From the very same evening of ghost stories in 1816 which inspired Mary Shelley to write FRANKENSTEIN (see post, A Monster is Born), Lord Byron’s personal physician, Dr. John Polidori who was on the trip to Switzerland, wrote one of the earliest vampire novels, THE VAMPYRE based on a short fragment that Byron wrote but quickly abandoned. However it would be some years before Bram Stoker defined the genre by writing Dracula.
In 1890 Stoker was on a trip to Yorkshire when he first made notes on a supernatural tale about an undead man. His son claimed that the plot came to his father in a “nightmarish dream after eating too much dressed crab.” Interestingly that would mean that all three 19th century horror classics had their genesis in the dreamworld: FRANKENSTEIN; DRACULA & DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.
Based in part on the life of the real Dracula, a 15th century Transylvanian warlord Vlad Dracul, who, in order to instill terror in his enemies (and occasionally friends) would kill them in horrifying ways, DRACULA made its debut in 1897. Originally titled THE UNDEAD, it was changed to DRACULA just prior to publication and issued in cheap yellow boards with red titles. Its initial print run was 3000 but there are no records of sales. Presumably they were slow given that the next printing wasn’t until a paperback was issued in 1901 and that reviews ranged from luke-warm to caustic. Fortunately authors have mothers. “My dear, it is splendid…no book since Mrs. Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN or indeed any other at all has come near yours in originality, or terror – Poe is nowhere… In its terrible excitement it should make a widespread reputation and much money for you.”