American Journalist Christopher Hitchens once said, “Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where it should, I think, in most cases, remain.” Abraham had published several books, but when he got to his seventh novel, most people thought it should have remained inside his own mind and not in print.
Abraham was the manager of the Lyceum theater in London’s West End. As manager, Abraham held a position of prestige, but his salary as manager did not necessarily reflect his position. To supplement his income, Abraham wrote reviews of plays and books. He also published poetry, stories which were serialized in newspapers, and novels. He had no aspirations to become famous, he wrote whatever he thought would sell well. Most of his published works were in the romance genre. His seventh novel, however, was something altogether different.
Despite many popular reviews, Abraham’s seventh novel was not the runaway success that he had hoped for. He had spent years researching the book and had handwritten over 100 pages of notes on the project, but it sold poorly compared to some of his other published works. When he died on April 20, 1912, he had made little income from his seventh novel, and it was no longer in print. When newspapers in Europe published the news of his passing, the articles listed several of his popular novels but his seventh novel was rarely included among them.
In 1927, Abraham’s seventh novel was used as the basis of a stage play which was better received than the novel had been. Based on the play’s success, Universal Pictures purchased the rights to the book for $40,000. Adjusted for inflation, $40,000 in 1930 would be almost $750,000 in today’s money. Abraham’s widow, Florence Balcombe, made much more money from the seventh novel than her late husband had. Universal Pictures took a giant risk with the film. Production costs totaled nearly $400,000. The film based on Abraham’s seventh novel was released on February 12, 1931. Universal Pictures executives were relieved when, unlike the novel, the film became a hit. Domestically, it earned more than $700,000, almost double its production cost. The film added a new character into worldwide popular culture which is instantly recognizable. The film also spawned new interest in Abraham’s seventh novel. Since the film’s release, Abraham’s book has never been out of print, and it has become one of the most famous works of English Literature. Abraham’s novel has been adapted for film more than 30 times so far, and his characters have appeared in all forms of media. Abraham could never have imagined how popular his creation would become.
We almost knew the title of Abraham’s seventh novel by a completely different name. Just before the novel went to the publishers for printing, Abraham made a last-minute decision and changed the title of the novel from “The Un-Dead.” You and I know Abraham “Bram” Stoker’s seventh, almost-forgotten, novel as “Dracula.”
1. London Daily News, May 27, 1897, p.6.
2. The Pall Mall Gazette, June 1, 1897, p.11.
3. The Morning Post, June 3, 1897, p.2.
4. The Standard Union, April 22, 1912, p.3.
5. The Daily Telegraph, April 22, 1912, p.6.
6. The Sun, April 22, 1912, p. 9.