‘Dracula’ and Diet: Renfield, 1

2019 Blood is lifeImages from Wellcome Collection

Dr Seward, the asylum superintendent in ‘Dracula’, decided to invent a new diagnosis for his pet patient Renfield – ‘zoophagy’ (animal-or life-eating).

However, Renfield wanted to go beyond his usual flies, spiders and birds, and attacked Dr Seward himself, explaining that ‘the blood is the life’ as mentioned in the Bible and in the advertisement shown above. (In fact this Mixture’s chief active ingredient was potassium iodide.)

The real psychiatrist Dr George Savage had in 1888 described a case with similar self-proclaimed motivation:

He visited the city abattoir, obtained and drank blood hot from the slaughtered animals. This was after a few days stopped, but fortunately he was watched, for he was seen to try to decoy children to his rooms, and he owned to me that he wished to have their blood, as blood was his life, and his life was that of a genius. 

Dr Savage was considering the psychopathology of Jack the Ripper.




More Good and Evil Doctors (iii)

Lady Ducayne slide ed

Mary Braddon, best known for her novel ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ writes the story from the point of view of the girl, Bella. She takes a job as a companion to the elderly Lady Ducayne, and the household goes to Italy for the winter. Bella begins to have trouble-some dreams and becomes weak. She discovers the two previous companions fell ill and died, so consults Lady Ducayne’s medical attendant Dr Parravicini (older, foreign) for help for the mosquito bites on her arms. He observes: ‘he has caught you on the top of a vein. What a vampire!’

However, a visiting young English doctor, Henry Stafford, realises Bella has been chloroformed and bled by Dr Parravicini for the old lady’s benefit. Lady Ducayne sacks Dr Parravicini, tries unsuccessfully to persuade Dr Stafford to look after her, and then gives the young couple a large cheque to marry, while for herself she will find someone even more scientifically advanced.