Here was a six-foot-two Irishman with a red beard -- a Victorian family man, a spirited debater, and the author of novels and short stories largely forgotten today. All, of course, except for Dracula, which has enjoyed countless stage and screen incarnations and transformations and haunted the dreams of many generations. Bram Stoker lived at the very center of late-Victorian social and artistic life and numbered among his friends Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Whistler, Gladstone, and Tennyson. But it was his relationship with the mesmerizing, domineering actor Henry Irving that may have played the most crucial role in Stoker's life -- a real-life monster who ultimately led to Stoker's most famous creation. In this book that the Baltimore Sun called "superb, " Barbara Belford draws on unpublished archival material to reveal the links between the reticent author's life, his vampire tale, and the political, occult, cultural, and sexual background of the 1890's.
"As Belford depicts him in this fine biography, Bram Stoker was a charming but self-effacing figure overshadowed in his lifetime by his flamboyant employer, larger-than-life actor Henry Irving, then overshadowed after death by his greatest creation, Dracula. Indeed, the beauty of Belford's fine work is that it gives us the marvelous full portrait of a man used to yielding the spotlight to other men. During the course of this vivid, painstakingly researched book, we get to know intimately two Stokers: the efficient, detail-oriented theater manager, as responsible for the remarkable success of London's famed Lyceum Theatre as Irving, its star, and the secret man of letters who in his youth obsessively loved Whitman's then controversial Leaves of Grass but didn't start writing seriously until his late 30s and then produced mostly potboilers. Only Dracula was written with the devotion and care that make a masterpiece--a fact that clearly fascinates Belford, who weaves tightly into a chronological biography a scholarly yet still immensely readable second book, an examination of Stoker's sources and inspirations that will especially gratify those who regard Dracula as more than just a yarn about vampires. --Jack Helbig"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Bram Stoker's son claimed that the plot of Dracula (1897) came to his father "in a nightmarish dream after eating too much dressed crab.'' Despite some melodramatic prose, that comment is as exciting as this biography of Stoker (1847-1912) gets. How a boring Victorian Dubliner could have produced the creepiest horror novel of his time remains one of the mysteries of fictional creativity. Belford, biographer of Violet Hunt, has struggled with the problem and sees in Stoker's mesmerizing employer, actor-impresario Henry Irving, the sinister reflection of Vlad the Impaler, but the part-time author, who was the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, remains bloodless. A tempestuous inner life, fired by sexual frustration (although Stoker was married to an Irish beauty) and omnivorous reading in lurid subliterature, is as close to a solution as we get here. Since Stoker's routine, whether Irving's company traveled or stayed put, was prosaic, Belford often segues to his London acquaintances or his restaurant menus, and sights foreshadowings of Dracula far and near. For those who have been frozen in their armchairs by the spell of Stoker's unforgettable vampire, or who are riveted by its hardly hidden sexual pathology, Stoker's life will be an anticlimax. Illustrations. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved