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Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula

de Barbara Belford

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1021205,160 (4.06)3
The first full-scale biography of the complex man known today as the author of Dracula, but who was famous in his own time as the innovative manager of London's Lyceum Theatre, home of the greatest English actors of the day, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Barbara Belford tells the story of Stoker the hidden man. On the surface: the very model of Victorian modesty, reserve, and duty, the devoted husband and father. In actuality: a man whose emotional and working energies were in large part expended on the care and cultivation of the flamboyant, mesmerizing genius of the stage, Henry Irving. We follow Stoker from his sickly childhood - entertained by his mother's twice-told tales of Irish hobgoblins and banshees - to his years as a Dublin undergraduate student and newspaperman, when he first wrote to his idol Walt Whitman, spilling out his innermost thoughts and beginning a lifelong correspondence that culminated in their meeting when Stoker traveled to America on tour with Irving and Ellen Terry. We see Stoker's childhood friendship with Oscar Wilde, and watch as the two young men compete for the hand of the beautiful Florence Balcombe, who became Stoker's wife. And we see Stoker in the literary and theatrical circles of Victorian London among such figures as Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Whistler, Lord Tennyson, and George Bernard Shaw.… (més)
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The trouble with this book is that I was left feeling no real impression of the nature and personality of the man; so much so that I specifically made a margin note (my copy is a softcover and I annotate those liberally) on p. 288 where Belford quotes an American newspaper account of Stoker - "He - a great, shambling, good-natured overgrown boy ... wide-open full grey eyes that gaze so frankly into yours ... hard to imagine Bram Stoker a business manager, to say nothing of his possessing an imagination capable of projecting Dracula ..." I felt that this was the first glimpse I'd had of the real man; I now feel it was the only one. Belford, quite early in the book, sets up an idea of Stoker as a shadowy, almost unknowable figure in the background behind Henry Irving; but, surely, with the comparatively high profile Stoker had in London and on American tours, there must be more material in memoirs and letters of the period to get us closer to him?

In fact, she gave me much more of an impression of the characters and personalities of some of the 'supporting cast', especially Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.

This wasn't helped by Belford's habit of attributing to Stoker various internal emotional reactions to situations and happenings without giving any evidence for the attributions other than the occasional 'he must have'. This made me a little sceptical towards anything she had to say about Stoker's psychology.

On the subject of attribution, I suppose it is a bit carping to complain about the book's method of citation, which doesn't include any markers on the page itself - I found it irritating, but probably that's just me.

Having said all that, I should say that it's a good first introduction to Stoker's life. It seems, as much as I'm capable of judging, to lay out the main facts of his upbringing, education, and careers as a writer and in the theatre. Also, Belford has an easy style; I found the book generally very readable and rarely - if ever - heavy-going.

I'm giving it three and half stars. This is the first biography of Bram Stoker I've read and I learned a lot from it, but I was left rather unsatisfied at the end of it. ( )
  alaudacorax | Aug 15, 2013 |
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"I only slept a few hours when I went to bed, and feeling that I could not sleep any more, got up. I had hung my shaving glass by thr window, and was just beginning to shave: Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, and heard the Count's voice saying to me 'Good morning.' I started, for it amazed me that I had not seen him, since the reflection of the glass covered the whole room behind me...but there was no sign of a man in it, except myself." - Jonathan Harker's Journal
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The unseen face in the mirror reflects the soul.
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Whatever your inner life may be - and unhappiness never leaves a heart quite free from pain - never forget that a sorrow has not lost its sting till we can look at it with complacence and yet judge the present by the standard of the ideal.
If Florence had married [Wilde], it (the 'downfall') would never have happened, I am not so sure. No woman could have permanently curbed that restless mind. - Eleanor Knott
If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come - the readiness is all. - Hamlet
As one that on a lonesome road / Doth walk in fear and dread, / And, having once turned round, walks on / And turns no more his head, / Because he knows a frightful fiend / Doth close behind him tread
As we looked there came a terrible convulsion of the earth so that we seemed to rock to and fro and fell to our knees. At the same moment, with a roar which seemed to shake the very heavens, the whole castle and the rock and even the hill on which it stood seemed to rise into the air and scatter in fragments while a mighty cloud of black and yellow smoke volume on volume in rolling grandeur was shot upwards with inconceivable rapidity...From where we stood it seemed as though the one fierce volcano burst had satisfied the need of nature and that the castle and the structure of the hill had sunk again into the void. We were so appalled with the suddenness and the grandeur that we forgot to think of ourselves. - Missing 195 words from the ending of Dracula
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The first full-scale biography of the complex man known today as the author of Dracula, but who was famous in his own time as the innovative manager of London's Lyceum Theatre, home of the greatest English actors of the day, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Barbara Belford tells the story of Stoker the hidden man. On the surface: the very model of Victorian modesty, reserve, and duty, the devoted husband and father. In actuality: a man whose emotional and working energies were in large part expended on the care and cultivation of the flamboyant, mesmerizing genius of the stage, Henry Irving. We follow Stoker from his sickly childhood - entertained by his mother's twice-told tales of Irish hobgoblins and banshees - to his years as a Dublin undergraduate student and newspaperman, when he first wrote to his idol Walt Whitman, spilling out his innermost thoughts and beginning a lifelong correspondence that culminated in their meeting when Stoker traveled to America on tour with Irving and Ellen Terry. We see Stoker's childhood friendship with Oscar Wilde, and watch as the two young men compete for the hand of the beautiful Florence Balcombe, who became Stoker's wife. And we see Stoker in the literary and theatrical circles of Victorian London among such figures as Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Whistler, Lord Tennyson, and George Bernard Shaw.

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