Today’s look at the world of the Royal Occultist centres on one of Charles St. Cyprian’s better-known associates, the amateur occultist, Philip Wendy-Smythe.
Philip Wendy-Smythe is the last of a once-proud line. Avowed orientalist and amateur occultist, he has amassed a substantial collection of mostly fake, but occasionally extremely dangerous artefacts, grimoires and statuary.
Over the course of his life, he joined and was subsequently expelled from over a dozen secret societies, prior to (and after) meeting St. Cyprian and Gallowglass, including the Cult of Gla’aki, the Order of the Cosmic Ram, the Starry Wisdom, the Golden Dawn, and a heretofore unnamed sect of cultists inhabited by brain-eating insects. He is also the only man to be expelled from the Voyagers Club on three separate occasions, most recently after accidentally unleashing a phantom clowder of ancient Egyptian cat-ghosts in the communal billiards room.
Wendy-Smythe’s abiding obsession was the exploration of reality’s darkest corners, and it often led him into dangerous situations, such as the incident with Gussie Winkers and the Cult of Anubis, and necessitated his rescue on more than one occasion by the Royal Occultist and his plucky-yet-vicious assistant.
Of late, Wendy-Smythe has taken on the role of occult adventurer, with mixed success. He is a person of interest in a number of unsolved cases, including the fiery destruction of an Inuit mummy belonging to the Pitt-Rivers Museum, the disappearance of a bohemian artist of ill-repute in Southwark, and the theft of a certain unpleasant mezzotint from Oxford University. It remains to be seen whether he will grow into the role he has chosen for himself, or whether he will be consumed by his obsessions.
Wendy-Smythe was mostly created to give St. Cyprian and Gallowglass an excuse to become entangled in various events. An amateur occultist and collector of eldritch kitsch, he’s at once a foil and a McGuffin, dragging the heroes into one problem after another, often with the best of intentions. I imagine him looking like a younger and thinner Lou Costello, with the same sort of slapstick energy.
I’ve toyed with the idea of spinning him off into his own stories, as he fits the Wodehousian aesthetic a lot better than St. Cyprian, and would be a natural protagonist for a series of occult comedies. I’ve resisted the urge thus far, but I’ve got a list of ideas that I think would make terrible Royal Occultist stories, but excellent Wendy-Smythe adventures, including the aforementioned incident involving ghost-cats and a communal billiards room.
Only time will tell if I ever manage to sit down and write one, though.