Abraham "Bram" Stoker was born on 8 November 1847 in Clontarf, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, the third of seven children--William Thornley, Mathilda, Thomas, Richard, Margaret, and George--born to Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornely (1818-1901) and Abraham Stoker (1799-1876), Civil Servant. He was a sickly child, spending great amounts of time in bed, hardly able to walk. However, he recovered and in 1864 he entered Trinity College, Dublin to study mathematics. Although he had been practically invalid until he was seven, he became involved in athletics, and won many awards. He was also elected President of the Philosophical Society.
After he had graduated with honours in 1870, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Civil Service with Dublin Castle, which inspired his The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland(1879). From his great love of the arts Stoker also started to write theatre reviews for the Dublin Evening Mail. One particular review of a performance of William Shakespeare's Hamlet with actor Henry Irving (1838-1905) in the lead role brought a great friendship between the two men and in 1878 Irving asked Stoker to be the manager of his Lyceum Theatre in London, England, a position he held for almost thirty years. This also gave him the opportunity to travel around the world in Irving's tours.
Later Stoker published Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (2 volumes, 1906) and Snowbound: The Record of a Theatrical Touring Party (1908) which includes such theatre-based stories as "The Slim Syrens", "Mick the Devil", and "A Star Trap".
In 1878 Stoker married actress Florence Balcombe (1858-1937) with whom he had a son, Irving Noel Thornley (1879-1961). Stoker left his job in Dublin and the couple settled in London. It was here that Stoker became the company of many famous actors and other notable authors of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among them.
In 1890 Stoker spent his holiday in the North-east coast fishing village of Whitby in Yorkshire, where it is said he gleaned much inspiration for his novel Dracula.
Stoker is thought to have begun research for a vampire novel as early as 1890, and there are many rumours surrounding the origins of the tale. Stoker’s son Noel apparently claimed that the novel originated in a nightmare his father had had after eating too much dressed crab. Others have said that a visit to Slains Castle at Cruden Bay was the inspiration for the story and that Stoker began writing the novel in Cruden Bay. Others point to the figure of Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler as the inspiration for Count Dracula. However all these versions of events have been disputed by critics, and appropriately for a horror novel the true inspirations for the Count seem shrouded in mystery. Certainly much of novel seems to originate in Stoker’s reading. He never visited Transylvania, despite the vivid descriptions in Dracula, and took all his local colour and accounts of local legends from research. The characterisations of the vampires, particularly the women, owe something to Sheridan Lefanu’s 1871 novel Carmilla, and it has been suggested that the epistolary form of the novel was influenced by Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White, which is also told in diary form. However Stoker’s use of “supporting documentation” in the form of letters and fictional newspaper articles, adds to the form. The novel was published in 1897, but as late as May of that year Stoker was using his original title “The Un-dead” – a term he coined and one that is indelibly associated with Dracula to this day.
Other works by Stoker include The Mystery of the Sea (1902), his Egyptian mummy-themed The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), The Man(also titled The Gates of Life 1905),Lady Athlyne (1908), The Lady of the Shroud (1909), Famous Impostors(1910), and The Lair of the White Worm (1911) which also includes elements found in Dracula like unseen evil, strange creatures, inexplicable events, and supernatural horrors.
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