Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I came across something interesting the other day while reading Mysteries of Time and Space:  The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei (Night Shade Books, 2002):  the possibility that Bram Stoker had help in writing Dracula and other novels.

     From a letter by Lovecraft to Wandrei, dated January 29, 1927:

     Have you read anything of Stoker's aside from "Dracula"?  "The Jewel of Seven Stars" is [pretty fair, but " The Lair of the White Worm" is absolutely the most amorphous & infantile mess I've ever seen between cloth covers; & that in spite of a magnificent idea which one would ordinarily deem well-nigh fool-proof.  Stoker was absolutely devoid of a sense of form, & could not write a coherent tale to save his life.  Everything of his went through the hands of a re-writer, (exc ept, perhaps, the "White Worm") & it is curious to note that one of our circle of amateur journalists -- an old lady named Mrs. Miniter -- had a chance to revise the 'Dracula" MS (which was a fiendish mess!) before its publication, but turned it downbecause Stoker refused to pay the price which the difficulty of the work impelled her to charge.  Stoker had a brilliantly fantastic mind, but was unable to shape the images he created.

     In a footnote, Mrs. Miniter is is identified as "Edith (Dowe) Miniter (1869-1934), an amateur journalist ans author of a professionnally published novel, Our Natupski Neighbors (1916).  This account of her involvement with Dracula has not been confirmed."

     On February 7th of the same year, Wandrei  wrote to HPL:  "I have only read "Dracula" by Stoker, which certainly has enough flaws even though it was revised."

     And on April 19th, HPL wrote.:

     Stoker had creative genius but no sense of form.  He couldn't write any decent connected novel without extensive help & revision.  Have you seen that pitiful mess "The Lair of the White Worm"?  Poor Bram makes a fizzle of a truly magnificent horror idea which I'd ordinarily consider almost fool-proof.  Do you know his "Jewel of Seven Stars"?  That is much better.

     I don't remember reading anything before by Lovecraft making this claim, and don't remember anyone claiming that Stoker's work was heavily revised.  Why would Stoker (or his agents) go Miniter, an American, with an offer of a revision job?  Of course, some well-known names have used revisionists and ghost writers (Lovecraft himself did revision work for Harry Houdini), and the worlds of amateur and professional writing often intersected.  Lovecraft's claim seems centered on Stoker's novels, making no mention of his shorter works -- many of which were very good.  Remember, too, that Lovecraft's idea of revision often meant scrapping the entire original work and creating a piece based on the original idea.  How heavily would Stoker's writing need to be revised, if at all?

     I just don't know.  Is the claim true?  Did Stoker rely on other writers for his novels?  Or, was he just repeating some gossip  that he had heard?  Anyone with knowledge or opinions please jump in.

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