|London Daily News, 27-May-1922|
125 years ago today, on 26-May-1897, Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was published. He we see an early review. "Bloofer Lady" = "Beautiful Lady."
MR. BRAM STOKER'S NEW STORY.*
What has become of the "general decay of Faith" of which Parson Holmes reproachfully discoursed at Francis Allen's that night when the poet read aloud his fragment, "Morte d'Arthur," the noble precursor of "The Idylls of the King"? Have old beliefs really ceased to impress the imagination? It may be so ; but our novelists are clearly experiencing a reawakened faith in the charm of the supernatural. Here, for the latest example, is Mr. Bram Stoker taking in hand the old-world legend of the Were-wolf or vampire, with all its weird and exotic associations of blood-sucking and human flesh devouring, and interweaving it with the threads of a long story with an earnestness, a directness, and a simple good faith which ought to go far to induce readers of fiction to surrender their imaginations into the novelist's hands. Of course the secret lies here. The story writer who would make others believe must himself believe, or learn at least to write as if he did. There must be no display of meaningless rhetoric, no selection of faded terrors out of the dusty scene-docks of the suburban theaters. The more strange the facts, the more businesslike should be the style and method of narration. Some there be who, in handling such themes, prefer to take shelter in a remote time ; but the supernatural which cannot stand the present day, and even the broad daylight of the world around us, stands a half confessed imposture. Mr. Stoker has not been unmindful of these canons of the art of the weird novel writer. His story is told in sections, in the form of letters or excerpts from diaries of the various personages, which is in itself a straightforward proceeding, investing the whole narrative with a documentary air. Ships' logs and medical practitioners' notebooks of cases also come in aid, with now and then a matter of fact extract from the columns of our contemporaries, "The Westminster" and "The Pall Mall Gazette," about mysterious crimes attributed to an unseen destroyer popularly known as "the Bloofer Lady," the victims of whom are mostly little children whose throats are found marked with two little punctures, such as of old were believed to be made by the "Vampire Bat," who lives on human blood. These details are not the mere background of the story; for the mysteries of Lycanthropy, once devoutly believed in throughout Europe and the East, permeate the whole narrative and give their peculiar colouring to the web of romance with which they are associated. The author's artistic instincts have rightly suggested that the first step must be to attune the mind of the reader to the key of the story, for which purpose nothing could be more effective than the opening chapters, which are given up to the journal kept in shorthand by the hero, Jonathan Harker, the young solicitor who, leaving his fiancée, Mina Murray, behind in England, starts on a mission connected with the purchase of some estate and an ancient manor house in this country to the mysterious Count Dracula, a Transylvanian nobleman, who lives in a lonely castle in the Carpathians. The long drive from Buda-Pesth is graphically described, while a constantly-growing sense of some vague impending trouble is cleverly made to intensify the interest and curiosity of the reader. Sometimes it is the strange, anxious glances of innkeeper and attendants, who know that the traveler is on the way to sojourn at the Count's gloomy and almost inaccessible abode; at others it is a word let fall, which, though in the Servian or Slovak language, conveys to the mind of the traveler a sinister idea. One worthy old landlady at a post-house puts a rosary around her guest's neck, reminding him that it is the eve of St. George's Day, when at midnight all evil things have full sway, and after vainly imploring him to consider where he is going and what he is going to, places for protection a rosary around his neck. Even the crowd about the inn doors share in the worthy hostess's solicitude:
"When we started, the crowd round the inn door, which had by this time swelled to a considerable size, all made the sign of the Cross and pointed two fingers towards me. With some difficulty I got a fellow-passenger to tell me what they meant; he would not answer at first, but on learning that I was English he explained that it was a charm or guard against the evil eye. This was not very pleasant for me, just starting for an unknown place to meet an unknown man; but every one seemed so kind-hearted and so sorrowful, and so sympathetic that I could not but be touched. I shall never forget the last glimpse I had of the inn-yard and its crowd of picturesque figures, all crossing themselves, as they stood round the wide archway, with its background of rich foliage of oleander and orange trees in green tubs clustered in the centre of the yard. Then our driver, whose wide linen drawers covered the whole front of the box-seat -- 'gotza,' they call them -- cracked his big whip over his four small horses, which ran abreast, and we set off on our journey. I soon lost sight and recollection of ghostly fears in the beauty of the scene as we drove along, although had I known the language, or rather languages, which my fellow passengers were speaking, I might not have been able to throw them off so easily."
Strange, unearthly experiences indeed are in store for the young traveler in the chateau of the Count before this opening, which may be regarded as the prologue of the story, is concluded; but interest in a narrative whose effect depends so much on the feeling of curiously must not be forestalled. For details, therefore, of how Jonathan Harker finally escaped from the castle and its terrible inmates to the shelter of a friendly convent in Buda-Pesth, where he is found by the faithful Mina suffering from brain fever; and also for the more marvelous incidents after their return to England, which form the chief substance of the narrative, we must send the reader to Mr. Bram Stoker's volume. Few stories recently published have been more rich in sensations or in the Websterian power of "moving a horror" by subtle suggestion.
* "Dracula." By Bram Stoker. (Constable and Co.)
The book has inspired a few movie adaptions.
|Moving Picture Weekly, 06-December-1930|
|Film Bulletin, 21-July-1958|