Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 16:26 UK

Dublin gets its teeth into Dracula

By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News

Fanged teeth

With Bram Stoker's Dracula having been decreed the book every man, woman and child living in Dublin should read in April, expect to see lots of cheap plastic capes, glow-in-the dark fangs and fake blood at spin-off events throughout the city.

However, the organisers of the 'Dublin: One City, One Book' project have devised a programme which should place the Irish author in the spotlight as much as his most famous creation who seems to have had as many onscreen incarnations as victims.

Even those of us who usually find ourselves behind the sofa during the tamest of horror flicks could presumably name at least one actor who has donned cape and slicked back their hair ahead of trying to master the role.

You could have gone for, among others, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, David Niven, Patrick Bergin or comic takes by George Hamilton and Leslie Nielsen.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
Dracula has had numerous onscreen incarnations

But did you know that Bram Stoker stole the girlfriend of Oscar Wilde, and then married her before quickly whisking the woman in question out of Ireland? The whole affair proving quite the scandal.

Well, these very nuptials are to be recreated at their original venue, St Ann's Church on Dublin's Dawson Street, as part of a month-long series of events.

"At the wedding there was only Stoker, his wife and one other guest present," said Alastair Smeaton, divisional librarian with Dublin City Libraries, which is behind the One City, One Book project.

"The wedding announcement didn't appear in the newspapers until the next day, so there are some slight suspicions, shall we say, that Florence Balcombe may not have been in the condition she would been expected to be in on the day of her wedding.

Christopher Lee as Dracula
Dracula was first published in 1897

"What the people at St Ann's Church have done is put together a whole scripted event around the wedding, fictional of course, including many of Stoker's literary contemporaries and a row taking place between Stoker and Oscar Wilde."

Running his eye down the festival programme, Alastair Smeaton said: "Another very interesting event is taking place in St Patrick's Cathedral and the connection there is that there are members of a branch of the Stoker family buried in the precinct of the cathedral.

"That event will be a combination of suitably spooky organ music with readings from Dracula."

I think Dracula just taps into the general human fascination with the macabre and is probably the best book of its kind ever written
Alastair Smeaton

Dracula has not been out of print since it was published nearly 120 years ago, but why have none of Stoker's other works enjoyed anywhere near close to the same level of success?

"He did write many other items, which never had the quality or indeed fame of Dracula," continued Alastair Smeaton.

"His first publication, for example, while he was working here in Dublin as a civil servant, was a tome on the duties of a magistrate's clerk and you obviously wouldn't expect that to have mass appeal.

"I think Dracula just taps into the general human fascination with the macabre and is probably the best book of its kind ever written."



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