ALBERTINA HERBERT in the occult world 1889-98.
CANADA; MORE FORTUNE TELLERS; THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY 1896-1909
This is one part of a wider account of Golden Dawn member Albertina Herbert in the wider occult world during the late 1880s and 1890s. It covers her years in Canada (1891-95) and back in England (1896 to 1898) with an extension to 1909 for her TS membership. There are two other files in this set:
FORTUNE TELLERS, ALTERNATIVE PRACTITIONERS AND FIRST MOVES IN THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
HERMETIC SOCIETY? And ORDER OF THE GOLDEN DAWN 1889-90
Events in those two files were taking place at the same time, between June 1889 and November 1890.
The three files are based on two diaries that Albertina wrote, now at the National Library of Wales:
- catalogue number NLW18744B. The first entry in it was written on 1 June 1889, the last in June 1895.
There was then a gap of several months before Albertina started on its successor:
- catalogue number NLW18745B. The first entry in that was made on 1 April 1896; and the last two, AH’s notes on two separate trips to clairvoyants, at the end of January 1898.
On my work on the diaries
With limited time and money at my disposal for trips to the NLW at Aberystwyth, I concentrated on diary NLW18744B which covers the period when Albertina was in the GD – see my other files for my thoughts on that. With diary NLW18745B I didn’t pay so much attention to individual entries. I just focused on the items Albertina pasted or wrote into the end-pages of the volume; most of which had occult associations.
Any square brackets  that are in the account below is me supplying further information about diary entries; or possible interpretations of Albertina’s scrawl.
Albertina had joined the Order of the Golden Dawn in September 1889, and had been obliged to leave it in November 1890 to go with her husband Colonel Ivor Herbert to his new job as General Officer Commanding the Canadian Army. She had joined the Theosophical Society just before she left England and was an active member of it in London when she returned; though diary NLW18745B also shows her also keeping up her interest in the occultism she had studied in the GD.
Albertina and Ivor both joined the TS on 24 October 1890, a few weeks before they left for Canada. However, I haven’t found any evidence of sustained interest in theosophy on Ivor’s part. He never seems to have been an active TS member and I’m going to focus solely on Albertina in this file.
Diary NLW18744B shows Albertina meeting Samuel Mathers, one of the GD’s founders, a few days before she made her TS application. The diary doesn’t say what they talked about – it’s not that kind of diary - but it’s likely that Albertina wanted to know if there was any way she could continue to be active in the GD while living in North America. She and Mathers couldn’t find a formula for that, though; so Albertina decided that theosophy was what she was going to focus on, while she was out of England. Unlike the GD, theosophy didn’t have a problem with source material. Albertina could take with her to Canada Blavatsky’s two seminal works – Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. Theosophical works by other writers were also available. There were several magazines to subscribe to, the main one being the TS English Section’s Lucifer, published each month; and as a member of the TS’s English Section, Albertina would also be sent the members’ magazine, The Vahan.
In 1890, those wanting to join the TS needed sponsorship from two TS members. Albertina and Ivor were both sponsored by Isabel Cooper Oakley, whom Albertina had known for several months; and by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whom they had presumably met by then though actually there’s no record of it in diary NLW18744B. Albertina and Ivor joined Blavatsky Lodge, most of whose members were in Blavatsky’s inner, very exclusive, circle. Albertina was probably too busy to attend any of the lodge’s meetings before she left the country. Certainly, she didn’t mention going to any meetings in diary NLW18744B and unlike GD activities, she didn’t regard theosophy as too secret to include in it. By the time the Herberts returned from Canada, Blavatsky was dead, so it’s likely Albertina never did hear her talking in person about her ideas.
THE OCCULT JOTTINGS IN DIARY NLW18744B
Though there’s no date on most of them, and no context for most of them either, Albertina wrote ‘Earnscliffe Ottawa’ across the top of the some of them, carrying on her habit since the diary’s first entry, of writing down where she was when she wrote her daily entries. It’s safe to say that most of the items got into the diary between November 1890 and June 1895. I list the occult jottings below, denoted with “*”.
ALBERTINA IN CANADA
Albertina’s diaries are not introspective; they are more a record of her social engagements. So it’s hard to know how she felt about accompanying her husband to one of the colonies. In the last few months before they left she may have had no time to give the matter any thought. But by March 1891 she was utterly miserable. All sorts of items are stuck into or written onto the inside covers of diary NLW18744B but the saddest is this:
* a series of questions prepared for a session with a clairvoyant; and the answers. There’s a date associated with the questions – 5 March 1891 – though Albertina’s diary entry for that day makes no mention of a visit to a clairvoyant, so maybe the reading was done by post.
One of the first questions Albertina asked the unnamed fortune teller was how soon she could go home. She was desperately homesick; and had too much time on her hands. The entries in diary NLW18744B that Albertina wrote in 1889 and early 1890 show how each day was full of meetings with people: lunches, dinners, calls, teas, evening parties, garden parties in the summer. They were also full of her family – her brothers and sisters and a large number of cousins especially in her mother’s family, the Bridgemans. Now she was thousands of miles away in a place where she knew hardly anyone. The timing of the Herberts’ arrival in Ottawa – near the beginning of the long Canadian winter – can’t have helped. And instead of beginning to make some friends, Albertina seems to have thought she had already managed to make some enemies, particularly of one woman who – she told the clairvoyant - knew a secret of hers and was using it as a threat. Was this paranoia? Another of Albertina’s questions was whether she would pay all her Karmic debts in this lifetime; the answer was “Yes most certainly”. What a prospect. I suppose the answer was meant to bring relief, but might equally well have caused Albertina to break out in panic at what may be lying in wait for her.
Albertina hadn’t reached that state of depression where it seems impossible to do anything to help yourself – she asked the unknown fortune teller how she could make her situation better. The reply was that were things Albertina could do, and that she should take matters into her own hands and do them. The fortune teller made some suggestions, but Albertina didn’t write the details down in the diary. Perhaps they involved more study of the principles of theosophy – she certainly seems to have thrown herself into that, tackling some of its most difficult theories. Maybe she was urged to work on her own psychic abilities. One of the questions she had asked had been about them – would they increase? To find the fortune teller replying that they would, might have given Albertina some cheer at this desperate time.
* a set of pages cut out of a book or magazine, on the Seven Root Races and the Seven Globes; part of a longer work. In pasting them into her diary, Albertina was perhaps intending to read the pages through every day when she opened it.
* another set of pages taken from a book or magazine article, apparently comparing the theories of Blavatsky with those of Swedenborg, point-by-point.
There’s no clue as to the author of either set of pages, but stuck to the bottom of the last page in the notebook is a square of paper saying: “H T Edge, Fellow Theosophical Society”. I couldn’t link the name with anything else in the diary so perhaps Albertina had been reading a book or articles by him. Henry Travers Edge was one of Blavatsky’s inner circle; from 1888 until her death he also acted as her secretary. For more on him see below, the section involving Walter Gorn Old.
Albertina must have been delighted to discover, in February 1891, that a Theosophical Society lodge was being set up in Canada – albeit in Toronto, not Ottawa, so she was not going to be able to go to its meetings. I don’t know how she found out about the new lodge, but she wrote the contact address down in her diary
* “270 Major Street Toronto”
right next to the questions and answers prepared for the unnamed clairvoyant of March 1891.
In the early 1890s 270 Major Street was the home of poet and journalist Albert E S Smythe and his wife. Albert Smythe was the leader of the group that set up the TS lodge in Toronto; one of the others in that group was future GD member Algernon Blackwood. Permission to found the lodge was given by Blavatsky herself; one of the last such permissions she issued in person before she died. Smythe also had a personal link with William Quan Judge, the leading theosophist in the United States. They had met on a boat crossing the Atlantic, in 1884.
Other inserts into diary NLW18744B suggest that, despite being handicapped by a lack of study-material, Albertina was continuing to learn more about the western occult traditions. And of course there were subjects where theosophy and western hermeticism overlapped.
* again without any context, a list of sun, moon and planets, each with the day of the week it governed, and the precious stones associated with it.
* in Albertina’s handwriting, a recipe for a herbal medicine, using native American plants.
* a third set of pages cut out of a longer work: on the meaning and symbolism of auras; beginning with the 5th, and referring to the 6th and 7th auras, about which “no information,,,is at present available”.
* probably from the same work on auras, a list of the meanings of different colours that might seen in an aura; and of some objects that might be seen within them.
Those two entries suggest Albertina thought she could see auras herself.
* the full text of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem Platonic as printed in a magazine whose title Albertina didn’t note down; though she did write a date by the cutting - 23 January 1892 – presumably the date she read the poem, liked it, and cut it out of the magazine.
Towards the end of Albertina’s time in Canada, W T Stead started a magazine for readers interested in the occult - Borderland. Albertina became a subscriber to Borderland; probably having read about it in Stead’s better-known magazine, Review of Reviews In Borderland’s second year of publication, 1895, Stead listed its subscribers by address and occult interest in an attempt to create an occult community out of them. Albertina is in the list and perhaps through appearing in it she was able to correspond with or even meet some of Borderland’s other readers in Canada. It was meagre fare, though, and I’m sure she was very glad when Ivor’s tour of duty came to an end in June 1895 and they went home; at which point diary NLW18744B ends. Only a few weeks after they got back to Britain, Ivor’s father died. Ivor inherited the family estates and Albertina became the mistress of the estates’ great house, Llanarth Court near Abergavenny. They were still in mourning for Ivor’s father when Ivor’s grandmother, Baroness Llanover, also died, adding to the feeling Albertina must have had that one era was ending in Monmouthshire, and another beginning in which she and Ivor would have a larger part to play. Ivor’s mother inherited her mother’s estates and moved out of Llanarth Court.
JOTTINGS IN DIARY NLW18745B
Albertina took up diary-writing again, with NLW18745B, in April 1896. Like she had in NLW18744B, Albertina pasted and wrote a number of items into the notebook’s end-pages. To denote that they are from a different diary, I’ll list them thus: “-”. A few more of these items are dated, including the most eye-catching one:
- Albertina’s drawing of an Auric egg with sun and crescent moon above and 2 pentagrams within, with theosophical annotations down the left-hand side of it.
Albertina wrote down the date she drew the egg - 27 February 1896, just over a month after Baroness Llanover’s death, with Albertina probably living at Llanarth Court, passing the days of strict mourning by working on her theosophy.
Shortly after Albertina drew the Auric egg came another death: not so personal but one of more than normal interest to her. On 21 March 1896, after many years of ill-health, William Quan Judge died; in the late 1870s in New York he had been one of the original founders of the Theosophical Society.
Albertina put into diary NLW18745B
- an extract from a longer obituary of William Quan Judge by theosophist Claude Falls Wright; published in the New York Journal on 23 March 1896.
In the extract, Falls Wright was describing how Judge claimed to be able to remember some at least of his previous lives; and how in his last years he rarely slept, going instead into a state of consciousness that I would describe as deep trance.
At some point Albertina also put into her diary the full text of a recently-published poem:
- A Fragment.
Albertina’s cutting doesn’t have the date of the poem or where she read it, but because she did keep its title I’ve been able to discover the poet’s name: Alfred Austin, who succeeded Lord Tennyson as poet laureate. The poem is short, and talks of a love that will transcend both the death of the writer and the ageing of the beloved. It was published in Austin’s 1896 volume Lyrical Poems and though it doesn’t seem to have any particularly occult meaning, it was very pertinent to that year in Albertina’s life.
Albertina began her new diary, NLW18745B, on a trip to London; possibly her first since she had gone to Canada in 1890. There’s an air of optimism about the early diary entries as Albertina began picking up the pieces of her English social life again. One of the pieces she picked up during the rest of 1896 was the Theosophical Society; starting to go to lodge meetings and pasting more items into the diary.
In some ways it’s surprising that Albertina was still willing to be a TS member; but her isolation in Canada had spared her full knowledge of the bitterness created by the upheaval in the TS worldwide after the death of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in May 1891. It was inevitable that once the shock of Blavatsky’s death had worn off, theosophists should debate where their path was going to lead them next. But the debate rapidly turned into a factional dispute about who should lead its English, European and American sections – Annie Besant, favoured by Blavatsky during her last years and seen as her successor by Colonel Olcott who was head of the TS worldwide; or William Quan Judge, who argued that he had the better case as a founder-member, still in touch with the mahatmas. Exchanges between the two factions became shrill, and public, causing great distress to TS members who found it difficult to believe some of the things that were being said and written by people whose beliefs were supposed to lift them above this kind of animosity. Many resigned or did not renew their subscriptions; entire lodges shut down for lack of activists; and in the end, when Besant was chosen for Blavatsky’s role as leader of the TS in England and Europe, virtually all the lodges in the United States left the TS worldwide to become an independent organisation, headed by Judge.
Even if she had been in England while the dispute was raging, Albertina was not the kind of person to take sides actively in such a thing. However, after not even mentioning Blavatsky’s death in her diary, she did post part of Judge’s obituary in it. There’s another small, hint of her possible support for Judge; perhaps not so much in preference to Blavatsky, but in preference to Annie Besant. When Albertina had joined the TS in 1890 she had been a member of Blavatsky Lodge, but after Canada she chose to go instead to the meetings of London Lodge. This choice may have reflected Albertina’s preference for Buddhist influence on theosophy rather than Hinduism. Under Annie Besant’s leadership the TS’s influences began to move towards Hinduism, and her main platform when in London was Blavatsky Lodge. However, Albertina was prepared to back Annie Besant’s regime with her continued TS membership, and she also acted as sponsor to bring into the TS’s depleted English Section four new members. Two were two of Albertina’s many cousins on the Bridgeman side of the family – Nina Terrell Garnett and Frederick Bristowe. One was a young woman whose family the Herberts had known in Canada - Edna Blanche Sanford, daughter of Canadian businessman and MP William Eli Sanford. And the last was an acquaintance from the GD, Theresa O’Connell. Albertina picked up her friendship (from 1889) with Isabel Cooper Oakley, and Isabel acted as co-sponsor for Nina Garnett and Theresa O’Connell.
To carry on with my list of items in diary NLW18745B, two undated items and a note, close together so possibly connected:
- a long extract from a book or article in which the writer describes seeing misty images in the dark, images the writer is fairly sure are not there in reality
- in Albertina’s hand-writing “Piccadilly; Laurance (sic) Oliphant”
- a shorter extract from an article in the Madras Mail suggesting that it’s possible for individuals to reach a state of consciousness where they can see “glimpses of arcane truth hidden from them in the normal waking state”. There are no indications on the extract of its date of publication, or its author. I’m sure Albertina was not a regular reader of the Madras Mail, so somebody must have given the extract to her.
A man called Laurence James Oliphant (1846-1914) was a fellow officer of Albertina’s husband Ivor, in the Grenadier Guards. Perhaps he gave or sent both the extracts to Albertina; though I don’t think he wrote either of them. I think that one or both of them might have been written by a relation of his with almost the same name - Laurence Oliphant (1829-88); the traveller, writer, mystic and early campaigner for an independent zionist state in Palestine.
Albertina may have been acquainted with the mystical Laurence Oliphant but it doesn’t seem very likely, as he spent so much of his life abroad. Perhaps she had read his novel Altiora Peto, published in 1884; at different times two different members of the GD chose altiora peto as their motto. And she might have heard about his life from members of the GD. Laurence Oliphant (1829-88) had spent several years living in the intentional community known as the Brotherhood of the New Life, set up in Brocton, New York state on the shores of Lake Erie by the poet and mystic Thomas Lake Harris. Harris had followers in Britain, at least one of whom, Edward Berridge, had already joined the Order of the Golden Dawn when Albertina was initiated in September 1889.
I’d like to suggest that, whether or not the two extracts were by Laurence Oliphant 1829-88, Albertina linked them in her mind with what she had read of William Quan Judge. Judge and Laurence Oliphant 1829-88 were not like Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who claimed to be remarkable and was seen as such by TS members. They were relatively ordinary men who discovered that they had psychic abilities. Their experiences bolstered Albertina in her long-standing belief that she too had pyschic powers, if only she could develop them. She had joined the GD with that in mind. In the late 1890s though she was no longer a member she was still trying to develop her psychic talents, using techniques the GD taught - astrology and clairvoyance.
- list of magazines Albertina was reading; dated 27 January [?1897 ?1898].
Borderland is in the list, and Review of Reviews. Also in it are Theosophical Review, the continuation, half way through 1897, of Lucifer by another name; and Modern Astrology.
Modern Astrology was founded in 1895 by Walter Gorn Old, whom Albertina must have heard of and possibly had met. He was very active in the TS English Section in 1890, when Albertina joined it but she came back from Canada to find him perona non grata in theosophical circles – the actions of him and his friend Henry Travers Edge during the post-Blavatsky disputes had deeply offended the TS hierarchy. In 1899 Edge went to live at the theosophical community at Point Loma, California. In 1895 Old was focusing his considerable energies on astrology.
Old had been an astrologer since before he was a theosophist and had been publishing articles and predictions in the press since the mid-1880s, using the writing name Sepharial. I assume Albertina knew that Old and Sepharial were the same person. Old and Frederick Lacey had founded The Astrologer’s Magazine in 1889; perhaps Albertina was a subscriber to that. Modern Astrology was a relaunch of the 1889 original, edited by another astrologer who was also a disillusioned theosophist – Alan Leo (real name William Frederick Allen). In 1896 Old and Leo helped form the Astrological Society. I can’t tell whether Albertina was a member of the Society; I’ve looked for a list of the its early members but haven’t been able to find one; and you could subscribe to the magazine without being a member of the Society.
All initiates into the GD were expected to study astrology, so Albertina had a good grounding in the subject. The articles in Modern Astrology over the next few years ranged widely and kept up with modern developments: Hindu astrology was covered, as well as western; there were articles on various specialisms within astrology (horary, for example, and mundane); and a couple of articles suggesting possible ways to interpret Neptune in astrological charts, and on what would be a suitable symbol for Neptune in them. Over several issues there was a series on palmistry, by a palmist and graphologist who used the professional name Viola. Given that Albertina was particularly interested in the Kabbalah she must have been very pleased to find that Walter Old had written a book which brought the two occultisms together - his Kabalistic Astrology which was published in 1895 as a manual to help with interpretation. Perhaps Albertina bought a copy.
Clairvoyance was used by both theosophists and in the GD. Rather than try to return to the GD, Albertina took advantage of the ‘how to’ guides that were being published. In 1897 she bought herself a book on using a crystal for clairvoyance, and as she read her way through it, she made notes inside the back cover of diary NLW18745B:
- in pencil and headed ‘Extract from Crystal Gazing and Clairvoyance by John Melville’, notes on how to use a skrying mirror
Albertina’s notes focused on when to use a skrying mirror or crystal for maximum effect; with some basic interpretation, particularly of clouds and colours. However, it’s a moot point whether she ever put the instructions in the book into practice. One of the fortune tellers she consulted in 1897/98 urged to her obtain a crystal for use in scrying. That suggests that Albertina had not got a crystal - in the Preface to his book, Melville said that he could not keep up with the demand there now was for good crystals for clairvoyant use; but perhaps she was just dragging her feet on the issue. Was she putting off the moment when she would have to practice the art? Maybe she was trying to use a mirror instead, a technique she might have been more familiar with than crystal use, as the GD used it. Either she wasn’t getting on very well with it; or she had given up altogether on her attempts to become a better psychic.
A CRISIS and the end of the diaries
After the great changes brought about by the deaths in her husband’s family, to a large extent Albertina’s life in 1896 and 1897 returned to something like it had been in 1889 and 1890. She will have been able to carry on with her occult studies when her social engagements allowed. Late in 1897, however, Albertina was facing some kind of crisis or even crises, which she felt were beyond her own powers to solve. It or they took her to two different fortune tellers in December 1897 and January 1898.
From diary NLW18745B:
“[Monday] 6 [December 1897]. Moon. 53 Margaret Street.”
“[Thursday] 27 [January 1898]. Jupiter. 53 Margaret Street morning.”
It must have been immediately after she got home from each reading that Albertina snatched up a pencil and started almost flinging into the diary phrases she could still remember from the consultation.
The longest set of notes is from the second session. Albertina didn’t name the person she went to see in diary NLW18745B and I haven’t been able to identify them, even as to gender, though I feel Albertina would have been more comfortable with a woman. Whoever it was didn’t advertise, at least not in Light, where I tried to look for her or him. There’s no clue in the diary as to how Albertina found out about whoever it was.
Though she wrote such detailed notes after her two appointments in Margaret Street, Albertina was not entirely reassured by what she heard. She decided to go for a second opinion, this time with someone I have been able to identify.
From diary NLW18745B:
“[Saturday] 29 [January 1898]. Saturn. Miss Edwards Warwick Street Eccleston Square. Cards and Mirror.”
An Inie Edwards was listed at 114 Warwick Street Eccleston Square in Kelly’s PO Directory for 1897. There wasn’t much information about her on the usual family history websites and I think that ‘Inie’ at least was not the name she was given at birth. I couldn’t find any evidence of her living in England before 1897. As with the psychic at Margaret Street there’s no clue in Albertina’s diary as to how she came across Inie Edwards. However, the week before Albertina’s consultation with Inie, the first of a series of articles by Inie Edwards was published in The Wheelwoman, a magazine especially for women cyclists. Perhaps Albertina read the magazine - she was quite excited about cycling at the time – and contacted Inie after her second session at 53 Margaret Street proved unsatisfactory.
Inie was making efforts to get herself known as an expert on various forms of fortune telling. Her series in The Wheelwoman began in January with palmistry; and went on in February to telling fortunes with playing cards. When Albertina got back home from her consultation with Inie, she noted in her diary that Inie didn’t use a tarot pack; Albertina’s training at the GD had already started to cover the use of the tarot pack by the time she went to Canada.
Generally speaking Albertina seems to have asked both the psychics the kind of questions that were the bread and butter of their work: what about my health? - should I be aware of any threat to it? How about my children? - what does the future hold for them? In the months to come, are there any periods that look dangerous for me or for mine? But another bread and butter question – shall I be happy? - seems to have had heavy overtones for Albertina in these sessions. The questions she must have asked involved answers featuring predictions about a number of different new men in her life. What was going on between Albertina and her husband? And as at the time of the consultation in Canada in 1891, Albertina was thinking that she had made enemies amongst the women she knew. Did she only go to psychics with serious intent when shewas feeling persecuted? In 1897/98 she also referred to misunderstandings she had with members of the family; though given what I understand at least about Ivor’s family, there was nothing odd or psychotic about differences of opinion with some of them.
Perhaps the crisis that had sent Albertina for psychic advice was to do with the psychic powers she thought she had. They had deserted her and she wanted reassurance that they would return. The psychic at 53 Margaret Street said that she should try the mental exercise of focusing on a blank piece of paper, to see visions on it; and that she should find a practitioner who could prepare a suitable crystal for her to use.
I can’t understand most of the notes Albertina scrawled down so hastily after these three sessions; they were about very personal issues, after all. Perhaps, looking back at what she’d written later, neither could she make any sense of them; though I daresay she said to herself that perhaps all would be made plain in due course. In pen, and much more tidily, she wrote a few words across the top of the page, summing up what she thought she should take most heed of, from what she had been told at the first reading.
And that was the end of it: the notes on the session with Inie Edwards are the last entry in diary NLW18745B. On 25 February 1898 Ivor and Albertina’s daughter Fflorens Mary Ursula Herbert was presented at Court to begin her ‘coming out’ season. A new phase opened up in Albertina’s life, involving more social commitments to ensure Fflorens met the right kind of people; with less time for her own occult activities. If Albertina wrote any more diaries, magical or otherwise, they have not survived. The only aspect of her life in the occult that Albertina is known to have kept up with is her membership of the TS.
AFTER THE END: TS
Albertina and Ivor Herbert resigned from the Theosophical Society on 5 January 1909. There’s nothing on their TS membership record to show why they left when they did; but the timing suggests that it had to do with controversy surrounding Charles Webster Leadbeater.
Going to London Lodge meetings in 1895, Albertina will soon have met Leadbeater. Like her, he had recently returned to England after a period abroad: in 1884 he had travelled to India with Blavatsky in a group which also included Isabel and Alfred Cooper Oakley. He had been living at the TS’s ashram at Adyar since. Once back in London, he moved into the headquarters building of the TS’s English and European sections, at Avenue Road Swiss Cottage; and became secretary of the London Lodge. Albertina may have been impressed by how he taught Annie Besant to be clairvoyant using the technique he had developed himself, based on meditation. Over the next few years Leadbeater and Annie Besant were close collaborators, publishing a number of theosophical works as co-authors.
Leadbeater had often earned a living tutoring adolescent boys and in 1900 he was put in charge of a group of young men, the sons of TS members, as their teacher and advisor. He gave the boys advice about masturbation that sounds very sensible to me – he told them not to worry too much about the urges they had. However, when news of the advice got around in the TS in 1906, an outcry began and enquiries were started into his relationships with his charges. Leadbeater offered his resignation from the TS to Colonel Olcott, as its worldwide head; and Olcott accepted it.
Annie Besant’s views on sex and sexual relations were in advance of the majority of her contemporaries. She felt that Leadbeater had been victimised. When Colonel Olcott died and she was elected his successor, in 1907, she campaigned to get Leadbeater reinstated. At the end of 1908 the members of the International Section voted on the matter, and the result went in Leadbeater’s favour.
His reinstatement was bitterly opposed by a large group of members of the TS British Section, organised by G R S Mead and his wife, Isabel Cooper Oakley’s sister Laura. In December 1908, when there was nothing more the group could do, most of its members chose to resign from the TS en masse. On 1 May 1909 the group’s organisers published a communiqué stating their position on the matter of Leadbeater. 324 TS members had signed it. 206 of the 324 had already resigned from the TS or had said they would do so; most of their names were in the communiqué though 53 didn’t want their names to be made public. Albertina’s friends Florence Kennedy, now Gennadius; and Theresa O’Connell were amongst the 206 who had resigned from the TS and were happy to have their names known. I suggest Ivor and Albertina Herbert, and Gabrielle Borthwick who also resigned at this time, were among the 53 who asked for their names to be left off the communiqué.
Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p42 applications of Ivor Herbert and the Hon Mrs Herbert, both dated 24 October 1890. There’s a note saying that both the Herberts resigned from the TS on 5 January 1909. Branch: Blavatsky; then London. Sponsors: H P Blavatsky; Isabel Cooper Oakley
Theosophical Society Membership Register March 1895 to June 1898 includes the records of several new members co-sponsored by Albertina Herbert: p65; p79; p101 and p138.
Theosophical Society Membership Register June 1898 to February 1901: p37 for Florence Kennedy, later Gennadius; p184 for Gabrielle Borthwick p184. In neither case was Albertina one of the sponsors.
Dates around the Herberts’ resignation from the TS:
Annie Besant: //theosophy.wiki; her wikipedia page
Death of Henry Olcott: his wikipedia page
Vote to readmit Leadbeater: his wikipedia page.
The Leadbeater case. The communiqué issued by the protest committee is now online at:
Theresa O’Connell, Florence Gennadius and her sister Cecilia Macrae are named in it. Gabrielle Borthwick and the Herberts are not but I think you can take their resignation dates as indicative.
Edna Sanford Tudor:
Wikipedia on her father William Eli Sanford; though it has very little on his life in business. At www.biographi.ca a detailed account of him in the online Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
At www.ancestry.ca some details of William Eli Sanford’s family.
Edna married Ernest Augustus Tudor of the Royal Engineers in 1898.
Some biographical details on Edna’s husband: www.findagrave.com.
Albertina as a theosophist in Canada:
Poems Grave and Gay by Albert E S Smythe. Author’s Note written May 1891 at the address Albertina wrote in her diary.
Toronto: A Lit Guide by Greg Gatenby. McArthur 1999. On p171 270 Major Street: confirming that Albert Smythe and his wife lived at that address for a couple of years in the early 1890s.
Wikipedia on Albert E S Smythe: 1861-1947.
At //canadiantheosophist.com mag still exists though looks mostly online now.
Two sources for the beginnings of theosophy in Canada:
At www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca and www.theosophy.world.
Albertina’s magazine reading, listed NLW18744B and rather difficult to date.
The New York Journal – part of an obituary of William Quan Judge. According to wikipedia, the magazine was only published with that title from 16 July 1896 to 1 April 1897; so there’s a contradiction between it and what Albertina noted in her diary. These were the first few months after the newspaper was bought by Randolph Hearst. Under other names it had been published since 1882. At www.loc.gov there were copies to read, but of later editions than 1896.
Borderland, which was published from October 1893 to October 1897
Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index editor W T Stead. Editorial office: Mowbray House Norfolk Street WC; publishing office 125 Fleet Street. Volume 2 number 7, January 1895 has the list of “Our Circles and Members”; organised by country/county. Albertina was in it as the Hon Mrs Ivor Herbert of Earns Cliffe Ottawa – “general interest”. 1895 was the only year the list was included in the magazine.
Modern Astrology, published from 1895 to 1900.
Volume 1 number 1 describes Modern Astrology as a continuation of The Astrologer’s Magazine, first issue August 1890, When The Astrological Society was founded in 1896, it became the Society’s official outlet.
British Library’s set of issues p185 and p205 announce the formation of The Astrological Society at a meeting on 14 January 1896. Alan Leo was elected its president and A V Birch its secretary. No list of current members was published in any issue as far as I can see.
At www.encyclopedia.com: an article on The Astrological Society naming Alan Leo but also Walter Gorn Old as the main founders. In 1903 it was replaced by the Society for Astrological Research after criticism that it focused too much on London members.
Walter Old/Sepharial and Alan Leo both have detailed biographies at //theosophy.wiki which also covers Bessie Leo, not mentioned in Modern Astrology.
The account of Walter Old covers in detail the reasons why he and Henry Travers Edge became outcasts from the TS. In 1896 Walter Old changed his name by deed poll to Walter Gornold.
Kabalistic Astrology: Manual Number 1 by Sepharial [Walter Gorn Old]. London: Astrological Publishing Association 1895.
William Wynn Westcott had a copy of Old’s book in his Hermetic Library in 1897.
Theosophical Review was the theosophical magazine previously published as Lucifer. The change of name took place during 1897. The publisher was the same in each case: the TS’s publishing wing, the Theosophical Publishing Society in London. It continued to be published until 1909.
Crystal-Gazing and the Wonders of Clairvoyance by John Melville. London: Nichols and Co 1897.
John Melville’s book drew on a range of sources, some of which were listed in the back so that readers could follow up his introduction to the subject, if they wanted. They included Paschal Beverley Randolph’s Seership. As well as working as a clairvoyant, Melville was also a phrenologist.
Clairvoyance by Charles Webster Leadbeater. London: Theosophical Publishing Society 1899.
So far unidentified resident of 53 Margaret Street. Two visits: 6 December 1897; 27 January 1898.
Kelly’s PO Directory of London 1896 street directory p512 53 Margaret Street. The only resident listed was the householder, printed incorrectly as Mrs Helen Hast.
53 Margaret Street had been run as a lodging house by the East family for several years. On census day 1901 Helen East had three lodgers. Two were commercial travellers. The third was an unmarried woman, Mary Dodds aged 64, born Northumberland. No source of income was listed for Miss Dodds. She wasn’t listed at that address on the 1891 census; but of course, lodgers move around a lot. It’s not enough to go on, so I haven’t named Mary Dodds as the fortune teller Albertina made two trips to see.
Miss Edwards of 114 Warwick Street Eccleston Square. One visit, 29 January 1898.
Kelly’s PO Directory of London 1896 street directory p737 114 Warwick Street isn’t listed.
Kelly’s PO Directory of London 1897 street directory p756 114 Warwick Street. The householder is Miss Inie Edwards.
Inie Edwards in The Wheelwoman which I found via www.newspapers.com
- issue of Sat 22 January1898 p10 advert in the small ads for Inie Edwards “who may be consulted daily at 114 Warwick Street SW. Specifically mentioning palmistry. On the same page: article by Edwards on Palmistry; the first of a series.
- issue of 19 February 1898 p10 Fortune Telling by Cards: on how to tell future with an ordinary pack of playing cards.
Inie Edwards’ series continued in the issues of 26 February 1898 p10; 19 March 1898 p1; ending in the issue of 7 May 1898 p27 with Peeps into Futurity.
I had no luck at all finding an Inie Edwards via the usual family history sources.
THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY 1909
Seen online at
https://kg.vkk.nl/english/organizations/lcc.gb/lcis/scriptures/liberal/leadbeater/protest1909.htm, the communiqué issued 1 May 1909 by the organisers of the effort to prevent Annie Besant from getting Leadbeater reinstated.
Fflorens Herbert’s presentation at Court:
Times Sat 26 February 1898 p14 Court Circular. Report on the drawing room held at Buckingham Palace “yesterday afternoon” [Fri 25 February 1898] with the Prince and Princess of Wales standing in for Queen Victoria, as they usually did by this time.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
13 November 2022
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