A RARE letter from the West Country superstar who inspired one of the greatest horror characters of all time is coming up for sale.
The document was penned by Dracula author Bram Stoker and signed by his employer, the renowned Victorian actor Sir Henry Irving.
Irving was born John Henry Brodribb in Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, in 1838 and brought up by an aunt in Halsetown in Cornwall, where he competed in a recitation contest at the local Methodist Chapel.
He went on to become a superstar of the Victorian stage.
The letter, penned by Stoker in 1902 and thanking a donor for giving money to an actors’ charity, goes on sale at Chippenham Auction Rooms next month.
Stoker was Irving’s assistant and business manager, and is said by many experts to have based the character of Dracula in part on Irving, a tall, imposing man with dark hair.
Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker began writing Dracula in the early 1890s. The book was published in 1897 and while a success in Britain, did not become a world-famous phenomenon until Hollywood filmed the novel in 1931.
Richard Edmonds, principal auctioneer at Chippenham Auction Rooms, said: “This letter is a fascinating footnote in the history of Dracula. Bram Stoker was very close to Henry Irving and looked after his business affairs, including writing letters for Irving to sign.
“This letter was drafted in Stoker’s handwriting five years after Dracula was published but Stoker had not earned enough money to give up his day job. He was still working for the actor who inspired the novel and one of literature’s darkest and most enduring characters.”
Henry Irving died three years later in 1905, collapsing after a performance, while Stoker died in 1912, 19 years before Dracula reached a global audience in the shape of Hollywood actor Bela Lugosi.
The Stoker-Irving letter is part of a collection of 50 letters and diaries, mainly from the Victorian era. Other highlights include a letter written in 1854 by Devon-born Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies, after one of whose books Westward Ho! in North Devon is named.
The letters are being sold by a private collector at Chippenham Auction Rooms on Friday, March 2. It will be available for public viewing on March 1 (www.chippenhamauctionrooms.co.uk).