- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2008


Edited with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger

Norton, $39.95, 613 pages.


Having recently returned from Transylvania, it seems only fitting that I review this fascinating compendium of Draculiana during the Scary Season.

Now that Leslie S. Klinger has pretty well exhausted the subject of Sherlock Holmes and his creator with seven books on the subject, he turns to Stoker’s “Dracula.” By day, a tax and estate planning lawyer, Mr. Klinger, who has also edited 14 other annotated editions of a variety of classic works, must have prodigious energy - either that or he shares with the count a disinclination to sleep at night. In any event, he’s put together a very handsome, readable and seemingly comprehensive collection.

A 19-page introductory section puts the novel in a historical context that includes the cinematic treatments of the book and the legend, but the main offering is the novel itself. Stoker’s text is printed on slightly over half of the page, to the right of which are Mr. Klinger’s annotations, and what a rich and rewarding lot they are. And numerous! By the bottom of page one, there are 17 footnotes, which take up 61/2 pages before we get back to the text. But, seeing as one does not read an annotated version for the text, that’s hardly a problem, and what’s more, the notes are almost as intriguing as the text itself.

For example, in the very first paragraph, Stoker writes, “Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets.” Two pages later, Mr. Klinger’s footnote - Number 7 - reads: “In fact, Harker must have run rapidly through the streets if the arrival and departure times in the Notes are correct. …” And continues for another 250 words.

Some of the notes are much ado about not much, and others are refreshingly interesting, because Mr. Klinger is anything but a musty, by-the-book scholar. For example, in Footnote 16 we find: “The Reading Room of the British Museum opened in 1857 and was accessible only to those visitors with a ‘reader’s ticket.’ Every reader was provided with a chair, a folding desk, a small hinged shelf for books, pens, and ink, a blotting pad, and a peg for one’s hat. On a visit to the Reading Room in the mid-1970s, this editor obtained a brochure listing famous readers, including Karl Marx but not including Jonathan Harker or another famous user, Sherlock Holmes. When a guard who appeared quite ancient was questioned about this omission, he curtly stated that he had never seen them here. …”

In addition to written notes, the editor provides a virtual cornucopia of pictures and illustrations, ranging from photos of the Borgo Pass and the site of Castle Dracula, both taken by Mr. Klinger in 2007, to a reproduction of the cover of the 1902 edition of “Dracula.” Some pictures are quite small, while others, like the publicity photo of John Carradine as Dracula that introduces Chapter 12, take up an entire page. One of my favorites is the picture, on Page 247, of a box filled with “Post-mortem instruments.” Very Draculesti.

After the annotated text are four appendices, the first of which contains a short story, “Dracula’s Guest,” by Stoker, which was published posthumously, as well as two appendices that explain the dating of the novel and its chronology, and, finally, a glossary of the English meanings of a number of words from the Whitby dialect, which is featured in the novel.

The last 80 or so pages of the volume are given over to five chapters, each one either more or equally interesting than the last. They are: “Dracula After Stoker: Fictional Accounts of the Count,” “Sex, Lies, and Blood: Dracula in Academia,” “The Public Life of Dracula: Dracula on Stage and Screen,” “Dracula’s Family Tree,” and “The Friends of Dracula.”

Of these, “The Public Life of Dracula” is particularly engaging, what with its many pictures of the actors who have played Dracula (and Van Helsing), such as Bela Lugosi (of course), Frank Langella, the late great Jeremy Brett and even Jack Palance - the very thought of him as Count Dracula is enough to rob one, if not of blood, then certainly of sleep. “Dracula’s Family Tree” adds just about everyone you can think of, from Tom Cruise to Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

There is also an excellent bibliography that I am pleased to see gives adequate mention to the work of the late professor, Raymond T. McNally, and his Boston College colleague Radu Florescu. Their best-selling 1972 book, “In Search of Dracula,” regenerated the modern interest in the count, and showed conclusively that the historical basis for the Dracula myth and legend was a Romanian Prince by the name of Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler. (I should mention, full disclosure-wise, that my trip to Romania this summer was to help Mr. Florescu, now professor emeritus, with the writing of his memoirs.) During his research for the book, Mr. Florescu found strong evidence that among his family tree, which stretches back to the 1300s, was one Vlad Tepes. Some years later, another Romanian historian, Matei Cazacu, found proof of that connection.

Do not think, dear reader and lover of the Dracula stories, that this is purely an academic book, a somber volume intended mainly for scholars. Quite the opposite is true. As Leslie Klinger says at the beginning of this big and enjoyable book, “In recent years, “Dracula” has become a cottage industry for esteemed academics and serious scholars, who see the text as proof of virtually every wrong that may be blamed on the Victorians. I generally avoid a discussion of the subtexts of the work. … My principle aim, however, has been to restore a sense of wonder, excitement, and sheer fun to this great work.”

John Greenya is a Washington-area writer.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide