Bram (short for Abraham) Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847, the son of a civil servant and the third of seven children. Until he was seven, Stoker was bedridden with an unidentified illness, but he overcame it to become a distinguished athlete at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1867, he saw the famous Shakespearean actor, Henry Irving, act at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, and developed a passion for the theater. After gaining a degree in pure mathematics in 1870, he followed his father into the civil service. He also worked as an unpaid drama critic. In 1875, he published his first horror story, "The Chain of Destiny."
Stoker's life changed after a momentous meeting with Irving in 1876. Following Irving's recitation of a melodramatic poem, Stoker, by his own report, "burst out into something like a violent fit of hysterics." and proceeded to strike up a lifelong friendship with Irving.
Stoker left the civil service in 1878 when he accepted Irving's invitation to become the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. Stoker retained this post until Irving's death in 1905, accompanying him on his American tours. Also in 1878, Stoker married a noted beauty and aspiring actress, Florence Balcombe. In 1879, he published a dry work called The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, and Florence gave birth to their only child, a son called Noel.
Stoker's early writing is not considered to be of high quality. He published a collection of children's stories, Under the Sunset, in 1881, and an unsuccessful novel, The Snake's Pass, in serial form in 1889. In 1890, Stoker began a seven-year period of research for his best-known novel, Dracula, which was finally published in 1897. Dracula was a bestseller on first publication and is still popular today: its influence on the horror genre has been great. Many film versions have been made. The most memorable are Universal's (1931) starring Bela Lugosi as the Count, and Hammer Films' Dracula (1958), with Christopher Lee in the lead role. Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) offered a version faithful to the novel, with Gary Oldman's Count a romantic hero.
Barbara Belford (Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula, Knopf, 1996) is one of several critics who claim that Stoker based the character of Dracula partly on the charismatic Irving. Most critics accept that the main model for Dracula was the historical figure Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476), a cultivated yet bloodthirsty warrior who ruled an area of the Balkans called Wallachia and impaled his enemies on long spikes.
Stoker wrote several adventure novels, including The Jewel of Seven Stars (1904) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). In 1906, he published his Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving.
An article by Stoker that throws light on his attitude to sex, society, and women is called "The Censorship of Fiction" (1908). In the article, Stoker attacked literary "works of shameful lubricity" (works that were sexually stimulating) that were "corrupting the nation." Stoker advocates a "continuous and rigid" censorship of novels and plays because the moral fabric of society was threatened by works exploiting "the forces of inherent evil in man." He wrote that "women were the worst offenders in this form of breach of moral law" and that "the only emotions which in the long run harm are those arising from sex impulses."
Stoker continued to write until his death in London in 1912.