Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Manchester Vs. Miller

I was originally going to post this on my other blog, but decided it'd be more fitting here.

An anonymous poster I affectionately refer to as "TFO" (also given coverage here), left a comment on "The Mystery of Luisa, Pt. 3". It criticised Elizabeth Miller's coverage of Sean Manchester's theory on the historical identity of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, in her book, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense (Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex: Desert Island Books Limited, 2000):
The Vampire Research Society has had several confrontational run-ins with Elizabeth Miller who has her own personal agenda and allegiances in the subculture. She has been found wanting on a number of occasions.

For example, Elizabeth Miller’s treatise on the novel Dracula in the year 2000 refers to what readers are told is an argument put forward by Seán Manchester, but, in fact, is a quote from established error in Carol Page’s "Blood Lust" published nine years earlier.
Let's take a look at what Miller actually wrote (p. 111):
In fact, this line of debate has resulted in outrageous conclusions, most notably by Sean Manchester who argues that the fifteenth-century Hungarian leader Janos Hunyadi "fits the bill [as the model for Dracula] much better [than Vlad], since he was a count, and Vlad wasn't.
Miller is referring to the occasional habit of some writers to "correct" Count Dracula's title, as the real Dracula was a voivode.

She points out that to do so is nonsensical, as Stoker's Dracula was a fictional creation, not an accurate rendering of a fifteenth century Wallachian warlord.

Now, let's take a look at what Sean Manchester's theory actually consisted of.

If we turn to pages 82-83 n1 of his book, The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London's Famous Highgate Cemetery and Environs (London: British Occult Society, 1985), we find this:
Philologists at the Sixth Congress of Onomastic Sciences in Munich in 1958 designated Vlad Tepes, who ruled Wallachia from 1456-62 and again briefly in 1476, as Bram Stoker's Dracula. Since then virtually every writer on the subject unquestioningly endorsed this theory. This author, however, does not and identifies Janos Hunyadi (1407-56) as the historical Dracula.
Under what justification?
Stoker describes Dracula as having the title Count of Beszterce which was historically one of the titles of Hunyadi, as was Voivode (govenor) of Transylvania and Count of Temes (now Timis, Romania).
"Beszterce", it should be noted, is the Hungarian name for Bistriţa, referred to by its German name, in Stoker's novel, as "Bistritz". To my knowledge, the Count doesn't explicitly refer to himself as the Count of either of these places. Although, I'm happy to be corrected.

Also, as you can see, even though Miller quotes secondhand and paraphrases, Manchester's references to Hunyadi's titles of "Count" as opposed to Vlad's, are clear indications that Manchester considers these "discreprencies" to be valid enough for inclusions in his argument.

On with the theory:
Hunyadi was the most successful military leader against the Turks in the fifteenth century, which again fits Stoker's description.
Then why is Vlad considered to be a national hero by many Romanians? Oh, that's right - for leading attacks against the Turks.

Here's more on the theory:
Vlad the Impaler, on the other hand, was in the wrong geographical location and spent a great deal of time in prison.
As it happens, Vlad was actually born in Transylvania. Maybe he came home?

Second, considering that Castle Dracula (as Stoker describes it, at least) does not actually exist, then how can the geographic description be wrong?

Again, we're talking about a vampire Count, here. Not a real guy.

And here's the conclusion of the theory:
When Hunyadi died on 11th August, 1456, it was from an epidemic of plague at a time when plague was strongly associated with vampirism.
That would hinge largely on one's interpretation of "vampirism". I challenge anyone to find examples of supposed bloodsucking corpses, in association with the plague, roaming about at this time. I can almost guarantee you'll come up lacking.

While Hunyadi did die of the plague, you certainly won't find any references to him returning from the grave as a vampire, either.

He's regarded by Romanians and Hungarians, as a national hero, himself.

So, in conclusion, did Miller jump the gun on Manchester?

Yes and no.

Her secondhand overview of his theory is a tad too simplistic and dismissive, but, on the other hand, Manchester's theory doesn't hold up well under even the most basic scrutiny, either.

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