The scene abruptly shifts from Transylvania to London, and the story of Mina Murray (later Mina Harker) and Lucy Westenra is introduced. The story in the following few chapters is presented through a series of letters between Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra, and also through journal entries of various characters, as well as by newspaper articles and even a ship's log. In these chapters we are also introduced to Dr. John Seward whom Lucy describes as "one of the most resolute men" she ever saw, "yet the most calm"; Arthur Holmwood, whom Lucy chooses to marry; and Quincey P. Morris, a Texan, a friend of Arthur Holmwood; and Dr. Seward, director of a lunatic asylum. All of these characters will figure prominently in the story.
Mina Murray, an assistant "schoolmistress," is engaged to Jonathan Harker. In Mina's letter to her dear friend Lucy, she tells of Jonathan's recent letters from Transylvania which assure her that he is well and will soon be returning home. (These are early letters from Jonathan, of course.) Mina's first letter is dated a few days after Jonathan's arrival at Castle Dracula.
Lucy's reply reveals that she is in love with a Mr. Arthur Holmwood, a "tall, curly haired man." She also mentions a doctor whom she would like Mina to meet. The doctor, John Seward, is "handsome" and "really clever," twenty-nine years old, and the administrator of a lunatic asylum. At the conclusion of Lucy's letter, we learn that Mina and Lucy have been friends since childhood and that each depends on the other for happiness.
In Lucy's next letter to Mina, Lucy reveals to us that she will be twenty years old in three months. On this particular day (the 24th of May), she has had no less than three marriage proposals, and she is ecstatic. The first proposal was from Dr. Seward, whom she turned down. The second proposal came from the American, Quincey P. Morris. She finds the American to be gallant and romantic, yet she feels that she must turn him down as well. The third proposal came from Arthur Holmwood, whose proposal she accepted.
Following the exchange of letters between Mina and Lucy, we have an excerpt from Dr. Seward's diary (kept on a phonograph) from the 25th of May, the day following his proposal to Lucy. Dr. Seward reveals his depression over Lucy's rejection, but he will resign himself to his vocation. Dr. Seward also mentions, most importantly, his curiosity about one of his patients. This patient's name is R. M. Renfield, who is fifty-nine years old and a man of "great physical strength." Dr. Seward notes that Renfield is "morbidly excitable" and has "periods of gloom ending in some fixed idea" which the doctor is unable to determine. Seward concludes the entry by stating that he believes Renfield to be potentially dangerous.
Following Seward's entry is a letter from the American, Quincey P. Morris, to Arthur Holmwood, dated May 25th. In the letter, Quincey asks Arthur to drink with him to drown his sorrows over a woman's rejection — and also, he proposes to drink to Arthur's happiness. Quincey also reveals the name of another fellow who will be present, one who also happens to wish to drown his sorrows — Dr. Seward.
Mina's journal of the 24th of July comes from Whitby, a town located in northeast England, on the seacoast; her description of Whitby would pass for one in a travel guide. Of special note is Mina's description of the ruins of Whitby Abbey: Mina says that it is a "most noble ruin . . . full of beautiful and romantic bits," and she mentions the legend of a "white lady" who is seen in one of the Abbey's windows. She also mentions a large graveyard which lies above the town and has a "full view of the harbor."
Of the friends whom Mina makes at Whitby, she is most charmed by a "funny old man" named Mr. Swales. Mr. Swales is very old, for Mina tells us that his face is "all gnarled and twisted like the bark of a tree," and that Swales brags that he is almost one hundred years old. He is a skeptical person and scoffs at the legend of the "white lady" of Whitby Abbey.
A week later, Mina and Lucy are on the hillside above Whitby talking to old Mr. Swales. Lucy playfully refers to him as the "Sir Oracle" of the area. Mina mentions Lucy's robust health and her happy spirits since coming to Whitby. On this day, Mr. Swales refuses to tell Mina and Lucy about a legend which he scoffs at. The legend involves and maintains that many of the graves in the yard are actually empty. This notion is, of course, preposterous to Mr. Swales, and he tells the ladies that they should not believe the silly superstitions of the area.
Mina reports that Lucy and Arthur are preparing for their wedding and that she still hasn't heard from Jonathan for a month; interestingly, the date of this entry is also the date of the last entry that Jonathan Harker made in the journal that he kept in Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania.
Dr. Seward, meanwhile, reports that the case of Renfield is becoming more and more curious. Seward reports that Renfield has developed qualities of selfishness, secrecy, and dubiousness; in addition, Renfield has pets of odd sorts; presently, Renfield's hobby is catching flies, and he has a large number of them. When Seward demands that Renfield get rid of them, Renfield asks for a delay of three days. Two weeks later, Seward reports that Renfield has become interested in spiders and has "several very big fellows in a box." Evidently, Renfield is feeding the flies to the spiders and also munching on the flies himself. About ten days later, Seward reports that the spiders are becoming a great nuisance and that he has ordered Renfield to get rid of them. As Seward is issuing this demand, a fly buzzes into the room and Renfield catches it and "exultantly" eats it. Renfield keeps a notebook in which whole pages are filled with masses of numbers, as if it is an account book; we can assume that he is totaling up the number of flies that he has eaten.
A week later, Seward discovers that Renfield also has a pet sparrow and that Renfield's supply of spiders has diminished; it would seem that Renfield also maintains a supply of flies for the spiders by tempting them with pieces of food. About ten days later, Seward reports that Renfield has "a whole colony of sparrows" and that the supply of flies and spiders is almost depleted.
Fawning like a dog, Renfield begs Seward for a nice little kitten which he can "feed — and feed — and feed." Seward refuses Renfield's request, and Renfield immediately becomes hostile and threatening. Seward fears that Renfield is an "undeveloped homicidal maniac." Upon returning to Renfield's cell a few hours later, Seward discovers Renfield in the corner, "gnawing his fingers." Renfield immediately begs for a kitten again. The next day, Renfield is spreading sugar on the window sill, evidently trying to catch flies again. Seward is surprised that the room is empty of birds, and when Renfield is asked where they are, he responds that they have all flown away. Seward is disconcerted, however, when he sees a few feathers and some blood on Renfield's pillow. A few hours later, an attendant tells Seward that Renfield vomited and disgorged a large quantity of feathers. That evening, Seward orders that Renfield be given a strong opiate to make him sleep. Seward decides to classify Renfield as a "zoöphagous [life eating] maniac." Seward defines this phenomenon as a person who tries "to absorb as many lives as he can," one who has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way. Seward is thrilled with the possibility that he might advance this branch of science and, thus, become famous.
The novel now shifts back to Mina Murray's journal, July 26th, about a week after Seward's last entry. Mina voices concern about not hearing from Jonathan Harker and also, curiously, about Lucy.
Additionally, Mina is confused as to why she hasn't heard from Jonathan because yesterday, Jonathan's employer, Mr. Hawkins, sent her a letter from Jonathan, a letter that was written at Count Dracula's castle. The letter consists of only one line, a statement that he is starting home. Mina notes that this extreme brevity is totally unlike Jonathan.
Mina is also concerned about Lucy because Lucy has once again "taken to her old habit of walking in her sleep." In a late entry of the 6th of August, Mina notes that the fishermen claim that a harsh storm is approaching. Old Mr. Swales tells her that he has never felt closer to death and that he is tired of fighting it. He also senses approaching calamity and doom: "There is something in that wind that sounds, and looks, and tastes, and smells like death." At the end of the entry, she reports sighting a strange ship which old Mr. Swales says is a Russian ship.
Stoker continues with his epistolary style, continuing in the tradition of having two young, naive ladies corresponding about love and life. These innocent girls will very soon become involved in the horror which Dracula brings. Stoker contrasts their innocence with the approaching plague of horror and evil, a typically gothic pattern of narrative; it would not be dramatically effective to have depraved characters confront the evil menace.
The setting is a typical one for the gothic novel. We leave the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city and journey to an isolated city, replete with legends of empty graves, sepulchral old natives, and legends of dead people who haunt huge old houses. Furthermore, any type of ghost story should be set in some place far from civilization, and here at Whitby, where there are rambling old houses, sleepwalking, and graveyards, we have a perfect gothic setting.
The story of Renfield foreshadows the social disruption and insanity which will accompany Dracula's descent upon England. This is further symbolized by Renfield's desire for blood and the sucking of fresh blood, which will be Dracula's, or the vampire's, goal. Renfield can be seen as an archetype of "the predecessor" (such as John the Baptist) because Renfield prepares us for the imminent arrival of his "lord" and "master," Dracula. Stoker will continue to pervert Christian myths throughout the novel. Dracula is a satanic figure, and the horrors of Renfield are maudlin, compared to the greater horror which is Dracula himself.
Lucy's sleepwalking also prefigures the arrival of Count Dracula. As it happens, the day that she begins sleepwalking will closely correspond to the day that Dracula's ship crosses the straits of Gibraltar into Western civilization. And it will be because of her sleepwalking that she will become a member of the "Un-Dead."
Old Mr. Swales is the archetypal prophetic figure, one who senses and can articulate the approaching doom and horror, yet one whose exhortations and prophesies are ignored or remain misunderstood by the populace.