Count Dracula is not real. The sinister neck nibbler from Transylvania had no bodily existence. Moreover, despite his preference for resting in earthen boxes from his native land, he does not rest anywhere – let alone in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, Whitby, the Yorkshire town where part of the novel is set. Bram Stoker’s Gothic 1897. In fact, Stoker’s tale explicitly denies the undead noble a final resting place: after being killed by vampire hunters Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris, Dracula’s body crumbles to dust .
However, none of this has deterred the hundreds of tourists who make the pilgrimage to St. Mary in search of Dracula’s tomb. Here, despite a leaflet explaining “Sorry, it’s not here!” In fact, it’s not just anywhere because Dracula is fictional… ”disappointed vampire lovers expressed their frustration so furiously that Father Michael Gobbett, the priest of St Mary’s, wrote to the Whitby Gazette. , stressing that “the main purpose of a church is the worship of God”. A more important local figure, he suggested, is St Hild, the 7th century founder of Whitby Abbey (and patron of the first named English poet, Caedmon).
Anyone who enjoys books will experience the feeling – sometimes so strong that it seems haunting – that a character in whose story you have been immersed has an existence that continues somewhere beyond the last page. Lizzie Bennet, Elena Ferrante’s Lenu and Lila, Harry Potter – these are personalities who seem too powerful to be contained within the confines of their fictional settings.
A vibrant tourism industry feeds fans’ desire to engage with their literary heroes and heroines. Yet most of us are still able to recognize the line between fiction and reality. Perhaps the problem with tourists in the awkward tombs of St Mary’s is that they search for the numinous in a place where it already exists – if only they could recognize it.
Swearing is not what it used to be
In 2010, researchers at Keele University were awarded the coveted Ig Nobel Peace Prize for their research into the pain relieving properties of swear words. “I would advise people, if they get hurt, to swear,” said Richard Stephens, one of the study’s authors. Yet a recent analysis of the swearing habits of Britons found that the use of swear words is on the decline, while our swear words of choice have changed.
“Bloody” – in my childhood a word of such forbidden power that I still remember the shock of hearing my mother say it softly – fell to third place in the curses rankings.
It was left out in Nicholas Cage’s recent Netflix documentary on the history of sworn words, which examined the cultural context of six popular profanities – including the top two in the current chart, f — and s-. -, as well as the distinguished “Damn!”, now so innocuous that it hardly counts as a bad word.
In general, a disjunction seems to exist between our view of name-calling by public figures – shock and horror if someone accidentally lets out a vulgar word on a hot microphone – and a more relaxed attitude in the face of what you might call abuse. domestic blasphemies.
As for the analgesic effects, I still yearn for the invincible self-control of the mother of a friend who, holding her hand in the whirring blades of a lawn mower, simply said: Xmas !