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This article is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

From the Burgess Archive Andrew Biswell
02: A Wicked Pack of Cards
Andrew Biswell,/i>

Tarot Cards Temperance and The Judgement

Tarot Card Death

Tarot Cards The Hanged Man and The High Priestess

This is one of three sets of Tarot cards known to have been designed by Anthony Burgess. The pack as a whole is based on his detailed knowledge of The Tarot of the Bohemians by ‘Papus’ (a pseudonym of Gérard Encausse), a copy of which survives in the book collection of the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester.

Burgess was introduced to Tarot cards by T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which he first read in his early teens. He remained close to Eliot’s work throughout his life, and he composed a complete musical setting of The Waste Land for narrator and chamber ensemble, first performed in 1978. He also directed an amateur production of Murder in the Cathedral in Bamber Bridge in 1948, casting his first wife in the role of the Women of Canterbury.

In the early 1950s, while living in Adderbury, Oxfordshire, Burgess gave Tarot readings at a village fete, wearing a false beard and billing himself as ‘Professor Sosostris, famous clairvoyant’. Tarot cards also play a crucial part in a short story of the 1960s, ‘Chance Would Be a Fine Thing’, in which two older women, Mrs Mills and Mrs Copley, resort to cartomancy as a means of cheating on the football pools.

When Burgess delivered the T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures ...

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