Correspondence of Miss Mina Murray and Miss Lucy Westenra - England - May 9

Letter from Miss Mina Murray to Miss Lucy Westenra.

9 May.

“My dearest Lucy,—
“Forgive my long delay in writing, but I have been simply overwhelmed with work. The life of an assistant schoolmistress is sometimes trying. I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air. I have been working very hard lately, because I want to keep up with Jonathan’s studies, and I have been practising shorthand very assiduously. When we are married I shall be able to be useful to Jonathan, and if I can stenograph well enough I can take down what he wants to say in this way and write it out for him on the typewriter, at which also I am practising very hard. He and I sometimes write letters in shorthand, and he is keeping a stenographic journal of his travels abroad. When I am with you I shall keep a diary in the same way. I don’t mean one of those two-pages-to-the-week-with-Sunday-squeezed-in-a-corner diaries, but a sort of journal which I can write in whenever I feel inclined. I do not suppose there will be much of interest to other people; but it is not intended for them. I may show it to Jonathan some day if there is in it anything worth sharing, but it is really an exercise book. I shall try to do what I see lady journalists do: interviewing and writing descriptions and trying to remember conversations. I am told that, with a little practice, one can remember all that goes on or that one hears said during a day. However, we shall see. I will tell you of my little plans when we meet. I have just had a few hurried lines from Jonathan from Transylvania. He is well, and will be returning in about a week. I am longing to hear all his news. It must be so nice to see strange countries. I wonder if we—I mean Jonathan and I—shall ever see them together. There is the ten o’clock bell ringing. Good-bye.

“Your loving

“Tell me all the news when you write. You have not told me anything for a long time. I hear rumours, and especially of a tall, handsome, curly-haired man???”

Letter, Lucy Westenra to Mina Murray.

“17, Chatham Street,

“My dearest Mina,—

“I must say you tax me very unfairly with being a bad correspondent. I wrote to you twice since we parted, and your last letter was only your second. Besides, I have nothing to tell you. There is really nothing to interest you. Town is very pleasant just now, and we go a good deal to picture-galleries and for walks and rides in the park. As to the tall, curly-haired man, I suppose it was the one who was with me at the last Pop. Some one has evidently been telling tales. That was Mr. Holmwood. He often comes to see us, and he and mamma get on very well together; they have so many things to talk about in common. We met some time ago a man that would just do for you, if you were not already engaged to Jonathan. He is an excellent parti, being handsome, well off, and of good birth. He is a doctor and really clever. Just fancy! He is only nine-and-twenty, and he has an immense lunatic asylum all under his own care. Mr. Holmwood introduced him to me, and he called here to see us, and often comes now. I think he is one of the most resolute men I ever saw, and yet the most calm. He seems absolutely imperturbable. I can fancy what a wonderful power he must have over his patients. He has a curious habit of looking one straight in the face, as if trying to read one’s thoughts. He tries this on very much with me, but I flatter myself he has got a tough nut to crack. I know that from my glass. Do you ever try to read your own face? I do, and I can tell you it is not a bad study, and gives you more trouble than you can well fancy if you have never tried it. He says that I afford him a curious psychological study, and I humbly think I do. I do not, as you know, take sufficient interest in dress to be able to describe the new fashions. Dress is a bore. That is slang again, but never mind; Arthur says that every day. There, it is all out. Mina, we have told all our secrets to each other since we were children; we have slept together and eaten together, and laughed and cried together; and now, though I have spoken, I would like to speak more. Oh, Mina, couldn’t you guess? I love him. I am blushing as I write, for although I think he loves me, he has not told me so in words. But oh, Mina, I love him; I love him; I love him! There, that does me good. I wish I were with you, dear, sitting by the fire undressing, as we used to sit; and I would try to tell you what I feel. I do not know how I am writing this even to you. I am afraid to stop, or I should tear up the letter, and I don’t want to stop, for I do so want to tell you all. Let me hear from you at once, and tell me all that you think about it. Mina, I must stop. Good-night. Bless me in your prayers; and, Mina, pray for my happiness.


“P.S.—I need not tell you this is a secret. Good-night again.


Extra fun:

Dracula was published in 1897.  And since Stoker did not seem to include hints that his story was historical fiction, then it is completely contemporary to Stoker's times...the turn of the 20th Century.

Women were just beginning to have access to work outside the home and not just domestic servitude. According to this interesting essay, the industrial revolution required a lot of workers including women.  Not only for factory work but for education as well.  Laws were enacted that all workers should have basic education and this requirement opened up job opportunities to women as school teachers.

As we can see from Stoker's novel, Mina was on this path.  However it is also interesting to note that she is only an assistant which means the school hesitated to offer her a regular teaching position due to the impending marriage with Mr. Harker.  But this does not stop Mina for hoping for more than just a future of being a housewife.  Apparently she was training to be a secretary in order to help Harker at his firm.  Perhaps even hoping for more...perhaps news reporter!

On this interesting site it tracks the percentage of female workers at the turn of the century.  On the site it shows a large leap in the workforce for women between the 1890s to 1900.  It must have been an exciting time for women.

Whereas Stoker portrayed his main heroine as a modern, intelligent woman, it is clear that Miss Lucy is very conservative by comparison.  Obviously she is not out in the world toiling in a school or office.  Her days are filled with flirting with interesting men who all seem to hang on her every word, attending concerts and museums, promenades at the park (no doubt to show off her latest dresses)  and writing to Mina.  Since she makes no mention of Mina's activities,  I suspect she is either jealous of her friend's jobs/ambitions or is so self-preoccupied she doesn't care.  Maybe a bit of both.  But she is quick to point out that she has fallen in love and that one of her admirers would catch Mina's eye if she wasn't already engaged.

But darkness appears when Lucy mentions this mysterious man as owning an asylum.  And we already know Dracula is moving near one in Purfleet.

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