The research completed by Fiona Fitzsimons, Helen Moss and Jennifer Doyle is new research, and is directly relevant to Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.
The key aspect of our story, is that the O’Donnells were not simply “a landed family”, but were the direct descendants of the O’Donnell lords of Tir Conaill.
We can trace Bram Stoker’s direct descent in 12 generations from Manus O’Donnell (d. 1563), a warrior lord who led a rebellion against Henry VIII.
Because we can link Stoker to this main line, its possible to trace Stoker’s documented lineage back to the 11th Century.
We also have de facto evidence that Bram Stoker’s lineage can be traced back to 561A.D.
In 561 A.D. the O’Donnells became hereditary keepers of the manuscript of St. Columbcille’s psalter.
More than 500 years later (ca. 1092) they had a shrine made to hold the manuscript.
The O’Donnell’s remained hereditary keepers of the manuscript and shrine, which passed by direct descent through the main O’Donnell line.
In 1843 Sir Neal O’Donnell deposited the Manuscript with the Royal Irish Academy, which still holds it today.
The shrine can also be viewed in the National Museum of Ireland in Kildare Street.
This deep family history was not previously known, and we would argue that it provides a new context to interpret the text of Dracula.
Instead of trying to “shoe-horn” the story of Dracula into a metaphor for sexual repression or sexual deviancy, which are the main current interpretations, the new information we provide allows the text to be read as Stoker originally intended – i.e. Dracula is the story of a decayed aristocracy, with a glorious warrior past, bypassed by history, which now survives hiding in the shadows.
We hope that this new information will allow readers to ‘rescue’ Stoker’s Dracula from its critics.