Sax Rohmer

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Ward, Arthur Henry (Sarsfield) (1883-1959)

Author who wrote under the pseudonym "Sax Rohmer" and created the celebrated fictional character Dr. Fu-Manchu. Ward was also a student of the occult. Born of Irish Catholic parents in Birmingham, England, on February 15, 1883, Ward had no formal schooling until the age of nine, when he attended a day school in London. As a youth, Ward stopped attending Mass and became an agnostic. His first job was as a bank clerk in London, after which he worked briefly as a newspaper reporter. He started writing short stories at the age of twenty and first used the pseudonym "Sax Rohmer" in 1912. He also wrote some successful songs for music hall comedians George Robey and Little Tich.

His famous character Fu-Manchu was based on reports of a Chinese master criminal operating an international opium racket, and the atmosphere of Limehouse, London's Chinatown district, provided local color. The first Fu-Manchu book was published in 1913, but Rohmer did not immediately settle down to developing his character. Instead, he spent much time on his nonfiction study The Romance of Sorcery (first published London, 1914; E. P. Dutton, 1915). The book brought a letter from illusionist Harry Houdini, who soon afterward became a friend.

Rohmer is said to have become a member of the Hermetic society the Golden Dawn and may also have belonged to a Rosicrucian order. However, his occult interests were eventually overshadowed by the success of his Fu-Manchu books. In 1929, Paramount Pictures first brought the character to the screen with The Mysterious Dr. Fu-Manchu, starring Warner Oland and Jean Arthur. Rohmer died June 1, 1959.


Rohmer, Sax. The Romance of Sorcery. London, 1914. Reprint, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1915. Reprint, New York: Causeway, 1973.

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"Rohmer, Sax"

Pseudonym of British author Arthur Henry (Sarsfield) Ward, creator of the celebrated fictional character Dr. Fu-Manchu, and a student of the occult.