“(Sent to Carfax, Sussex, as no county given; delivered late by twenty-two hours)” (130)
Can you believe that if this telegram had gotten to Dr. Seward in time he might have been able to save Lucy?
I found this event completely interesting for two reasons.
First, it speaks of the new technologies of the time so predominant in Dracula. As an epistolary novel Dracula is not only a compilation of journals and letters but it also includes telegrams and recordings from a phonograph transcribed by Mina on her typewriter. Not only this, of course, but blood transfusions? All of these amazing inventions are just such an important part of this narrative. I mean think for example of Lucy’s response in August 30th (101) to Mina’s letter sent August 24th from Buda-Pesth (98). I mean when I send letters to Mexico City via regular mail they take two weeks to get there!
Anyway! What also captured my attention was how the materiality of these documents has a lot to do with the narrative itself. Something that I found very fascinating was that, compared to other texts like Ovid’s Heroides or the Letters of Abelard and Heloise, in Dracula we don’t just get letters telling a story (like Frankenstein too!) but the letters and other important documents are actually part of and participants, as in the case of the telegraph, of the events of the novel.
It is all thanks to Mina who typewrites everything and in “manifold” therefore making “three copies of the diary, just as [she] had done with all the rest” (198). Moreover, she organizes the documents chronologically so that, seven years after the events related in the documents, John can look back and remember. As he does so he reflects that “there is hardly one authentic document; nothing but a mass of type-writing, except the later notebooks of Mina and Seward and myself, and Van Helsing’s memorandum” (326). If we visualize what John is holding in his hand (the typewritten stuff) it doesn’t look so different from the book we are holding today, it doesn’t have character, like handwriting, marks from being folded by the sender, and fancy seals broken by the receiver. And then, what is an “authentic document” (326)?
I strongly believe this text is concerned with the importance of keeping records. And not just because something fascinating like having a close encounter with a vampire might happen to you, but for the art of remembering, and having others remember you. Jonathan said goodbye to Mina in his journals while in Castel Dracula and there’s an idea there (at least in his mind and probably Stoker’s) that your writings will remain with you after death until found by someone or sent to your significant other; someone will always find them.
But then, there are documents that weren’t delivered like the note left by Van Helsing to Seward (181), and letters to Lucy that she didn’t open (140 & 143). I wonder what Derrida would make of that…
Thanks for reading the ramblings of your humble blogger,