Bram Stoker

Abraham "Bram" Stoker was born near Dublin on November 8, 1847, the third of seven children. An unidentified illness kept him virtually bedridden until age seven. Was the ailment of physical or psychological origin? Was it responsible for Stoker's periodic lapses into morbidity? As with so much of Stoker's life, the truth of this matter remains shrouded in mystery.

Although he remained shy and bookish, in his adolescence Bram Stoker was anything but sickly. Perhaps to make amends for his earlier frailty, he was by this time developing into a fine athlete. At Trinity College, Dublin, he would conquer his shyness and be named University Athlete for his skill in soccer and the marathon walking event. And so he was not the frail figure we might have imagined, but a robust and genial young man, outgoing, bearded, and deft in debate, who graduated Trinity with honors in mathematics and turned his attention to the task of making a living.

Young Bram had always dreamed of becoming a writer, but his father had safer plans. Yielding to the elder's wishes, he followed his father into a career as a civil servant in Dublin Castle. While climbing the civil service ladder, he wrote a dry tome entitled Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland. This book of rules, however, would not be published until 1879, by which time Stoker would be married, living in another country, and immersed in a new career.

During his eight-year stint in the civil service, Stoker continued to write stories, the first of which, a dream fantasy entitled "The Crystal Cup" (1872), was published by The London Society. A serialized four-part horror piece, entitled "The Chain of Destiny" followed three years later in the The Shamrock. He also found time to take unpaid positions as theatrical critic for Dublin's Evening Mail and, later, as editor of The Irish Echo.

At Trinity, Stoker had been dazzled by the acting talent of Henry Irving, whom he had seen in a performance at Dublin's Theatre Royal. Almost a decade later, Irving returned to Dublin to star in the role of Hamlet. Stoker's complimentary reviews in the Mail must have been appreciated by the actor, for he invited the critic to meet him backstage. A friendship developed from that meeting which would last for nearly thirty years.

Two years later, in 1878, Irving offered Stoker the job of actor-manager at London's Lyceum Theatre. Stoker promptly resigned the civil service, married Florence Balcombe, the nineteen-year-old beauty he had planned to wed the following year, and set off for his new life in London. Within a year, Florence had given birth to their only child, a son, Noel, but Stoker and his wife, though continuing to keep up appearances, are said to have become estranged.

In any case, Stoker's heavy workload must have left him little time for home life. His duties included keeping track of more than a hundred and twenty staff member, handling international tour arrangements, writing volumes of correspondence, balancing the Lyceum's books and protecting the wildly-admired actor from those who would exploit his fame.

Still, amazingly, Stoker somehow found the time to write fiction. His first book, Under the Sunset (1882), consisted of eight eerie fairy tales for children. His first full-length novel, The Snake's Pass, was published in 1890. That same year marks the beginning of Stoker's research for his masterwork, Dracula, which, seen years later, would launch its bloodthirsty protagonist, Count Dracula (if not the author himself), on a course toward world-wide acclaim.