- BuyThe Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy by Roger Luckhurst
Oxford, 321 pp, £18.99, October 2012, ISBN 978 0 19 969871 4
In 1889, Rudyard Kipling, 23 years old, recently arrived in London and looking to ingratiate himself with England’s most popular novelist, wrote to Rider Haggard with the outline of a story he’d recently heard, a ‘thing picked up the other day across some drinks’:
There was first one Englishman and one mummy. They met in Egypt and the live man bought the dead, for it was a fine dead. Then the dead was unrolled and in the last layers of the cloth that malignant Egyptian had tucked away a communication service of the most awful kind to the address of any man who disturbed him. He should die horribly in the open as a beast dies at the hand of a beast and there should not be enough of him to put into a matchbox, much less a mummy case. Whereat they laughed and of course later the Englishman went to your country and became ‘fey’ insomuch that he was weak enough to fire a shot gun into an elephant’s trunk. Then he was dealt with after the manner of elephants till he was blackcurrant jam … Were the mummy not in it I could and would take the thing and play with it. But there is a King of Egypt already and so I bring the body to his feet.
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[*] Mark Beynon pins the blame on Crowley in London’s Curse: Murder, Black Magic and Tutankhamun in the 1920s West End (2011).