how I came to think of writing that particular novel
at all. When, a little while ago, my publisher
expressed a wish to reissue it, I felt that, before
consenting to this, I really should read it again.
Nearly fifty years had passed since I had done so,
and I had completely forgotten it. Some authors
enjoy reading their old works; some cannot bear to.
Of these I am. When I have corrected the proofs
of a book, I have finished with it for good and all.
I am impatient when people insist on talking to me
about it; I am glad if they like it, but do not much
care if they don’t. I am no more interested
in it than in a worn-out suit of clothes that I have
given away. It was thus with disinclination that
I began to read The Magician
. It held my
interest, as two of my early novels, which for the
same reason I have been obliged to read, did not.
One, indeed, I simply could not get through. Another
had to my mind some good dramatic scenes, but the
humour filled me with mortification, and I should
have been ashamed to see it republished. As I
read The Magician
, I wondered how on earth
I could have come by all the material concerning the
black arts which I wrote of. I must have spent
days and days reading in the library of the British
Museum. The style is lush and turgid, not at
all the sort of style I approve of now, but perhaps
not unsuited to the subject; and there are a great
many more adverbs and adjectives than I should use
today. I fancy I must have been impressed by
the ecriture artiste
which the French writers
of the time had not yet entirely abandoned, and unwisely
sought to imitate them.
Though Aleister Crowley served, as I have said, as
the model for Oliver Haddo, it is by no means a portrait
of him. I made my character more striking in
appearance, more sinister and more ruthless than Crowley
ever was. I gave him magical powers that Crowley,
though he claimed them, certainly never possessed.
Crowley, however, recognized himself in the creature
of my invention, for such it was, and wrote a full-page
review of the novel in Vanity Fair, which he
signed ‘Oliver Haddo’. I did not
read it, and wish now that I had. I daresay it
was a pretty piece of vituperation, but probably,
like his poems, intolerably verbose.
I do not remember what success, if any, my novel had
when it was published, and I did not bother about
it much, for by then a great change had come into
my life. The manager of the Court Theatre, one
Otho Stuart, had brought out a play which failed to
please, and he could not immediately get the cast
he wanted for the next play he had in mind to produce.
He had read one of mine, and formed a very poor opinion
of it; but he was in a quandary, and it occurred to
him that it might just serve to keep his theatre open
for a few weeks, by the end of which the actors he
wanted for the play he had been obliged to postpone
would be at liberty. He put mine on. It
was an immediate success. The result of this