GD MEMBER ANNA COMTESSE DE BRÉMONT: PART TWO OF MY LIFE-BY-DATES which covers 1889 to her death in 1922.
Some repeats in case you didn’t read Part One.
Anna Elizabeth, Comtesse de Brémont was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London on 13 November 1888, together with her friend Constance Wilde. Though most GD members opted for a motto in Latin, Anna chose one in French - Fait bien - les dire - a language that she spoke well. For her time as a member of the GD, see Part One.
Problems with the data:
It’s difficult to write a life-by-dates without dates! And in Anna de Brémont’s life, attested dates have been hard to come by. I’ve had other, inter-connected problems as well. Too many of the events in Anna’s life are written up in one newspaper or magazine report; often long after the event; without those attested dates that I like; and without any explanation of where or who the information came from. In addition, Anna had a vivid imagination and less social poise than she admitted to in public. Particularly after she left the USA for Europe, she reinvented her life in America, to give herself a wealthier and more romantic background than she’d actually had. Hence the French title, comtesse de Brémont, which she used in Europe but almost certainly not before.
And a word of warning about the publications listed below. Quite a few of them came out in later editions from different publishers, with the title slightly changed. I’ve found it difficult to discover how many of the later publications were reissues and how many were first editions.
Anna went to India, Australia and South Africa, on a singing and lecture tour promoted and managed by the English actor and theatrical impresario Walter Brandon Thomas.
Source: via Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, the Rome Semi-Weekly Citizen of Tuesday 11 December 1894 p6: Material for a Libretto. Via google to www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org to the Herald Democrat of 7 December 1894: article also called Material for Libretto and clearly from the same original report.
Comment by Sally Davis: no other source mentions this tour; and I can’t see how it fits in Anna’s life - I don’t think she will have met Brandon Thomas before 1885, and there doesn’t seem time in her life between 1885 and 1894 for a tour to such far-flung places. See Walter Brandon Thomas’ wikipedia page for his career - he’s the co-author of Charley’s Aunt. Thomas’ first attempts at theatrical promotion don’t seem to have come until the early 1890s; and naturally enough, the first things he promoted were his own plays and acting. There’s no mention of Anna on the wikipedia page, and no indication he ever promoted the kind of lecture tour Anna supposedly undertook. Perhaps the whole tour is one of Anna’s flights of imagination.
ALSO UNDATED except that they took place at Anna’s flat in Cavendish Mansions, which she had left by 1893
Anna joined the ‘at home’ circuit, holding hers on Sunday evenings.
Source: via Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, the Rome Semi-Weekly Citizen of Tuesday 11 December 1894 p6: Material for a Libretto. Via google to www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org to the Herald Democrat of 7 December 1894: article also called Material for Libretto and clearly from the same original report.
Comment by Sally Davis: at Anna’s at homes the focus is likely to have been on music rather than conversation. See Part One if you haven’t already done so, for her career as a singer.
Restating a bit from Part One:
With the encouragement of Oscar Wilde and his mother Jane Francesca, Lady Wilde, Anna embarked on a career as a professional writer.
Anna went to South Africa and worked for a newspaper based in Johannesburg. She was the only woman journalist in the Rand. She got her first book of poems printed while she was there. Some poems she wrote might indicate she had an affair. And one source from much later in her life says that she made a fortune while she was there.
Comment by Sally Davis: an important period in Anna’s life, even if information on exactly what she did there is lacking. She doesn’t say so but I think Anna would not have chosen to go to South Africa if she could have found journalism work in London. She didn’t say which newspaper she worked for or whether she was paid; but she looked back on her “course of arduous journalism”, the “drudgery” of her daily work, with gratitude, and never regretted her time in South Africa. It matured her as a writing professional and provided a mass of ideas for future fiction works. I think she also enjoyed the hell-for-leather atmosphere of a town in the midst of a gold rush, the lack of social rules and etiquette, even the lack of social graces - before she arrived in Johannesburg she was already finding London society “unromantic” (I don’t know what she’d been expecting). Many of the poems which were published in Sonnets and Love Poems (1892) were written during her stay; and a crime and trial that happened while she was there gave her the plot of her first novel. She came back to England at the end of 1889 “richer in experience and in pocket”. She had never intended to stay, and as far as I know she never went back.
For Anna’s time in South Africa, though without firm dates:
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie. Chapter V p43 for London society; pp120-23 for Anna’s time in South Africa and the date by which she had returned.
For the possible affair: in Anna’s Sonnets and Love Poems there is a set of sonnets charting the life and death of such an affair. The affair might well have happened, but I’d never take a set of poems as evidence of anything - after all, they’re meant to be flights of the imagination. There are also two poems mourning the death in South Africa of a particular man, an English actor. Perhaps he was her lover - if she had one.
For her having made a fortune in South Africa:
From Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, The Telegram published in Elmira New York State issue of 11 January 1920; the page number wasn’t visible. Short report dated London 10 January  following the publication of The Black Opal: Woman of 70 Writes a Book. It describes Anna as having made and lost several fortunes in her life; one of which was gained in South Africa but lost in the Boer War. It doesn’t say what this fortune was based on - land, shares, gold, diamonds?
Immediate results of Anna’s stay in the goldfields:
Love Poems privately printed Cape Town 1889: Argus Printing and Publishing Co.
The Gentleman Digger: A Study of Johannesburg Life by Anna Comtesse de Brémont. Published by Sampson Low and Co 1889. The copy I skimmed through at the British Library was from its reissue a couple of years later: datestamp “19JU91". Just noting that the book is dedicated to “the memory of my husband, le Comte Émile Léon de Brémont, a hero of the Crimea, a friend of suffering humanity”. The Preface is dated Johannesburg 1890.
Back in London, Anna returned to her flat in Cavendish Mansions Portland Place. As a now-experienced journalist, she found plenty of journalism work. She also worked on fiction and poetry.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie. Chapter V pp121-123. Anna had been back in England several weeks by 30 January 1890 when she contacted Lady Wilde for the first time since her return.
For the address, which was the same place that she was living in when she and W B Yeats were close:
The Gentleman Digger: A Study of Johannesburg Life by Anna Comtesse de Brémont. Published by Sampson Low and Co; no publication date but British Library stamp “19JU91": note by Anna on the book’s Scenario.
Anna’s The World of Music, first edition. In three volumes: The Virtuosi, The Composers, The Singers. London: W W Gibbings.
Comment by Sally Davis: there were more reviews for the 1892 edition, which I think was a larger print-run. But I thought I’d list the contents of the three volumes here. The British Library copies of all three volumes were originally owned by Anna’s acquaintance Mary Frances Ronalds: Mrs Ronalds’ calling-card is inside their front covers. Inside volume 2 is a handwritten note by Anna to Mrs Ronalds, dated 20 March 1893 and accompanying a six-line poem by Anna, in praise of song.
In an edition of Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet whose date I couldn’t see from the snippet: an advert for The World of Music and I think this is probably the 1892 edition because it’s now being published in the USA by Brentano’s of Union Square New York. The advert describes Anna as an ex-New York resident “now residing in London”, and says that she “numbers among her acquaintances more members of the musical world than any other living writer”.
There’s a review of The World of Music in The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular volume 34 number 603 p297; see it on Jstor.
The contents of the three volumes:
Volume One: The Great Composers
As the first of the three volumes it contains Anna’s preface to all three, in which (pv) Anna describes herself as recording the lives of genius “in all humbleness”. The composers she chose were: Auber; Bach; Beethoven; Chopin; Gluck; Handel; Haydn; Mendelssohn; Meyerbeer; Mozart; Rossini; Schubert; Schumann; Wagner.
Volume Two: The Great Singers. Singers’ fame doesn’t last like that of composers but I give the names of the singers Anna chose, for what they are now worth: Braham 1774-1856; Catalani 1779-1849; Giuglini ?-1865; Hayes 1825-61; Jenny Lind 1820-87; Mario 1808-83, who married Grisi, another singer on the list; Pasta (married name of Negri) 1798-1865; Ronconi 1810-83; Sontag 1805-52; Billington 1770-1818; García 1775-1832, father of Malibrán, another singer on the list; Grisi 1811-69, wife of Mario; Lablache 1794-1858; Malibrán 1808-36, daughter of García, wife of de Bériot whose career Anna covered in the third volume of the set; Parepa-Rosa 1836-74; Rubini 1795-1854; Schröder-Devrient 1804-60; Tietjens 1831-77.
Volume Three: The Great Virtuosi. Some of the people Anna chose are better known to us now as composers: Ascher 1831-69, a pianist; Ole Bull 1810-80 p9 a violinist whom Anna heard play when she was a child; Buxtehude 1637-1707; Clementi 1752-1832; Chopin 1810-49; de Bériot 1802-70 who was a violinist; Ernst 1814-65 with (p60) an assessment of his personality, using phrenology; Gottschalk 1829-69; Gung’l 1810-89 who was a bandmaster; Herz 1806-88 pianist and also a teacher; Hummel 1778-1837; Kalkbrenner 1788-1849, a pianist-composer; Liszt 1811-86; Moscheles 1794-1870; Paganini 1784-1840; Spöhr 1784-1859; Tausig 1841-71 composer and arranger of Wagner’s orchestral works for piano; Thalberg 1812-71; Vieuxtemps 1820-81, another violinist.
An article by Anna was published in the Scientific American: the Decorations of the Hotel Metropole in London.
There’s a reference to it on worldcat - Scientific American volume 11 number 5; either issue of 1 May 1891 if worldcat’s dates are UK ordered; or 5 January 1891 if they’re US ordered, which is more likely.
Comment by Sally Davis: I haven’t read this article but from its title, it doesn’t sound particularly scientific. However, it might involve new technology. Anna was very interested in some new inventions - moving pictures, for example, and aeroplane flight (see below for more on those).
CENSUS DAY 1891
My only sighting of Anna on any census, at 1 Cavendish Mansions, Portland Place.
Source: census 1891.
Comment by Sally Davis: when I searched for Anna’s block of flats with google, nothing in Portland Place came up; so I guess it’s no longer there. It did still exist in 1959 though: at www.orbern.co.uk is p2 of an article: A Tour of Broadcasting House in 1959, by Mike Chessher. Cavendish Mansions was mentioned as being next door to Egton House, which in 1959 housed the BBC News Division. If it was next to the BBC, Cavendish Mansions must have been right at the south end of Portland Place, near to where it turns into Regent Street.
Anna was the sole resident at her address on census day 1891, and I find it a bit odd that she wasn’t employing any servants that lived in. There might not have been room for them, I suppose. Perhaps she was about to move, though, after living in the flat for several years, and didn’t want to bother hiring servants until she was settled at her new address: by 1893 she was living in Bloomsbury, and she did have servants there.
Anna paid to have her Sonnets and Love Poems printed by J J Little and Co of Astor Place, New York City. She dedicated the book to “Le Comte Léon de Brémont” as chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, whose “tender love and passionate devotion” was the inspiration for“these poems - the solace of many sad hours”.
Comment by Sally Davis: I wonder if Anna paid a visit to New York to supervise the printing process and meet up with old friends. No source I looked at seems to know how many copies Anna had printed; but on 23 March 2016 I saw number 131 for sale at abebooks, with a high price tag because it had two extra poems in it, handwritten by Anna in 1893 before she gave that copy to the singer and song-composer Lawrence Kellie. The longer handwritten extra poem was The Singer’s Soul; 32 lines in 8 stanzas “written for and inspired by the sweet singing of Lawrence Kellie, May 16th 1893"; unfortunately you couldn’t get to see this poem at abebooks’s website. The other poem you could see; it was part of the dedication. Anna doesn’t use apostrophe although 2 are needed:
“To Lawrence Kellie Esq
The simplest songs a thing
More potent than a King!
It conquers by the right
Of sympathys vast might.”
Signed “Anna de Brémont, London May 14th 1893".
I also print here the short poem on the book’s title page; it’s anonymous but I’m assuming it’s by and about Anna herself:
For she is a daughter of Odin’s line
With the Norseman’s blood in her veins;
And her soul it is bound to the souls of the Gods
That reign o’er the boreal plains!
Comments on the poems, by Sally Davis:
Many of the poems in the book are dedicated to specific people. One is dedicated “to an English actor who died of fever Johannesburg South Africa 1890" - the man she had the affair with, perhaps, if she had an affair at all.
One or two people are the subject of poems in the book. There’s Clement Scott on His Book of Lays and Lyrics; and also the poem She, which has the subtitle “Dedicated to Miss Sophia Eyre on Her Impersonation of Mr Rider Haggard’s Heroine”. Anna was thrilled with the novel She, and the female god-queen Ayesha; you can see the book’s influence on Anna’s own novels, especially The Lioness of Mayfair. Sophia Eyre was the first person to act the role of Ayesha, in a version of the novel adapted for the stage. Anna was also a fan of Cleopatra: there are three poems on the ‘Cleopatra’ theme in the book: Cleopatra; Cleopatra’s Dream and Cleopatra’s Night on the Nile.
Although Anna doesn’t seem to have had much of a record as a charity volunteer, there’s a poem called The Children’s Christmas Dinner at Victoria Hall, which seems to record an real event organised by Anna’s editor at The Theatre magazine, Clement Scott. Although she doesn’t say so, Anna may have helped finance the dinner, or helped out on the day.
The last poem in the collection is To My Mother; who is assumed to be “in the realms of the blest”. I’m not sure this is cast-iron evidence that Anna’s mother had died by this time; but perhaps she had.
Two poems that had already published were printed again in the collection: A Fantasy; and Have You Forgotten?, a poem which was set to music in 1887 and published as part of the song’s score.
Extant copies of the 1892 printing of Sonnets and Love Poems
Copy numbers 94 and 131 seen at www.abebooks.co.uk 23 March 2016; the British Library has copy number 55. Modern printings of the book are easily available through forgottenbooks.org.
Sources for the people mentioned above:
Information on the dedicatee Lawrence Kellie was hard to find: 1862-1932, singer, and composer of songs.
At prabook.org there are some very scant details of Kellie’s life, without any clue as to sources.
The British Library catalogue has 95 entries under his name. One was a dud; 93 were songs though I didn’t look through them so there may be duplicates.
Seen at victorianripper.niceboard.org there’s the text of a review in The Courier 26 May 1887 p10 of a concert at the Steinway Hall in which Lawrence, his wife, and singer Mary Davies all played or sang. The web page was speculating that Mary Davies was related to one of the Ripper’s victims.
At www.bbc.co.uk/proms/events/composers lists a handful of songs by Kellie that were sung during Proms concerts; none recently.
At www.lieder.net there’s a list of 5 songs by Kellie including one to lyrics by Oscar Wilde: Oh! Beautiful Star.
The Heritage Encyclopaedia of Band Music volume 1. William H Rehrig and Robert Hoe. Integrity Press 1991: p285 and p394.
Edith Sitwell: Avant Garde Poet, English Genius by Richard Greene. Virago 2011. Via google, with no page numbers but in a couple of pages talking about the Sitwells as a musical family: Lady Ida corresponded with Lawrence Kellie in the period 1898-1910. Lady Ida Sitwell, née Denison, was the niece of GD member Albertina Herbert.
See wikipedia for Clement Scott; or 1887 in Part One of this life-by-dates.
She first appeared - as so many novels did - as a serial in the magazine The Graphic, from 2 October 1886 to 8 January 1887. Source for that is H Rider Haggard: A Voice from the Infinite by Peter Berresford-Ellis 1978. London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd: p108; and p117 where Anna’s poem She is mentioned.
New York Times of 7 September 1888 p4 a report from their London correspondent issued 6 September 1888 about the first night of a play version of She at the Gaiety Theatre; with Sophie Eyre in the title role. The correspondent thought the play was “utter rubbish”. The audience agreed, and Rider Haggard - who was there for its first night - got a barracking from them when he made a speech defending it.
At //cabinetcardgallery.wordpress.com a picture of Sophie Eyre on a postcard, with a few details about her career. At www.npg.org.uk a photograph of her.
A new edition of The World of Music was published. This time it had publishers in New York as well as London; and there was probably a bigger print-run than the 1890 edition.
Book Chat volume 7 1892 three adverts for the forthcoming edition of The World of Music; on p232, on p269 and on p281. Anna described as “well known in musical circles in England, her house forming one of the centres of musical life in London”, a place where English and foreign musicians gathered.
An edition of Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet 1892: The World of Music published in the USA by Brentano’s of Union Square New York City.
English edition: The World of Music by Anna comtesse de Brémont. London: W W Gibbings of 18 Bury Street WC 1892.
A not particularly enthusiastic review:
New York Times of 8 January 1893: Music and Writers of It. The reviewer didn’t like Anna’s writing style. He or she quoted at length from Anna’s section on Beethoven’s Eroica symphony to illustrate his view that Anna “smothers our souls with this ecstatic vision” which had not been observed by any other writer on Beethoven; and ended by summing the work up as “confessions of a music eater”.
20 FEBRUARY 1892
The first night of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. Anna sent Oscar a good luck telegram; but she was visiting a friend in Brighton, and couldn’t go to the performance.
Source for Anna’s not being able to go to it:
Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections in 2 volumes. Editor E H Mikhail, both published London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1979: p183 in the middle of a long extract from Anna’s own Oscar Wilde and His Mother, in which I seem to have missed it.
Advance notice was given in the publishing press of a book of short stories, by Anna, with the title South African Tales.
Source for the advance notice:
The Bookman volume 4 1893; I couldn’t see the page number on the google snippet.
Comment by Sally Davis: I haven’t been able to find any evidence that South African Tales was ever published. I think it must have turned into The Ragged Edge, which was published in 1895.
NOT DATED BY ANNA, EXCEPT AS HAPPENING A YEAR AFTER THE OPENING OF LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN; so ?spring 1893
Anna and her guest, an “old author and soldier of the mutiny” attended a dinner at the Authors’ Society. There she met Oscar Wilde for the first time in three years. Anna remembered the evening as a series of shocks to her system. She was made aware that Oscar was becoming persona non grata.
Comment by Sally Davis: that’s how Anna tells the story of that evening, in Oscar Wilde and His Mother. Her first shock was how much Oscar Wilde had changed, physically: she didn’t recognise him until he came up to speak to her. Then she became uncomfortable that Oscar wasn’t being celebrated as she felt he should be. It wasn’t until a little while after her exchange of politenesses with Oscar that Anna realised that he’d been ‘cut’ by her guest. Her guest then had an altercation with one of the news reporters who was present, who was making it rather obvious that he thought Oscar and Anna had come to the dinner together. Anna’s guest had been so anxious to put the reporter right on that one that Anna realised that being acquainted with Oscar Wilde was becoming a social risk. This account is all with hindsight, of course. I imagine that at the time, Anna had no idea of the real cause of Oscar’s ostracisation. I imagine, too, that her protective guest didn’t enlighten her. Anna summed up the evening as “one of the most painful moments of my life”.
Source for Anna’s difficult evening:
Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections in 2 volumes. Editor E H Mikhail. Published London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1979 and quoting Anna’s Oscar Wilde and His Mother at great length: pp184-85.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie: p137-40.
Information from Oscar Wilde’s wikipedia page: Oscar met Lord Alfred Douglas in 1891. He became besotted with the younger man, and was introduced by Douglas to London’s gay sub-culture.
Comment by Sally Davis: Oscar was never particularly discreet, it seems to me, and though sources for Constance Wilde say she didn’t realise why they were becoming estranged, I imagine what Oscar was up to was widely rumoured in male social circles.
BY JULY 1893
Anna had moved to Bloomsbury Mansions, Hart Street. She left London on 11 July. While she was away, her servant let in some men who stole clothes jewellery and other goods from Anna and sold them in shops in Seven Dials.
Source: Times 8 September 1893 p7.
The thieves were caught, and Anna gave evidence at their trial. All four defendants were found guilty.
Times 8 September 1893 p7 London County sessions.
Comment on Anna’s address, by Sally Davis: the block doesn’t seem to exist any more. There is a block of flats called ‘Bloomsbury Mansions’ but it’s in Russell Square and is a post-war building. Hart Street has been renamed - it’s now Bloomsbury Way.
Anna was a regular contributor to the weekly St Paul’s Magazine. She wrote on a wide range of subjects, including electric cookers and heaters; the Californian novelist Gertrude Atherton; and on one of the first ever showings in London of cine film.
Comment by Sally Davis: St Paul’s Magazine’s full title is An Illustrated Journal for the Home. It was published from 1894 to 1900; so Anna got in on its ground floor. I haven’t been through all its weekly issues during 1894 and 1895 to see exactly which articles Anna wrote, and how many. Here are references to articles by Anna in St Paul’s Magazine which were mentioned in other magazines:
Electrical Engineer volume 15 1895 p437 refers to Anna’s article on electric cooking and heating appliances manufactured by Messrs Crompton.
Current Opinion volume 17 1895 p564 refers to an article by Anna on the American novelist Gertrude Atherton. See Part One of this life-by-dates, and Atherton’s wikipedia page: Gertrude Atherton went to one of Lady Wilde’s at homes while she was on a visit to London in 1889. It’s likely that Anna met her there.
Adventures of a Novelist by Gertrude Atherton. London: Jonathan Cape 30 Bedford Sq 1932 covers her visit to London on pp169-184; she doesn’t mention having met Anna, and her acquaintances in London seem more on the art side than the music side.
For the article on the Lumiere brothers’ film evening see FEBRUARY 1896
SEPTEMBER OR OCTOBER 1894
Anna’s request for an interview with W S Gilbert was turned down. Gilbert sent copies of their exchange of letters to several newspapers and they were published at least in the Times.
Times 23 October 1894 p6 for the letters. And see DECEMBER 1895 below, for coverage of de Brémont v Gilbert.
Comment by Sally Davis: I’m sure Anna had it in mind to write a profile of Gilbert for St Paul’s Magazine. His Excellency had its première at the Lyric Theatre on 27 October 1894: a light opera in the G and S style with words by Gilbert BUT music by F Osmond Carr. Information on His Excellency from its wiki.
BY DECEMBER 1894
Anna had felt that the letters published in the Times and elsewhere had impugned her good name. She had decided to sue W S Gilbert for libel. de Brémont v Gilbert (as the case was known) was exciting a good deal of interest and amusement. A profile of Anna, with a line drawing of her, appeared in some newspapers, giving some details of her life until now.
Information seen via Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, the Rome Semi-Weekly Citizen of Tuesday 11 December 1894 p6: Material for a Libretto. Via google to www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org to the Herald Democrat of 7 December 1894: article also called Material for Libretto and clearly from the same original report and including exactly the same line drawing of Anna’s head (though it could be anyone). Neither of these papers gave any details of where they had got the information from. I’m not sure that the information came from Anna, because the report was not especially flattering to her. For example, it mentions her having spent all the money she inherited from her husband - not something I think she would have wanted to be widely publicised.
1895 - A YEAR OF MANY TRAUMAS
14 FEBRUARY 1895
The first night of The Importance of Being Earnest; at St James’s Theatre.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie: p146. Though Anna doesn’t actually state that she went to it, her mentioning it suggests she did.
3 APRIL 1895 TO 26 APRIL 1895
Wilde v Queensbury: in which Oscar Wilde sued the Marquis of Queensbury for libel.
Source for the information on the trial: Oscar Wilde’s wikipedia page; but there are websites and books on the two trials. As I’m sure everyone knows: the Marquis was Lord Alfred Douglas’ father; and the trial verdict was in the Marquis’ favour. The police arrested Oscar as soon as the verdict was given. Oscar refused the advice of his friends to flee the country and was charged with sodomy and gross indecency. Lady Wilde wanted him to stay and fight the charges; but I’m not sure that Oscar stayed because he wanted to take that advice.
The level of publicity and public excitement surrounding the libel trial and the two subsequent criminal trials were extraordinary for their time.
26 APRIL 1895 to 1 MAY 1895; and 20 MAY 1895 to 26 MAY 1895
The two criminal trials of Oscar Wilde. He was found guilty at the second trial and sentenced to two years’ hard labour.
A good source: law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/trials/wilde/wilde.htm - the World Trials web pages of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Law School. The site has transcripts of the evidence and discussion of the legal points raised.
BY MAY 1895
Anna was no longer renting the flat in Hart Street. She didn’t have a permanent home and was staying in a London hotel.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie: p158.
26 MAY 1895
Anna sat in the gardens of the Temple, next to the Embankment, waiting to hear the verdict in Oscar Wilde’s second trial. Oscar’s brother Willie was also waiting there. Once she had heard what the verdict was, Anna went to call on Lady Wilde; but Lady Wilde was not receiving any visitors. Anna’s sympathy was with Oscar - writing in 1911, she saw him as being punished for having transgressed the mores of the society they were both living in.
Comment by Sally Davis: the precincts of the Inner Temple are very close to the Old Bailey. If Anna felt in 1895 that Oscar was a helpless victim of anti-gay prejudice, she was holding views quite a lot in advance of her time. Her main anxiety at the time of the trial was for her friend Lady Wilde. Just noting here that Constance Wilde changed her name (to Holland) and took her two sons abroad; this isn’t mentioned in Anna’s memoir and the two women probably never met after the trial. I’m not even sure that they met all that often in the two or three years before it.
Source for Anna’s actions on that day, and her feelings then and later: Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie: pp153-56.
I think it’s here that I shall give details of a recent biography of Constance that focuses on her as an individual, not on her as the wife of fame and tragedy: Constance - The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle. London: John Murray 2011.
Anna’s short story collection The Ragged Edge was published.
Times Tuesday 24 September 1895 p10 Publications To-Day column includes Anna’s The Ragged Edge: Tales of the African Gold Fields. 3/6, published by Downey and Co.
A couple of reviews:
Times Friday 11 October 1895 p6 an advert for The Ragged Edge, quoting The Scotsman - “A bright and interesting book”; and The Sun (not the modern one) - “A simple, stunning book”.
18 DECEMBER 1895
Anna’s own libel trial reached court: de Brémont v Gilbert. She gave evidence in her own defence and was cross-examined by Gilbert’s lawyers.
Source for the exchange of letters, and Gilbert getting his defence in first:
Times 23 October 1894 p6 printed 2 letters. The top one was from W S Gilbert to the Times dated 20 October , in which he said Anna was “known to me by repute” - which Anna took to imply that her repute was ‘ill’ and I think she was correct in taking it so.
Times 18 December 1895 p4 cases to be heard today in the Queen’s Bench Division, before the Lord Chief Justice and a jury.
Coverage of the trial: Times 20 December 1895 p13. Gilbert’s barrister was Sir Edward Clarke QC MP; Anna’s was Mr Bowen Rowlands QC. Gilbert’s argument was that Anna had misunderstood him. See above and I’m sure she hadn’t. The evidence established that he’d sent the letters that appeared in the Times, to the Daily Telegraph; and even to Anna’s employers at St Paul’s Magazine, telling the editor to keep “a careful eye” on future articles Anna might write on his work. Anna’s case was that the published letters gave the impression that she was calling herself the Comtesse de Brémont without any legal justification; that Gilbert had attacked her good taste; and that the letters were “calculated to injure her professional reputation”.
Comment by Sally Davis: inevitably, the trial became one of Anna’s reputation. She was asked whether she thought her poetry was in good taste; she described her poems as passionate but pointed out that they were dedicated to her husband, the proper object of a married woman’s passion. Her editor at St Paul’s Magazine described Anna’s articles as “invariably marked by discretion and taste”. About the title ‘comtesse’, which Gilbert had implied was a fake, Anna explained that her husband was a perfectly genuine Comte but when living in egalitarian New York City, had called himself just plain ‘doctor’. She told the court that W S Gilbert knew that, as he’d employed Dr de Brémont to attend one of the D’Oyly Carte Opera’s singers when the singer was taken ill in New York. Cross-examined, Gilbert admitted he hadn’t asked Anna’s permission to publish the letters which appeared in the Times. He came over (to one reporter at least) as “apparently...less humorous in the box than upon the stage”.
None of that made any difference: the jury went with Gilbert. The court report in the Times didn’t say whether Anna was ordered to pay Gilbert’s costs as well as her own; but that was the usual outcome when you lost a civil case of this kind.
Some trial coverage more sympathetic to Anna, in The Critic aka North American Review; New Series volumes 25-26 1896 Published weekly in New York; established 1881. Issue of 11 January 1896 pp13-14; though the report was written in London on 21 December 1895 by Arthur Waugh, the magazine’s London correspondent. It was Waugh who commented on Gilbert’s lack of any sense of humour, in the witness box.
Most biographies of W S Gilbert believe that Anna was the adventuress he implied she was. Here’s one that doesn’t:
W S Gilbert: Appearance and Reality edited by David Eden. Published Sir Arthur Sullivan Society. On p184l, the editor feels that Gilbert’s “treatment of her was deliberate” and wondered if he had “felt a tincture of shame for the cunning cruelty of his own behaviour”. Eden says that Anna’s apology for having inadvertently caused him offence “can hardly have been more sincere” and that “reports of the case show her as standing up well for herself”.
Final comment by Sally Davis: what a very ungentlemanly, ungenerous man W S Gilbert was! But Anna shouldn’t have got herself entangled with a man whose own wikipedia page describes him as “confrontational”, and one of whose biographies is subtitled ‘his life and strife’.
3 FEBRUARY 1896
Jane Francesca, Lady Wilde, died.
Information from her wikipedia page.
Comment by Sally Davis: Anna must have felt this deeply: not only the loss of a “beautiful friendship” but also because of the manner of Jane Francesca Wilde’s death, her last months made hideous by what had happened to Oscar. However, writing in 1911, Anna only mentions the death in passing in her memoir of Oscar and his mother; and she doesn’t say whether they ever met again after Lady Wilde had refused to let Anna in, on the day Oscar was found guilty of homosexual offences.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. London: Everett and Co Ltd of 42 Essex Street Strand 1911: dedication to Speranza; and p163.
MONDAY 24 FEBRUARY 1896
Anna went to the Marlborough Hall to see a film programme put together by the Lumière brothers, pioneers of cinema in France. She wrote an enthusiastic article on it for St Paul’s Magazine which has been quoted in histories of early cinema.
Anna’s own article: St Paul’s Magazine: Living Photography; in issue of 7 March 1896. She particularly mentioned the excitement the films caused amongst the photographers in the audience. She named two of them: van de Weyde and Downey; I mention them - they seem to be be acquaintances of hers - in case they are well-known.
Source for the date and place of the showing Anna went to:
Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future edited by Christopher Williams. London: University of Westminster Press 1996. Article by Joost Hunningher: Première on Regent Street: pp41-54. The set of films had first been shown on 21 February 1896 at the Polytechnic Institution. Hunningher doesn’t give a reason for the change of venue: perhaps the Marlborough Hall was bigger.
Anna’s article is also mentioned in The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period by Laura Marcus 2007. This was a snippet and I couldn’t find any page numbers. Anna’s article was mentioned in footnote 180.
Comment by Sally Davis on the rest of this life-by-dates. Whereas there are plenty of sources for Anna’s life during the years 1886-96; from 1896 on, they start to dry up and I’m left more and more to the publication dates of Anna’s books - which do at least show how she was spending her time.
18 MAY 1897
Oscar Wilde was released from prison.
Information from his wikipedia page.
7 APRIL 1898
Constance Wilde - now calling herself Holland - died in exile in Genoa.
Information from wikipedia.
Comment by Sally Davis: I’m not sure whether Anna would have been much affected when she heard of Constance’s death. They had only been close for a brief period in all the time Anna had been so friendly with Lady Wilde. I can’t make up my mind whether or not Anna actually liked Constance much. If she didn’t, maybe the feeling was mutual. They were very different types of women.
The Boer War led to a demand for information on South Africa; and several books by Anna were reissued. According to one much later source I found, Anna the war resulted in Anna losing a fortune she had made while in South Africa in 1889.
Sources: see immediately below and for Anna having made and lost a fortune: From Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, The Telegram published in Elmira New York State issue of 11 January 1920 page number wasn’t visible. Short report dated London 10 January  following the publication of The Black Opal: Woman of 70 Writes a Book. It describes Anna as having made and lost several fortunes in her life; one of which was gained in South Africa but lost in the Boer War. It doesn’t say what this fortune was based on - land, shares, gold, diamonds? There’s no indication in the report about where the information in it came from.
Anna’s novel A Son of Africa was published.
Source, though I haven’t been able to pin down the exact date:
A Son of Africa: A Romance. By Anna. Published London: Greening and Co 1899, with a 2nd edition was published in 1902. The British Library has a copy of the 1899 edition, which is dedicated to Anna’s husband as a hero of the Crimea but also as “an explorer of the Great Sahara Desert”.
There’s a review of the 2nd edition in Dramatic Criticism volume 3 1902 p338.
Comment by Sally Davis: I haven’t read any of Anna’s novels thoroughly - I don’t like her style much! But I’ll say about A Son of Africa that some of the major characters in it, including the son of Africa himself, are native Africans; and one is a female baboon! There’s also a character, Muriel Warwick, who might have elements of Anna herself in her: pp219-20 describes Mrs Warwick as living in Johannesburg’s city of “canvas tents and shanties; she’s a smoker (so was Anna) who says of herself, “You know I am a Bohemian and delight in roughing it” (this while having a staff of four servants!). Muriel has travelled to Africa in pursuit of a “blasé young rake”, Frank. Muriel encourages the son of Africa to convert to Christianity and when he has done so, pays for him to attend the Church Missionary College in Durban. He subsequently spends time in London and refuses to marry the woman he loves because her (white) father’s business sells in African slaves. The story ends with the son of Africa revisiting his African origins, meeting up with the baboon again and giving his dead mother a second, Christian, burial. It’s a curiously imperialist tale.
Anna’s novel The Gentleman Digger was reissued.
FROM AUGUST 1900
Anna spent several months in Paris, covering the Great Exhibition. While in Paris she stayed with an American woman friend.
See its wiki for much more detail on the Paris Exposition Universelle. It ran from 15 April to 12 November 1900 and nearly 50 million people visited it. Talking pictures, telephones, escalators, diesel engines, the first Olympic Games to be held outside Greece, and Art Nouveau were all featured.
Source for Anna’s time in Paris:
Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections in 2 volumes. Volume 2 includes a series of long extracts from Anna’s Oscar Wilde and His Mother. Edited E H Mikhail, published London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1979: volume 2 p447.
Comment by Sally Davis: just noting that Anna didn’t name the woman friend she stayed with in Paris.
?AUGUST ?SEPTEMBER 1900
Anna and her woman friend went to the Spanish Café. Oscar Wilde was also there. To save her woman friend embarrassment, Anna pretended not to have seen him, and they didn’t speak to each other. Later, she was overcome with remorse for having ‘cut’ him in public. The following day, she met Oscar again - by accident - at St Cloud.
Source, written with what must surely be a great deal of hindsight:
Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections in 2 volumes. Volume 2 includes a series of long extracts from Anna’s Oscar Wilde and His Mother. Edited E H Mikhail, published London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1979: volume 2 pp447-451.
Comment by Sally Davis: this was a social dilemma that few women could have negotiated successfully. It was made worse for Anna by the other people in her woman friend’s party, who soon got the story out of her, and were terribly excited, wanting her to point Oscar out to them. Up until then, Anna had been enjoying the evening very much. The Spanish Café was well-known for its displays of Spanish dancing; Anna was thinking of Salome while she watched it.
Anna describes herself as having cried all that night. The following morning she went to St Cloud to get away from her friend’s house. Her conversation with Oscar at St Cloud was the last time they spoke.
Anna’s article The Physical Development of the Boer was published in the magazine Physical Culture.
Source: I didn’t see it in the original magazine. It was also printed in the New Zealand newspaper Taranaki Herald issue of 15 Kohi-tate 1900 which you can read on the web.
30 NOVEMBER 1900
Oscar Wilde died in Paris. Anna went to the hotel he was staying in after reading about his illness in Le Journal. He had already died by the time she got there, but his friend Robert Baldwin Ross took her up to see the body. Hearing from Ross that Oscar’s hotel bill was still outstanding, she offered to help pay it.
Date of his death from his wikipedia page.
Source for Anna’s doings on the day of Oscar’s death; again with hindsight and artistic licence.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie. Chapter V p170, pp189-196.
Comment by Sally Davis: in her memoir Anna describes Oscar’s funeral cortège as it left the hotel for his funeral at St Germain des Près. It’s not clear from the book whether she actually attended the service, or the burial at the cemetery at Bagneaux. In later years she maintained that Oscar had died of grief, not of any illness; and that in his De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol he showed that what she called his feminine soul had triumphed over all his troubles. Anna had not met Robert Ross before, but their encounter over Oscar’s death bed led to a friendship between them.
See wikipedia for Robert Baldwin Ross: 11869-1918. Openly gay and thought to be Oscar’s first homosexual partner. Oscar’s literary executor, published a definitive edition of Oscar’s works and commissioned Jacob Epstein to do a sculpture to put on Oscar’s tomb.
A final comment on Anna and the Wilde family, by Sally Davis: all those friends Anna had had in the Wilde family were now dead.
CENSUS DAY 1901
Anna was not in the UK. I daresay she was still in Paris.
Source: census 1901.
Anna’s novel Daughters of Pleasure was published in book form and another edition of A Son of Africa was issued.
Comment by Sally Davis: I say ‘in book form’ because the copy Daughters of Pleasure that I looked at in the British Library was laid out, and had a typeface, reminiscent of a journal or magazine; though I haven’t been able to find it published in episodes anywhere.
Source: Daughters of Pleasure: Being the History of Neara a Musician, Athene an Actress and Hera a Singer. London: Greening. A 2nd edition was published in 1903.
Anna’s novel Mrs Evelyn’s Husbands was published; with the subtitle ‘A Problem in Marriage’.
Mrs Evelyn’s Husbands: A Problem in Marriage. London: Greening and Co. There was a 2nd edition of this in 1909.
Comment by Sally Davis: like Daughters of Pleasure, the copy I saw of Mrs Evelyn’s Husbands was laid out in 2-column form as if lifted from a newspaper. The novel is about wealthy ex-pat Americans not having an especially good time in contemporary Paris: man and wife, man getting bored with marriage and having affairs, wife running away and bigamously marrying someone else. The first husband gets a divorce and custody of the children. Wife remarries her bigamous husband and lives relatively happily in the French countryside.
Hutchinsons issued one of the three volumes of Anna’s The World of Music as a stand-alone book.
The Great Composers. London: Hutchinson and Co.
Anna’s novel Was It a Sin? was published.
Was it a Sin? London: Hutchinson and Co.
Anna’s novel Lady Lilian’s Luck was published, by Greenings.
Lady Lilian’s Luck: A Romance of Ostend. London: Greening 1907. Hutchinson and Co published a 2nd edition of it in 1909 and a 3rd in 1912.
Anna’s novel The Lioness of Mayfair was published.
The Lioness of Mayfair. Everett; dedicated to “SM”, someone I haven’t identified. A 2nd edition of this was published in 1913.
Some comments on the book in contemporary reviews. I found these in the back of the copy I read at the British Library; suggesting that a second print-run was done later in the year.
Westminster Review focused on its “exquisite yet exotic style” and its “lavish use of symbolism” and the wide variety of locations, from Africa to a medieval castle. The reviewer summed up the plot as “a tale of selfish love turned to bitter hatred”.
Bystander said it “glows with rich colour” but summed up the plot differently, as: great woman sculptor torn between art and the need for love - not what the Westminster Review reckoned at all!
The Glasgow Herald likened Anna’s writing style to that of Edgar Allen Poe, meaning that it “combines luxury and a dreamlike quality with a hard limpidity”. That must have pleased Anna.
The Yorkshire Post was not so enthusiastic, describing Anna as the most likely successor to “poor Ouida”.
The Lady’s Pictorial called it an “extraordinary book” full of “wild sensationalism”, recommending it to readers who liked excitement on every page.
The Court Journal is more restrained, as you would expect; I’m surprised at it reviewing the book at all. Its reviewer said the book had “much dramatic power” and “some thrilling situations”.
Comment by Sally Davis: I found more reviews of this book by Anna than anything else she wrote; and I think it was her most successful fiction work. There’s more than a hint of occult powers in it. The fire alarm went off at the British Library while I was skimming through the book and we all had to stand about in the cold for 45 minutes, so I may have missed some of the plot’s finer points! but here’s an outline of what’s going on. There are four main characters. Aimie Desmond who’s the sculptor who gives up her art to be a wife; the title of ‘wife’ “proudest title a woman can bear”; her husband drags her to Africa where she dies in “the wilderness of the Zambesi” quite early in the plot. She leaves behind her master-work, the sculpture of a lion. Victor Danielli is the dead Aimie’s husband. Helene, Marchioness of Belvedere is the Lioness of the title - Danielli’s lover before his wife’s death; his wife after it. Bamralulu is an African native, a slave and bound to celibacy; part of whose responsibility is the safety of Danielli. The end-game is a fight between Helene and Bamralulu after Danielli has died and Helene has bound Bamralulu to her with spells. Bamralulu sees Helene as Aimie Desmond’s lion-sculpture come to life. Helene demands that Bamralulu becomes her sex slave. He’s released from his enchantment by her demands; and kills her.
It sums up Anna’s imagination rather well, I think.
Anna wrote a long introduction to this story, describing herself wandering through the Faubourg St Germain in Paris in search of a good plot; and buying a lioness-skin from a chance-met Carmelite monk. Sitting with the lioness-skin in a room lit only by firelight, Anna experiences an extraordinary power coming from its eyes. She finds a secret cache inside the lioness-skin’s head, containing “a bulky roll of manuscript” with the basics of the plot on it... Just noting here, that this Introduction is the source for Anna as a cigarette smoker.
ALSO IN 1909
Anna’s translation from the French of a novel by Colette was published.
The Doctor Wife. A Novel by Colette Yver translated into English by Anna Comtesse de Brémont. London: Hutchinson and Co and please note the correct title: it’s not The Doctor’S wife, the protagonist IS a woman doctor.
Comment by Sally Davis: I do wish Anna had written an introduction to this book, the only work of translation she did. I’d like to know why she chose it. Or, rather, to have confirmed why she chose it, as the basis of the plot is whether a woman can have a career and be a wife; and Colette’s conclusion is that she can’t - a wife has to be a wife, not a working woman, or risk alienating her husband. It’s a very anti-feminist sentiment, I’m surprised at Colette. I’m not surprised at Anna, though: she does seem to have believed that a wife-to-be should give up any career she might have hoped for. She gave up her own career as a singer when she got married and although as a widow she lived a life which was quite liberated for its time, it’s clear to me that she would rather have stayed married.
Problems with publications:
1910 sees the first of a series of books by Anna that I haven’t been able to find copies of. They are all listed in the 1922 edition of The Literary Year Book as being by her; but I haven’t spotted any copies at libraries in England; nor on the web, either in their entirety at websites like mocavo, or for sale. My best guess is that they were privately printed, and no one thought to send the British Library (for example) one of the copies.
The first of only two plays written by Anna was published.
Barbara the Scout which was a play. Published London.
Comment by Sally Davis: I couldn’t find a copy of this; and I also couldn’t discover whether it had ever been performed in a theatre. It might have had a private performance in someone’s house; that’s harder to prove.
Anna published a new collection of poems. The book’s frontispiece is the only painting of Anna that I’ve come across.
Sonnets from a Parisian Balcony. London: Gay and Hancock.
Comment by Sally Davis: it’s a head-and-shoulders portrait, reproduced in colour from a miniature Anna had done by Esmé Collings of Bond Street. She has blonde, heavy hair and plump shoulders. She’s wearing a decolleté dress or light wrap, and either another wrap or a veil hanging from back of her head. There’s a pink artificial flower on the left of her corsage.
The poems in the collection fall into two main groups: the sonnets from a Parisian balcony, and a companion set of sonnets of London town; with a miscellaneous group of poems at the end, some of which also appeared in Anna’s 1892 poetry collection. Not many are dated, but one has the date 1900 on it and another is from 1897; so they’re not all recent works. Poems are dedicated to Auguste Rodin and Sarah Bernhardt; to Oscar Wilde; to George Washington on his birthday; and Queen Victoria on her birthday.
Information on Esmé Collings, the professional name of Arthur Albert Collings.
For his cinema partnership with William Friese Green: www.victorian-cinema/net/friesegreen.htm
CENSUS DAY 1911
Anna was not in England on this census day either; probably in Paris where she may even have been living permanently by this time.
The first of Anna’s memoirs of the Wilde family was published; and also several collections of poems.
Oscar Wilde: A Memoir. London: Everett and Co and apparently a different volume from Anna’s more well-known Oscar Wilde and His Mother.
Coronation Sonnets to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Mary. London: privately printed, using an unknown printing firm at 27 Warwick Lane.
Comment by Sally Davis: 1911 was a coronation year. Sonnet I sums up Anna’s attitude to the new queen; and to the role of woman in society:
...”woman, mother, wife,
A glorious trinity...”
The seven sonnets are: Mary - Sacred and Historic Name; Girlhood - As in a Fragrant Garden; Love - the Season of Youth’s Mystic Dreams; Marriage - When England Paused to Hear; Wifehood - Halcyon Days in Honeymooning Lands; Motherhood - The Garden of Thy Happiness; Queenhood - Beneath Westminster’s Storied Roof.
I don’t think Anna knew Queen Mary very well.
Sonnets at His Majesty’s Theatre. I couldn’t find any publication details for this; nor any copies.
Pearls of Poesy. A Biographical Birthday Book of Popular Poets of the Period. Compiled for the coronation of George V and Queen Mary. London: Elliot Stock. Editor, C F Forshaw, identified by the British Library catalogue as Charles Frederick Forshaw. Anna wrote the book’s Foreword, dated “London September 10th ”; and contributed one sonnet to the collection.
Source for the editor Charles Frederick Forshaw: see www.masonic-poets-society.com.
Comment by Sally Davis on Anna’s Foreword, in which she describes poetry competitions as a mental equivalent to golf; and views the current state of poetry as not, perhaps, reaching any dizzy heights, but as being better than it was a few years before. She saw the present time as a high point of material and intellectual progress, and mentioned in particular “the conquest of the air and its elements” as “the greatest achievement of our age”. However, the sonnet was a favourite poetic form of Anna’s and she did hope that it would not be left behind by modern progress, and noted that many modern poets had “no love for the system of poetic construction...they wander from the recognised road that leads to poetic excellence”. She was sure that if a great woman poet was going to make an appearance in the next few years, the sonnet would be the road she would take. Anna’s own sonnet was on p48 and seems to be selected from a set Anna had written on a favourite subject of hers - Cleopatra, this time seen with Antony.
Poets’ Club Book is another work supposedly by Anna and published in 1911; not having been able to see any copies of it, I don’t know what was in it and I’m wondering if it was Pearls of Poesy by another name.
Anna’s most often-quoted work was published: her Oscar Wilde and His Mother.
Oscar Wilde and His Mother: A Memoir. English Biography Series Number 31. London: Everett and Co; Torquay: William J McKenzie. Dedicated to Speranza - Lady Wilde’s writing name - “in Remembrance of her beautiful friendship for the author”. A sonnet called Oscar Wilde, written by Anna, was on one of the title pages.
Some books that have used Anna’s memoir:
The Real Oscar Wilde by Robert Harborough Sherard, who was a nephew of GD member Florence Kennedy’s husband. T Werner Laurie Ltd of 8 Essex St Strand. No publication date but the British Library has stamped it “3APR17".
The Parents of Oscar Wilde: Sir William and Lady Wilde by Terence de Vere White. Hodder and Stoughton 1967. De Vere White is very hostile to Anna in this book, describing her memoir as full of “unconscious comedy” (p243). On p247 he even calls Anna an “ass”, “grandiloquent” and “absurd” - which I take to mean that he feels very uncomfortable about her repeated assertion that Oscar Wilde had a feminine soul.
Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections in two volumes. Editor E H Mikhail, published London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd 1979. It reprints long extracts from Oscar Wilde and His Mother.
One source has Anna going every day to lay flowers on Oscar Wilde’s tomb.
Comment by Sally Davis: I’ve only found one reference to this: via newspaperarchive.com to the Oakland Tribune issue of 6 October 1912 p32. The context was an article on the controversy surrounding Epstein’s sculpture for the tomb, commissioned by Robert Ross. I do think it’s a bit excessive of Anna - flowers every day? She was not Oscar’s widow, after all; and it’s clear from her writings about the Wilde family that Oscar’s persona, with its ambivalence of gender and sexuality, had made Anna feel very uncomfortable. Perhaps she felt bad about that, now he was safely dead.
See www.poetsgraves.co.uk for a photo of Epstein’s sculpture. In July 1909, Oscar’s tomb had been moved to the Père Lachaise cemetery, where he’s near Jim Morrison.
See wikipedia for Epstein.
Anna gave a copy of Oscar Wilde and his Mother to a friend, Anne O’Sullivan, as “the dearest and sweetest of all me dear and sweet wild Irish girls”.
Comment by Sally Davis: that presentation copy is now in the collection of the State University of New York so I guess that Anne must have been American, perhaps someone Anna had met when she was living in New York City.
Source: Research Monograph volumes 21-23 issued State University of New York at Buffalo 1953; p12 item 61.
Anna had four books published, including the script of her second play.
Sources. I can’t find any publication details for these, nor any copies of any of them. They are listed in the 1922 The Literary Year Book as being Anna’s work:
Oscar Wilde and his Critics.
Adventures of a Yellow Cat.
Ishtar’s Descent to the Land of No Return. While trying unsuccessfully to find a copy of this most intriguing work at the British Library, I did notice this: The Descent of Ishtar translated by Diana White. London: Eragny Press; New York: John Lane 1903. Perhaps Ms White’s translation was what Anna used as the basis for her play.
MAY 1913 but not published
Anna sent a set of sonnets to Robert Ross, as a ‘thank you’ after he’d sent her some flowers.
Sonnets to Robert Baldwin Ross. Four leaves of manuscript, dated May 1913. Item 150 in Oscar Wilde and his Literary Circle: A Catalog of the Manuscripts and Letters in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. Compiled John Charles Finzi. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1957. Ref B836MIR825. Anna sent a note with the poems saying they were “inspired by his gift of lilies and golden iris reminiscent of his friend Oscar Wilde”.
Another set of poems by Anna was published.
Love Letters in Verse to a Musician. Printed in the USA and published in New York and London by D Appleton and Co.
Comment by Sally Davis: the poems were a selection from a much larger group of poems that Anna wrote at the rate of one every day, to Thuel Burnham during his first visit to London. On the book’s (unnumbered) title page Anna described Burnham as a “faun of music”, and her poems as the “tribute of one artistic soul to another”.
I didn’t find many sources for Thuel Burnham. He doesn’t have a wikipedia page. At www.findagrave.com there was a photo of his tombstone in the Oak Memorial Gardens Charleston; with the dates 1875 (so he was young enough to be Anna’s son) to 1961. Via google I saw several mentions of him in American music magazines, mostly as a piano teacher.
He was one of the musicians featured in Piano Mastery. Talks with Master Pianists and Teachers by Harriette Moore Brower. New York: Frederick A Stokes Co 1915. Brower describes him as a “musical thinker”, prominent in Parisian musical life as a teacher; and known for his technique. You can see Brower’s section on him at www.max.grenkowitz.net.
Anna’s book The Healing Power of Music was published.
Comment by Sally Davis: this book is one of those whose publication details I haven’t been able to find. It’s listed as by Anna in the 1922 edition of The Literary Year Book p705.
WORLD WAR 1
Anna probably spent at least part of the War living in London. She had nothing more published until 1918 but that was probably more due to a shortage of paper and publishing infrastructure, than to a shortage of ideas. Wealth that she had built up after 1900 was lost due to the war. She was working on her last novel as the fighting and the air raids continued.
Sources for Anna’s whereabouts for at least some of the war:
On p6 of her novel The Black Opal Anna mentions trying to forget “the war in the air over London”. She was probably living in the flat in Earl’s Court, where she died in 1922.
Also: from Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, The Telegram published in Elmira New York State issue of 11 January 1920 page number wasn’t visible. Short report dated London 10 January  following the publication of The Black Opal: Woman of 70 Writes a Book. It describes Anna as having made and lost several fortunes in her life including one in shares which lost value drastically during WW1. The report describes Anna carrying on writing through a night of air raids, having refused to join her friends taking refuge in the Duchess of Marlborough’s house which was being used as a ad hoc air-raid shelter. There’s no indication in the report about where the information in it came from.
Anna’s novel The Black Opal was published - her last written work.
The Black Opal. London: Jarrolds. P6 dedication is dated “June 1918". There was a 2nd edition in 1919.
Advance publicity for it, with some details of Anna’s life: via Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, The Telegram published in Elmira New York State issue of 11 January 1920 page number wasn’t visible. Short report dated London 10 January  following the publication of The Black Opal: Woman of 70 Writes a Book. As if that was something extraordinary.
Comment by Sally Davis: skimming through Anna’s last novel, the writing style does seem to be less florid than her previous books. As with The Lioness of Mayfair, she introduces an element of the occult into the book - an old man, fabulously wealthy, who lives in a vast basement, pretending to be an astronomer but really an alchemist and magician and take-over-the-world crackpot. He kidnaps the heroine and teaches her some of his occult knowledge. The central part of the book is the struggle between the magician and the heroine, whose attitude to the knowledge she’s gaining seems rather ambivalent! In due course, the magician teaches the heroine to fly a monoplane - she flies over London in it. But she’s been awaiting her opportunity, and when she gets it, she pushes him off a high building to his death. She is able to release her fiancé - the magician has been holding him prisoner. They destroy the magician’s plans for world domination, and escape to live happily ever after.
Anna dedicated the book to the journalist and editor Hannen Swaffer. See his wikipedia page and he’s also in ODNB.
A review of The Black Opal:
The Bookman volume 55 1918 p90 calling it “extraordinary...a combination of fantasy and realism”.
LAST FEW YEARS OF ANNA’S LIFE
Two newspaper articles say Anna was very short of money and was living on the generosity of her friends. The League of British Artists was acting as her agent in arranging public appearances for her.
Via Anna’s wikipedia page to fultonhistory.com, The Telegram published in Elmira New York State issue of 11 January 1920 page number wasn’t visible. Short report dated London 10 January  following the publication of The Black Opal: Woman of 70 Writes a Book. It’s not clear where the information in the report came from.
Via //paperspast.natlib.govt.nz to Hawera and Normanby Star 30 December 1922 p9 item: Countess’ missing Will: inherited two fortunes. The source of the report is an unnamed close friend of Anna. Better than no source at all I suppose.
Information on the League of British Artists, which seems to have been founded after the first World War:
The Librarian and Book World volume 14 p1925 p212 its offices were at 4 Fitzroy Square Bloomsbury.
The Publisher volume 122 1925 p9 it was run by a Mr Brown and a Mr Hedley-Drummond, and organised musical and literary evenings.
Anna hosted a musical soirée at the Steinway Hall.
Times 18 June 1921 p13 Court Circular column; events “To-day”.
Comment by Sally Davis: I presume this was one of the paid appearances that the League of British Artists was organising for Anna.
Anna was one of the guests at a soirée held by the Anglo-French Club in Paris. The host was the Comte de Bourbon-Busset.
Times 27 June 1922 p7e report from the newspaper’s Paris correspondent dated 26 June .
Anna de Brémont died at her flat in an apartment block in Earl’s Court. The League of British Artists organised a whip-round of its members to prevent her having to have a pauper’s funeral. She was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Kensal Green cemetery.
Sources: freebmd; Probate Registry records on Ancestry.
W S Gilbert: Appearance and Reality by David Eden. Published Sir Arthur Sullivan Society 2009 p184. Rather ironic that a book on W S Gilbert should mention the whip-round.
AUTUMN 1922 AND POSSIBLY UNTIL MUCH LATER
Anna’s friends searched the various London flats she’d lived in, trying to find a Will.
Via //paperspast.natlib.govt.nz to Hawera and Normanby Star 30 Dec 1922 p9 item: Countess’ missing Will: inherited two fortunes; which the report said she had lost through “bad speculation”, rather than bad luck. The report mentioned that “two old friends” of Anna were trying to find her Will. Neither of the friends was named, but perhaps they are the two men who were running the League of British Artists in 1925.
There’s no record of a Will for Anna de Brémont at the Probate Registry. That’s not to say that she never wrote one. It does suggest one or more of three things though: that she did never write a Will; that her friends never found it; or that they did find it, but the amount of money she had to leave fell below the point at which the Registry needed to make a record of it.
One of the pieces Anna published in Sonnets and Love Poems (1892) was used as lyrics to a song called Love’s Desire.
Source: Ms score for Love’s Desire, now at the State Library of New South Wales and listed on worldcat under Raimund Pechotsch, Anna de Brémont and Charles Lullin. The words of the song are attributed to Lullin on the Ms. However, the diligent cataloguer at the Library has put a note on the Ms’s catalogue entry saying that the words are probably Anna’s.
BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.
Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden. Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01. I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.
For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923. Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972. Foreword by Gerald Yorke. Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist. He has no axe to grind.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.
Useful source for business and legal information: London Gazette and its Scottish counterpart Edinburgh Gazette. Now easy to find (with the right search information) on the web.
Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.
Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources. I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
28 March 2016
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