In Chapter VI of Dracula Mina Murray arrives in Whitby and describes the town and environs as she first sees it:
This is a lovely place. The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are on the high land on either side you look right across it, unless you are near enough to see down. The houses of the old town–the side away from us, are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like the pictures we see of Nuremberg. Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of “Marmion,” where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows. Between it and the town there is another church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland called Kettleness stretches out into the sea. It descends so steeply over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed.
In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard, and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze.
In 1890 Bram Stoker was on holiday in Whitby and this was most likely his view of the town as he left the train station and walked around the Church and its graveyard and later walking up to the Abbey ruins.
Later on in Mina’s Journal she meets and befriends an old Sailor Mr. Swales, ”…nearly a hundred…”. During their meetings in the Church Graveyard he tells her of local legends and stories of many of the dead that rest there. To add to the flavour and atmosphere the dialogue is in dialect that even Mina confesses “…I did not quite understand his dialect.”
“It be all fool-talk, lock, stock, and barrel, that’s what it be and nowt else. These bans an’ wafts an’ boh-ghosts an’ bar-guests an’ bogles an’ all anent them is only fit to set bairns an’ dizzy women a’belderin’. They be nowt but air-blebs. They, an’ all grims an’ signs an’ warnin’s, be all invented by parsons an’ illsome berk-bodies an’ railway touters to skeer an’ scunner hafflin’s, an’ to get folks to do somethin’ that they don’t other incline to. It makes me ireful to think o’ them. Why, it’s them that, not content with printin’ lies on paper an’ preachin’ them out of pulpits, does want to be cuttin’ them on the tombstones. Look here all around you in what airt ye will. All them steans, holdin’ up their heads as well as they can out of their pride, is acant, simply tumblin’ down with the weight o’ the lies wrote on them, ‘Here lies the body’ or ‘Sacred to the memory’ wrote on all of them, an’ yet in nigh half of them there bean’t no bodies at all, an’ the memories of them bean’t cared a pinch of snuff about, much less sacred. Lies all of them, nothin’ but lies of one kind or another! My gog, but it’ll be a quare scowderment at the Day of Judgment when they come tumblin’ up in their death-sarks, all jouped together an’ trying’ to drag their tombsteans with them to prove how good they was, some of them trimmlin’ an’ dithering, with their hands that dozzened an’ slippery from lyin’ in the sea that they can’t even keep their gurp o’ them.”
He went on, “And you consate that all these steans be aboon folk that be haped here, snod an’ snog?” I assented again. “Then that be just where the lie comes in. Why, there be scores of these laybeds that be toom as old Dun’s ‘baccabox on Friday night.”
He nudged one of his companions, and they all laughed. “And, my gog! How could they be otherwise? Look at that one, the aftest abaft the bier-bank, read it!”
I went over and read, “Edward Spencelagh, master mariner, murdered by pirates off the coast of Andres, April, 1854, age 30.” When I came back Mr. Swales went on,
“Who brought him home, I wonder, to hap him here? Murdered off the coast of Andres! An’ you consated his body lay under! Why, I could name ye a dozen whose bones lie in the Greenland seas above,” he pointed northwards, “or where the currants may have drifted them. There be the steans around ye. Ye can, with your young eyes, read the small print of the lies from here. This Braithwaite Lowery, I knew his father, lost in the Lively off Greenland in ’20, or Andrew Woodhouse, drowned in the same seas in 1777, or John Paxton, drowned off Cape Farewell a year later, or old John Rawlings, whose grandfather sailed with me, drowned in the Gulf of Finland in ’50. Do ye think that all these men will have to make a rush to Whitby when the trumpet sounds? I have me antherums aboot it! I tell ye that when they got here they’d be jommlin’ and jostlin’ one another that way that it ‘ud be like a fight up on the ice in the old days, when we’d be at one another from daylight to dark, an’ tryin’ to tie up our cuts by the aurora borealis.” This was evidently local pleasantry, for the old man cackled over it, and his cronies joined in with gusto.
It is known that Bram Stoker visited the Local Public Library and did some research for Dracula and one cannot help but wonder if he met and spoke to his own Mr. Swales on a bench in the Graveyard like Mina. Stoker, an inveterate walker would have roamed the town and countryside around Whitby and put some of this in Mina Murray’s Journal.
To get a feel of Whitby at the time Bram Stoker visited in 1890 here a few pictures of what he might have seen.
Lets take a tour of Whitby through the eyes of Mina Murray.:
This is a view of Whitby taken in the mid 1800′s by Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). Granted it is decades before Stoker visited but it is doubtfull that much was different when he holidayed there. The Abbey ruins can clearly be seen on the hill in the background. The Church and large graveyard is also very clear. Easy to imagine Mina describing: “In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard, and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze.”
And a Postcard of the Harbour at Whitby. Such a Postcard that may have been readily available at the time Stoker visited. Mina writes “The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is.”:
Now a few more Postcards – early 1900′s colour.
Whitby Abbey – Mina states: “It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits.”:
The Church and part of Graveyard: Mina say the “…church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay…”:
Another view of the Harbour – Mina writes: “The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are on the high land on either side you look right across it…”:
Mina describes the houses in Whitby as: “The houses of the old town–the side away from us, are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other…”. The following two Postcards are not Whitby but Robin’s Hood Bay, five miles south of Whitby. Robin’s Hood Bay is mentioned in Chapter VII in the news article – “Pasted in Mina Murray’s Journal”.:
The News article in Chapter VII Rig Mill is also mentioned:
I will finish off with a few modern views of Whitby.