The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana
by Jess Nevins
Ozmar the Mystic (1896)
copyright © Jess Nevins 2022
Ozmar the Mystic: A Novel and its sequel, The Prince’s Diamond (1898), were written by Emeric Hulme-Beaman. Hulme-Beaman (1865-?) was a traveler and novelist.
Ozmar the Mystic is a standard Theosophist fantasy about the titular character, a mystic living in Europe. Ozmar and the novel’s main character, Sir Frederick Roy, are called on to help Prince Loris, ruler of the Germanic country of Rivânia, resolve his troubles. The novel begins when Frederick’s daughter Esther becomes involved with Leslie Blair, a gambler and scoundrel. Blair seems to exercise an unholy attraction for Esther, who detests Blair but still agrees to marry him. She soon reveals to her father that she continually hears the words “You must marry Leslie Blair” ringing in her ears, and that unless she obeys them they always haunt her. Science and medicine can do nothing to help her and she begins to sicken. Roy encounters Ozmar at a party, and although Roy doubts Ozmar’s abilities, despite positive demonstrations of their existence, Roy asks Ozmar for help in finding a cure for Edith. Twenty years previously Roy’s father loaned the destitute Ozmar enough money to continue on his way to India, and Ozmar is happy to repay the favor to Roy. Ozmar helps Edith, but then Prince Loris arrives and asks for Ozmar’s help in rescuing Vassya, Loris’ lover, who has been kidnapped by Karamoff, a Rivânian in the employ of the Russians. Eventually, Ozmar succeeds in recovering Vassya, and the novel ends happily. In The Prince’s Diamond Ozmar helps a Rudolf Rassendyll-like character in a Ruritanian setting (see: The Prisoner of Zenda).
Ozmar is undistinguished. Hulme-Beaman tells the story in a older, more formal, and drier style than the more readable commercial prose of the 1890s. The plot is extended far beyond what it should have been, and there are numerous, uninteresting, didactic, pseudo-religious and pseudo-philosophical passages. Frederick Roy is not as much of a duffer as he could have been, but his role in the novel is to play the gawking, overly-materialistic Briton who is constantly amazed by the powers which Ozmar displays. The reader’s hopes that Rivânia will prove to be an interesting version of Graustark (see: Graustark) or Ruritania (see: The Prisoner of Zenda) are quickly dashed, and whatever humor is to be gotten from the bluster of Prince Loris quickly vanishes. The scene in which Roy and Ozmar meet the disguised Prince Loris is an unimaginative replay of the scene in “The Adventure of a Scandal in Bohemia” in which Holmes and Watson meet the King of Bohemia, although Vassya is no adventuress, but rather an innocent “in the hands of a most unscrupulous villain.”
However, the character of Ozmar is of some interest. Like Rosa Praed’s The Brother of the Shadow, Ozmar the Mystic is heavily influenced by Bulwer Lytton’s work, especially Zanoni, and Ozmar is in many ways an updated version of Zanoni and Margrave from Bulwer Lytton’s A Strange Story. But previous works which had Theosophist sorcerers as lead characters inevitably had them come to sorry ends. Ozmar the Mystic is one of the first works to take Bulwer Lytton’s occult fantasy formula and retain the Theosophist ideology while adding a more straightforward adventure fiction element. Ozmar anticipates the heroic sorcerers of twentieth century fantasy fiction. Ozmar is clearly the hero of Ozmar the Mystic. Unlike most nineteenth century sorcerer protagonists, Ozmar is not a grave-robbing anti-hero (see: Guy Fawkes), nor is there a final revelation that his powers come from a deal with Satan (see: The Wizard of the Mountain). Ozmar instead is a superpowered mystic action hero–a Theosophist superhero of sorts, one in a line of fictional superpowered Theosophist do-gooders in the nineteenth century.1
Print: Emeric Hulme-Beaman, Ozmar the Mystic: A Novel. London: Bliss Sands & Co., 1896.
1 Nevins, Evolution of the Costumed Avenger, 134-136.