Stoker's Wilde (Fiction Without Frontiers)
“Any reader who likes the literary convention of placing real-life people in fictional situations will wholeheartedly enjoy Stoker’s Wilde.”
Though Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker are actually acquainted by moving in the same social circles, neither is really what one would consider a “bosom friend” of the other.
Oscar considers Bram “a civil servant who can converse endlessly on anything dull and uninspiring. He is well past six foot, strong as an ox with a red-bearded face that frightens small children but women find handsome.”
In turn, Stoker thinks of Wilde as “a more vain and irritating seeker of attention you’d be hard put to find, though admittedly he shows promise in his academic pursuits.”
This particular adventure involves the two with Sir Richard Burton, ordered by Her Majesty to take care of a “werewolf problem” in Ireland. Wilde is enthusiastically ready to help while Stoker seems startled to find himself included.
“Apparently, I have been kidnapped by Richard Burton and the Wilde family. We are now on a werewolf hunt in Ireland.”
Surprisingly, even Wilde’s mother, a novelist, wants to join in.
“Mother, a werewolf hunt is hardly a place for a woman of your . . .”
“Of my what? Age? Girth?”
Mother wagged her finger. “If your father were alive, he’d say, “Jane, melt down the silverware and grab your gun!”
The group dispatches the werewolf with great drama and not a little pathos and then disperses. Stoker and Wilde won’t meet again until the night of the party celebrating Oscar’s betrothal to Florence Balcombe where Bram is immediately smitten with Florence.
Though the two men soon find themselves in a fatal fight with a vampire who crashes the party, Bram’s attraction to Florence will cause a great enmity between them.
Shortly after the party, Oscar imprudently leaves for a tour of Greece with “some school chums and his mentor, a ‘confirmed bachelor’ known to take a fancy to his brighter students.” In view of this, Bram has no compunction in wooing Florence in her betrothed’s absence. When he moves to London as business manager for actor Henry Irving, he takes Florence with him as his bride.
Now estranged, Oscar and Bram meet again when they are drawn into something more serious and more vicious than a werewolf hunt. Apparently a vampiric conspiracy abounds, and people are lining up to be “turned.” Bram’s employer is also somehow involved.
Though he thinks he can handle it alone, when Florence herself as well as their newborn son are endangered, Bram turns to Oscar for assistance. America is also brought into the fight when Robert Roosevelt, uncle of Theodore and suitor of Florence’s best friend Lucy, is recruited to assist.
Bram tries to remain optimistic. “The darkness of this world can crush a man but if Oscar can face it and emerge as arrogant and vaguely ridiculous as he started, perhaps there is hope for us all.”
Nevertheless, as they track a certain Count Ruthven to his lair, what follows gives the two men not only material for their most famous novels—if they live to write them—but the adventure of a lifetime.
As an homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the authors of Stoker’s Wilde chose to present their novel in the epistolary form used in that novel. As related by the archivist of the fictional White Worm Society, the story is revealed through the notes and letters written by Wilde, Stoker, Florence, and other characters, as well as through contemporary news clippings and other materials.
It is interesting to note that, in this particular form of the Victorian world, everyone accepts the presence of the supernatural. Even at the beginning of the story, that werewolves abound in Ireland is an accepted fact, but “vampires are old news, I’m afraid.”
Readers acquainted with Dracula and also The Lair of the White Worm will note the names of characters and events later appearing in that novel, as well as similar instances used by Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
It’s a romp of an adventure, filled with acerbic give-and-take between the main characters, as well as enough supernatural happenings to satisfy the Gothic horror fan. Wilde’s entries are filled with that recognizable pithy, biting wit used in his actual writings, while Stoker’s entries copy his own literary style.
Anyone reading either of these writers’ works will appreciate this novel not only for its entertainment value but also as the (fictional) source of their most famous novels, recognizing each entry, and there are quite a few, with a spark of delight.
Following up the Robert Roosevelt angle, the second entry in the series will find the duo in America, assisting nephew Teddy with his own supernatural problems.
Any reader who likes the literary convention of placing real-life people in fictional situations will wholeheartedly enjoy Stoker’s Wilde and eagerly await that sequel.