The Mysterious Count of St Germain: How His Legend May Have Given Birth to “Dracula”

By Jo Hedesan. Published in Esoteric Coffeehouse on Dec 23, 2008

Last time I have shown how the modern vampire story may have originated in Godwin’s St Leon and its offshoots (see previous article). Today I want to further investigate how the novel of St Leon itself may have drawn on the legends primarily associated with the figure of the Count of St. Germain. First I will say a few things about St. Germain himself, then explore the possible link between his figure and the literary St Leon. Finally I will draw conclusions as to the influence St. Germain’s legend may have had on the birth of the Vampire Count Dracula. The 1700s were a time full of gentlemen of mysterious, eccentric and ambiguous character. Of the more renowned ones we remember Count Cagliostro, founder of an Egyptian rite in Freemasonry, Casanova, another famous Freemason and Rosicrucian, and the Count of St Germain. The Count of St Germain is now mostly remembered as a protégé of Louis XV of France in the decades prior to the French Revolution. Yet apart from the memoirs of some nobles of the time, not much else is known about him. The origins or nationality of the Count are obscure, despite endless speculations since his appearance at the Versailles court until today. Many – including some scholars – believe he was a prince from Transylvania called Ragotzy (1, 2). What is certain is that St Germain customarily changed his name, a fact he admitted of himself (3). As far as memoirs of him recall, Count of St Germain was the epitome of the “Renaissance man”, speaking at least five languages fluently and without any accent, playing several instruments perfectly, knowledgeable in all the sciences, particularly chemistry and medicine, composing music, painting and writing (4). Pieces of his music are still extant in the British Museum, and his reputation as a talented composer is now being re-evaluated (5). He appeared to be very rich, wearing diamonds and carelessly giving them about, without anyone knowing the source of his wealth. He was reputed as a great alchemist, transforming iron into gold in the presence of nobles (6). His gift of prophecy was claimed particularly by the Countess d’Adhemar, a close friend of the ill-fated Marie Antoinette; he was said to prophesize the French Revolution, the French queen’s death, as well as the future fate of France (7). Yet the most intriguing aspect of the Count was undoubtedly his allusions that he was a hundred, or hundreds of years old, when he looked only about fifty. Numerous memoirs recall him as suggesting or claiming that he was extremely old (8, 9). Some have maintained that he was actually Francis Bacon and that he wrote the Shakespeare plays (10). Officially, St Germain passed away in 1784, yet many claimed that he had staged his own death. Countess d’Adhemar maintained that she saw him five more times before her death in 1822, and every time he did not seem to age at all. Several other people claimed to have met him in 1896, 1926 or 1930 (11). The Count was reputedly a member of the Freemasons, Knights Templar and the Rosicrucian orders. He is considered the author of an esoteric treatise called the “Thrice-Great Wisdom” or Trinosophia. In the 19th and 20th centuries different

esoteric orders such as the Theosophists believed him to be a ‘ascended Master’ – an immortal being that whose task was to protect humanity in times of need (12). Leaving the Count aside, let me briefly examine if there is a reason to believe that Godwin’s St Leon was inspired after the mysterious figure of St Germain.There is, first of all, the quite coincidental association of the names of “Saint”. Secondly, both were of high birth and counts; while St Germain’s origin was never surely ascertained, almost all witnesses considered him nobility. Thirdly, the fictitious St Leon was a French man; even though St Germain was reputed to have originated from Transylvania, his fame came at the French court of Louis XV. There is even an association with the Transylvanian lands: in the book, St Leon enlists the support of villain Bethlem Gabor, whose character was moulded after Gabor Bethlen, a real prince of Transylvania. The Transylvanian connection extends further: at some point, St Leon chooses to live in the house of Ragotski – Ragotzy being deemed the real name of St Germain (13). Just like legendary St Germain, St Leon is an immortal and an alchemist, except in St Leon’s case his immortality is acquired not through his efforts but through the ‘elixir of life’ being given to him. Similarly to St Germain, St Leon travels all over Europe, except in his case this is a forced rather than chosen situation. Of course, I am not necessarily saying that St Leon is only the impersonation of St Germain – but rather that St Germain offered an archetype that Godwin expanded upon. Besides St Germain, St Leon might be the conflation of the figures of other mysterious alchemists like Paracelsus or Nicolas Flamel (14). Yet, at the time Godwin was writing, St Germain had been the latest and most well-known of the “immortals”. This concludes, at least for now, the investigation into the sources of the ‘good vampire’ archetype. Going deeper and deeper, we found that the initial vampire story was written by the personal physician of Lord Byron, Dr Polidori, and that his source may have been William Godwin’s novel St Leon. Yet St Leon itself may have sprung from the 18th century legends of the legendary alchemist, the Count of St Germain. Thus, in an indirect way, the legendary figure of the Count of St Germain may have inspired the Vampire Dracula. When he wrote Dracula, Bram Stoker may not have directly encountered the story of St Germain, but the lasting ripples of the extraordinary Count’s myth may have reached him through Godwin and Polidori. After all, Dracula was also a Transylvanian Count. References (1), (4), (6), (7), (8), (12) Cooper-Oakley, I. (1912). The Comte de Saint Germain. Online. Available at: Accessed on 20 December 2008. (2), (3), (5) Franco, J. (1950). The Count of St Germain. The Musical Quarterly, 36(4), pp. 540-550. (9), (11) Wikipedia. (2008). The Count of St Germain. Online. Available at: Accessed on 21 December 2008. (10) Bernard, R. (1993). Great Secret Count St. Germain. Washington: Health Research Publishers. (13) Godwin, W. (1832). The Travels of St Leon. Online. Available at: rintsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=p4b6HHSZUi&sig=9nxmCboQF_dQCGTu85o iMC-bjEs&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPP7,M1.Accessed on 21 December 2008. (14) Roberts, M. (1990). Gothic Immortals. London: Routledge.