Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations. The novel is told in epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, ships' log entries, and so forth. The main writers of these items are also the novel's protagonists. The story is occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings that relate events not directly witnessed by the story's characters. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, journeying by train and carriage from England to Count Dracula's crumbling, remote castle (situated in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia). The purpose of his mission is to provide legal support to Dracula for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer, Peter Hawkins, of Exeter in England. At first enticed by Dracula's gracious manner, Harker soon discovers that he has become a prisoner in the castle. He also begins to see disquieting facets of Dracula's nocturnal life. One night while searching for a way out of the castle, and against Dracula's strict admonition not to venture outside his room at night, Harker falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, "the Sisters". He is saved at the last second by the Count, because he wants to keep Harker alive just long enough to obtain needed legal advice and teachings about England and London (Dracula's planned travel destination so as to be among the "teeming millions"). Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life. Not long afterward, a Russian ship, the Demeter, having weighed anchor at Varna, runs aground on the shores of Whitby, England, during a fierce tempest. All of the crew are missing and presumed dead, and only one body is found, that of the captain tied to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey. These events led to the gradual disappearance of the entire crew apparently owing to a malevolent presence on board the ill-fated ship. An animal described as a large dog is seen on the ship leaping ashore. The ship's cargo is described as silver sand and boxes of "mould", or earth, from Transylvania. Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker was a business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most famous being the vampire tale Dracula published on 26 May 1897.:269 Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he spent summer holidays. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker's formula of an invasion of England by continental European influences was by 1897 very familiar to readers of fantastic adventure stories. Victorian readers enjoyed it as a good adventure story like many others, but it would not reach its iconic legendary status until later in the 20th century when film versions began to appear. Despite being the most widely known vampire novel, Dracula was not the first.
Dracula is one of the few horror books to be honored by inclusion in the Norton Critical Edition series. (The others are Frankenstein, The Turn of the Screw, Heart of Darkness, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Metamorphosis.) This 100th-anniversary edition includes not only the complete authoritative text of the novel with illuminating footnotes, but also four contextual essays, five reviews from the time of publication, five articles on dramatic and film variations, and seven selections from literary and academic criticism. Nina Auerbach of the University of Pennsylvania (author of Our Vampires, Ourselves) and horror scholar David J. Skal (author of Hollywood Gothic, The Monster Show, and Screams of Reason) are the editors of the volume. Especially fascinating are excerpts from materials that Bram Stoker consulted in his research for the book, and his working papers over the several years he was composing it. The selection of criticism includes essays on how Dracula deals with female sexuality, gender inversion, homoerotic elements, and Victorian fears of "reverse colonization" by politically turbulent Transylvania.