LAST TIME : 75) Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) met 73) Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972) in 1882, almost 2 decades before her romance with 76) Olive Custance (1874-1944), who went on to marry Oscar’s former partner 77) Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945), and who were part of the literary circle surrounding Oscar’s mother, which also included 78) Bram Stoker (1847-1912).
Bram Stoker will
forever be remembered as the creator of Count Dracula, the world’s most famous
fictional vampire. His mother was a social campaigner in Dublin and was friends
with Sir William and Lady Jane Wilde, 75)
Oscar Wilde’s parents.
Bram’s sexuality has been
discussed in several modern biographies of him. Even though he lived a
perfectly standard heterosexual life some parts o f his earlier life lead some
biographers to wonder if some same-sex attraction was present, present in
particular some of his correspondence with the actor-manager Sir Henry Irving
and the American poet Walt Whitman. Stoker was employed by Irving and his
Lyceum Theatre Company and they were, indeed, very close. Whitman was one of
Stoker’s heroes and after they met in 1884 Whitman was impressed by his Irish
admirer. The author Fay Weldon has even gone so far as to label Stoker “a
Victorian perceptions of
same-sex relationships were different to ours. Even 75) Oscar Wilde wouldn’t label himself as homosexual. Oscar
actually had a relationship with the woman 78)
Bram Stoker married. Florence Balcombe has a 2 year romance with Oscar in
the mid-1870s. It ended when Florence announced she had become engaged to
Stoker. They married in 1878.
One thing Bram Stoker and
the Wilde’s all shared was a fascination for the supernatural. A new religion
called Spiritualism was popular in Britain and Ireland at that time, and the
Victorians loved ancient traditional myths and superstitions even though the
society was nominally staunchly Christian. Lady Wilde published 2 books on
traditional customs, superstitions and beliefs of Ireland and influenced Oscar
in his creation of his own supernatural tales such as “The Canterville Ghost”.
Bram Stoker, however, looked further afield for his inspiration for “Dracula”.
Our modern image of a
vampire owes much to Bram Stoker. Until “Dracula” vampires were hideous
zombie-like creatures (the modern movie zombie is a classic medieval vampire).
Stoker turned the vampire into an aristocratic, elegant and charming gentleman
who seduces his victims.
Stoker read and researched
many vampire legends and came up with his fictional vampire’s name from the
Romanian Prince Vlad III “Tepes” Dracula (d.1476). “Dracula” means “son of the
Dragon”, Vlad’s father having been a Knight of the Order of the Dragon. So, if
Bram Stoker made Prince Vlad the “father” of his Count Dracula then he surely
chose 79) Countess Erzsebet (Elizabeth)
Bathori (1560-1614) as his “mother”.
Countess Erzsebet Bathori
has gone done in history as the world’s worst serial killer. She had more in
common with the fictional Count Dracula than Prince Vlad. Erzsebet was of
countly rank, Vlad wasn’t (he was a sovereign prince); Erzsebet came from
Transylania, Vlad didn’t (he came form neighbouring Wallachia); Erzsebet drank
human blood, Vlad didn’t (he just tortured and killed people); and Erzsebet’s
bloodlust was in part sensual, Vlad’s wasn’t (he was just sadistic).
It is through the stories
of Countess Erzsebet that a lot of the sexual and predominantly lesbian theme
has entered modern vampiric culture. The great Hammer Films exploited this
theme, aided by the Countess’s own lesbian activities, to include lesbian
themes into their many vampire films. In 1971 they turned the Countess’s own
story into the film “Countess Dracula”.
Hammer Films is now synonymous
with gothic horror. It was a relatively small film studio and often worked on
several films with the same actors and sets at the same time. Music is always a
vital part of any horror film and Hammer had the distinctive talents of 80) James Bernard (1925-2001) on more
than 30 of their films, including some of their most famous – 4 Dracula films,
4 Frankenstein films among them. He also wrote the music for “The Quatermss
Xperiment”, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “She”, “The Legend of the Seven
Golden Vampires” and “The Devil Rides Out”.
But it is James’s wartime
work which helps us to complete our trip “Around the World in 80 Gays”.
After being conscripted
into the RAF James found himself studying cryptography. He was sent to a top
secret location, the government’s code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park. There
he was appointed to the team which has the task of decoding the Nazi’s Enigma
codes, and the James Bernard’s colleague who is credited with cracking those
codes was …
Alan Turing (1912-1954),
the man with whom we began our 80 Gays journey back in January.
In celebration of the
completion of our journey I’ve compiled the following meandering montage of
images representing each of the 80 Gays.
I hope you have enjoyed
this journey. It’s been great fun to put together. There are many other routes
and diversions I could have made but I hope the final route has been diverse,
informative and, above all, entertaining. Who knows, I may go “Around the World
in Another 80 Gays” in 2017.
I’m taking a couple of
weeks off now, while I concentrate on my final preparations for my talk and
display for Nottingham University in February. I shall be back briefly in New
Year’s Eve with my list of some in the people in the lgbt community who left us
during 2015. I’ll be back on 11th January 2016.
It’s Christmas Eve
tomorrow, so let me take this opportunity to say Merry Christmas to you all
and thank you very much for your continued interest.