Bram Stoker (1847-1912)

5 Stoker“How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”   – Dracula (1897)

Bram Stoker (1847-1912) was born in Clontarf, Dublin, and educated at Trinity College. As a young man he worked as a civil servant at Dublin Castle, and as an unpaid theatre critic for local newspapers. He is best known today for his classic horror novel Dracula (1897), but during his lifetime he was known as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving, and business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London. Other notable works include The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906), The Lair of the White Worm (1911), and the posthumously published collections Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories (1914) and Old Hoggen and Other Adventures (2017).

13e09088602f1915cef60bed8012b2e9Novels and Collections

The Snake’s Pass (1890)

Dracula (1897)

The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903)

The Lady of the Shroud (1909)

Lair of the White Worm (1911)

Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories (1914)

Old Hoggen and Other Adventures (2017)

Short Stories

“The Judge’s House” (1891)

“Old Hoggen: A Mystery” (1893)

“Burial of the Rats” (1896)

“Dracula’s Guest” (1914)

Find out more about Irish Writers of the Fantastic.


Old HoggenSwan River Press has a number of Bram Stoker publications available, including the limited edition Old Hoggen and Other Adventures, which collects numerous rare and hitherto uncollected stories by the master of the macabre.

We also have three issues of The Green Book that feature Stoker material, including John Edgar Browning’s interview with Stoker’s most recent biographer, David J. Skal, Elizabeth Miller’s fascinating “Shape-shifting Dracula: The Abridged Edition of 1901″, and Carol A. Senf’s essay on The Snake’s Pass and Lady Athlyne.

Finally, there’s our Bram Stoker Series of hand-sewn booklets. The Stoker Series was originally published from 2009 to 2011. We launched the series as a means to investigate some of the more obscure but no less interesting corners of Bram Stoker’s life and literature. The sort of fragments that might otherwise not find their way into publication.

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Bram Stoker (1847-1912)

Preface to Bram Stoker’s Old Hoggen

Old HoggenTwo years after his death, the estate of Bram Stoker issued a posthumous collection of short stories by the late author. Published by George Routledge & Sons, Ltd. in April of 1914, Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories is now a frequently reprinted horror collection, a fine showcase of Stoker’s most macabre, grotesque, and sometimes darkly humorous fictions. He included stories previously published in English and American periodicals, many of them now considered classics of the genre, such as “The Judge’s House”, “Burial of the Rats”, and “The Squaw”. With the exception of “The Gipsey Prophecy”, these stories first saw print in the 1890s — although exactly when they had originally been written is still a mystery even to the most ardent Stoker bibliographer.

Despite the collection’s impressive crop of tales, what really entices readers to its pages is undoubtedly the title story. That was probably the intention too. “Dracula’s Guest” is cannily sequenced as the lead story, giving the collection both its title and allure. In her brief preface to the volume, Stoker’s widow Florence notes that she herself had added to the contents this “hitherto unpublished episode from Dracula [ . . . ] originally excised owing to the length of the book”. She most certainly did this with some sense of business acumen. In some ways, “Dracula’s Guest” served as a sort of informal sequel to Dracula, and Florence Stoker was certainly correct to surmise that this addition “may prove of interest to the many readers of what is considered my husband’s most remarkable work.”

DraculasGuest“Dracula’s Guest”, atmospheric and other-worldly in execution, has caused over a century of head scratching in Stoker scholarship circles: How exactly does this excised episode fit into Dracula? What accounts for the inconsistencies between the story and the novel? Did a ghost writer contribute to “Dracula’s Guest” in whole or in part? These questions have been explored sufficiently elsewhere, and there is little point in discussing them again here.

Florence, however, did raise another mystery in her preface, a question not as frequently pondered, but no less provocative: “A few months before the lamented death of my husband — I might say even as the shadow of death was over him — he planned three series of short stories for publication, and the present volume is one of them.” If Dracula’s Guest was the first of three collections, then what were the other two?

Within the past decade, a number of hitherto unknown writings by Stoker have been discovered in British, American, Australian, and Irish periodicals, adding profoundly to the scholarship of the previous century. These discoveries include short stories, interviews, articles, essays, sketches, and poems; some have appeared in disparate Stoker-related publications over the past decades, others remain obscure.

Though usually identified with his seminal horror novel Dracula, Stoker was far from confined to just the horror genre. If one looks at this expanded list of Stoker’s uncollected stories — those not included in Under the Sunset (1881), Snowbound (1908), or Dracula’s Guest (1914) — certain themes begin to emerge. Whereas Dracula’s Guest collects Stoker’s “weird stories”, the uncollected tales can loosely be categorised as tales of romance or tales of adventure. The stories we have gathered for the present volume fall distinctly into the latter group, though as with much of what Stoker wrote, touches of the macabre, grotesque, romantic, and darkly humorous are still to be found throughout.

Jacket PortraitWhile I would not presume to claim that Old Hoggen and Other Adventures is a long-lost classic by Bram Stoker, I do hope that it stands as a tantalising possibility, one of the other two collections Stoker was planning in his final years. Rather, the book you now hold in your hands I hope will be read as the collection that might have been.

Had Bram Stoker lived longer, he might have selected and edited these works differently. But, as fate has entrusted to us their issuance, I hope that it is fitting and proper to let these adventures go forth as Stoker had left them, and for the enjoyment of a new generation of readers.


A hardback, limited edition of Bram Stoker’s Old Hoggen and Other Adventures is available to order from Swan River Press. With a cover by Jason Zerrillo and an Introduction by John Edgar Browning and Brian J. Showers. Order a copy here.

Preface to Bram Stoker’s Old Hoggen

Sorry, lads! Dracula’s Not Irish . . .

11870726_1169355833079619_2823073069956155397_nA few doors down from where I work is a boarding house in which Bram Stoker once lodged for a few months before permanently relocating to London, where he would work for much the rest of his life for the celebrated actor Sir Henry Irving. Other than that, the house is notable as being the only building in Dublin with a plaque on it dedicated to Stoker—and, by the way, some think it might not even be the correct building. But that’s a rant for another day.

Anyway, numerous times per day, tour guides passing on buses proclaim from their crackling loudspeakers that Stoker got the name “Dracula” from the Irish phrase “droch fhola“, meaning “bad blood”. Unfortunately this is complete rubbish and little more than a coincidental homophone. A nice one, I’ll admit that, but . . .

draculabritishfirstissuefirstedition-e4ecce78I usually hear the false “droch fhola” claim repeated in locally-produced documentaries or in pamphlets focused on labouring the well-established biographical fact of Stoker’s Irish origin. I’m guessing this is probably a vain attempt to hitch (and therefore legitimise?) Stoker’s best-known novel to the national identity—as if Stoker simply being a Dubliner isn’t enough, he needs to have written a thoroughly Irish novel, apparently. (By the way, if you’re looking for an Irish novel by Stoker, check out his first book The Snake’s Pass published in 1890. It’s a cracking read!)

As a rule of thumb, however, beware anyone who tells you they know what Dracula is really about. That it is, for example, a veiled commentary on the nineteenth-century Irish absentee landlord system. It’s a fair reading of the novel, sure, but that’s different from declaring such an interpretation as Stoker’s own clever and intentional encoding.

I’d also discard immediately any genealogist who makes the claim that Dracula was inspired by Stoker’s distant relative, the sixteenth-century Irish lord Manus “the Magnificent” O’Donnell. While I won’t dispute that Stoker and O’Donnell share DNA—many of us on the island probably do anyway, not to mention said genealogist also certified Barack Obama as Irish—but I do have a problem with someone making the further claim that this, of course, must then be the true inspiration for Dracula. Notice a trend here? (Cue Carly Simon: ” . . . you probably think this song is about you.”)

Stoker_Dracula_Notes_PersonalFor all of the confusion and misinformation that obscures Stoker’s novel like a thick Victorian fog, there is one primary resource we do have that’s really quite amazing: Bram Stoker’s own working notes for Dracula. The notes were published in a beautiful facsimile edition with transcriptions and annotations by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller. Dr. Miller, by the way, also wrote a book called Dracula: Sense & Nonsense. She wrote it to dispel the enormous mountains of bullshit and fabricated mythologies that have accumulated over the decades and now obstruct the popular perception of the original novel. Crab-induced nightmares, anyone?

But let’s get back to this “droch fhola” bullshit and Stoker’s working notes for Dracula. It’s a fascinating collection of documents and if you’re at all interested in Stoker you might want to have a look at it. Among the extensive notes, Stoker tells us exactly where he got the name “Dracula”. And it’s got nothing to do with Ireland at all. Sorry, lads! Here, have a look for yourself:

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I’d say Stoker’s own notes are a lot more convincing than all that wishful speculation and naval-gazing, don’t you? And just for good measure, here’s the page from Wilkinson’s Principalities of Wallachia and Moldovia (courtesy of the John Moore Collection) that Stoker is referring to in the above note. It’s even the very same edition he would have looked at in the Whitby Library in August 1890 :

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If you’re really interested in Stoker and Dracula, here’s a core list of books I’d suggest you read. The first one might seem a little obvious to state, but when I first read Dr. Miller’s Sense & Nonsense, I noted how many times she upended a spurious assertion simply by quoting directly from the novel. So, first up:

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. Archibald Constable, 1897.

Next we have some immediate works about Dracula. Anyone serious about investigating the novel needs to borrow these from the library:

  • Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula. Annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller. McFarland & Co., 2008.
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Critical Feast [a collection of contemporary reviews] edited by John Edgar Browning. Acryphile Press, 2012.
  • Dracula: Sense & Nonsense by Elizabeth Miller. Desert Island, 2000 (rev. 2006).

These next two are vitally important because they’re the main documents where Stoker gives us any real personal insight, and even then there’s not much:

  • The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years. Edited by Elizabeth Miller and Dacre Stoker. Biteback Publishing, 2013.
  • Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving by Bram Stoker. William Heinemann, 1906.

And see, that’s the main problem. Stoker never really wrote that much about himself. Most of what we know about Stoker is inferred from other sources. That’s why making claims about Stoker’s “true” intentions is problematic. As for biographies, until David J. Skal’s Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker comes out later next year, I will refer you to:

  • From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker by Paul Murry. Jonathan Cape, 2004.
  • “Mr. Stoker’s Holiday” by Christopher Frayling in Bram Stoker: Centenary Essays edited by Jarlath Killeen. Four Courts Press, 2014. [A dazzling investigation of Stoker’s time in Whitby.]

On the other hand, if you’ve got access to some primary source of information that indicates Stoker was familiar with the phrase “droch fhola“, or even that he knew some Irish, you really ought to share it with the rest of usbecause it would be a major literary discovery.

Next week, we’ll be discussing whether or not the mummies of St. Michan’s church were the inspiration for Draculaand the further assertion that the young Stoker used to play amongst the tombstones there as a child. How a child who was an invalid until the age of seven could play in a churchyard is beyond meand why his mother allowed the fragile boy to travel to the other side of Dublin, when there were perfectly good churchyards much closer to the house, is probably a matter for the Department of Child Welfare and Protection. One might as well head to Transylvania on an expedition for the “real” Castle Dracula. (Hint: try the first four chapters instead.)

Until then, class dismissed!


For those with a further interest in Bram Stoker, Swan River Press has recently published a hitherto unknown ghost story by Stoker. It appears in print for the first time since its original publication in 1873 in issue six of our flagship journal The Green Book. You can order a copy here.

Green Book 6

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Sorry, lads! Dracula’s Not Irish . . .