Sunday, May 10, 2015

Poe is nowhere, but Bram Stoker's mother is everything!

Charlotte Matilda Blake Thornley Stoker
I was going to write a blog post today about the mothers of writers in London in the 1890s, but I found this passage in Barbara Belford's biography of Bram Stoker that I think says it all. To me, this passage shows that, when things are looking down, when you are faced with criticisms and your endeavours are not as successful as you hope, mothers often know best.

Stoker borrowed money to publish Dracula, which didn't make him much money (in his lifetime) and got pretty dismal reviews - even from his friends.
Fortunately authors have mothers. "My dear, it is splendid," gushed Charlotte Stoker, "a thousand miles beyond anything you have written before, and I feel certain will place you very high in the writers of the day - the story and style being deeply sensational, exciting and interesting." To his mother, Stoker had surpassed all competitors. "No book since Mrs Shelley's 'Frankenstein' or indeed any other at all has come near yours in originality, or terror - Poe is nowhere," she wrote. "I have read much but I never met a book like it at all. In its terrible excitement it should make a widespread reputation and much money for you." Unfortunately it did neither during Stoker's lifetime. If Dracula had been published in 1818 at the same time as Frankenstein, instead of at the height of literary realism and naturalism, it would have been a Romantic milestone. Source
Thank you for always being so supportive of me, mom. We writers need moms like you.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Poop in (Victorian) Beards

Nowadays, when you mention the long beard trend, most people immediately think of hipsters; I still think of the Victorians. With the news this week that these hipster beards harbour the kind of bacteria found in fecal matter, I rolled my eyes and thought about other problems the Victorians had with poop.

Essentially, overpopulation in the City of London caused the Times to speculate in 1894 that by 1950 the horse poop in the streets would be nine feet deep. It was the full-time occupation of the city's block boys to keep the streets free of manure. If you are worried about your beard filling up with poo as you go about your business today, imagine how crappy Bram Stoker's beard was!

In spite of the fact that Stoker took a bath every night before bed, the Victorians aren't remembered for their excellent hygiene, or medical care. Although they weren't known for their especially long life spans, walking around with poop all over their faces isn't what was killing them.

Before you throw hygiene to the wind and embrace the notion of getting poop on your face, remember that a basic understanding of science may be lacking in populations that resist learning about evolution (namely much of the Southern United States and people in the nineteenth century). It wasn't actual poop that they found in the beards of men in Albuquerque, it was the kind of bacteria found in the stomach and in poop. If you don't have enough, or the right kinds of these bacteria, you may develop ulcerative colitis and other gastrointestinal conditions, which are sometimes even treated with a fecal transplant (they take the poop bacteria from the tummy of a healthy person and put it into the tummy of a sick person).

If you are a hipster, be like Stoker. Enjoy your beard, but wash it often. Irregardless of whether you have a beard, no one is going to want to kiss you if you don't take a bath.

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