Bram Stoker Estate



The Authoritative Resource for Information about Bram Stoker’s Life and Work


Bram Stoker’s Lost Dublin Journal

Bram Stoker Estate News of Note Page 16

Page updated 3 November 2011

Dublin birth of Dracula

Notes found in attic show young Bram Stoker’s ghoulish thoughts as the compulsive notetaker stalked the streets of the capital in Victorian times

-Colin Coyle

16 October 2011

Like his most famous creation, he stalked his home town hatching blood-curdling plots. A series of diaries documenting Bram Stoker’s life in Victorian Dublin have been discovered and will be published next year. They will offer a glimpse into the ghoulish mind of the Dracula creator as a young man.

The Lost Journals of Bram Stoker, written between 1871 and 1881, reveal the Dubliner was fascinated by the macabre more than 15 years before the publication of Dracula.

A compulsive notetaker, his diaries depict his life as a travelling court clerk with humorous observations on co-workers, classmates, friends, family members and Dublin street life.

The diaries were discovered last year among a collection of family papers in the attic of Stoker’s great-grandson, Noel Dobbs, in the Isle of Wight. Dobbs informed Dacre Stoker, a great-grandnephew, of the discovery and he set about trying to decipher the sometimes illegible diary entries.

The collection is to be published by Robson Press. Jeremy Robson, from the publisher, said there were huge similarities between Stoker and Jonathan Harker, the hero of Dracula. Like Harker, Stoker was a compulsive notetaker; while Harker was a travelling solicitor, Stoker was a travelling clerk.

Dacre Stoker said the 160 pages of notebooks are the earliest-known writings of his great-granduncle. “Included are dozens of humorous anecdotes, character studies, musings, and ideas for future stories, many of which were eventually used,” he said.

Stoker said many of the entries were cryptic and described his great-granduncle’s handwriting as “terrible”. Elizabeth Miller, a Dracula scholar, helped to interpret the notes. “It was like putting together an incredibly difficult jigsaw puzzle,” he said.

“To construct the framework necessary to understand Bram’s life, and to decipher certain words and phrases, we researched newspapers and studied obscure books about Dublin, records from Trinity College Dublin, theatre personalities and dialects.” The diaries show Stoker’s burgeoning literary aspirations. During the 1870s, he became a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, and in 1872 he had a story, The Crystal Cup, published by the London Society.

The notebooks span Stoker’s time as a student in Trinity College and a civil servant working in Dublin castle. They continue into his early years of marriage to Florence Balcombe, who was previously engaged to Oscar Wilde, and a spell working in a London theatre. “This was a period of his life about which very little has been known until now,” Dacre Stoker said.

The diaries document Stoker’s first attempts at prose and poetry but most of the entries are simple musings. “Some are like Twitter messages,” Dacre Stoker said. The first entry, titled Night Fishing, was written on August 1, 1871, and is “excessively descriptive” with “flowery prose”. The book is signed Abraham Stoker, the name he used until he adopted Bram several years later. At the time of start of the diaries, Stoker lived in 43 Harcourt Street, since demolished. He was studying for a master’s in Trinity College.Despite his poetic leanings, Stoker was soon drawn to darker subjects.

“A man builds up a shadow on a wall bit by bit adding to substance. Suddenly the shadow becomes alive,” reads one of the entries. This was the genesis of a later story, The Shadow Builder, and the idea of the shadow becoming form has been a signature of every film version of Dracula.

Another story idea depicts a cruel child imprisoning flies in a bottle, much like the lunatic Renfield, who fell under Dracula’s spell and took to catching and eating flies.

In another story, a man reflects everybody who meets him, which Dacre Stoker believes may have been an early allusion to a motif in Dracula — the vampire that casts no reflection.

Although a number of plaques around the city recognise houses where Stoker lived, his great-grandnephew said he hopes to persuade Dublin city council to erect a statue in the city ahead of the centenary of Stoker’s death next year.

For more information, contact

Bram Stoker Estate

Robson Press to publish Stoker's lost notebooks

-The Bookseller

13.10.11 | Bookseller Staff

Jeremy Robson has secured world rights to a book that features the previously unpublished notebooks of Bram Stoker as one of Robson's launch titles for his new imprint at Biteback.

Robson bought the rights directly from Stoker's great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker, and Dracula scholar Dr Elizabeth Miller. The Lost Journals of Bram Stoker is provisionally scheduled for publication by the Robson Press next spring.

The notebooks were recently discovered in the attic of one of Stoker's great-grandsons and detail the author's time in Dublin between 1871 and 1881, some 15 years ahead of Dracula's publication.

Robson said: "The notebooks reveal the intimate Stoker—his attachment to Dublin and his life in that city. [They are] replete with observations on co-workers, classmates, friends, family members and the Dublin streets, and [the] various notes and anecdotes emit Stoker's rich Irish sense of humour."

While Stoker did not begin writing Dracula in earnest until some years later, Robson said there were early elements of what became his best known work in the notebooks. "The astute reader of Dracula will immediately recognise the aide-memoire technique displayed in the notebooks, which recalls similar notations made by Jonathan Harker—himself a compulsive note-taker," said Robson.

Other parallels between Stoker and Harker were their careers. At the time of writing the notebooks Stoker was a young travelling clerk of the court, compared to Harker's occupation as a young travelling solicitor in Dracula.

Bram Stoker's notebook offers cryptic clues to Dracula

Private notebook discovered by author's great-grandson has 'clear parallels' with Jonathan Harker's journal in vampire novel

Alison Flood

18 October 2011

The discovery of Bram Stoker's private notebook has shed new light on his classic vampire tale Dracula.The private notebook of Bram Stoker has been discovered in an attic on the Isle of Wight, offering cryptic clues into the origins of the author's most famous work, Dracula.

Providing a snapshot of Dublin between 1871 and 1881, as well as a window on the life of the very private Stoker, the notebook was found by the author's great-grandson, Noel Dobbs. Dobbs sent photographs of pages from the book to his relative, Stoker's great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, author of the recent novel Dracula: The Un-Dead, and Stoker has worked to decipher his ancestor's "terrible" handwriting with Dr Elizabeth Miller of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. The Lost Journal, complete with annotations, is now lined up for publication by Robson Press next year, marking the centenary of Bram Stoker's death in 1912.

The 100-odd-page notebook covers the period when Stoker was a student at Trinity College in Dublin and a clerk at Dublin Castle, written in a clear precursor to the journalistic style of Dracula and containing the author's earliest attempts at poetry and prose. "There are some definite parallels between this notebook and Jonathan Harker's journal, and certain entries from Bram's notebook actually resurfaced twentysomething years later in Dracula. Because he wrote little about himself, Dracula fans and Stoker scholars have largely been free to speculate about Bram. Rumours and myths have taken on a life of their own. Now, with this chapter of Bram's life revealed, the rest of his life will be more accurately interpreted," said Dacre Stoker.

The notebook opens with an entry entitled Night Fishing – the earliest known example of Stoker's writing – which Dacre Stoker and Miller said "shows an aspiring writer composing an excessively descriptive passage in flowery prose". It also reveals the author's connection with the sea and his respect for the people at its mercy, an interest which would re-emerge in published works including Dracula (1897), The Watter's Mou' (1894), The Mystery of the Sea (1902) and Greater Love (1914).

Another entry reads "A man builds up a shadow on a wall bit by bit by adding to substance. Suddenly the shadow becomes alive", and would later become the kernel for Stoker's story The Shadow Builder. A note reading "'Palace of Fairy Queen. Child goes to sleep & palace grows – sky changes into blue silk curtains" foreshadows Stoker's frequent use of dreaming children in stories including Lies and Lilies and The Wondrous Child.

Although the notebook ends eight years before Stoker would begin writing Dracula, there are "several entries" in the book which have "distinct resonances" in the novel, said Dacre Stoker and Miller, including a man who "who reflects everybody's self who meets him" – a central motif of Dracula is that a vampire casts no reflection.

Another mentions "a little boy who put so many flies into a bottle that they had not room to die". "This image is very interesting to me as it is a precursor to the tendencies of Bram’s Renfield character in Dracula," said Dacre Stoker.

Dracula’ notebook discovered in attic

Wednesday 19 October 2011

The private notebook of Dracula author, Bram Stoker, has been discovered in an attic on the Isle of Wight. The journal, by the famously private Dublin-born writer, offers a unique insight into the origins of his most famous literary creation as well as a snapshot of life in Victorian Dublin.

According to the Guardian, the notebook was discovered by the author's great-grandson, Noel Dobbs, who sent photographs of pages from the book to his relative, Dacre Stoker, to confirm its authenticity. Now the so-called 'The Lost Journal', complete with annotations, is primed for publication next year to mark the centenary of Bram Stoker's death in 1912.

The 100 or so page manuscript chronicles Stoker's time as a student at Trinity College and thereafter as a clerk at Dublin Castle.

"There are some definite parallels between this notebook and Jonathan Harker's journal, and certain entries from Bram's notebook actually resurfaced twentysomething years later in Dracula," said Dacre Stoker. "Because he wrote little about himself, Dracula fans and Stoker scholars have largely been free to speculate about Bram. Rumours and myths have taken on a life of their own. Now, with this chapter of Bram's life revealed, the rest of his life will be more accurately interpreted."

Although the notebook's final entries date from eight years before Stoker started work on Dracula there are, according to Dacre, a number of instances where the there are uncanny parallels between journal and the novel, including a man who "who reflects everybody's self who meets him" (vampires have no reflection).
Another entry refers to "a little boy who put so many flies into a bottle that they had not room to die". "This image is very interesting to me as it is a precursor to the tendencies of Bram's Renfield character in Dracula," said Dacre Stoker.

Dracula author’s notebook found

By Emily Pearce - Sunday, October 23, 2011

THE DISCOVERY of a private notebook belonging to

Dracula author Bram Stoker has been welcomed by scholars

and fans alike — and it was found right here on the

Isle of Wight by the writer’s great-grandson.

Retired chartered accountant Noel Dobbs, of Seaview,

has always been fairly unassuming about his astonishing

family history. But he treasures his collection of Stoker

first editions and pictures inherited from his grandfather

and namesake, Noel Stoker.                                                                      Noel Dobbs

Among those items was the notebook, featuring odd jottings and poems, and providing a snapshot of Bram Stoker’s life in Dublin between 1871 and 1881. It is inscribed 'Abraham Stoker, 1871’.

"I always knew it was there, with all the other books, but I didn’t regard it as particularly important. And his handwriting was so terrible it was difficult to read," said Noel, 74, a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance trustee and NHS Isle of Wight non-executive director.

"But my relative, Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great-grandnephew, expressed an interest so I sent a copy to him in America earlier this year. I’m not enough of a scholar to turn the notebook into something meaningful, but he has done so."

Working with academic Dr Elizabeth Miller, of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, Mr Stoker has deciphered his ancestor’s terrible handwriting.

The Lost Journal, as it has been called, is set to be published next year, marking the centenary of Stoker’s death in 1912.

Excited scholars have welcomed the discovery, using the notebook to draw parallels with Stoker’s greatest work, Dracula, but Mr Dobbs admitted he was not a huge fan.

"I’m an enormous admirer of Bram and everything he did but not really his most famous work. I’m not really into horror," he said.

"But Dacre is, and I’m pleased this notebook will be part of the centenary celebrations next year."

A Bloody Good Read...

Ashley Fantz

Bram Stoker's private journal sat unnoticed on his great-grandson's bookshelf in England for at least a year.

Full of notes that would inform his legendary novel "Dracula" and other stories, the thin, unmarked book had probably been lugged down from the attic at some point, along with other things the Stoker family had passed down for more than a century and placed inconspicuously in Noel Dobbs' Isle of Wight home.

Then, one day not long ago, a researcher working on a project about Stoker got in touch with Dobbs to ask if he might know anything about a journal his famous relative kept. Dobbs looked around and finally popped open this tiny book. It was signed "Abraham Stoker."

"It's kind of incredible, but Noel was rather blasé about it," laughed Dacre Stoker, Dobbs' cousin and a professor in South Carolina who has written a book about Bram Stoker. When news reached Dacre that the journal had been discovered, he cajoled his cousin into sending him photographs of a few pages.

"When I saw it, I was amazed," Dacre Stoker said. "I thought, 'The Holy Grail! We've found it!' There is so little written by Bram about Bram. Family, scholars and hard-core fans -- so many people have wanted to know what made the man who wrote 'Dracula' tick. And here we had a major set of clues."

Those clues will be published next March in "The Lost Journal," Dacre Stoker told The publication will mark 100 years since the author died in April 1912.

Dacre Stoker has worked with Bram Stoker scholars to annotate "The Lost Journal," which also offers quirky bits of folklore from Ireland, Stoker's homeland, and insight into the inspiration for his other work. There are 305 entries, some pages-long, others just a few sentences.

Bram Stoker was in his early 20s when the journal began in 1871. He had graduated from Ireland's Trinity College and was working at Dublin Castle.

It would be more than a decade before the author learned about the primary inspiration for his Count Dracula, "Vlad the Impaler." The real-life prince of Wallachia who ruled during the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, Vlad earned his nickname by impaling his enemies. His viciousness became notorious in Germany and other parts of Europe where tales spread of a man-monster who lived off blood. Vlad's father was a member of the Order of the Dragon, or Dracul. "Dracula" means son of the Dragon.

The last entry of Stoker's journal in 1881 hints at a major character he would use in "Dracula." In the novel, Renfield is an asylum inmate who has delusions that compel him to eat living beings, including flies, to gain their life force. The vampire Count Dracula seizes on Renfield's weakness and offers him as many creatures as he can eat in exchange for his eternal devotion. It doesn't work out well for Renfield in the end.

In his journal, Stoker wrote: "I once knew a boy who put so many flies into a bottle that they had not room to die."

In another passage, the author seems to be alluding to a vampire's inability to see his own reflection. "Story of man who reflects everybody's self who meets him," he wrote.

Stoker's interest in spookiness shows up in other journal entries.

"A man builds up his shadow on a wall bit by bit by adding to substance," he wrote. "Suddenly the shadow becomes alive." The passage is believed to be a kernel of the "The Shadow Builder," one of Stoker's first attempts at a horror mystery.

The journal offers some surprising insight about the author, too. There are funny "memos" that Stoker wrote to himself, which Dacre Stoker believes were witticisms that the author may have wanted to use at a party or a pub to seem interesting.

The journal also contains romantic poems. "People don't think of Bram Stoker as being romantic, but there are some very romantic, sweet moments here," Dacre Stoker said.

The author apparently drew from his journal for material that would make up "Under the Sunset," a lesser-known collection of short stories for children that Stoker published in 1881. One note in the journal alludes to the writer's fascination with children: "Palace of Fairy Queen. Child goes to sleep & palace grows -- sky changes into blue silk curtains etc." Dreaming kids would appear in several stories in "Under the Sunset," all darkly told tales that meditate on the blurry line between reality and imagination, science and folklore. "Bram had a troubled childhood," Dacre Stoker said. "He was very lonely and thought about death a lot during seven years that he was just a boy and struggling through an undiagnosed illness."

The journal's first entry, titled "Night Fishing," is a kind of ode to the sea and the people who encounter it. The writing seems experimental and flowery. "It's as if Bram were practicing," Stoker said. "He might have thought, 'Well, this is how a writer is supposed to write -- in very long sentences.' "

The author was fascinated with the theater and the act of observing, and he traveled a lot, a rare thing for his time. Journaling and touring are central in "Dracula." The novel's narrator, Jonathan Harker, writes in his journal as he travels across Europe, witnessing and questioning the day's superstitions and trying to make sense of his own bad dreams and bizarre, supernatural encounters. The novel centers on Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England, and his battle with professor Abraham van Helsing.

"Bram traveled an unusual amount for the time that he lived," Dacre Stoker said. "He was curious. He loved to ask those questions: What is real and what is myth, and where do they meet? What is stronger, science or myth?"

Though Stoker died before his Count Dracula became internationally famous when Bela Lugosi played him as a suave nobleman in the 1930s film, Dacre Stoker thinks the author would be flattered by how his character has stayed relevant over the years. From Lugosi to Anne Rice's Lestat and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to "Twilight" and "True Blood," Stoker's main question: "What does it mean to live forever?" has proved eternal.

And in true Bram Stoker style, he left one more mystery. In one of his books, the author alludes to another diary. He writes about an upcoming trip to London where one can get work as a writer. The journal of writing and notes that was recently found in the Isle of Wight home is not that diary.

"There's something else out there -- that missing piece, this mystery diary," Stoker said. "I'm dying to know where it is."