May 26, 1897: Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ hits the shelves in London
Not everyone enjoys the chills down their spine from a good horror story, but for those of us that do, few classics are more appreciated than Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula inspired a host of imitators and spin-offs, first in print and then in every other media format that has been invented: movies, video games, etc. It began as a humble book, however, the very first copies of which hit the shelves on this day in 1897.
Inspiration for a monster
During the 1880s and 1890s, a type of story known as “invasion literature” was very popular, being written by H.G. Wells, Robert Luis Stevenson, and other popular others of the time. This type of literature featured the British empire being invaded by foreigners or fantastic creatures. Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula was partially inspired by and falls into this type of literature (as well as Gothic literature, of course).
Before writing this novel, Stoker spent roughly seven years studying folklore across Europe. He researched many stories concerning the monsters known as vampires, including the 1885 essay, Transylvania Superstitions by Emily Gerard, which would play a big part in shaping Dracula. While a lot of modern theorists put forward Vlad the Impaler as an inspiration for the character of Dracula, there is actually no historical evidence for this.
Publishing and reception
Dracula was by Archibald Constable and Company in May of 1897 and enjoyed a moderate amount of success at the time. All the reviews of the time praised the story, however, and the novel only became more popular with time, despite not even being mentioned in Stoker’s obituary 1912. In 1920, Dracula was adapted as a Broadway play and enjoyed an immediate surge in popularity, leading to the blockbuster movie released in 1931, starring Bela Lugosi as the titular character in one of his most impressive roles.