Dracula writer Bram Stoker revealed as a humble minute taker for actor charity | Bram Stoker

Dracula writer Bram Stoker revealed as a humble minute taker for actor charity | Bram Stoker

The imagination of Bram Stoker gave life to one of literature’s most enduring terrors, Count Dracula. But the Irish-born writer’s mind was not only full of flapping cloaks, dripping fangs and creaking coffins. Stoker, it can now be confirmed, also had a strong vein, or shall we say streak, of bureaucratic efficiency running through his personality.

Researchers working for the Actors’ Benevolent Fund, the charity that supports actors and stage managers in need, have discovered that the minutes of its founding meeting, back in 1882, were taken by Stoker. It has now been confirmed that the handwriting matches documents held by the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, with images of the notes released this weekend.

Bram Stoker.
The Irish-born author Bram Stoker. Photograph: Hulton Deutsch/Corbis/Getty Images

Although Stoker is now established as a writer of world renown, before he published Dracula in 1897 he was employed as a personal secretary to the founder of the fund, the actor Sir Henry Irving. Moving to London, Stoker was also later to take up the role of business manager of the Lyceum theatre, a job he stayed in for 27 years.

Comparisons with the famous author’s certified manuscripts were made after the charity’s archivist, Natasha Luck, had followed up on a hunch. “I vividly recall the thrill of finding his name in records from 1882,” she told the Observer. “When I had catalogued the charity’s earliest minutes, I noted Stoker’s stint as a temporary secretary for the Actors’ Benevolent Fund in its early days and wondered … were some of these crucial minutes actually penned by him?”

Luck had mentioned her theory to a colleague working at the university collection. “With her help the mystery was solved – she photographed a sample of the minutes and compared them with confirmed examples of Bram Stoker’s handwriting in the university’s theatre archives. What a delight to be told they were indeed a match!”

Alison Wyman, chief executive of the charity, said her reaction to the finding was pure excitement. To think, she said, that the launch of the fund was witnessed by “the creator of probably one of the most iconic characters in fiction, who of course has appeared in multiple adaptations across TV, theatre and film played by so many talented actors.”

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The fund still supports professionals who fall on hard times. “We have a rich history, going back 140 years, and we always want to celebrate that while at the same time continuing the work,” Wyman said. “We hope this incredible find will shine a light on the importance of the acting community and how crucial it is to support them.”

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