Bram Stoker's Life Work
The Complex Legacy of Dracula
I recall being asked once, at a dinner party, what I thought about Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a love story. An excellent question, I thought. I always knew that English major would come in handy. I said something to the effect that Dracula is full of love stories: there’s the courting of Lucy Westenra by Arthur Holmwood, Quincy Morris, and Jack Seward, and of course the Count’s pursuit of Lucy and Mina is a sort of perverse courtship too. Lucy and Mina's husbands and friends fight to save their souls from eternal darkness, the ultimate act of love.
‘Yes, but,’ I was told, ‘you forgot the best one of all—how Count Dracula became a vampire! In the opening scene of the movie, when he found his wife dead? He renounced God and swore to avenge her with the powers of darkness!’
As it turned out, my conversant was referring not to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the novel, but to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the 1992 film by Francis Ford Coppola. Granted, they had a point; the movie’s tagline was “Love Never Dies”. Unintentionally, however, they were also testifying to another point: the inestimable influence of popular culture on the legacies Dracula and its creator, Bram Stoker.
Although the dependence of Dracula’s print success on cinematic adaptations has been somewhat overstated (John Edgar Browning has shown that, contrary to popular belief, the novel’s early reviews were quite positive), the conflation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an apt metaphor of the latter’s contemporary legacy. Ever since Count Dracula sunk his teeth into Hollywood, vampires have been turning up left and right, from the silver screen to cereal boxes. In a way, Dracula was one of the original viral sensations.
-W. Parker Stoker 2019