Vamp chic has been lording over popular culture for a while now: from the nail and neck-biting Twilight series and HBO’s True Blood, to Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. But they all take their cue from the most famous vampire of them all: Count Dracula. As it turns out, we have the dark imagination of a Dubliner to thank for it all.
Dracula author Bram Stoker was born in the Dublin seaside suburb of Clontarf in 1847. He grew up, studied, worked and married in the city, and much of the Victorian-era Dublin that Stoker drifted through still stands today.
At 15 Marino Crescent in Clontarf is Stoker’s family home: a huge Georgian affair. It went on sale in 2012, with the real estate agent’s photos and even a video revealing the interior – much of it with original features – to curious fans.
Around the corner, a nod to its famous former neighbour, is Bram’s Café. Owner Jimmy Bowler gets a lot of “Bramoraks” through the door asking him questions; he keeps notes behind the counter to quietly refer to.
A university athletics champion
Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s oldest university – an elegant patchwork of historic buildings, old libraries and cobblestones that probably haven’t changed much since Stoker roamed here as a student.
Stoker was a university athletics champion, a capped footballer, and President of the Philosophical Society. Victorian literature lecturer of Trinity College, Jarlath Killeen admits there’s a little thrill from studying the man in the same lecture halls Stoker would have sat in.
“Though I suspect that Stoker could be found on the fields and practice halls in athletic pursuits rather more than in the lecture halls!” he says.
A castle influence?
Dublin Castle is the next relic from Stoker’s life. The author worked here as a civil servant and the castle may well have influenced Dracula’s imagined abode – Stoker never actually visited Romania.
In fact, the format that Dracula is written in (the diary entries, memos, telegrams) is essentially a folder of evidence. It reflects Stoker’s work as a civil servant, where he would compile folders on cases around Ireland.
Literary circles in Victorian Dublin
One of the nicest things about the world of Irish literature is how the main characters bump into each other. Such as how Stoker stole Oscar Wilde’s girlfriend, Florence Balcombe, and went onto marry her on 4 December 1878 in St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street, Dublin.
You can see a bust of Stoker in St Ann’s Church today, and a painting of him in the Irish Writer’s Centre in Dublin’s Parnell Square. His city celebrates him at the annual Bram Stoker Hallowe’en Festival, and winks at his memory with the real-life undertaker and Dracula-impersonator Paddy Drac, who stalks the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
Or you can muse over the man’s beginnings with a medium-rare Dracula burger in Bram’s Café.
In a way Stoker was just another Dubliner with a wild imagination. As you know, we have no shortage of those.