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The Waters of Hercules - Emily Girard, Dorothea Girard

The Waters of Hercules is a long forgotten novel with close ties to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The heroine of the story, Gretchen, is an intelligent young German woman, who distinguished herself in school by winning the prix de logique. A very practical-minded girl, Gretchen, influenced by her Italian friend, Belita, considers marriage an economic proposition and is determined to marry a man of wealth. When the decent, respectable family lawyer Vincenz Komers, a man of modest means, seeks her hand in marriage, she rejects him, not once, but twice.

When Gretchen’s father is seriously injured in an accident, the family sets off to Transylvania, to the Baths of Hercules (Baile Herculane in modern Romania, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), in hopes that the waters of Hercules, known for their curative powers, will rehabilitate her ailing father. Her father, Adalbert, tells his daughter of a mysterious place in the surrounding forest, known as Gaura Dracului (the Devil’s Pit) that he had discovered during a visit to the valley years earlier, but the location of which is now a mystery. Hercules, considered the god of the Valley, is said to have sworn that the pit would receive a sacrifice of human blood once every century. The legends of a mysterious treasure associated with Gaura Dracului inspires Gretchen to consider another way to make her fortune, so that she can marry any man of her choosing. Her efforts are redoubled when the long-expected inheritance of a family estate proves illusory.

Written by sisters Emily and Dorothea Girard, The Water of Hercules is a Victorian novel, filled with Gothic suspense. It should be of great interest to all fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as well as anyone interested in classic works of nineteenth century literature. With an introduction by noted historian A.K. Brackob, a specialist in the history of Eastern Europe, The Waters of Hercules is sure to entertain and delight.

My Review: In the only interview Bram Stocker gave for a newspaper he said the works of Scottish sisters Emily and Dorothea Girard were one of his main sources of inspiration when writing Dracula. I believe this is the first reprint of the 1886 Gothic novel that fascinated Bram Stocker. And what a reprint it is! There was a lot of love put into designing this book, from the hidden cover under the dust jacket, to the hand painted illustrations by Phoebe Cho, the fancy endpaper, and the thick creamy pages. Mine has a red silk bookmark which is a limited edition (only 50 copies) that can be ordered only from the publisher's website (here).

When it comes to the story this is very close to my heart, being a Romanian native and all. It's a classic work of Gothic romance, filled with the supernatural, suspense, and creepiness. Anyone who enjoys original Gothic fiction will find an special place in their library for this book. The Girard sisters are masters at crafting stories and the illustrations only enhance their beauty.

Imprint: Addison & Highsmith Publishers

510 pp., 6.14 x 9.21 in. (234 x 156 mm), Illustrated


Date of Publication: October 19, 2021

ISBN 978-1-59211-132-9

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