Irish writer (1847-1912). He was born as Abraham Stoker, the
third of seven children in Clontarf, a suburb on the north side of
Dublin. He was sickly and bedridden until he started school at age 7,
whereupon he made a complete recovery and had few other health issues
through his youth, even being named University Athlete at Dublin's
Trinity College. At college, he was the auditor of the College
Historical Society and president of the University
Philosophical Society, where he wrote a paper on
"Sensationalism in Fiction and Society." He graduated from Trinity in
1870, earning a degree with honors in mathematics.
Stoker turned his interest in theater into a job when he became a
theater critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, which was coincidentally
co-owned by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, who would later gain fame as the
author of the classic vampire tale "Carmilla." After giving actor
Henry Irving a good review in an 1876 production of Hamlet at
Dublin's Theatre Royal, Irving invited Stoker to dinner, and they
became fast friends. Soon, Stoker and his wife, Florence Balcombe,
moved to London so he could work as the acting manager and business
manager of Irving's Lyceum Theatre. Stoker served as Irving's
business manager for 27 years -- during his life, it was what he was
often most famous for. Working for Irving and the Lyceum got Stoker and
his wife involved in high society, allowed him to meet Arthur Conan
Doyle and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and gave him the opportunity
to travel to America, where he met Walt Whitman and Presidents
William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, Stoker's son,
Irving Noel Thornley Stoker, was named after the actor.
Stoker was, of course, a writer, and he published a number of short
stories -- "The Crystal Cup" in 1872, followed by "The Chain of
Destiny," "The Dualitists; or, The Death Doom of the Double Born,"
and plenty of others. He even wrote some nonfiction, including "The
Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland," "A Glimpse of
America," and "Famous Impostors."
Stoker's first novel, "The Primrose Path," was published in 1875.
His second, a romance called "The Snake's Pass," wasn't published
'til 15 years after that. His next two novels, "The Watter's Mou'" and
"The Shoulder of Shasta," were also romances.
Of course, Stoker is best known as the author of "Dracula," which
is one of the best known and most influential horror novels ever. He
spent several years prior to writing the book researching European
folklore on vampires and ended up changing the way people thought of
the undead forever -- "Dracula" helped popularize the idea of the
vampire as an aristocratic, romantic figure, instead of the feral,
diseased creature it was in myth. The book was an epistolary novel
-- written as a series of different documents, letters, diary
entries, even newspaper clippings, entries from a ship's log, and a
The novel was quite popular, and critics were almost universally
happy with it, but the book was not a runaway bestseller -- at least not
until the 20th century, when people started making movies based on it.
The rest of Stoker's novels were either romances ("Miss Betty" and
"Lady Athlyne"), horror novels ("The Lair of the White Worm" and
"The Jewel of Seven Stars"), or mixtures of the two ('The Mystery of
the Sea"). "The Lady of the Shroud" is often considered early science
fiction. None of his books were as popular or influential as "Dracula"
Stoker died in 1912 after suffering a series of strokes. He was
cremated and his urn, which also contains the ashes of his son, is on
display at Golders Green Crematorium in London.