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It was a pleasant sight to behold – the sea of upturned faces in the pit, clear, strong, young faces, with broad foreheads and bright eyes – the glimpse of colour as the crimson rosettes which the students wore flashed with their very movement – the gleaming jewels of the ladies in the boxes – the 32 Bram Stoker, Dracula and the Victorian Gothic Stage moving mass of hats and handkerchiefs, and above all the unanimity with which everything was done. (2012, vol. 1: 266) At the Lyceum, Irving’s productions were an important facet of the cultivation of fin-de-siècle Gothic that extended from the stage to the literary world and back again.

10 Stoker, Melodrama and the Gothic 27 In Snowbound, Stoker offers a tribute to Boucicault with the actor Mr Parmentire’s story. Parmentire recalls how during his younger days while touring with a ‘wretched Company’ in ‘wretched places’ he fetches up in the Irish Midlands (Wynne, 2012, vol. 2: 241). After playing Conn in Boucicault’s The Shaughraun (first performed in America in 1874), in which the comic effect is achieved by Conn pretending to be a corpse at a wake, Parmentire is invited to a real wake to entertain the mourners.

By the late nineteenth century mesmerism (later termed hypnotism after the fluidic theory was disproved) and what Simon During describes as the ‘medicalized esoteric’ including mind reading and clairvoyance ‘could join forces with stage illusion because they claimed to engage with undeveloped mental faculties rather than with supernatural events’ (2002: 152). Spiritualism shared a kinship with mesmerism but promised to establish communication with the dead in the form of materialized spirits, and performers like Cumberland and Maskelyne made careers from their frequent exposure of spiritualist performers.

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