Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' Tried To Sell Itself As A True Story
When Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, he included a preface that we don't see in copies today. "I am quite convinced that there is no doubt whatever that the events here described really took place," it began, "however unbelievable and incomprehensible they might appear at first sight. And I am further convinced that they must always remain to some extent incomprehensible."
This is a trick you've likely seen before—labeling a story as true, even when it clearly isn't and when the author isn't seriously claiming it is. It’s not a lie, it’s just an attempt at verisimilitude. Take the famous opening to Fargo: "This is a true story ... At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred." In the movie, this text convinced some viewers that it was a true story, but the TV show uses it too, even though everyone knows it's just a story.
A century or so ago, many books would censor the occasional name ("Lord C— sent me a letter"). The conceit was that this was a real-life person who might object to their part in the story being made public. In reality, the story was fiction, and readers knew it, but this helped them pretend for a moment that it wasn't.
Dracula, though ... Dracula went too far, apparently. Stoker's editor rejected the manuscript until he the preface was eliminated. The year was 1897, Londoners were still worried after some guy named Jack had been ripping about, and if Stoker said the story was true, people would believe him (said the editor).
So Bram Stoker removed the foreword. He removed quite a bit else as well—we later found his manuscript, which seems to start the same way as the book we know, but according to the page numbers, a large section at the start is missing. We can't tell you for sure what was removed, but we have some clues from an odd source: the Icelandic translation of Dracula. It's different from the English one and is said to have been written in consultation with Stoker. One big change? In this version, Harker is a much bigger fan of vampire sex.
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