Sunday, May 27, 2007

May 26:

1897 : Dracula goes on sale in London

The first copies of the classic vampire novel Dracula, by Irish writer
Bram Stoker, appear in London bookshops on this day in 1897.

A childhood invalid, Stoker grew up to become a football (soccer) star
at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he got a job in civil
service at Dublin Castle, where he worked for the next 10 years while
writing drama reviews for the Dublin Mail on the side. In this way,
Stoker met the well-respected actor Sir Henry Irving, who hired him as
his manager. Stoker stayed in the post for most of the next three
decades, writing Irving's voluminous correspondence for him and
accompanying him on tours in the United States. Over the years, Stoker
began writing a number of horror stories for magazines, and in 1890 he
published his first novel, The Snake's Pass.

Stoker would go on to publish 17 novels in all, but it was his 1897
novel Dracula that eventually earned him literary fame and became
known as a masterpiece of Victorian-era Gothic literature. Written in
the form of diaries and journals of its main characters, Dracula is
the story of a vampire who makes his way from Transylvania--a region
of Eastern Europe now in Romania--to Yorkshire, England, and preys on
innocents there to get the blood he needs to live. Stoker had
originally named the vampire "Count Wampyr." He found the name Dracula
in a book on Wallachia and Moldavia written by retired diplomat
William Wilkinson, which he borrowed from a Yorkshire public library
during his family's vacations there.

Vampires--who left their burial places at night to drink the blood of
humans--were popular figures in folk tales from ancient times, but
Stoker's novel catapulted them into the mainstream of 20th-century
literature. Upon its release, Dracula enjoyed moderate success, though
when Stoker died in 1912 none of his obituaries even mentioned Dracula
by name. Sales began to take off in the 1920s, when the novel was
adapted for Broadway. Dracula mania kicked into even higher gear with
Universal's blockbuster 1931 film, directed by Tod Browning and
starring the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Dozens of vampire-themed
movies, television shows and literature followed, though Lugosi, with
his exotic accent, remains the quintessential Count Dracula. Late
20th-century examples of the vampire craze include the bestselling
novels of American writer Anne Rice and the cult hit TV series Buffy
the Vampire Slayer.

1637 : Pequot massacres begin

1864 : Montana Territory created

1868 : President Johnson acquitted

1896 : Czar Nicholas II crowned


No comments: