The Mystery of (or The Insidious) Dr Fu Manchu, by Sax Rohmer, was published in 1913, at first in episodic form. What it owed to Dr Nikola is evident.
“Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government–which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.”
“He is the advance-agent of a movement so epoch-making that not one Britisher, and not one American, in fifty thousand has ever dreamed of it.”
The character became so popular that there were many successive stories and films – the most recent series had Christopher Lee playing Fu Manchu. There were understandable objections from China.
In Guy Boothby’s Dr Nikola’s Experiment (1899), a Dr Ingleby is engaged in London by Dr Nikola. He is to take care of an aged and sick Spanish gentleman, Don Moreno, who is accompanied by his lovely young great-granddaughter Dona Consuelo. The group travel to a remote castle in Northumberland but are followed by a threatening Chinaman with half an ear missing. Dr Nikola shows Ingleby his laboratory where he hopes to restore youth to the Don.
The experimental treatment is a combination of modern electricity and an ancient remedy found in the book Dr Nikola had stolen from the Tibetan monastery. Unfortunately it works only partially, leaving the Don youthful in body but infantile and aggressive in mind. The story ends in a death struggle between Don Moreno and the Chinaman when both fall over the cliff.
Dr Ingleby and Dona Consuela are happily united and Dr Nikola will no doubt continue his researches.
The narrator Braithwaite escapes (as he thinks) from imprisonment, and enters Dr Nikola’s private room-cum-laboratory, where what he sees makes his ‘blood run cold’ and his ‘flesh creep as it had never done before’.
Round the walls were … more than a dozen bottles, each of which contained what looked, to me, only too much like human specimens pickled in some light-coloured fluid… Between these gigantic but more than horrible receptacles were numberless smaller ones holding other and even more dreadful remains; while on pedestals and stands, bolt upright and reclining, were skeletons of men, monkeys, and quite a hundred sorts of animals.
Other collections visible included all sorts of weaponry and methods of murder, and
Mixed up with them were implements for every sort of wizardry known to the superstitious; from old-fashioned English love charms to African Obi sticks, from spiritualistic planchettes to the most horrible of Fijian death potions.
Dr Nikola is not the only living being present, as he bends over his work of dissecting what may (or may not) be a monkey. He has an albino dwarf assistant, and his ‘fiendish black cat’ looks on inquisitively. More of the latter later…
More from #Draculafordoctors: Dr Seward, the love-lorn Medical Superintendent, says:
My homicidal maniac is of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and call him a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac. What he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way.
He gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been his later steps?
Peculiar eating habits were not uncommon in the nineteenth century asylums, the technical terminology being ‘pica’. I dare say there were various ways of trying to supplement the poor diet of the institutions.
As for an excellent sensation of horror – ‘disgust’ is most effective, just watch ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’!
Children’s hairstyles are often a source of trouble in schools, but I have only once been asked to intervene as a psychiatrist, although the boy’s hair was very long and beautifully cared for.
In the early nineteenth century Peter might have had ‘Plica Polonica’ (Polish Plait), supposed to be a disease caused by a demon which settled if the plait of neglected knotted hair full of lice eggs were allowed to grow, taking the illness with it. The condition largely disappeared in the nineteenth century when it became clear that lack of basic hair hygiene (washing, combing cutting) was the problem and rumours of a tax circulated.
Another terrible tale from Dr Hoffmann’s ‘Struwwelpeter’. And again Pauline (aka Harriet) disobeys, lights a match, and manages to set fire to herself.
Then how the pussy-cats did mew
What else, poor pussies, could they do?
They screamed for help, ’twas all in vain,
So then, they said, “We’ll scream again.
Make haste, make haste! me-ow! me-o!
She’ll burn to death,- we told her so.”
So she was burnt with all her clothes,
And arms and hands, and eyes and nose;
Till she had nothing more to lose
Except her little scarlet shoes;
And nothing else but these was found
Among her ashes on the ground.
A fiery blaze does not occur in the Dracula novel, apart from the Vampires’ eyes – but in the films it can be a wonderful effect as the horror director Roger Corman knew.
Dear Readers, this maternal approach is certainly going to give Conrad a COMPLEX, and these days would be strongly advised against. Indeed the whole of ‘Struwwelpeter’ should be approached with extreme caution.
Needless to say the very word ‘not’ has the opposite of the desired effect, and the thumb goes in as soon as Mamma has turned her back. I fear this time I cannot spare you the consequences…
The door flew open, in he ran, The great, long, red-legged scissorman. Oh! children, see! the tailor’s come And caught our little Suck-a-Thumb.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go; And Conrad cries out – Oh! Oh! Oh! Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast; That both his thumbs are off at last. Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands, And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;- “Ah!” said Mamma “I knew he’d come To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.“