Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Bram Stoker's Proposal for the Development of a Small Nation

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Bram Stoker's Proposal for the Development of a Small Nation

Article excerpt

Bram Stoker's concern with the supernatural is well known, and his Dracula (1897) and its eponymous character have been studied for decades. As a by-product, this interest in his most famous novel has sometimes led to an interest in another novel featuring a vampire, The Lady of the Shroud (1909).This has been studied mainly as a complement to Dracula or as its inversion (for instance by Lorinczi 1996). However, in this essay it is analysed as one of the most important sources to understand Stoker's interest in the development of his own country, which has certainly attracted fewer scholars than his interest in vampires. To support this analysis, reference is made also to Stoker's first novel, The Snake's Pass (1890), and to two articles he wrote for a special edition of The World's Work dedicated to Ireland in May 1907: 'The Great White Fair in Dublin' and 'The World's Greatest Shipbuilding Yard'. An Irish Protestant by birth, according to Valente (2002: 9) he cannot be qualified either as proper Anglo-Irish or as metro politan elite. As a young adult he detached himself from his father's conservatism and became a Liberal and a self-declared "philosophical Home-Ruler" (Stoker 1907: 263), with the adjective 'philosophical' probably used to lessen his involvement in Home Rule. He was a member of the Irish Literary Society in London, but the real extent of his involvement has not been clarified yet. According to some authors and to the official list published by the ILS on their Internet site, he was a founding member of the society, but not according to Ryan's contemporary reconstruction of its origins. He was an admirer of John Bright and William Gladstone, whose interest in the Irish situation is well known. He had friends among Irish nationalists and even among Tories, which did not conflict with his general attitude towards politics. This consisted in never letting his political ideas (nor his religious affiliation) interfere either with his personal life or with his job as Irving's theatre manager. Although his politics often came to the fore in his writings, he never had any direct involvement with any political party or movement.

The Lady of the Shroud is set in an imaginary land in the Balkans, the Land of the Blue Mountains. The protagonist, Rupert St Leger, has to go and live there following the death of his favourite uncle, who unexpectedly leaves him such a big fortune as to make him one of the richest men on earth, but only on the condition that he live there for a year. During this time, Rupert falls in love with a girl clothed in a shroud, the same girl that many think is a vampire. This impression is partly shared by Rupert, too, but later on in the novel the girl turns out to be alive. She is Teuta, the daughter of one of the most important men in the country, the Voivode Peter Vissarion, who is also the leader of its resistance to the attempts of invasion by the Turkish Empire. After he is told that Rupert has married his daughter and saved both her and him from Turkish kidnappers, in addition to buying arms for the Mountaineers, the Voivode decides to decline the Council's offer to appoint him King and lets them choose Rupert. The latter's money, his bravery and the plan he and his counsellors put in action for the development of his adopted nation make it one of the biggest powers in the area. Rupert even manages to unite all the surrounding countries in a federation of states, thus solving the age-old Balkan problems.

The Snake's Pass is set in the west of Ireland. The protagonist, the Englishman Arthur Severn, inherits his aunt's fortune and decides to travel around Europe for a few months. During his tour, he makes some Irish friends and decides to visit them at the end of the journey. While in Ireland, he is caught by a storm and by the beauty of a local girl, so he decides to stay for a while. Eventually, he becomes the owner of most of the area, which he helps to develop, thanks to his money and the expertise of his old friend Dick Sutherland, an engineer. …

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