- Bram Stoker: Forgotten Writings
I’M AWARE that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Bram Stoker’s writing and that many people still think of him as the creator of a single book, Dracula. However, a number of events in 2012 (including the Bram Stoker Centenary Conference in Hull and the Bram Stoker Conference at Trinity College) indicate that Stoker is experiencing a modest revival and that both scholars and fans are studying his other books not simply as context for Dracula but as valuable works in their own right. Joining Catherine Wynne’s two-volume collection, Bram Stoker and the Stage: Reviews, Reminiscences, Essays and Fiction (2012), Browning’s own Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’: The Critical Feast, An Annotated Reference of Early Reviews and Reactions, 1897–1913 (2011), and The Dublin Years: The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker (2012), edited [End Page 273] by Elizabeth Miller and Dacre Stoker, The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker is essential reading for anyone who is interested in Stoker. It is also useful reading for anyone interested in Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Hall Caine, fin-de-siècle literature and culture, the theater, Dracula, Irish literature, the Gothic, and genre fiction. In addition, Palgrave has published a beautiful book. Printed on high-quality paper, it has wide margins as well as a number of photographs and illustrations previously unknown. It is also priced so that even graduate students and independent scholars can afford it. Even better, it is also available in e-book format for people who have run out of space on their bookshelves or simply prefer a digital format. Whatever the format, however, The Forgotten Writings will reward readers with new insights about Stoker and his times.
Browning, who edits the current collection and provides useful bibliographical notes as well as an insightful introduction, gained archival experience when he compiled the recent Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’: The Critical Feast. Spending two years searching through the archives of newspapers, Browning located these previously unknown works by Stoker and moved one step toward the compilation of a complete bibliography of Stoker’s writing to supplement the 2004 bibliography by Richard Dalby and William Hughes. As a result of Browning’s methodical work (he generously thanks his fellow graduate students at SUNY–Buffalo and LSU for their help with transcription), readers can explore works of fiction, poetry, and journalism, study three works never before reprinted, and see how Stoker’s contemporaries viewed him. Last, the facsimile of the catalogue printed for the sale of Stoker’s personal library provides numerous insights about what Stoker read and the people he valued. The result is a more nuanced picture of the mysterious Stoker who, despite four biographies and his memoir of Irving, remains elusive.
Browning divides the collection into seven sections: poetry; fiction; journalism; interviews with Stoker; rare and uncollected works by Stoker; period writings about Stoker; and the catalogue of Stoker’s books, letters, and other memorabilia. Depending on an individual reader’s particular interest, he or she is likely to find certain sections or even particular works especially illuminating.
Because Stoker is generally remembered as a writer of prose, the first section, which includes two poems, may come as a surprise. While neither poem is substantial enough to cause literary historians to reclassify Stoker as a poet, “The Member for the Strand” (1890) is interesting [End Page 274] for what it has to say about the theatrical community, and “The Wrongs of Grosvenor Square” (1892) relevant for its use of dialect and its sensitivity to nineteenth-century class issues.
Of greater interest to me is the second section, which includes several short stories that have escaped study until Browning made them readily available. “Old Hoggen: A Mystery” (1893) combines Gothic touches with low comedy and thus demonstrates that the chapter in Dracula that features Van Helsing’s “King Laugh” speech is not an anomaly. “A Baby Passenger” (1899), “Lucky Escapes of Sir Henry Irving” (1900), and “What They Confessed: A Low Comedian’s Story” (1908) are all versions of stories that...