Dracula: a Contemporary Review

draculaCreepy History 53.  On 26th May 1897 the first edition of Dracula, by Bram Stoker, was published.  It went on to become one of the most popular books ever written, but what did contemporary reviewers think of the book at the time?  The following quote is from the Hampshire Telegraph, from 10th July 1897.  I have omitted a large description of the plot of the novel, together with a chunk of text from the book which was included with the review.

Most people are familiar with the stories of the awful doings in the Dark Ages of the werewolf and the Vampires; those strange beings from the other world which took human form and sucked away the lives of unwary men, women, and children as they slept in their beds. But the creatures were of German origin, for even in the good old days their habitat was among the out-of-the-world corners of Transylvania. Mr. Brain Stoker, in his new book “Dracula” (Archibald Constable and Co., Westminster, 6s.), treats of Vampires, however, as present-day troubles, and not merely as pests of gone ages. They are introduced to the reader in London, and are fully up-to-date with nineteenth century civilisation. The Vampires are indeed horrible, repulsive beings, according to Mr. Bram Stoker. They have human bodies, often of fascinating attractiveness, and yet there is in them a spectral character, being so shadowy that they are not reflected in a looking-glass. They generally dwell in the graves to which they were consigned in the regular way when they first assumed the semblance of death (or in specially prepared receptacles wherein they can fulfil the essentials of vampire life), but in the night time they roam about in search of throats from which to suck the blood which is essential to their awful existence, even as it is to the life of the great vampire bat of South America…

The story told in “Dracula” is about as weird and gruesome as any we have ever come across. Mr. Bram Stoker speaks as one sure of his ground, and he tells his tale with a fulness and tone betokening simple faith…

Altogether “Dracula” may be fairly described as the sensation of the period. It is full of horrors, which make one’s blood curdle to read them, but fortunately when he has done with his nineteenth-century vampires or werewolves, Mr. Bram Stoker consigns them to their original dust, and there let us hope they will remain.

The impossibilities of the subject are handled with such fertility and ingenuity that “Dracula” is not likely to leave room for imitators and Mr. Stoker’s vampire will remain unique amongst the terrors which paralyse our nerves at bed-time.

No room for “imitators” of Dracula?  A unique attempt at a story about vampires?  If only the writer knew what the future held…

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About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyardview.wordpress.com Administrator of frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Books, Creepy History, History, Newspapers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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