The Musuem
Floor Plan

The Dennis Wheatley 'Museum' - Researching the Occult

Other possible fictional influences / 1 : W Somerset Maugham's 'The Magician'

'The Magician'
by W. Somerset Maugham (1908)

Although the Blackwell's catalogue does not record DW as owning a copy of this book, DW had other novels by Maugham in his Library, and it seems highly likely he would have been aware of this one, and read it.

The Magician of the title is Oliver Haddo, a thinly disguised portrait of Aleister Crowley, whom Maugham had met in Paris. Crowley later wrote a critique of the book using the pen name of Oliver Haddo himself.

In the story, the central character is an eminent but straight-laced surgeon named Arthur Burdon. He is visiting his livelier fiancee Margaret in Paris and they meet Haddo.

Margaret initially finds Haddo repulsive, but to spite Burdon, by whom he feels he has been treated inappropriately, Haddo steals away Margaret by force of his personality and with magic.

After various twists, it transpires that Haddo is going to sacrifice her in order to bring life to a homunculus.

Burdon follows her to Haddo's ancestral home of Skene (shades of Crowley's real life home in Scotland, called Boleskine) and finds she has died. With the help of a friend versed in the occult he summons her spirit and receives confirmation that she did not die of natural causes.

Haddo appears in Burdon's room and Burdon kills him, only to find there is no body when he turns on the lights. He and his friends break into Haddo's house. They find him dead, and destroy the homunculi.

The use of Crowley as a central character, the summoning of a spirit from the dead and the creation of homunculi all have their counterparts in DW's novels - albeit the homunculi only appear in 'To The Devil A Daughter'.

It would be easy to believe that Maugham's book might - if DW read it - have given him some inspiration for his occult novels.

Further reading : See the Wikipedia entry on Somerset Maugham's 'The Magician'

Provenance:Private Collection