Wednesday May 26, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Count Dracula
On this Day:
In 1897, “Dracula” by Irish author Bram Stoker was published by Archibald Constable and Company in London.
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic fiction, and invasion literature. The novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film, and television interpretations.
Dracula is an epistolary novel, told through letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, telegrams, and a ship’s log. The novel is set mostly in Transylvania and England, and unfolds mostly chronologically between 3 May and 6 November.
Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, visits Count Dracula at his castle in the Carpathian Mountains to help the Count purchase a house near London. Ignoring the Count’s warning, Harker wanders the castle and encounters three vampire women; Dracula rescues him, and Harker realises that he is a vampire, too. Soon after, Dracula leaves the castle, abandoning Harker to the women; Harker escapes with his life and ends up delirious in a Budapest hospital. Dracula takes a ship for England, with boxes of earth from his castle. The captain’s log narrates the crew’s disappearance, until he alone remains, bound to the helm to maintain course. An animal resembling a large dog is seen leaping ashore when the ship runs aground at Whitby.
Lucy Westenra’s letter to her best friend, Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray, describes her marriage proposals from Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood. Lucy accepts Holmwood’s, but all remain friends. Mina joins her friend Lucy on holiday in Whitby. Lucy begins sleepwalking. After his ship lands there, Dracula stalks Lucy. Mina receives a letter about her missing fiancé’s illness, and goes to Budapest to nurse him. Lucy becomes very ill. Seward’s old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, determines the nature of Lucy’s condition, but refuses to disclose it. He diagnoses her with acute blood-loss. Van Helsing places garlic flowers around her room and makes her a necklace of them.
Lucy’s mother removes the garlic flowers, not knowing they repel vampires. While Seward and Van Helsing are absent, Lucy and her mother are terrified by a wolf and Mrs. Westenra dies of a heart attack. Lucy dies shortly thereafter. After her burial, newspapers report children being stalked in the night by a beautiful lady, and Van Helsing deduces it is her. The four go to her tomb and see that she is a vampire. They stake her heart, behead her, and fill her mouth with garlic. Jonathan Harker and his now-wife Mina have returned, and they join the campaign against Dracula.
Everyone stays at Dr. Seward’s asylum as the men begin to hunt Dracula. Van Helsing finally shares what he knows about Dracula and vampires, so all will better understand Dracula’s actions and predict his movements. Vampires can only rest on earth from their homeland. Dracula communicates with Seward’s patient, Renfield, an insane man who eats vermin to absorb their life force. After Dracula learns of the group’s plot against him, he uses Renfield to enter the asylum. He secretly attacks Mina three times, drinking her blood each time and forcing Mina to drink his blood on the final visit. She is cursed to become a vampire after her death unless Dracula is killed.
As the men find Dracula’s properties, they also discover many earth boxes within. The vampire hunters open each of the boxes and seal wafers of the host inside them; the sacrament makes the boxes useless to Dracula. They attempt to trap Dracula in his Piccadilly house, but he escapes. They learn that Dracula is fleeing to his castle in Transylvania with his last box. Mina has a faint psychic connection to Dracula, which Van Helsing exploits via hypnosis to track Dracula’s movements. Guided by Mina, they pursue him.
In Galatz, Romania, the hunters split up. Van Helsing and Mina go to Dracula’s castle, where the professor destroys the vampire women. Jonathan Harker and Arthur Holmwood follow Dracula’s boat on the river, while Quincey Morris and John Seward parallel them on land. After Dracula’s box is finally loaded onto a wagon by Szgany men, the hunters converge and attack it. After routing the Szgany, Harker slashes Dracula’s neck and Quincey stabs him in the heart. Dracula crumbles to dust, freeing Mina from her vampiric curse, and Quincey dies from his wounds. A note by Jonathan Harker seven years later states that the Harkers have a son, named Quincey.
Dracula was not an immediate bestseller when it was first published, although reviewers praised it. Some Victorian fans described it as “the sensation of the season” and “the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century”. Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to Stoker in a letter, “I write to tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading Dracula. I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years.”
According to literary historians Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal in the Norton Critical Edition, the novel has become more significant for modern readers than it was for Victorian readers, most of whom enjoyed it just as a adventure story. It reached its broad and iconic status only later in the 20th century when the movie versions appeared. A. Asbjørn Jøn has also noted that Dracula has had a significant impact on the image of the vampire in popular culture, folklore, and legend.
It did not make much money for Stoker. In the last year of his life, he was so poor that he had to petition for a compassionate grant from the Royal Literary Fund, and his widow was forced to sell his notes and outlines of the novel at a Sotheby’s auction in 1913, where they were purchased for a little over £2 (equivalent to £198 in 2019). But then F. W. Murnau’s unauthorized adaptation of the story was released in theatres in 1922 in the form of Nosferatu. Stoker’s widow took affront and, during the legal battle that followed, the novel’s popularity started to grow. Nosferatu was followed by a successful stage adaptation, touring the UK for three years before arriving in the US where Stoker’s creation caught Hollywood’s attention and, after the American 1931 movie version was released, the book has never been out of print (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
We all know that Dracula is the #1 vampire and comes from Transylvania. But where does the #2 vampire come from? Pencil-vania.
Second, a Song:
Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a 1995 satirical comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Leslie Nielsen. It is a spoof of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula and of some of the films it spawned.Brooks co-authored the screenplay with Steve Haberman and Rudy De Luca. He also appears as Dr. Van Helsing. The film’s other stars include Steven Weber, Amy Yasbeck, Peter MacNicol, Harvey Korman, and Anne Bancroft.The film follows the classic Dracula (1931), starring Bela Lugosi, in its deviations from the novel. Its visual style and production values are reminiscent of the Hammer Horror films. It spoofs, among other films, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).The film was panned by critics and flopped at the box office. As of 2021, it is the last movie to be directed by Mel Brooks, and the second to last co-written by Brooks (he would co-write the screenplay for the 2005 film adaptation of his musical, The Producers).
The Hungarian Dances (German: Ungarische Tänze) by Johannes Brahms (WoO 1), are a set of 21 lively dance tunes based mostly on Hungarian themes, completed in 1879. They vary from about a minute to five minutes in length. They are among Brahms’s most popular works and were the most profitable for him. Each dance has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles. Brahms originally wrote the version for piano four hands (piano duet: two players using one piano) and later arranged the first ten dances for solo piano (per Wikipedia).
Here is the Csárdás sequence from the film Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Csárdás is a genre of Hungarian folk music, played in a “Csárda” (old hung. word for tavern), and this particular clip features Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5. Leslie Nielsen stars as Count Dracula, Mel Brooks as Professor Van Helsing who has placed the mirror in the dance hall, and Amy Yasbeck as Mina Seward who dances with Count Dracula. Also in the scene is Harvey Korman as Dr. Seward, and others. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“When people ask me if Dean Martin drank, let me put it this way. If Dracula bit Dean in the neck, he’d get a Bloody Mary.” – Red Buttons
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky