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Writing the vampire : M. E. Braddon’s Good Lady Ducayne and Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Hatter, Janine

Authors

Janine Hatter

Abstract

By the fin-de-siècle, vampire fiction already had a long-standing Gothic heritage, and yet, in the mid-1890s, two authors published their own vampire tales, hoping to make their mark in the popular genre. One author was an established best-seller with thirty years’ experience of the market, while the other was a lawyer and theatre business manager by profession and wrote in his spare time. The professional writer, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, published her short story Good Lady Ducayne in 1896, while the part-time writer, Bram Stoker, published his novel, Dracula, a year later. Braddon’s tale was quickly lost to the annals of time while Stoker’s novel became a staple of the Gothic mode. As a result of this close proximity, a potential crossover has been noted by several scholars, with Richard Bleiler commenting: “[b]ecause Dracula (1897) was written in 1896, the question arises as to whether Stoker and Braddon discussed subject matter and, if so, who influenced whom, and how. This has not yet been resolved” (131). By comparing both authors’ theatrical backgrounds, literary careers and their life-long friendship, as well as their texts’ literary formations, sources, and themes, this article establishes their potential influence on each other and discusses their social commentary to examine how this impacted their popular and literary reputations. Engaging in contemporary debates such as the “New Woman”, scientific breakthroughs and technological advances, Stoker’s novel contrasted a bygone age with modernity while cementing the genre’s patriarchal male Count as the epitome of evil. Braddon’s “Good Lady Ducayne” dealt with the same concerns of modernization and women’s changing place in society, but has been critically neglected until the twenty-first century due to its short story form and anticlimactic ending. Yet Braddon’s tale is more radical than Stoker’s classic text in its representation of vampirism, scientific advances and rational influences, as well as its gender and genre expectations. Dracula may have captured the public’s imagination, leading to it being reproduced and adapted countless times over the last century, but Braddon’s short story was potentially too close to reality to bear thinking about. This article postulates that Braddon’s moving away from the supernatural to penning a scientifically and socially realistic vampire challenges the vampire’s literary landscape more effectively than Dracula, because the horror in her tale was not displaced onto the supernatural but firmly centered in modern life.

Publication Date Aug 24, 2015
Journal Supernatural studies
Electronic ISSN 2325-4866
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 2
Pages 29-47
Institution Citation Hatter, J. (2015). Writing the vampire : M. E. Braddon’s Good Lady Ducayne and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Supernatural studies, 2(2), 29-47
Keywords Vampires in literature, Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1835-1915. Good Lady Ducayne, Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912. Dracula
Publisher URL https://sites.google.com/site/supernaturalstudiesassociation/previous-journal-issues
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Supernatural studies, v.2, issue 2.

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