The Dennis Wheatley 'Museum' - Gordon Eric Gordon-Tombe
Gordon Eric Gordon-Tombe
DW only knew Gordon Eric Gordon-Tombe* for five years, but during that short time Gordon-Tombe made an indelible impression on his life.
This is exemplified by the fact that DW dedicated his memoirs to :
"My father, my grandfathers and
At first sight this is surprising since EGT was a professional crook.
DW and EGT first met on 2nd February 1917, when DW was transferred to Biscot Camp in Luton, Beds. To read DW's description of their first meeting, click here.
EGT was the son of an Irish Protestant clergyman and had come over to England before the War as a motor engineer. When he met DW, EGT had been invalided home from France and had no intention of going back if he could possibly avoid it.
EGT was a marvellous raconteur. Nothing was sacred to him and his cynical wit made him a very amusing companion. As there was little else to do, DW and EGT spent many afternoons chatting in their room.
As DW was the first to admit, EGT introduced him to serious reading. Up to then, DW's reading had been pretty much confined to historical romances and international spy fiction, but EGT introduced him to the classics - Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Stendhal, Proust and others.
He also introduced DW to ancient history (Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, China etc), and the world's religions, while on the more mundane level, 'about sex, he had nothing to learn'.
In many ways, EGT became DW's 'finishing school' - deepening his knowledge in some areas and introducing him to others - including his own hedonistic lifestyle.
They parted company a few months later - EGT leaving for the Air Ministry, and DW embarking for France a couple of months after that. On his last day in England DW invited EGT to lunch at one of the top restaurants of the day and they persuaded the restaurant manager to break the rationing rules so they could dine in style.
When DW was repatriated from France, they resumed their friendship. It is clear that DW's father quickly identified that EGT was a bad influence on him - but the bond was too strong to be broken.
They led the fast life together, drinking and partying, and had an arrangement with the porter of a block of flats in the Haymarket where they could entertain their various women friends overnight.
All the while, EGT was involved in various crooked activities. The main one was a scheme where - with the help of his collaborator 'Bill' Dyer - EGT produced claims from non-existent manufacturing companies for uncompleted war work, which Dyer then authorised for payment. When he had received the money EGT closed the companies and disappeared with the funds. As Phil Baker has demonstrated, DW knew far more about what was going on than he admitted.
All this came to an end in April 1922, when it it appears EGT was murdered by Dyer. He was shot in the head and his body cast into a cesspit. The discovery of his body in September 1923 hit the headlines of a number of major newspapers.
As discoveries by Ian Sayer and Phil Baker have revealed, DW was acutely worried that he might come under suspicion himself, and he wrote an extraordinary private account of the events leading up to EGT's disappearance in case he was later questioned. This document only came to light in the 1990s and is examined in considerable detail in Phil Baker's book.
It would be reasonable to speculate that if DW had never met EGT, he would never have ended up writing the kind of books he did. On the other hand, if EGT had not died when he did, DW might not have been in a position to write at all. Sooner or later EGT's activities would probably have come to the attention of the police, and he might have dragged DW down with him. As it is, EGT entered DW's life and left it at what we might with the benefit of hindsight call exactly the right moments.
EGT's legacy to DW was substantial, and DW did not forget it.
In 1928 DW commissioned the celebrated artist Frank C. Pape to create a bookplate for him. This was stuck in the front of every book DW bought for the rest of his life - some four thousand volumes in all. It showed him naked at the feet of EGT, who was depicted as a faun, or in DW's original drawing, as a devil (!).
DW also based one of his principal heroes, Gregory Sallust, in large part on his dear friend Gordon Eric.
*His full name was actually George Eric Gordon Tombe, with Tombe being his family name. In his lifetime he was largely known as Eric, although DW called him Gordon Eric in his memoirs.
Although DW mentioned Gordon-Tombe in his autobiography, two people I have had the pleasure of knowing for several years have carried out a great deal of research that has enriched this section to a very considerable extent; Ian Sayer, who with his colleague Douglas Botting first broke the story of the D.EGT manuscript in The Sunday Times Magazine in 1996, and Phil Baker, whose definitive analysis of the Wheatley / Tombe relationship is an important element of his masterpiece 'The Devil is a Gentleman'.
I would also like to thank the Wheatley family and Jane Lewis (née Tombe), for their permission to put on general display material which would otherwise only be seen by the collectors who own the material and their friends.