Edited by Dacre Stoker & Elizabeth Miller

ASIN: B007EUP4AK 

Seeing the title The Lost Journal and its author's name might signal this is likely a book most interesting for literary scholars of Irish fiction in general and Dracula fans in particular. That's pretty much the case. The good news is that editors Elizabeth Miller and Dacre Stoker didn't simply transcribe 10 years of random notes and observations supplemented by explanatory material. They have, instead, assembled a very readable and insightful biography that is part reference volume and part analysis of just what made Bram Stoker tick.

Family connections helped make this volume possible. The notebook, written sporadically between 1871 and 1881, was discovered in Stoker's great-grandson Noel’s attic. One of the editors, Dacre Stoker, is the great-grandson of Bram Stoker’s youngest brother, Dr. George Stoker. As a result, the Stoker family conspicuously supported the publication of this notebook, most obviously with the many photographs from the family archives.

Alongside Dacre Stoker, co-editor Elizabeth Miller realized the dashed off jottings of the future author of Dracula would best be presented not chronologically, but collected in chapters focused on various topic areas. For example, Chapter I is "Aspiring Writer," in which the editors pull together the notes on Stoker's literary influences and his early poems which they put in the context of the youthful Dubliner.

Vampire fans are likely to go straight to the second chapter, "En Route to Dracula." There, Miller and Dacre Stoker not only point out where the novelist might have picked up some of his preliminary ideas, but also build a convincing case for how journal writing itself was an influence on Dracula. After all, the novel is written as a collection of journal entries.

While that chapter pulls together most of the Dracula related notes, the rest of the notebook has other clues into pre-Dracula musings. But to focus too much on one novel would be selling Bram Stoker short as he was a man of many interests and talents. The chapter on "Humor" alone is worth the price of admission as Bram recorded more than a few jokes and anecdotes that tickled his funnybone. In his day, Bram Stoker was best known for his work with actor Henry Irving, so there's much here about English theatre of the period. There are sections on family, acquaintances, and travel. Throughout, all the notes are put in historical and biographical contexts that make this a volume that should awaken a new interest in the entire canon of Bram Stoker as so much new light is shed here.

So The Lost Journal is that lucky hybrid of newly discovered material that was once private, written by one man for himself, now interwoven with credible scholarship that shows how multi-dimensional Bram Stoker was. You don't have to be a Dracula devotee trolling for nuggets on that book to find yourself enjoying being transported to the streets of Dublin over a century ago. It's a book to explore while enjoying, ah, er, a stake and ale.


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