Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Next Jane Austen Tea Society Read For April


by Bram Stoker

"Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor's clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner?"
 Chapter 2 - Dracula

Have you ever been on a business trip that just went terribly wrong somewhere along the way?

It starts innocently enough. You enjoy the scenery. It’s always fun to try new regional cuisine and you happily take down recipes to share with friends and to try back home. And you love seeing all of the colorful clothes and fashion styles in a new and unfamiliar culture.

But then someone makes a furtive sign with their hand that you learn afterwards “guards against the evil eye” and they murmur words behind your back that you look up in your handy polyglot dictionary only to find out that they mean “vampire”
No generous expense account is going to help you to feel much better.

If your Hampton Inn desk clerk begs you not to travel on but you insist that this trip is a necessary part of your job… If by chance she gives you a cross…. Just put it on. Seriously.

And so - basically - begins the famous epistolary novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

An early, unknown childhood disease kept young Abraham Stoker bedridden and left to his imagination and thoughts. Did time alone engender the stories that would later bring him to fame or was it his mother’s Irish wit and storytelling abilities… some of which may have strayed into the Irish folkloric areas of horror and superstition filled with evil spirits and vampires …

Born Abraham Stoker on November 8, 1847 in the northern side of Dublin, Ireland, Bram Stoker progressed from the innately quiet, pensive child into an athletic youth. Educated at a private school and then at Trinity College in Dublin he graduated with honors in mathematics and showed a flair for philosophy.

But throughout all Bram retained a love for writing and drama, which eventually lead him into the position of theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail. He began writing in earnest, producing reviews on current plays, various stories and a non-fiction book.

In 1898 Bram and his wife Florence moved to London for Bram to take a role as acting manager for then celebrated theatre star Henry Irving and to manage Irving’s London theater, the Lyceum. He became acquainted with worldwide high society and the popular literary community of the day. Bram traveled to many countries as Irving’s manager, but never visited the area where his most famous work was centered around – Eastern Europe.

Many theories have spread regarding exactly where the idea for Dracula came from, but the answer is not clear. It is known that he began a story revolving around a vampire after spending seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires and then settled on the key name of Dracula during a visit to Whitby, a town located on the North Sea about 50 miles northeast of York, England. Actually begun in 1890, the book Dracula was first published in 1897.

One of the most prominent of the Gothic authors writing at the end of the Victorian age of literature, Bram Stoker died in London on April 20th, 1912. He was cremated and his ashes placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium and Mausoleum – the first crematorium to be opened in London, and one of the oldest crematoriums in Britain. Should you visit, you can - on request - be escorted to see Bram’s ashes…

There is a Bram Stoker Memorial Seat in Whitby where one may sit and look across the harbor to the well-worn & well-known stone steps, St. Mary’s Church and the picturesque Abbey ruins… And as dusk falls on a cold & windblown day, one might easily picture the “Demeter” coming ashore amidst wave & mist. Just don’t sit there until night completely falls.

The next read for The Jane Austen Tea Society and our study of British Victorian authors will be – Dracula by Bram Stoker. You have plenty of time to exorcise a book from your local book monger or library! Start reading! Our book tea to discuss this atmospheric & highly discussable read will be April 21st!