Foreword to Augustus Darcy’s Guide to Occult London

Editor: This is the foreword, written by Steve Dempsey, to Augustus Darcy’s Guide to Occult London – the companion book to Book-Hounds of London. The Guide is written by Paula Dempsey. The image is by Jérome H, from the forthcoming Book-Hounds of London.

Augustus Darcy is dead. This news will come as a shock to those who were fortunate to count him amongst their friends, but the loss to knowledge is greater still. For Augustus (who will always be Gussy to me) was one of those secret scholars who toiled away in the shadow of lesser men and has produced, alone, one of the most startling books to emerge in this decade. You are holding that volume in your hand. Before you peruse it, first something about the man himself.

I had the privilege of being one of Gussy’s few close friends. We met at school before the Great War and discovered a shared interest in the fiction of Edgar Poe and Algernon Blackwood and the revelations of Madame Blavatsky. We eschewed the playing fields and together roamed the woods and dales near the school, playing out myths and legends of old, dreaming of the glory that was Greece. How delicious were those days of wine and roses and how soon were they over!

The War came. He went to his regiment and I to mine. We both served at the Somme and had a chance encounter just behind Vamy Ridge. I was carrying orders to the front and he was repairing a broken telephone line. We exchanged greetings and in the middle of that great mess, with shells flying around us, he asked me if I had read the latest Burroughs. That was the kind of man he was, his mind always on higher things.

After the war I went to Cambridge, he to the other place and our meetings became less frequent. The last was on the platform at Brookwood as I disembarked from the Necropolis Railway for a funeral. He was embarking upon the return journey to Waterloo. He told me he was writing a book about London and was at the cemetery doing some poking about. I said I hoped one day to read his work and he disappointed me, saying that would not be possible as the book was for a private client. When I came back to the train after the funeral I could not find Gussy anywhere, not even in the third class carriages. And now I have that tome, but not under the circumstances I would have wished. And  you, gentle reader, hold it now in your hands.

This is an important work. It is a survey of the current occult situation in London. Gussy left no stone unturned, no myth quiet. He poked folklore with the long stick of investigation and approached hearsay with the open mind of a fool but the wit of a savant. In these pages you will read about the secret powers at work in the very fabric of the great metropolis, of people who consort with demons, still even today, of giants at the Bank of England, dragons on Holborn Viaduct and angels on Peckham Rye. But be wary, gentle reader! For this is not a book to be taken lightly. In these pages is hidden powerful knowledge of an intrigue that cost my dear schoolfellow his life. This is a sorry tale and I will relate to you what I know of it.

I was unaware of the passing of Augustus Darcy until I was approached by his sister who informed me of his untimely demise. I should have wished to read it in the Times, but such was the impecuniousness of his estate that the matter went largely unpublicised, except for a short line in a local newspaper, which I do not take. This was an account of his death by drowning in the Thames with details of his forthcoming interment at Brompton Cemetery. His sister approached me because Gussy had requested in his will that I be his literary executor. I of course agreed.


I was invited to review his work and found to my consternation that most of his books and papers had already been purchased by some charlatan of a book dealer[1] who had taken advantage of the Gussy’s dear sister’s ignorance in such matters. All that remained of value, and that only because it was still in his briefcase, was a copy of the manuscript that has become, with my careful editing, The Occult Miscellany of Augustus Darcy.

I have attempted to do justice to this remarkable work by bringing it to a wider audience than that for which it was originally intended. I have removed some references for which the fieldwork was not fully complete but otherwise this book represents the ultimate work of the dear man, noetic investigator and old friend that was Augustus Darcy.

[1] A Mr Chessover of Covent Garden who not only paid bottom dollar, in spite of the presence of fragments of a “Sussex Manuscript” which I understand to be an important work, but also claims to have already sold these on to a foreign customer.

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