Page 26. " I looked for a bell, so that I might let the servants know I had finished "
Suitors scramble to save a woman the effort of having to pull a bell-pull, James Gillray, 1805
Public DomainSuitors scramble to save a woman the effort of having to pull a bell-pull, James Gillray, 1805 - Credit: US Library of Congress

In Victorian times, large houses often had a complicated network of bells and bell-pulls, so that the ladies and gentlemen of the house could summon servants when required. Each bell-pull connected to a certain bell in the servants’ area, so that the maids knew which room needed attention.

Page 26. " I saw something like them in Hampton Court "
Queen Mary's State Bedchamber at Hampton Court
Public DomainQueen Mary's State Bedchamber at Hampton Court - Credit: wikimedia commons

 Hampton Court is a palace in London, built by King Henry VIII for Cardinal Wolsey. When Wolsey fell out of favour, the palace passed to the king. The British royal family has not resided in the palace since the 18th century; today it is open to the public as a museum and tourist attraction.


Hampton Court
GNU Free Documentation LicenseHampton Court - Credit: Andreas Tille/Wikimedia Commons


Page 26. " the London Directory, the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ books, Whitaker’s Almanack, the Army and Navy Lists "

The London Directory is a listing of commercial traders in London.

The ‘red’ books were directories relating to the court and nobility.

The ‘blue’ books were government publications with blue covers.

Whitaker’s Almanac is a reference book on a variety of topics, published annually.

The Army and Navy Lists are lists of all serving officers of the army and navy (no longer available to the public).

The Law List was a directory of professional lawyers.

Page 27. " I am boyar "
A Russian Boyar
Public DomainA Russian Boyar - Credit: The collection of New York Public Library

A boyar was a Russian or Eastern European aristocrat of the highest feudal rank, second only to the prince. Boyars were landowners, with serfs and some form of military or administrative function bestowed by the prince. 


‘A stranger in a strange land’ is a phrase used by Moses:

And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land

Exodus 2:22

Page 28. " last night, in fact, when all evil spirits are supposed to have unchecked sway "

Walpurgisnacht is a spring festival which takes place every year around the 1st of May in Northern and Central Europe. It is similar to the Celtic celebration of Beltane, or May Day. Translated from German, it means 'Walpurgis Night', and is named for St. Walpurga; although traditionally it celebrates the end of winter and the coming of Spring, it has a much darker side too. In Germany, it was believed that dark forces were able to gather together in order to take advantage of the final day of winter. In particular, witches were said to assemble on the Brocken - the highest peak of the Harz mountain range - to hold their Sabbat. Their revelry would conjure up the Devil, and together they would commit terrible acts. People celebrate the festival with the lighting of bonfires, especially in the smaller, rural towns near the Harz mountains, and often dress up as witches.


Page 29. " an English Bradshaw’s Guide "

The Bradshaw’s Guide was a book of railway timetables, published annually.


Page 30. " estate at Purfleet "
by hector

Purfleet lies to the east of London in Essex, beside the River Thames.


Google Map


Carfax may be named after the famous medieval tower at the centre of Oxford.

Page 30. " but I have taken with my Kodak views of it from various points "
Kodak camera advert, 1888
Public DomainKodak camera advert, 1888 - Credit: wikimedia commons

A Kodak was an old Victorian handheld camera, so popular that the Eastman Dry Plate Company that created it incorporated it into their name, becoming Eastman Kodak (still around and making cameras today). The Kodak, introduced in 1888, was cheap, compact, and easy to use. It made the previously very complicated process of taking photographs accessible to everyone. Their advertising slogan was: “You press the button, We do the rest.”

Image of the first Kodak handheld camera

History of Kodak

Page 32. " But there was no reflection of him in the mirror "
The shadow of Nosferatu (1922, Murnau)
Public DomainThe shadow of Nosferatu (1922, Murnau) - Credit: Film Arts Guild/wikimedia commons

This is an interesting feature of vampire mythology. Though vampires and vampire-like creatures can be found in many cultures, and arguably date back to ancient times, Bram Stoker’s vampires draw heavily on Eastern European folklore. According to many European accounts, the soul-less nature of the creature means that it can neither cast a shadow nor create a reflection. Bram Stoker’s initial notes, written on Lyceum Theatre notepaper, reveal how this folklore may have influenced some of his early ideas for the features of his villain:

“could not Codak him – comes out black or like skeleton corpse”

“No looking glasses in Count’s house – never can see his reflection in one – no shadow?

“Painters cannot paint him. His likeness always like someone else”


Bram Stoker may also have been influenced by the ideas found in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), in which a painting reveals the true monstrous nature of the ever-youthful and beautiful man.  The Picture of Dorian Gray on Book Drum.

The cover page of Varney the Vampire (1845)
Public DomainThe cover page of Varney the Vampire (1845) - Credit: wikimedia commons


However, this aspect of the vampire myth is not universal, even in European tradition. In fiction, too, different authors have chosen to embrace or ignore it: in Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Discworld and Being Human, vampires have no reflection; in Anne Rice’s vampire novels, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and many others, they do.

Interview with the Vampire on Book Drum

Twilight on Book Drum


Many other vampire features and characteristics vary wildly from one fictional story to another. A large number of the ‘traditional features’ modern audiences have come to expect from vampires are actually derived from older fiction, such as Dracula (1897), Varney the Vampire (1845-7) and Carmilla (1872), rather than the folklore. It may be tempting for readers to claim that ‘proper vampires’ should behave or look certain ways, but there really is no fixed, distinct definition of what a vampire is.

A list of vampire traits in folklore and fiction


Page 33. " his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix "
Vampire killing kit
Creative Commons AttributionVampire killing kit - Credit: Smath at Flickr

Vulnerability to holy objects is another feature of vampire mythology in Dracula that is influenced by European Folklore. It is based around the idea that the vampire is an unholy creature, cursed by God, or a minion of Satan himself. As such, the vampire is repelled or even harmed by sacred objects, which carry a little of God’s divine power.


This is also one of the features that varies considerably in fiction, usually reflecting whether the vampire is supposed to be an evil, accursed monster, or simply a supernatural creature that has nothing to do with religion. Some vampires are burned by crosses, some are merely weakened, and others are not affected at all. For some, any holy object will do the trick, whereas others are only repelled by crosses and crucifixes. The latter tradition is sometimes turned on its head, as in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967, Roman Polanski) when a Jewish vampire laughs at the crucifix that is brandished at him.

Page 35. " he could control the wolves "
18th century engraving of a werewolf
Public Domain18th century engraving of a werewolf - Credit: wikimedia commons

Interestingly, this was not originally intended to be Jonathan's first experience of Count Dracula's strange power over wolves. An early draft of Dracula appears to have included a chapter in which Jonathan encounters the supernatural near Munich, on his way to Transylvania.

This chapter was removed at the suggestion of his editors, but can be read in the form of a short story.

Read the full story here

Page 36. " the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent "
Bronze figure of Thor (ca. 1000 AD)
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBronze figure of Thor (ca. 1000 AD) - Credit: Wolfgang Sauber/Wikimedia Commons

The Ugric peoples are those who speak Ugric languages, including the Hungarians (Szekelys and Csangos), the Khanty and Mansi. As this hiddeneurope article on modern Transylvania suggests, Szekelys today seem to find the idea of these Icelandic connections bizarre but amusing. However, they are keen to stress that their role as protectors of Medieval Transylvania is accurate. As one woman claims, "we really are the Huns"!


Berserkers. Vendel era bronze plate found on Öland
Public DomainBerserkers. Vendel era bronze plate found on Öland - Credit: wikimedia commons

 Thor and Wodin (Odin) are two warlike gods of Norse mythology. Thor is the god of thunder, and carries a magical hammer called Mjöllnir. Odin is the chief god and ruler of Asgard (the realm of the gods), a god of war, battle, death, magic and the hunt.


The Berserkers were Norse warriors who worked themselves into a frenzy before battle in order to fight with a kind of insane, trance-like fury. According to Norse myth they were capable of transforming into bears or wolves, and so became associated with werewolves. They are sometimes described as Odin’s special warriors.

Page 36. " those old witches, who, expelled from Scythia had mated with the devils in the desert "

Scythia was a region north of the Black Sea. The Scythians were an ancient Iranian people who inhabited the area until the 2nd century AD. Due to negative ancient Greek descriptions of them, Scythians had long been used as an epitome of savagery and barbarianism.


Scythia in 1st century BC
GNU Free Documentation LicenseScythia in 1st century BC - Credit: Dbachmann/Wikimedia Commons
Page 36. " when the Magyar, the Lombard, the Avar, the Bulgar, or the Turk poured his thousands on our frontiers "
Map showing location of Lombards and Avars, 600 AD
Public DomainMap showing location of Lombards and Avars, 600 AD - Credit: wikimedia commons

The Lombards were a Germanic tribe that dominated an area of Northern Italy bordering the Alps from the 6th to 8th centuries. The Avars settled in Dacia in the 6th century, and were defeated by Charlemagne around 800 AD. By 'Turks', Dracula means the people of the Ottoman Empire, one of the largest and longest lived empires in history, which existed from the 13th to the 20th centuries. The Ottoman Empire had a long history of conflict with Eastern Europe.


In The Land Beyond the Forest, Emily Gerard observes that the people of Transylvania, whose history is so full of conflict, appear to have never moved out of their state of constant readiness for battle:


The Ottoman Empire
Public DomainThe Ottoman Empire - Credit: Atilim Gunes Baydin on wikimedia commons





“Living in Transylvania, we are sometimes inclined to wonder whether to be besieged by Turks and Tartar be really a thing of the past, and not rather an actual danger for which we must be prepared any day, so strangely are many little observances relating to those times still kept up. Thus in the belfry tower at Kaisd there hangs a little bell bearing a Gothic inscription and the date 1506. It is rung every evening at the usual curfew hour, and until within a very few years ago the watchman was under the obligation of calling forth into the night with stentorian voice, “Not this way, you villains! not this way! I see you well!””


Gerard goes on to describe the custom of storing food in churches, offering her reader this amusing anecdote:


““We have seven chapels all full of bacon,” I was once proudly informed by a village church-warden; but, with the innate mistrust of his race, he would not indulge my further curiosity on the subject by suffering me to inspect the interior of these greasy sanctuaries, evidently suspecting me of sinister intentions on his bacon stores.”

Page 36. " that great shame of my nation, the shame of Cassova "

Battle of Kosovo, 1389
Public DomainBattle of Kosovo, 1389 - Credit: Adam Stefanovic


"Shame of Cassova" refers to the Turkish victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, fought between the Serbian Principality and the invading Ottoman Empire.

"the Crescent" refers to the symbol of Islam and the Ottoman Empire.

"Voivode" is the Slavonic title for ‘commanding prince’ or ‘warlord’.

Page 37. " after the battle of Mohacs "
by hector

There were two battles of Mohács, but Dracula is talking about the first, a victory for the Ottomans.  

Mohács is a town in Hungary, and the Ottoman triumph there in 1526 led to the centuries-long partition of Hungary between the Habsburg Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Transylvania.  For Hungarians, the battle is still seen as a national disaster.

The second battle of Mohács, in 1687, saw the Holy Roman Empire force the Ottomans out of Hungary.

Page 37. " mushroom growths like the Hapsburgs and the Romanoffs can never reach "

The Habsburgs were a powerful royal German family whose members ruled as Holy Roman Emperors almost uninterruptedly from 1440 to 1806. Through a series of royal intermarriages, they gained a great deal of power and influence in Europe, including controlling the Spanish Empire at the height of its global reach. Later, they would rule the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, until the latter's dissolution in 1918.

Habsburg Dominions in 1547
Public DomainHabsburg Dominions in 1547 - Credit: The Cambridge Modern History Atlas

The Romanoffs (Romanovs) were a Russian imperial dynasty that ruled between 1613 and 1917 (when they were removed and executed during the February Revolution).

Page 37. " this diary seems horribly like the beginning of the 'Arabian Nights "
The Sultan Pardons Scheherazade, by Arthur Boyd Houghton (1836-1875)
Public DomainThe Sultan Pardons Scheherazade, by Arthur Boyd Houghton (1836-1875) - Credit: wikimedia commons

One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights) is a collection of stories from Middle Eastern and South Asian societies, including Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore. The collection was assembled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age.


The tales are presented within the frame of a new bride, Scheherazade, telling stories to her husband, the king. The king means to execute her at daybreak, but each night she leaves her story unfinished, and he lets her live in order to hear how it ends. She finishes the tale the following night, always beginning a new one and carefully leaving it unfinished as the night ends. She carries this on for 1001 nights until her husband decides to pardon her. This is why her stories must always break off at cock-crow.

Page 37. " or like the ghost of Hamlet’s father "
by hector

Hamlet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, in which the prince of Denmark is visited by the ghost of his father, who reveals that he was murdered by his own brother Claudius. The ghost tells Hamlet to avenge his death by killing Claudius. In the play, the ghost is compelled to vanish at the sound of the cock’s crow, which heralds morning.


Hamlet, by William Morris Hunt, ca.1864
Public DomainHamlet, by William Morris Hunt, ca.1864 - Credit: wikimedia commons


O, speak!

Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life

Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,

For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,

           [The cock crows.]

Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.


Shall I strike at it with my partisan?


Do, if it will not stand.

          [They strike at it.]


'Tis here!


'Tis here!


'Tis gone!

           [Exit Ghost.]

Act I, Scene 1

Page 38. " your beautiful cathedral at Exeter "
by hector
Exeter Cathedral Vaulted Ceiling
Creative Commons AttributionExeter Cathedral Vaulted Ceiling - Credit: Jim Bowen

 Exeter Cathedral is a magnificent Gothic church, with the longest uninterrupted medieval vaulted ceiling in the world.  The two towers are remnants of an earlier Norman cathedral.

Building work was completed around 1400.




Exeter Cathedral
Creative Commons AttributionExeter Cathedral - Credit: Robert Cutts
Page 40. " Coutts & Co., London "
by hector

Coutts Bank, 59 Strand, 1902
Public DomainCoutts Bank, 59 Strand, 1902
 Coutts is a British private bank, famously the Queen's bank, and the 7th oldest bank in the world.  In Bram Stoker's day, it was a noble independent house, situated at 59 Strand.

After WWI, it merged with the National Provincial & Union Bank of England, which later merged with the Westminster Bank to form NatWest.  This in turn was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the ill-fated financial services group that had to be bailed out by the British Government in 2008.  Consequently, Coutts (which has since dropped the toxic RBS tag from its name) is currently majority owned by the Government.  It remains the bank of choice for a wide range of British and international celebrities and millionaires.


Page 41. " I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall "
Winged Vampire
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWinged Vampire? - Credit: Estitxu Carton

In the literature, vampires often possess special powers. Common attributes are increased strength, perception and speed, and the ability to create a kind of trance in their victim. Other vampire powers can range from shape-shifting to mind-reading. Each of the Twilight vampires has a different special power, and they're all remarkably good baseball players.

Often, vampires gain additional powers as they age. One special power that many fictional vampires possess is the ability to fly. Although this idea has become somewhat iconic, Dracula in human form cannot fly (as indicated by his wall-crawling). He can, however, shape-shift into other forms, inspiring the often repeated motif of the vampire villain turning into a bat. 

Vampire abilities in fiction

The description of Dracula crawling down the wall is particularly horrifying, and has influenced similar powers in other fictional vampires, most notably the gifted vampires of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles who can crawl up the sides of buildings. It is not clear, however, if Dracula’s wall-crawling represents such a power, or whether he is simply able to scale the wall at a preternatural speed; Jonathan himself does successfully scale the same wall, albeit much more slowly.

Page 43. " My tablets! quick, my tablets "
by hector
Writing Tables, 1604
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumWriting Tables, 1604 - Credit: By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

Harker doesn't get his Shakespeare quite right.  It should be "My tables,  – meet it is I set it down".  Hamlet is reacting to some unpleasant revelations about his mother and uncle, delivered by the ghost of his father; his immediate urge is to write down what he has heard in his notebook  – or "tables".

Tables were a portable writing solution in an age when paper was very expensive and quill pens were impractical for use on the move.  They represented a remarkable, and largely forgotten, technology, with specially treated pages that could be written on with a metal stylus and then wiped clean with a sponge.  The pages, sometimes called "asses' skin", seemed to have been wax-coated vellum or card.

Read two excellent articles on this forerunner of the PalmPilot here and here

A rare specimen can be seen here

Understanding this erasable technology makes much more sense of the speech, clarifying the metaphor at the beginning and the physical item Hamlet seeks towards the end:


Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark

Hamlet Act I, Scene 5


Page 45. " like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of water-glasses "

When glasses are filled with water they make a musical sound when hit, or when the rim of the glass is rubbed. The pitch can be varied by altering the amount of water in the glasses. Here is a video of Beethoven played using water-glasses.



Page 45. " a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive "
The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897
Public DomainThe Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897 - Credit: wikimedia commons

Dracula’s female vampires are described in a manner that is both frightening and extremely sexual. This reflects Victorian attitudes at the time; sexual desire was something to be repressed, controlled through marriage and not discussed in respectable society, something secretly exciting and intriguing but potentially dangerous, causing a deep anxiety and obsession with sex that is often expressed in art and literature of the time. In the year that Dracula was published (1897), Philip Burne-Jones exhibited his painting The Vampire, showing a dominant female vampire gloating over a helpless male lying sprawled over the bed. The picture captures the same feeling of terror and desire that is conjured in Jonathan Harker’s description of the female vampires in Dracula’s castle.


Geraldine, the seductress of the poem Christabel (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1801) and Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) are likely influences for Stoker’s sexual vampire women. Discussing the former, Richard Holmes describes the sinister Geraldine as an “embodiment of pure sexual energy.” Both Christabel and Carmilla feature predatory women of a supernatural nature, who cannot cross the threshold of a house and are stronger at night. Both befriend and take advantage of the kindness of a young motherless woman. Carmilla, the prototype for lesbian vampire fiction, makes sexual advances towards her female friend. The figures of Geraldine and Carmilla, as dominant, sexual and dangerous women, were both frightening and exciting to a Victorian audience.


Bram Stoker himself wrote about the danger of sex and the immorality of sexual desire, calling it “a force of evil” and concluding that: “a close analysis will show that the only emotions which in the long run harm are those arising from sex impulses” (‘The Censorship of Fiction’, 1908 – this article can be read in Appendix III in the back of the Penguin Classics version of Dracula).

Carmilla, David Henry Friston, 1872
Public DomainCarmilla, David Henry Friston, 1872 - Credit: wikimedia commons


If heterosexual desire was something to be feared and controlled, homosexuality was repulsive and could not be tolerated; in 1895, two years before Dracula was published, the author Oscar Wilde was famously convicted of this ‘crime.’ This scene in Dracula, in which Jonathan is saved from the female vampires only to have the Count claim that “this man belongs to me”, seems to betray such fears.


This scene was actually the first part of Dracula to be visualised, and the initial inspiration for the novel. It began on the night of March 7th 1890, when Bram Stoker had a bad dream. The next morning he scribbled on a piece of notepaper:

Young man goes out, sees girls one tries to kiss him not on lips but throat. Old Count interferes – rage & fury diabolical – this man belongs to me I want him.

This dream had such an effect on Stoker that it inspired him to create Dracula.


The female vampires in Dracula, along with the figures of Geraldine and Carmilla, have had a tremendous influence on vampire fiction and on the portrayal of female vampires. Dracula’s ‘brides’ are a familiar sight in any Dracula movie, and have been borrowed for many other stories. The idea of the vampire as a sexual creature that seduces its prey is particularly popular in current vampire fiction.

More about Victorian attitudes to sex

Page 49. " These Szgany are gipsies "
by hector

A Roma family in Transylvania, c.1862
Public DomainA Roma family in Transylvania, c.1862 - Credit: Theodor Glatz
The Szgany, or Roma, constitute about 3% of the population of modern-day Romania.  They are thought to originate from northern India, and to have arrived in eastern Europe in the 14th century.

In Wallachia and Moldavia, many of the Roma were held as slaves until Abolition in the 1850s.  It is therefore perhaps not surprising that they take a somewhat anti-establishment role in Dracula.  Or possibly their allegiance to Dracula dates back far longer than that: in 1445, Vlad Dracul is reported to have captured around 12,000 prisoners "who looked like Egyptians" whilst fighting in Bulgaria; could these be the ancestors of the Count's henchmen?

The cart in the picture may be what Stoker means by a "leiter-wagon".


Moldavian Roma, 1837
Public DomainMoldavian Roma, 1837 - Credit: Auguste Raffet

Page 49. " their own varieties of the Romany tongue "
by hector

The Romani speak a range of related Indo-Aryan languages, including Vlax Romani, Balkan Romani and Carpathian Romani in different parts of Romania.