To celebrate the spookiest of holidays, we’re publishing a selection of excerpts from David J. Skal’s Something in the Blood, a biography of Bram Stoker, published this month by Liveright. Today: a love triangle between Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Florence Balcombe.
On one of his visits or summer vacations in Ireland, Oscar Wilde made an acquaintance of an “exquisitely pretty girl” of seventeen, he wrote to a classmate. Though unnamed in the letter, she has generally been identified as Florence Anne Lemon Balcombe. Wilde described her as having “the most perfectly beautiful face I ever saw and not a sixpence of money.” He escorted her to an afternoon service, presumably at the ancient Christ Church Cathedral in central Dublin, which had only very recently been restored to a fashionable semblance of its medieval glory. It may have been there that he made her a Christmas gift of a small gold cross engraved with his name.
At five foot eight, the willowy Florence was a good match for the six foot two Oscar, at least for the purpose of Sunday promenades, and Merrion Square was a favorite outdoor location for regular romantic parading. The gated gardens, then accessible by key only to the adjacent residences, was a haven from the unpleasant sights and persons of Dublin’s city core. Read More