Here's your history lesson for the day: Did you know that the Dracula
author and everyone's favorite Victorian dandy were once romantic rivals?
Many don't realize this, but Bram Stoker, best known for his famous Gothic novel Dracula
, and Oscar Wilde, author of satirical plays like The Importance of Being Ernest
and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray
, were contemporaries. Both men were born in Ireland in the mid-1800s, and were deeply involved in the Irish and British literary scenes. Both men attended Trinity College in Dublin, though Stoker was several years ahead. And it was in Dublin that both men met Florence Balcombe.
Florence Balcombe was a famed beauty but without much wealth. She caught Oscar Wilde's eye when she was just 17 and he was 20, and they dated seriously for about two years. He was enamored with her, frequently visiting to paint portraits of her and write her poetry. It's often assumed that Oscar intended to marry Florence, but for one reason or another their relationship fizzled out.
That's when Bram Stoker entered the picture. Bram was friends with Oscar from their college days, and was also quite close with Oscar's parents, the archeologist William Wilde and famous poet Lady Jane. It may have even been through his connection with the Wilde family that he first met Florence Balcombe. Not much is known about their courtship, but Bram and Florence were married in Dublin in 1878, only a year or so after her relationship with Oscar had ended. When Oscar Wilde heard the news, he was devastated. He wrote Florence a letter asking for the necklace he had given her back and vowing to leave Ireland for good. This was kind of a silly plan, though, since the Stokers almost immediately moved to London, where Bram had gotten a job as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre. As Bram, Florence, and Oscar were now all living in England and moving in the same literary circles again, they wound up rekindling their friendship. Oscar eventually married a woman named Constance Lloyd, with whom he had two children, though it's his later affairs with men for which he's generally known.
Florence and Bram Stoker seem to have had a generally happy and successful marriage. Florence outlived her husband by two and a half decades, and is best known for her efforts to protect Stoker's work from copyright infringement after his death. She was engaged in an extended legal dispute with the creators of the 1922 German film Nosferatu
, which had been adapted from Bram Stoker's Dracula
without permission. Florence eventually won the suit and demanded that all copies of the film be destroyed, but (perhaps luckily for horror buffs and the film community) several copies survived.
What do you think of this literary love triangle? Would you pick Bram Stoker or Oscar Wilde? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Written By: TheGothicLibrarian