Saturday, October 03, 2020

Drafts of Dracula – review

Editors: Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miler

First published: 2019

The blurb: A decade after making Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula available to the public, Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller reach a new plateau with this revised and updated version of their groundbreaking work. – J. Gordon Melton, The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead.

Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller's Drafts of Dracula builds upon their pioneering work on Bram Stoker's notes to give us new insights into Stoker's typescript, his play of 1897, and the mystery of Dracula's Guest. – The London Library.

A valuable resource for studying and enjoying Dracula. – Leslie S. Klinger, editor of the New Annotated Dracula.

Note: This review was written for Vamped and was in their article queue. Given the sad news that Robert Eighteen-Bisang has passed away, I agreed with the guys at Vamped to post this here as a tribute and memorial to Robert. RIP

The review: In 2013 Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miler released a facsimile and annotated edition of the notes (or, should I say, the surviving notes) that Bram Stoker made when researching and drafting Dracula. It was, in many respects, a watershed moment in Dracula studies. The novel attracted a phenomenal amount of attention as stood but the study of few novels also included the author’s notes. Perhaps the downside to the volume was the price, as an academic book it was not that expensive but for the amateur scholar even the cheaper academic books can often be out of reach – a judicial use of e-bay came to my rescue in this regard.

Moving forward they have released Drafts of Dracula. This builds on the previous work, certainly containing their typed copy of the notes (and some facsimile pages also reproduced) but edited together in a way where they have tried to reproduce a series of drafts, approximating the novel writing process so that we can have an idea of the evolution of the novel. This is then expanded on by looking at things which were not within the previous volume (or as thoroughly examined) such as finding the edits in the typeset proof of the novel – that proof did not contain Dracula’s Guest but had edits to remove references to it, for instance. There is an examination of the changes from novel to Stoker’s script for the play, an exercise in copyrighting the work for the stage. The Icelandic and Swedish reimaginings are also touched upon. For me it was the edits within the typeset that proved the most interesting new moments within the volume.

The annotations are, as one would expect, rich and interesting. A couple of moments stood out to caution, however. A mention is made of the Skeleton Count by Elizabeth Grey (as cited by Peter Haining) – evidence has come to light that the story, as presented by Haining, might be a hoax. The annotations also confidently suggest that Stoker’s story was the first to have a human vampire transform into a bat. One can argue whether the vampiric witch in William H G Kingston’s the Vampire; or Pedro Pacheco and the Bruxa (1863) was a human vampire or not, but Kevin Dodd has uncovered the story “A Vampire” by Karl May which formed part of In den Schluchten des Balkan (magazine published between 1881 and 1888 and published in novel form in 1892) that features a moment where a vampire is described as leaving her grave and taking the form of a bat – though it turns out not to be real it has the description of a human vampire becoming a bat. Indeed, that annotation stands against a further annotation that recognises the transformation portrayed in Georges Méliès’ le Manoir du Diable (1896), calling it the first vampire film – except it isn’t a vampire film at all. Stoker, of course, is the author who brought such a transformation to such prominence that it is now common knowledge that vampires can turn into bats.

These were minor moments in a rich, knowledgeable, set of annotations – listed in case an errata sheet is to be produced. One thing I would have liked to see, given the referencing of the Icelandic and Swedish editions, was perhaps a brief look at Kazıklı Voyvoda (1928) the Turkish version of the novel adapted by Ali Rıza Seyfioğlu. True, it was created after Stoker’s death, but it did contain a hard connection between the vampire and the historic Vlad Ţepeş. Be that as it may, this is a superb volume created by two world renowned Dracula/vampire scholars, building meaningfully on the previous volume and making itself absolutely essential and – as released – affordable. 10 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

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