Bram Stoker and Samuel S. McClure

Samuel Sidney McClure
Samuel Sidney McClure

While researching the first-known serialization of Dracula in the Inter Ocean, I looked into the role of Samuel Sidney McClure, who may have mediated in the Chicago publication.


In 1884, he established the McClure Newspaper Syndicate—the first successful commercial distributor of syndicated content, including cartoons, editorial columns and serialized novels. The syndicate managed the serialization of stories by Jack London, Mark Twain, G. K. Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson and H. G. Wells, among others. In May 1893, McClure founded McClure’s Magazine, publishing literary news and short stories by American and British authors. In some cases, this allowed McClure to “recycle” stories that already had been paid for and distributed by his press syndicate.


Up till 1903, McClure’s brother Robert acted as a literary agent for McClure’s enterprises in London. In November 1894, McClure’s Magazine published an interview with Arthur Conan Doyle, conducted by Robert Barr. It is suspected that during that same period, Samuel McClure also met with Doyle.  The latter was related to Bram Stoker; he wrote the play A Tale of Waterloo performed at the Lyceum Theatre from 4 May 1895 on; in August 1897, he congratulated Stoker with his Dracula novel; he had his poetry Songs of Action published by Doubleday & McClure in October 1898. It is not hard to imagine how Doyle’s contacts may have been the basis for Stoker’s cooperation with Samuel McClure.


Moreover, in the early 1890s, Stoker had been acting as a literary rights trader himself, representing The English Library (publishing English-language authors abroad), an imprint of Heinemann & Balestier Ltd., London. Next to William Heinemann (1863-1920), the American author Charles Wolcott Balestier (1861-1891) and William Leonard Courtney (1850-1928) of the Daily Telegraph, Bram Stoker was one of the four directors of this enterprise, in which he invested a part of his own money. The goal of the joint venture was to compete with Baron Tauchnitz, who also published English-language authors in continental Europe. Based in London since 1888, Balestier had been cooperating with Samuel and Robert McClure already, winning Conan Doyle and Stevenson as authors for McClure’s syndicate. Now he teamed up with Heinemann, Stoker and Courtney, working the same range of authors as for McClure, including Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling.


Balestier’s cousin, Edmund William Gosse (1849-1908) was the editor of Heinemann’s International Library (publishing foreign authors in the UK); at the same time, he acted as the General European Editor of McClure’s Associated Literary Press, established in September 1889. Just like Heinemann, McClure hoped to conquer a part of the European market dominated by Tauchnitz; he especially counted on Stevenson’s contribution. But when Balestier unexpectedly died of typhoid fever in Dresden in December 1891, this meant the end for both McClure’s and Heinemann’s European ambitions. Although the Heinemann & Balestier imprint continued to exist for a number of years, Stoker lost his invested capital. While his efforts as a literary rights trader thus remained unsuccessful, we may safely assume that by 1898, Stoker must have been familiar with McClure's syndicating services. From his side, McClure had a strong working relationship with the Inter Ocean. Therefore, it is very well possible that he was the man who brokered the first serial publication of Dracula in the U.S.A.