The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana

by Jess Nevins

The Azrael of Anarchy (1894) 

copyright © Jess Nevins 2022

The Azrael of Anarchy was written by “Gustave Linbach.” No information is available on Linbach, and the name may be a pseudonym. The Azrael of Anarchy is a cruel tale of anarchists and evil.

One day in 1894 a terrorist bomb explodes in London, killing many civilians. Those responsible for the bombing, the Council of the anarchists, meet as the bomb goes off. The Council’s members, who represent all levels of society, from the aristocrats to the workers, are infamous, but they are secretly led by Sir Dunston Gryme, a highly respected physician. The anarchists are discontented with the status quo, for they want more direct action against England’s leaders. Gryme counsels caution, telling them that a deliberate course designed to completely break down society is the best way to overthrow England’s government. As he is the most forceful and smartest member of the Council, the other members accede to his wishes. Gryme leaves the meeting and goes to help the victims of the blast. Later, after a meeting with Rokovsky, the notorious Polish anarchist and the only true believer in anarchy of all those members of the Council, Gryme goes to the house he has set up for poor female invalids and meets with one of his patients, Mary, the beautiful daughter of an industrialist. Gryme tries to force himself on Mary. She rejects him, and he has her thrown out of the house. Gryme then meets with one of his patients, the heiress Lady Ellice, and tries to blackmail her into marrying him. He is low on money, for he likes the comfortable life, and Ellice’s inheritance would keep him in clover for some time. But she rejects him, leaving him sexually and financially frustrated. But he is resilient and he turns to his experiments and inventions for relief. He visits his father in an opium den and gets money from him; his father is a respectable naval officer and nobleman, and only Gryme knows about his opium addiction.

Terrorism and anarchy are meanwhile on the rise in Europe, and the Council is pleased with its actions and those of its servants on the Continent. Ellice temporarily threatens Gryme with the incriminating letters which he wrote to her, but he arranges to have the letters stolen from her and then subtly poisons her. She dies, but her fiancé, a square-jawed heroic type named Briggs, suspects Gryme of having murdered Ellice despite Gryme’s long and seemingly faultless treatment of her. Ellice is cremated and the grieving Briggs tries to move on, but by coincidence he meets Mary, Gryme’s former patient who is now forced to wander the streets. She tells Briggs about Gryme. His suspicions confirmed, Briggs sets out to find enough evidence to convict and discredit Gryme. Gryme continues with his experiments and tests one of his new, slow-acting poisons on his Indian servant Akmet. Briggs attempts to spread suspicion about Gryme, but Briggs has no proof and Gryme’s reputation is solid. Rokovsky dies trying to assassinate the Prince of Herzegovina, which causes the Council to despair, but Gryme reassures the Council that all is well. Gryme’s father dies, and Gryme inherits the family estate, which solves Gryme’s financial problems. Gryme is appointed to inspect the naval and military stations of the Home Islands to ensure their military readiness, but during his inspections he surreptitiously spreads cholera among the bases. When the disease breaks out, the English military is devastated, and it is then that the anarchists attack England en masse. The Queen flees to Canada and England’s government is paralyzed. But the anarchists do not carry success well and they begin quarreling among themselves. Gryme, threatened by one of the Council members, kills him pour encourager les autres. Briggs goes to Whitehall to warn them about Gryme, but they laughingly dismiss his words and write to Gryme about the madman slandering his good name. Gryme invites Briggs over for a drink, but Briggs, suspicious, refuses to eat or drink anything Gryme gives him. Akmet, surreptitiously listening to the meeting between Gryme and Briggs, realizes that Gryme has poisoned him, and then tries to blackmail the cure out of Gryme. Gryme instead poisons him again with a more potent venom, but he makes the mistake of telling Akmet what he has done, and the dying Akmet throttles Gryme. The anarchist Council betrays each other out, and Society triumphs at the last.

The Azrael of Anarchy is certainly readable. Whoever “Gustave Linbach” was, they wrote in a slick, professional style. Gryme is enjoyably despicable, and “Linbach” portrays both the anarchists and the British government officials in a suitably cynical way. But on a certain basic level The Azrael of Anarchy is distasteful. “Linbach” may have simply intended to tell the story of evil deeds in an objective and unblinking manner, but the book exudes a faint whiff of sadism. The graphic and almost loving descriptions of the explosions and the wallowing in the cruelty of Gryme’s acts leave the reader more disgusted with the novel, and with “Linbach” for having written it, than edified by or angered with the anarchists.

As with The Anarchist, the main attraction of The Azrael of Anarchy is Sir Dunston Gryme, although “Linbach”’s portrayal of Gryme’s activities has more than a hint of prurient exploitation, unlike the cleaner evil of The Anarchist’s Professor Stein. Gryme is an “arch-fiend in human form,”1 a man capable of not only using electricity on dead bodies but even poisoning his favorite dog to test the efficacy of one of his new poisons. Gryme is a “sensualist,” in the Victorian sense of the word, and uses his considerable powers, position, and money to take advantage of women, using hypnosis to rape one woman and using his Home for poor female invalids as his harem.

Gryme is also half-Indian, the child of a royal mother of “Bhadjapour,” and his ultimate goal in working with the anarchists is not to put the anarchists in power but to take complete power for himself as the Dictator of the British Empire. The role of Indians in British popular fiction in the nineteenth century was customarily not a positive one, due to traditional British racism (although Edmund Burke’s anti-East Indian Company “A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly” in 1767 and his testimony against the unspeakable Warren Hastings in 1787 stand as honorable exceptions.2 The British response to the 1857 Indian Revolt was to intensify their anti-Indian racism. By the end of the century, when the British audience had been exposed to four decades of anti-Indian propaganda about the Revolt, the situation was particularly acute, but with an added and unanticipated wrinkle:

By the more Indian men were educated in English universities and as the Indian nationalist movement increasingly asserted the rights of the colonized, the English in India faced civil as well as military challenges to their authority: in the courts, in the civil service, in the political arena, in journalism, and in literature. Highly educated Indian women also began to dispute the authority of English feminists and Indian men who presumed to speak for them.3

British authors, then, were not only writing anti-Indian fiction out of their traditional racism, and not only out of the racism caused by the Revolt, but because there were now numerous educated Indian men and women who were challenging, in person and in print, the traditional British narratives about the Revolt.

The result was a surge in anti-Indian novels about the Revolt, and a surge elsewhere in the use of Indians or those of Indian descent as villains. Characters like Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli (see: The Jungle Book) and Kim (see: Kim), and Headon Hill’s Kala Persad (see: The Divinations of Kala Persad) were exceptions; much more common were characters like E. Harcourt Burrage’s Chunder Loo (see: The Lambs of Littlecote) and the Indian villains of Headon Hill’s Clues From a Detective’s Camera and Arabella Kenealy’s “Some Experiences of Lord Syfret.” The Azrael of Anarchy is no exception; Sir Dunston Gryme’s half-Indian descent is played up as the driving cause of his hatred of the British Empire and desire to dominate it.

The Azrael of Anarchy is, all things considered, minor anarchist literature, of historical interest only, and not recommended because of its exploitive and smirking approach to sex and violence.

Recommended Edition

Print: Gustave Linbach, The Azrael of Anarchy. London: British Library, 2010.

For Further Research

Haia Shpayer-Makov, “Anarchism in British Public Opinion 1880-1914,” Victorian Studies 31, No. 4 (Summer 1988): 487-516.

Haia Shpayer-Makov, “A traitor to his class: the anarchist in British fiction,” Journal of European Studies 26.3 (Sept. 1996): 299-325.


1 Gustave Linbach, The Azrael of Anarchy (London: Simpkin & Marshall, 1894), 4.

2 Nancy L. Paxton, “Mobilizing Chivalry: Rape in British Novels about the Indian Uprising of 1857,” Victorian Studies 36, No. 1 (Autumn 1992): 5-6. “A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly” is not available online but was reprinted in 1990 by Woodstock Books. The testimony against Hastings can be found online:

3 Paxton, “Mobilizing Chivalry,” 10.

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