News of Bram Stoker’s death, on 20 April 1912, was overshadowed somewhat by reports of the sinking of the RMS Titanic five days earlier. This tragedy resonated particularly with Bram’s wife, Florence, who rushed into her husband’s bedroom where he lay dying to tell him of the incident. It must have filled her with dread and evoked painful memories.
At 4 a.m. on 13 April 1887, while Florence and her son Noel, aged seven at the time, were sailing from the port of Newhaven in East Sussex to Dieppe on the steamship Victoria, a thick fog had descended, causing the Victoria to hit some jagged rocks. Her bow was ripped open and she sank within two hours. Nineteen passengers lost their lives. As the Victoria went down, there was a scramble to reach the four flimsy lifeboats she carried. Florence and Noel made it on to the third boat and spent twelve hours marooned at sea before they were up picked up by a steam tug and brought ashore at Fécamp in Normandy. The wreck report for the Victoria can be read here and there is a fascinating eyewitness report from the Evening Star newspaper here.
Florence was very grateful to have survived the tragedy and the Stoker family made an annual pilgrimage to Fécamp to commemorate the rescue. The incident blighted her life somewhat. When Bram toured America with Henry Irving and his company, he complained of the loneliness of being away from his wife and he always invited her along. Florence, who loved adventure, did join him once, but she never lost her fear of sea travel and the week-long voyage terrified her.
The inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic opened on the day Bram Stoker died, aged sixty-four. It is interesting that his most celebrated work, Dracula, contains an account of the shipwreck of a mysterious Russian ship, albeit under very different circumstances.
Read my profile of Florence here.
For more on Bram, Florence and their relationship read my book Wilde’s Women.