Tuesday 15 February 2011

Sax Rohmer, the Golden Dawn and Atlantis

Sax Rohmer - a writer who knew how to look the part - was born (under the more prosaic name of Arthur Ward) on this day in 1883. Scanning his Wikipedia entry, I note that the prolific creator of Dr Fu Manchu was (or was not - ever the man of mystery) a member of some branch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Following the link to that fissile Order - of which, famously, Yeats was a member (he was, as Auden put it, 'silly like us') - I found a fine comic narrative of absurdity, delusion, squabbles and double-crosses. It gets funnier as it goes on, especially from the Golden Age section onwards. 'The Bradford and Weston-super-Mare temples remained loyal to him, but their numbers were few...' - and how wonderful that the last active temple was in New Zealand... Reading about the Golden Dawn chimed nicely with the novel I am enjoying at the moment - Charles Portis's Masters of Atlantis, which tells the story of the rise and fall of the occult Gnomon Society of America. I intend to report more fully when I've finished reading it, but it could be a while - Masters of Atlantis is so funny that I keep reading sections over again and slowing down the better to savour Portis's exquisite deadpan comedy. I think it's the funniest book I've read in many years.


  1. That must be my problem: I don't have that robe.

  2. What even funnier than Gaw's recommendation, 'Happy Odyssey', the Memoirs of Lt Gen Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC?

    What was it with the fin de siecle and esoteric, aesthetic secret societies?

  3. Yes Recusant, I think even funnier!