Peter Haining & Peter Tremayne - The Un-Dead: The Legend of Bram Stoker and Dracula (Constable, 1997)
Front: The famous mummies in the vaults of St. Michan's church, Dublin Back: Bram Stoker in 1884.
The Making of a Legend The Secret of the Trunks Was Dracula Irish? The Curious Class of ’65 The Drak’ola of Irish Folklore The Vampire Lovers The Colonel’s Daughter George Stoker: The Real Progenitor of Dracula? The Writing of ‘The Un-Dead’ The Castle of Dracula The Count in London The Mystery of Stoker’s Death
Acknowledgements and Selected Bibliography Index
One hundred years ago, in June 1897, Constable & Co of London published a novel by Bram Stoker - Dracula - one of the most extraordinary literary creations of any age. Since its first publication it has never been out of print; it has sold millions of copies and has generated a host of stage, screen and television adaptations to become part of world folklore. This centenary volume is not just another biography of Bram Stoker, nor yet one more literary dissertation on the novel that he originally entitled ‘The Un—Dead’. The amazing discovery a few years ago of the original manuscript — in an old trunk full of dead rats — has finally solved the mystery as to how, when and where Stoker wrote his masterpiece. In a brilliant and painstaking piece of literary research, the authors reveal for the first time many of the real people and places that Stoker drew upon in writing Dracula. In particular they argue that his first thirty—one years in Ireland have been grossly disregarded or wildly misrepresented. Bringing Stoker back from the realms of misinformation and speculative fantasy, this book is full of new knowledge essential to the understanding of Stoker’s classic novel.
I like the novel well enough, but was never much interested in the mechanics of the thing, hence The Un-dead having to wait its turn. Can only speculate as to which of the Peter's was driving force behind the project; six pages of selected bibliography and sober tone overall suggests Mr. Tremayne, but - who knows? Of particular interest to this reader - other than Haining, or at least, his co-author lambasting previous biographers for playing fast and loose with the 'facts,' (!), that is - a chapter exploring the Count's London exploits, not least for it's gleeful trashing of the popular misconception(?) that the staking of Lucy Westenra is perpetrated in the Western grounds of Highg**e Cemetery.
"The authors have attended guided tours of the cemetery in which enthusiastic guides have recounted the story, entirely without foundation, of how Bram would come on a Sunday afternoon to Highg**e Cemetery to take tea (a peculiar Victorian pastime), and even pointed to a particular mausoleum as the Westenra tomb." Oh no, not so, argue the Peters (in the context of this book, quite convincingly, as it happens). The setting for the novel's most spectacularly sadistic scene, they claim, is a vault in St. Mary's churchyard, Hendon, a burial ground which, in 1828, had seen its own "vampire-like outrage" (their words, not mine) when a young student, Henry Holm, was fined £5 for committing "an outrage to public decency." Our graveyard ghoul dug up and decapitated the corpse of his mother for the purpose of identifying any trace of a hereditary disorder.
The chapter on Bram's death is typical of a book that raises more questions than answers. Authors spend three pages disputing Daniel Farson's assertion that great-uncle died of a syphilis-related liver malfunction, fail to convince otherwise, and conclude they can only record a verdict of case unproven "in the interests of total accuracy."
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.