Guy Boothby

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Guy Newell Boothby (13 October 1867 – 26 February 1905) was a prolific Australian novelist and writer, noted for sensational fiction in variety magazines around the end of the nineteenth century. He lived mainly in England. He is best known for such works as the Dr Nikola series, about an occultist criminal mastermind who is a Victorian forerunner to Fu Manchu, and Pharos, the Egyptian. Rudyard Kipling was his friend and mentor, and his books were remembered with affection by George Orwell.[1]


Boothby was born in Adelaide,[2] son of Thomas Wilde Boothby,[3] who for a time was a member of the South Australian Legislative Assembly. Guy Boothby's grandfather was Benjamin Boothby (1803–1868), judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia from 1853 to 1867.[4] When Boothby was six he travelled to England with his mother, and thus was educated at Salisbury, Lord Weymouth's Grammar (now Warminster School) and Christ's Hospital, London.[5]

He returned to his native country at the age of 16, in 1883. His grandfather had been a high court judge in his home state, and his father was a local politician; these connections doubtless led to his accepting a role as private secretary to the mayor of Adelaide, Lewis Cohen,[6] but was "not contented" with the work.[7]

In 1890, aged 23, Boothby wrote the libretto for a comic opera, Sylvia, which was published and produced at Adelaide in December 1890, and in 1891 appeared The Jonquil: an Opera. The music in each case was written by Cecil James Sharp. While writing his second comic opera he was private secretary to the mayor of Adelaide, South Australia

There was little opportunity for Boothby to progress in the Adelaide Corporation: thus, with the support of Cohen, Boothby moved to Brisbane in Queensland where he believed that he would find "a wider opening for his talents".[7] Perhaps wanting to get to know the country of his birth better, he went on a trek across the continent from North to South with his brother, later writing up his adventures in his book, On the Wallaby (1894) also known as Through the East and Across Australia.[6] During 1894 he published his first novel In Strange Company, this novel was well received and he departed Brisbane, Queensland to travel to London, England

He arrived in London (at the age of 27) in 1894.[8] He now remained in England and in 1894 he published On the Wallaby or Through the East and Across Australia, an account of the travels of himself and his brother, including a description of their journey across Australia from Cooktown in Queensland to Adelaide in South Australia. In the same year his first novel, In Strange Company, was published in London and quickly became successful. He wrote over 50 books over the course of a decade.


Boothby died at his home, aged but 38 years, in Boscombe, near Bournemouth, from complications arising from influenza, on 26 February 1905. His grave is in the town's Wimborne Road Cemetery.[9]


Some of Boothby's earlier works relate to stories of Australian life, but later he turned to genre fiction.

The Dr Nikola Series[edit]

Boothby was once well known for his series of novels about Doctor Nikola, an occultist anti-hero seeking immortality and world domination. The adventures of Nikola were launched with the first episode of A Bid for Fortune which was serialised in The Windsor Magazine (a rival to The Strand Magazine). Nikola is described as dressing in "faultless evening dress, slender, having dark peculiar eyes and dark hair, and white toad-coloured skin."[10] He lives in a bungalow on the Rue de Lafayette in Shanghai. Stanley L. Wood often illustrated the Nikola stories and his portraits depict Dr Nikola in white cravat and fur coat, with his perennial companion, the black cat Apollyon (named after a dark angel) – huge, baleful, gleaming-eyed – perched on Nikola's shoulder. Nikola – cosmopolitan, cultivated, universally feared – is highly intelligent but unscrupulous.

John Clute writes that " The heart of the series is devoted to the Doctor's convoluted search for a Tibetan process that will resuscitate the dead and ensure immortality in the living, and there are some hints that – unhampered by compunctions, armed with psi powers and blessed with a powerful experimental intellect – he may have reached his goal." [11]

Other novels[edit]

In A Prince of Swindlers he created the character of Simon Carne, a gentleman thief in the Raffles mould, with an alter ago as the eccentric detective Klimo: Carne first appeared in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, predating Raffles by two years.

Pharos the Egyptian (1899) is a thriller with romance and some supernaturalism in which a very sinister old man, Pharos, proves to be Ptahmes, a mummy who has survived through the centuries with full magical powers.

The Curse of the Snake (1902) is referred to by Brian Stableford as the most interesting of Boothby's novels. However, Stableford states that Boothby "very obviously made up his novel plots as he went along and that therefore this novel "concludes with a woefully inadequate explanation of its marvelously creepy opening sequence."[12]

Ghost Stories[edit]

Boothby wrote a number of ghost stories, mainly from his collections Uncle Joe's Legacy and Other Stories (1902) and The Lady on the Island (1904). Amongst the best-known of these are "The Black Lady of Brin Tor", "A Strange Goldfield" and "The Lady on the Island" and "Remorseless Vengeance." These have been reprinted in horror anthologies edited variously by Richard Dalby, Hugh Lamb, Leigh Blackmore and James Doig. [1]


Doctor Nikola[edit]

  1. A Bid for Fortune: or, Dr Nikola's Vendetta (1895) (AKA Enter, Dr Nikola) (note: included in the Wordsworth Editions omnibus Dr Nikola Master Criminal, 2009)
  2. Dr Nikola (1896) AKA Dr. Nikola Returns (note: included in the Wordsworth Editions omnibus Dr Nikola Master Criminal, 2009)
  3. The Lust of Hate (1898)(note: Dr Nikola makes only a peripheral appearance in this novel).
  4. Dr Nikola's Experiment (1899)
  5. "Farewell, Nikola" (1901)

Other works[edit]

Other books written by Guy Boothby include:

  • On the Wallaby: or, Through the East and Across Australia (1894)
  • A Lost Endeavour (1895)
  • The Marriage of Esther: a Torres Straits Sketch (1895)
  • In Strange Company: a Story of Chili and the Southern Seas (1896)
  • The Beautiful White Devil (1897)
  • Bushigrams (1897)
  • The Fascination of the King (1897)
  • The Phantom Stockman (1897)
  • Sheila McLeod: a Heroine of the Back Blocks (1897)
  • The Duchess of Wiltshire's Diamonds (1897)
  • Across The World For a Wife (1898)
  • Billy Binks, Hero: and Other Stories (1898)
  • Love Made Manifest (1899)
  • Pharos, The Egyptian (1899)
  • The Red Rat's Daughter (1899)
  • A Sailor's Bride (1899)
  • "Long Live the King!" (1900)
  • A Maker of Nations (1900)
  • A Prince of Swindlers (1900) (AKA The Viceroy's Protegé)
  • The Woman of Death (1900)
  • The Boundary Rider: a Play in One Act (1901)
  • A Cabinet Secret (1901)
  • The Jonquil (1901)
  • A Millionaire's Love Story (1901)
  • My Indian Queen: Being a Record of Sir Charles Verrinder, Baronet, in the East Indies (1901)
  • The Mystery of the Clasped Hands (1901)
  • The Rickshaw: a Farce in Two Acts (1901)
  • My Strangest Case (1901)
  • The Childerbridge Mystery (1902)
  • The Curse of the Snake (1902)
  • The Kidnapped President (1902)
  • Uncle Joe's Legacy: and Other Stories (1902)
  • Connie Burt (1903)
  • The Countess Londa (1903)
  • The League of Twelve (1903)
  • A Queer Affair (1903)
  • A Two-fold Inheritance (1903)
  • A Bid for Freedom (1904)
  • A Bride from the Sea (1904)
  • A Consummate Scoundrel (1904)
  • A Desperate Conspiracy (1904)
  • The Lady of the Island (1904) ("A Professor of Egyptology", "The Black Lady of Brin Tor", "A Strange Goldfield")
  • An Ocean Secret (1904)
  • A Brighton Tragedy (1905)
  • A Crime of the Under-seas (1905)
  • For Love of Her (1905)
  • In Spite of the Czar (1905)
  • A Lost Endeavor (1905)
  • The Race of Life (1906)
  • A Royal Affair: and Other Stories (1906)
  • A Stolen Peer (1906)
  • The Man of the Crag (1907)
  • In the Power of the Sultan (1908)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mark Valentine, "Introduction' in Guy Boothby, Dr Nikola, Master Criminal. Herts UK: Wordsworth Editions, 2009, pp. xi–xii. x
  2. ^ 'Boothby, Guy Newell (1867–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 347–348.
  3. ^ G. N. Hawker, 'Boothby, Thomas Wilde (1839–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 196–197.
  4. ^ Alex C Castles, 'Boothby, Benjamin (1803–1868)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 194–196.
  5. ^ Zampieri, Emilio (2010). Guy Boothby : the Dr. Nikola novels (1895–1901) (PDF) (PhD thesis). Università degli Studi di Padova. OCLC 664681561. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Mark Valentine, "Introduction' in Guy Boothby, Dr Nikola, Master Criminal. Herts UK: Wordsworth Editions, 2009, p. x
  7. ^ a b "Obituary: Mr. Guy Boothby". The Advertiser. 1 March 1905. 
  8. ^ Bulfin, Ailise. "Guy Boothby". The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  9. ^ Mark Valentine, "Introduction' in Guy Boothby, Dr Nikola, Master Criminal. Herts UK: Wordsworth Editions, 2009, p. xii
  10. ^ Guy Boothby, Doctor Nikola. London and Melbourne: Ward Lock. c 1895,p 19.
  11. ^ John Clute, "Guy (Newell) Boothby" in John Clute and Peter Nicholls 9ed), The Encyclopedia of science Fiction', London: Orbit, 1993, p. 143
  12. ^ Brian Stableford. "Guy (Newell) Boothby in John Clute and John Grant (eds). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy London: Orbit, 1997, p. 127.

External links[edit]