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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dracula, one of the most famous literary characters ever created, first appeared in an 1897 novel written by an Irish theatre manager, Bram Stoker. Dracula was a popular, sensational “pot-boiler” that at first attracted only modest critical attention, but became enormously popular when performed on stage and later in film. The Rosenbach preserves Stoker’s outlines and research notes for the novel. There is currently an assortment of these materials on display in the Library--here a teaser that you can sink your teeth into...

Bram Stoker (1847-1912), Dracula: research notes, EL3 f.S874d MS p. 46

Three chapters of Dracula are set in Whitby, a small seaside town where Stoker vacationed in 1890. The Count would arrive in England via Whitby and would first meet Lucy there. The town is overlooked by the ruins of Whitby Abbey (photographed above) [correction,the photograph was misidentified, it is St. Mary's Abbey, York] . Founded by St. Hild in the seventh century, Whitby Abbey was sacked by the Danes in the ninth century and then again by Henry VIII. It was supposedly haunted by the ghost of St. Hild, and another of Stoker's notes records this legend. This is and other assorted notes, were among the materials Bram Stoker carried with him for the 7 years he spent imagining and writing the now legendary novel, Dracula.

This display is part of the Rosenbach's 2008 Dracula Festival, a seasonal celebration featuring a series of events inspired by Stoker's classic novel and iconic figure. Events for 2008 include:
  • A Reading and Book Signing of "The New Annotated Dracula" by Leslie Klinger on October 22, at 6:00pm.
  • A series of Stoker-themed Hands-On Tours on October 22, 25, and 29, at 3:00pm. The October 25 tour will feature a talk by Elizabeth Miller, who co-annotated the new publication "Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula" with Robert Eighteen-Bisang. This new publication features the first ever reprinting of all 124 Stoker notes from the Rosenbach collection, as well as a foreword, written by former Associate Director, Michael J. Barsanti.
  • The 6th annual Dracula Parade around Rittenhouse Square, artistically produced by Spiral Q Puppet Theater, featuring hordes of howling wolves, swooping bats, and larger-than-life characters from the novel Dracula, on October 25 at 5:30pm.
  • Monster's Ink: The Bogeymen in Sendak's Closet, a Gallery Talk on all things ghoulish and scary in the work of Maurice Sendak as seen in the exhibition There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak, on October 29, at 6:00pm.
For more information about the 2008 Dracula Festival, click here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dickens and sister(in- law)ly Love By Rosenbach Docent and Dickens Fellow Barbara Zimmerman

On the North wall of the library, one finds among the Dickens’ collection the manuscript of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens’ first novel, (written in serial form and published monthly) which catapulted him to fame at the age of 24. In March of 1837, the recently married Dickens, moved into 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine. Their frequent guest was her younger sister, Mary Hogarth, Catherine’s constant companion and chaperone during their courtship period and housekeeper during her first pregnancy. Dickens describes Mary as having “every attraction of youth and beauty” and credits her with “abilities far beyond her years”.

On May 6th, Mary accompanied the couple to the theater where the programme included one of Dickens’ farces Is She His Wife?. When they arrived home, Dickens wrote, “(Mary) went upstairs to bed at about one o’clock in perfect health and her usual delightful spirits.” Soon after, Dickens heard a cry from her room, rushed in, and discovered her in a critically ill state. Despite the best efforts of the doctor who was called in, Mary died at three o’clock the following afternoon, “In such a calm and gentle sleep,” Dickens wrote, “that although I had held her in my arms for some time before, when she was certainly living (for she swallowed a little brandy from my hand) I continued to support her lifeless form, long after her soul had fled to Heaven.”

Dickens was shattered at the death of “(the) dear girl whom I loved, after my wife, more deeply and fervently than anyone on earth”. He took the ring from her finger and wore it for the rest of his life. He wrote in a letter to a friend, “Thank God she died in my arms, and the very last words she whispered were of me…I solemnly believe that so perfect a creature never breathed, I knew her inmost heart, and her real worth and value. She had not a fault.”

Dickens composed the epitaph for Mary’s headstone:

Young, beautiful, and good,
God in His Mercy
Numbered her with his Angels
At the early age of Seventeen

and even expressed a wish to be buried next to her when his time came. He kept the clothes she wore, and named his first daughter after her. Several of his characters in his early novels are inspired by Mary’s innocence and goodness.

AND, for the first and only time in Dickens’ career, he missed a deadline. It was the June issue of The Pickwick Papers (as well as Oliver Twist which he was writing concurrently) and he explained to his readers that he had lost “ a very dear young relative to whom he was most affectionately attached, and whose society has been for a long time, the chief solace of his labours”. He wrote her mother “that pleasant smile and those sweet words which (were) bestowed upon an evening’s work in our merry banterings around the fire were more precious to me than the applause of a whole world would be.”

In 1841, Mary’s brother, George, died, and was laid to rest beside her. Dickens later wrote, “The desire to be buried next her is as strong upon me now, as it was five years ago; and I know (For I don’t think there ever was love like that I bear her) that it will never diminish…I cannot bear the thought of being excluded from her dust…it seems like losing her a second time.”