Author(s): Roger Luckhurst
In the winter of 1922-23 archaeologist Howard Carter and his wealthy patron George Herbert, the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, sensationally opened the tomb of Tutenkhamen. Six weeks later Herbert, the sponsor of the expedition, died in Egypt. The popular press went wild with rumours of a curse on those who disturbed the Pharaoh's rest and for years followed every twist and turn of the fate of the men who had been involved in the historic discovery. Long dismissed by Egyptologists, the mummy's curse remains a part of popular supernatural belief. Roger Luckhurst explores why the myth has captured the British imagination across the centuries, and how it has impacted on popular culture. Tutankhamen was not the first curse story to emerge in British popular culture. This book uncovers the 'true' stories of two extraordinary Victorian gentlemen widely believed at the time to have been cursed by the artefacts they brought home from Egypt in the nineteenth century. These are weird and wonderful stories that weave together a cast of famous writers, painters, feted soldiers, lowly smugglers, respected men of science, disreputable society dames, and spooky spiritualists. Focusing on tales of the curse myth, Roger Luckhurst leads us through Victorian museums, international exhibitions, private collections, the battlefields of Egypt and Sudan, and the writings of figures like Arthur Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard and Algernon Blackwood. Written in an open and accessible style, this volume is the product of over ten years research in London's most curious archives. It explores how we became fascinated with Egypt and how this fascination was fuelled by myth, mystery, and rumour. Moreover, it provides a new and startling path through the cultural history of Victorian England and its colonial possessions.
PART ONE: CURSE STORIES; 1. King Tut and the dead Earl; Opening the Tomb; First Interpretations; 2. Precursor Stories I: Thomas Douglas Murray and 22542 (The Unlucky Mummy); 3. Precursor Stories II: Walter Ingram and the Coffin of Nesmin; PART TWO: CONTEXTS; 4. Egypt in London I: Immersive-Exotic Spaces; The Egyptian Hall, Belzoni's Tomb and Mummy Pettigrew; The Exotic Panorama and the Theatrical Extravaganza; Bazaars, West End Shopping, and Exotic Consumption; 5. Egypt in London II: The Exhibitionary Universe; Egypt at the World's Fairs; The British Museum in the Empire of Shadows; 6. The Curse Tale and the Egyptian Gothic; Learning to Curse; Plagues, Scarabs, and the Nuclear Option: The Golden Age of Egyptian Curse Stories; The Museum Gothic; Algernon Blackwood: Egypt Introjected; 7. Rider Haggard Among the Mummies; Rider Haggard's Encounters with Egypt; Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Haggard and Major E. Arthur Haggard in Egypt; Rider Haggard's Artefactual Fictions; 8. Evil Eyes, Punitive Currents and the Late Victorian Magic Revival; Late Victorian Hermeticism: Blavatsky's Theosophical Society; The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: Haute Magie and Low Comedy; Magical Thinking and Curse Logic; Closing in: The Evil Eye Looks Back; Afterword