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Vampire exhibit in Scranton - Elizabeth Miller — LiveJournal
Vampire exhibit in Scranton
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From: (Anonymous) Date: April 9th, 2013 03:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Generally, Bram

Ms. Miller-- I wanted to drop you a word of thanks for your work. I'm in the process of finishing a short essay on Stoker for a friend's book on trenchant horror creators, and was just about to launch into yet another round of assumptions-- and then I read your essay on the myriad wacky sexual theories and had to smile. You know your onions. I think I'll back away from my pontification.

There is one speculative element which I am going to explore, however, and I think it's food for thought: "dreadful."

True, that alleged one-word summary could have been a general dismissive comment on Stoker's work from an imperious Irving. That has been the assumption for a century or so (or dating from whenever this unattributed anecdote began). Coupled with the historical fact that DRACULA was indeed never fully staged or adapted to the stage in Irving's lifetime or Stoker's, there is a valid ex post facto logic to conclude that Irving rejected the very idea that DRACULA would be an appropriate vehicle for him, or a stage adaptation at all.

But as your clever dissection of the assorted sexual claims taught me, a logically valid interpretation does not mean "true."

Assuming the comment was indeed spoken by Irving, what what "dreadful"? Surely the sole performance of the "stage adaptation" at the Lyceum was ponderous, garrulous, inelegant, visually unimpressive and amateurishly staged. I think it was supposedly three or four hours' worth of actors reading long chunks of dialogue and description straight out of a novel-- scarcely a riveting theater experience. "Dreadful" indeed, or perhaps "tortuous," "excruciating," "fustian-filled" and/or "butt-numbing."

Or was the comment perhaps pointed specifically at the mysterious "Mr. Jones" as the titular character?

But what would the word "dreadful" mean to Henry Irving?

He was no fool, nor was he known for his terseness when it came to discussing the theater. His written comments about presentation, staging and interpretation are seriously considered, and intricately verbose. The young Broadribb was essentially an autodidact whose teen and early adult years' education was the theater, especially the works of Shakespeare (not such a bad way to get an education, or a vocabulary).

Every one of the 66 uses of the word "dreadful" in the Bard's works imply the same meaning, and none of which reflect the haughty dismissal which has now become the standard colloquial meaning. Among them:

"As hush as death- anon the dreadful thunder doth rend the region"
"adverse foreigners affright my towns with dreadful pomp of stout invasion!"
"Avaunt, thou dreadful minister of hell!"
"Then, dreadful trumpet, sound the general doom!"
"O' the dreadful thunder-claps,"
"As venom toads, or lizards' dreadful stings."
"... to hover on the dreadful shore of Styx."

What exactly was Henry Irving saying of DRACULA? Was he sniffing an uncharacteristically curt insult? Or was he accurately describing what DRACULA-- the play, the story and the character-- COULD and SHOULD be? Awesomely ominous... terrifying... potentially overwhelming... horrible to contemplate...

Could the actor who played the deviously evil Richard III ("Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths... our dreadful marches changed to delightful measures.") be that unaware of the potential of this stage villain?

Or could his comments have been reduced by an anonymous eavesdropper to one hurtful word?

I'd like to think it's the latter. It's the romantic in me.

Ted Newsom

From: (Anonymous) Date: April 10th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Generally, Bram

Ted - I would like to comment in some detail. But right now I am in the midst of moving house and things are in "slings". Would you be so kind as to send me an email in a couple of weeks & jog my memory. (bloofer@rogers.com)
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 15th, 2013 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Generally, Bram

I shall indeed. I'll have finished my mini-essay at that point and it'll be past the point of correcting obvious wacky errors, but I am going to the raise "dreadful" subject.

(It took me decades to find out that "bloofer" was supposedly regional little-boy-talk for "beautiful." Even then I wondered, "How could anyone make that leap?" But then, that same writer obviously thought Van Helsing's idiosyncratic syntax sounded "Dutch"...)
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