsburgh: Cleis, 1993), pp. 36Google Scholar
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    Raymond McNally takes the feminisation of Dracula still further by arguing that Stoker based part of the character on the infamous Elisabeth Bathory (Dracula Was a Woman [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983]).Google Scholar
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    For comment on this passage, see for instance Anne Cranny-Francis, ‘Sexual Politics and Political Repression in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, in Nineteenth-Century Suspense: From Poe to Conan Doyle, ed. Clive Bloom, Brian Docherty, Jane Gibb and Keith Shand (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), pp. 64–79Google Scholar
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    Alan P. Johnson, ‘“Dual Life”: The Status of Women in Stoker’s Dracula’, Tennessee Studies in Literature 27 (1984), pp. 20–39Google Scholar
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    Johnson, ‘“Dual Life”’, p. 30; see also George Stade, ‘Dracula’s Women, and Why Men Love to Hate them’, in The Psychology of Men: New Psychoanalytic Perspectives, ed. Gerald I. Fogel, Frederick M. Lane and Robert S. Liebert (New York: Basic Books, 1986), pp. 25–48.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in Sally Shuttleworth, ‘Demonic Mothers: Ideologies of Bourgeois Motherhood in the Mid-Victorian Era’, in Rewriting the Victorians: Theory, History and the Politics of Gender, ed. Linda M. Shires (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 31–51Google Scholar
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    Jill L. Matus, Unstable Bodies: Victorian Representations of Sexuality and Maternity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), p. 160.Google Scholar
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    Craft, ‘“Kiss Me With Those Red Lips”’, p. 181. See also R. J. Dingley, ‘Count Dracula and the Martians’, in The Victorian Fantasists: Essays on Culture, Society and Belief in the Mythopoeic Fiction of the Victorian Age, edited by Kath Filmer (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), pp. 13–24Google Scholar
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    Matthew C. Brennan, ‘Repression, Knowledge, and Saving Souls: The Role of the “New Woman” in Stoker’s Dracula and Murnau’s Nosferatu’, Studies in the Humanities 19:1 (June, 1992), pp. 1–10Google Scholar
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    Grant Allen, The Woman Who Did (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 59Google Scholar
  27. 41.
    Nicholas Daly, ‘Irish Roots: Bram Stoker’s The Snake’s Pass and the Imaginary Spaces of Empire’, Literature and History 4.2 (1995), pp. 42–70Google Scholar
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    William Shakespeare, King Lear, edited by Kenneth Muir (London: Methuen, 1972), V.III. 171–2.Google Scholar
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    Jeffrey L. Spear, ‘Gender and Sexual Dis-Ease in Dracula’, in Virginal Sexuality and Textuality in Victorian Literature, ed. Lloyd Davis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), pp. 179–92Google Scholar
  30. 47.
    Phyllis Roth, ‘Suddenly Sexual Women in Stoker’s Dracula’, Literature and Psychology 27 (1977), pp. 113–21Google Scholar

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© Lisa Hopkins 2007

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