ISABEL DE STEIGER (1836-1927). This is the last of my files detailing Isabel’s life-by-dates. It covers mid-1900 to her death on the first day of 1927.
Just re-stating Isabel’s involvement in the GD:
Isabel de Steiger was one of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s
earliest members, being initiated at its Isis-Urania temple in
And a brief bit of preamble from Part 3 of the life-by-dates: in the
summer of 1900 Isabel put all her possessions into store in
After finding out about the fire, Isabel left Mrs Atwood’s house and took lodgings in Ilfracombe while she decided what to do.
Source: Memorabilia p282.
Comment by Sally: I imagine Isabel took a long time to recover from this. Not only was there the shock of the loss of virtually everything she owned; but there was also the disappointment of being deprived of a one-woman show she had been promised, recognition of herself as an artist of importance after so many years of unappreciated work. References in Memorabilia do indicate she did start to paint again in the end, but I don’t think that she finished many more art-works.
DIFFICULT TO DATE THOUGH PROBABLY AFTER SUMMER 1900; DEFINITELY BY 1903
Isabel moved to Handsworth in
Comment by Sally Davis: the TS was beginning to flag in its efforts to
keep up with Isabel’s almost continual moving from place to place. I’m
certainly struggling to cope. One thing I can tie down is Oliver Lodge
and family in
Source for the move: Memorabilia p290.
Source for a new address: Theosophical Society membership register
though again without a precise date. The TS noted Isabel’s latest address
Source for Oliver Lodge though see also wikipedia for Oliver Lodge and his wife Mary F A Marshall.
Past Years: An Autobiography of Sir Oliver Lodge. Hodder and
The source giving 1903 for Isabel living in
Isabel’s friendship with the Sinnetts declined.
Source: Memorabilia p266.
CENSUS DAY 1901
As so often, Isabel was not in the
Mentioning some of Isabel’s friends, the Crosfields - William, Fanny and
their daughter Dora - were now living in Sefton Park West at 3 Fulwood
Park. Isabel’s trustee Henry Cassels Kay and his wife Jane were still
living in 11
Source: 1901 census.
Source for Edmund Gerald Burton’s marriage: via www.genesreunited.co.uk to Northampton Mercury issue of 29 November 1901; Edmund Gerald and Maud Burton would move into Newnham Grange near Daventry after their honeymoon.
1902 AND LATER
Isabel subscribed to the magazine Hibbert’s Journal.
Source: Memorabilia p271. Although Isabel associates
it with her time in
Information on wikipedia gives the full title, which shows clearly why Isabel might want to read the magazine regularly. It’s Hibbert’s Journal: a Quarterly Review of Religion, Theology and Philosophy. An annual subscription in 1910 cost 10/-. Oliver Lodge was a regular contributor.
Isabel went to a lecture by Ponnambalam Rama-Nathan, a Tamil from Sri Lanka who had written commentaries on the gospels of St Matthew and St John.
Source for Isabel at the lecture: Superhumanity: A Suggestive Enquiry into the Mystic and Material Meaning of the Christian Word Regeneration London: Elliot Stock 1916 p28 but she’s not sure when it happened - she can only pin it down to “in London a few years ago” and she doesn’t mention what organisation invited him to speak. A likely date of 1902 is mentioned in
Florence Farr: Bernard Shaw’s New Woman by Josephine Johnson. Gerrard’s Cross: Colin Smythe 1975: p93; because Florence Farr heard Rama-Nathan lecture, read some of his pamphlets, and met him for the first time.
They are not in the British Library catalogue but the wikipedia page of
Sir Ponnambalam Rama-Nathan, Tamil politician and solicitor-general of
An Eastern Exposition of the Gospel of Jesus According to St Matthew published 1898.
An Eastern Exposition of the Gospel of Jesus According to St John published 1902.
The most likely organiser of the talks is the Theosophical Society.
Isabel’s friendship with Francesca Arundale ceased altogether after
Francesca went to live permanently in
Comment on the date, by Sally Davis: I found the date of Francesca’s departure on a wikipedia wiki on Arundale. See the earlier files in this life-by-dates sequence for Isabel’s friendship Francesca Arundale, active member of the Theosophical Society in the 1880s.
Source for the decline of the friendship: Memorabilia p266. There was no quarrel, it would appear; the two women just stopped writing to each other after a while.
An illustration by Isabel was the frontispiece of A E Waite’s A Book of Mystery and Vision.
A Book of Mystery and Vision by A E Waite, published
5 JUNE 1903
Henry Cassels Kay died in hospital after being involved in a carriage accident.
Probate Registry 1903
At journals.cambridge.org, the first page of Kay’s obituary in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (New Series) volume 35 no 4 October 1903 pp851-87
Comment by Sally Davis: Cassels Kay’s death - so sudden and so awful -
robbed Isabel not only of a long-standing friend, but also of a link with her
dead husband - they had all known each other in the 1870s in
24 JULY 1903
Isabel was one of the 14 members of the GD’s 2nd Order who announced their intention of breaking away from the GD to form a new order, the Independent and Rectified Rite or Order (known in shorthand as the RR et AC). The group was led by A E Waite.
Source: R A Gilbert’s The Golden Dawn Companion p169.
7 NOVEMBER 1903
The Independent and Rectified Rite/Order was constituted. There’s no list of who was present at the ritual but I would suppose that Isabel would have been there. The RR et AC continued until Waite closed it down in 1914 but I don’t know whether Isabel remained a member for that whole period.
Source: as for 24 July
Comment by Sally Davis: just noting that there’s no mention of this new
Order in Isabel’s book, not even an oblique one. She may not have
attended many of its meetings - if any - as they all took place in
Isabel’s friend Charles Massey persuaded Isabel to publish what became On A Gold Basis. Isabel hadn’t thought of publishing her many writings on the occult in this form until Massey suggested it. She offered them to the Theosophical Publishing Society, the publishing arm of the TS, but the editor, and then Annie Besant, rejected them on the grounds that they were too Christian. Massey took up Isabel’s case with the TPS, but the firm was adamant, and in the end Massey resigned from the TS over it.
Source for the story of On A Gold Basis: Memorabilia p148.
Comment by Sally Davis: records in the Probate Registry say that Charles
Carleton Massey of
The first issue of Occult Review was published. Isabel was a regular subscriber, a keen reader and regular contributor to the magazine until her death.
Source: Occult Review volume 1 number 1 January 1905. It was a monthly magazine, published by William Rider and Son Ltd. From 1905 until the mid-1920s it had the same editor, Ralph Shirley.
1 JUNE 1905
Isabel’s niece Josephine Sutton, daughter of her brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace, died aged only 41.
Source: probate registry 1905, 1925.
POSSIBLY AS EARLY AS 1905, OR AS LATE AS 1907
Isabel began to subscribe to the magazine The Seeker, A Quarterly Magazine of Christian Mysticism, further described by its editor as “devoted to the search for God and the true self”.
Source for the magazine: British Library catalogue.
Some information on The Seeker from The Expository Times 1914 p471: it was founded by the Rev George William Allen in 1905. Before 1914 he had been succeeded as its editor by Walter Leslie Wilmhurst. It survived the first World War but ceased publication in 1919.
28 JUNE 1905
Isabel resigned from the Theosophical Society.
Source: Isabel’s membership record in the TS membership registers.
Comment by Sally Davis: Charles Massey’s death, and the rejection of the papers that became On A Gold Basis, led to Isabel deciding she’d had enough of the TS; however, she did change her mind.
Isabel’s article Last Hours of a Mediaeval Occultist was published in
Occult Review. She had been reading Aurofontina Chymica, or a
Collection of Fourteen Small Treatises Concerning the First Matters of
Philosophers, published in Latin in
Source: Occult Review volume 2 number 8 August 1905 pp73-75.
Isabel’s niece Blanche Burton, daughter of her sister Rosamond, married Henry Bruce Campbell of Little Everdon, a barrister.
Sources: via www.genesreunited.co.uk to Northampton Mercury issues of 16 November 1906
and 19 April 1907.
20 AUGUST 1907
Isabel’s brother-in-law Edmund Charles Burton, the solicitor (husband of her sister Rosamond) died.
Source: probate registry 1907 and just noting that he had not made Rosamond his executor, he had chosen two of his sons-in-law instead - Thomas William Thornton and Norman McCorquodale.
Comment by Sally Davis: I wonder very much how Isabel had got on with this hunting-shooting-local-government type man; and what she made of her sister having married him. And what did Edmund Charles make of his sister-in-law Isabel, with her esoteric leanings and her independence of mind?
Isabel rejoined the Theosophical Society.
Source: Isabel’s membership record in the TS membership registers.
On a Gold Basis was published, finally, by Philip Wellby, a publisher that Isabel had done work for in the past.
Comments by Sally Davis: perhaps Isabel shouldn’t have bothered! Because On A Gold Basis
continued to cause her grief: both spiritualists, and theosophist followers of Annie Besant, shunned her for having published it rather than keep her occult work a secret. The reviews were reasonable, though. The Theosophical Review’s reviewer was rather surprised to find it more like a student’s note-book than a treatise. However, he noted that in her introduction, Isabel had stated that she hadn’t wanted to offer cast-iron solutions, only to suggest possibilities and to encourage readers to study the esoteric works of the past, as well as those of the present. The review in Occult Review was also favourable, describing the work as making “fruitful and suggestive inquiries into modern problems of thought and life” and Isabel as “one of the most capable writers on the higher Alchemy” with an “industrious, truth-seeking mind”.
Source for the publication: first edition.
Source for the hostile reaction of theosophists: Memorabilia p127, p147.
Sources for the reviews:
Theosophical Review volume XL number 240 August 1907 in the review section: p563-65 review by “A.A.W.”, a regular reviewer at this time. There’s an article in Theosophical Review volume XXXIII number 196 September 1903 to February 1904: pp443-450; by an Arthur A Wells. I imagine he is ‘A.A.W.’
Occult Review volume 6 number 4 October 1907 p227. The review was written by the regular reviewer whose writing name was ‘Scrutator’.
Isabel was one of several annoyed readers who wrote to Occult Review to disagree with a recent article on Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland. Curiously enough, it was the photographs of Kingsford and Maitland that Isabel had disliked - she thought they didn’t do the sitters justice.
Source: Occult Review volume 6. The offending article, by Scrutator, was in the Occult Review’s Modern Mystics series and was published in volume 6 number 4 October 1907 pp191-203. Isabel’s letter of complaint appeared in volume 6 number 5 November 1907 pp296-97. That so many people took issue with Scrutator’s article seems to have embarrassed Ralph Shirley: in volume 9 number 4 April 1909 pp183-88 he devoted a large part of his editorial to a discussion of Kingsford and Maitland and the importance of The Perfect Way.
1 MAY 1908
Isabel resigned from the TS for the second time; only this time she didn’t change her mind. .
Comment by Sally Davis: the final straw was probably Annie Besant’s rise to absolute power in the TS after the death of Colonel Olcott. Isabel wasn’t the only long-standing member of the TS to regard with despair the election of Annie Besant as its president-for-life: in my biographies of the members of the GD who were members of TS as well, I’ve noticed quite a few resigning either just after she was elected, or just before, when it was clear that her election was inevitable.
Isabel said of her resignation, that “Mrs Besant and Mr Leadbeater as its leaders had lost my conscientious respect.” In fact, Isabel had never liked Annie Besant’s style of leadership, which she described as, “a sort of personal mania to rule alone”. She had also noticed, since Besant had become the TS’s dominant personality, an increasing tendency especially amongst younger and newer members, to know less and less about the alternatives to Blavatsky’s approach - to have read only Blavatsky’s writings.
Sources: Memorabilia pxx, p150, p263; and the TS membership register.
A bit more comment by Sally Davis: Isabel was thinking of Dr Kingsford, of course, and her emphasis on western, Christian esotericism; but also perhaps even of A P Sinnett’s Buddhist-based theosophy. Besant was more interested in Hinduism than Buddhism; and where she led the TS was likely to go in future.
Some information from wikipedia on Annie Besant’s involvement in theosophy: she first discovered theosophy as late as 1889. She joined the TS at once, and quickly became a leading member. She met Leadbeater in 1894 and always supported him afterwards; they worked together eg on clairvoyance. Leadbeater was ejected from the TS in 1906 after accusations that he had encouraged boys in his care to masturbate. But when Besant became the TS president, in 1907, he was let back in again.
Comment from Sally Davis on the accusations against Leadbeater: how much Isabel knew about them I can’t tell, of course; probably more than the brief reference to him that she made in Memorabilia. However, I think her main objection to what happened in 1906 and 1907 was that Besant had reinstated a man against whom such accusations had been made and had overturned a decision made by the TS’s ruling body. Rumours that Leadbeater was a homosexual continued to circulate for the rest of his life.
Isabel had moved to 399 Old Chester Road Tranmere, on the edge of the Rock Ferry district.
Source: see Eugenics Society below.
Isabel joined the newly-founded Eugenics Education Society.
Source: via google to the Annual Report of the Eugenics Education
Society volumes 2-6 1909 p40: a list of members living in the
Comment by Sally Davis: I was really quite shocked to discover this - eugenics has such horrific connotations these days after the Nazis and others took its assumptions and aims to their logical conclusion.
The EES had two aims: the prevention of procreation by those deemed unfit (particularly, the poor who were users of the Poor Law); and the encouragement of procreation amongst those deemed the fit. I couldn’t find any EES membership lists at the British Library or in the EES collection at the Wellcome Institute; so I don’t know for how long Isabel continued to be a member. She certainly still held eugenicist views when she prepared Superhumanity for publication in 1915; though she disagreed with Nietzsche’s views that the evolution of the super man would end the need for god.
Sources for the EES and its views during the time Isabel was definitely a member; not exhaustive but just giving an impression of what the EES stood for:
Times Thurs 15 October 1908 p4: coverage of a talk by the EES’s president Francis Galton in which he confirmed that unlike most eugenics societies, the EES would promote procreation by the right kind of citizen as well as the more usual prevention of procreation by the wrong kind.
Times Sat 9 Oct 1909 p7 a short report on a talk at the EES: Eugenics and Military Service, the gist of which was that the labouring classes were too weak to make good soldiers.
Eugenics and the Superman: A Racial Science and a Racial Religion by Maximilian A Mügge. Isabel would certainly have read this paper, because it was originally published in The Eugenics Review issue of October 1909 before being sold as a separate pamphlet by the EES of 6 York Buildings Adelphi. In the paper, Mügge puts the work of Francis Galton and Nietzsche together - scientist and theorist - as the basis for the creation of the super man, who would be “the accumulated, condensed virtue of all ages and nations”, by which Mügge meant the best of Buddhism, Sparta, Athens, Rome and “our Teutonic ancestors” (both quotes from p2).
A modern assessment of the EES:
Eugenics, Human Genetics and Human Failings. The Eugenics Society,
its Sources and its Critics in
The eugenics efforts of the Nazis are well known, but the eugenics experiments of the Americans are not: see Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism... by Steve Silberman. Penguin Random House 2015.
17 MAY 1909
Isabel’s old friend William Crosfield died.
Source: Probate Registry 1909.
Comment by Sally Davis: William Crosfield died in
Source for 1911: census entry.
??1909 though the friendship may date back as far as the 1840s
Isabel became or continued to be a close friend of Mary Elizabeth Pitt-Taylor, of The Lawn Rock Ferry.
Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel and Mary Elizabeth Pitt-Taylor may even have been related, through the marriage of Isabel’s uncle Ambrose Lace to Margaret Clarke in 1822. Mary Elizabeth was the daughter of William Clarke and his wife Sarah Ann; born in 1844 at Gerard Street Liverpool. Because Clarke is such a common name, and so often mis-spelled, I haven’t tried to establish whether she and Isabel’s aunt Margaret were related.
If Isabel and Mary Elizabeth Clarke were related, then of course they
had known each other from Isabel’s adolescence and Mary Elizabeth’s
childhood. If they weren’t, then it’s likely that they got to know each
other well when Isabel moved to
In 1871 Mary Elizabeth Clarke - whose father had moved on from being a
book-keeper to being in business on his own account - married Arthur William
Pitt-Taylor, son of John Pitt-Taylor, a judge on the north-western
circuit. Arthur worked in
In her Will Isabel left Mary Elizabeth Pitt-Taylor her oval garnet and gold brooch. Mary Elizabeth did survive Isabel, but only by a few months. Her husband Arthur died in 1933.
Baptism: www.lan-opc.org.uk baptisms at
Marriage: also at www.lan-opc.org.uk, marriages at St George Everton. Marriage Register 1869-1872 p175 entry 349.
Gore’s Directory of Liverpool and its Environs issue of 1889 p7.
Francis Stanhope Pitt-Taylor as a doctor and at the children’s hospital: University of Manchester Register of Graduates seen as a snippet on google.
Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger dated 6 March 1924.
Probate Registry 1933 entry for Arthur William Pitt-Taylor.
13 APRIL 1910
Mary Anne Atwood died at Knayton Lodge, her house near Thirsk. In her Will, Mrs Atwood left Isabel a large sapphire ring.
Source for Mrs Atwood’s death: probate registration.
Sources for Isabel’s response: Occult Review volume 11 number 5 May 1910 p279 and
Memorabilia p239. On the ring: Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger dated 6 March 1924 in which she left the ring to her nephew Verney Turnbull.
Comment by Sally Davis on Isabel’s response to Mrs Atwood’s death: Isabel saw herself as having the “prime duty” of editing and otherwise preparing Mrs Atwood’s book to be published for a second time. As soon after the death as May 1910, she also had a letter published announcing her intention of writing a short biography of Atwood, asking for people who had letters from Atwood in their possession to contact her, and acknowledging Atwood’s influence on her own On a Gold Basis.
Mrs Atwood’s great but almost unread book was A Suggestive Inquiry into Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy published privately in 1850 by Mrs Atwood under her maiden name of Mary Anne South. Isabel must have been doing the editing and notes over the next few years, at the same time as two other important projects.
The other result of the death of Mrs Atwood was Isabel’s decision to put together an account of her relationship with Mrs Atwood and Dr Kingsford: published in 1927 as my main source for this life-by-dates - Memorabilia.
CENSUS DAY 1911
Census day 1911 found Isabel in the
John and Helena Turnbull and their daughters Constance and Christine were still living in the rectory at Great Linford. John and Helena’s son Verney Turnbull was a lodger in the boarding house at 110 Guilford Street Russell Square, run by William and Sarah Tizard; he was still working as a journalist. A lot had changed for Isabel’s sister Rosamond: after her husband’s death she had moved out of The Lodge. She was now living alone at a house called the White Lodge - still a substantial residence, with eight habitable rooms.
Constantia and Theodosia Lace, the Turnbulls, and widow Rosamond Burton were all employing roughly the same servants: a cook or housekeeper, and a housemaid or parlourmaid.
Source: 1911 census which is the first where the householder filled in the census form for their household.
AUTUMN-WINTER 1911 to 1912
Isabel spent the winter at
Sources: Occult Review volume 14 number 6 December 1911 p349; and Memorabilia p213.
18 NOVEMBER 1911
Isabel began her first attempt to write Memorabilia.
Perhaps she was in
Source: Memorabilia p1 and p95 for (for once) a specific date.
Comment by Sally: it’s clear that working on Mrs Atwood’s book had caused Isabel to reflect on her own spiritual journey - which was entering yet another new phase.
DECEMBER 1911 and again FEBRUARY 1912
An article and a letter by Isabel on A E Waite’s The Secret Traditions of Freemasonry appeared in Occult Review. Although she praised Waite’s book as “magnificent and monumental” she pointed out that his attitude towards the work of Mary Anne Atwood had changed since his magazine The Unknown World and his book Lives of the Alchemical Philosophers and - in Isabel’s opinion - for the worse. She took the opportunity to announce the imminent publication of her own new edition of Atwood’s A Suggestive Inquiry....
Source: Occult Review volume 14 number 6 December 1911 pp346-349 and Occult Review volumer 15 number 2 February 1912 pp105-06.
At the same time as she was working on her memoirs and on the ideas later published as Superhumanity, Isabel was also painting Castles in the Air, a work she envisaged from the outset as a summing-up of her life.
Source for her working on her memoir: Memorabilia p219; and for her working on Superhumanity, the book itself (see 1915) unnumbered page before the Preface.
Comments by Sally Davis on Castles in the Air: it was quite a long life, by now, that Isabel was attempting to sum up - Isabel was 76 in 1912. The title of it is a quote from Ibsen’s The Master Builder, which had been published in 1892 and translated into English by February 1893. Here’s the bit of dialogue in which the phrase appears. Solness, the Master Builder, has been feeling depressed that his life at the top of his profession is over. Young woman Hilde has arrived out of the blue, demanding one last great building project from him:
Solness But tell me, what are these things?...
Hilde Castles in the Air.
Solness The loveliest things in the world, according to you.
Hilde... Yes, of course they are! Castles in the air - they’re so easy to retreat into. And easy to build, too...especially for those master builders with - with dizzy consciences.
Taken from Henrik Ibsen: The Master Builder and Other Plays. Penguin Classics 2014 p74, translation by Barbara J Haveland.
Castles in the Air was (I think) inherited by John Robert Henry Dubourg and then by his daughter. It definitely still exists and it’s also the only painting of Isabel’s that I’ve found on the web. Find it at
photos1.blogger.com/blogger/2014/1270/1600/Castles in the Air-framed.jpg
The last mention I’ve found of the painting being sold is at website www.lashtal.com, the home of the Aleister Crowley Society. Castles in the Air was mentioned on one of its pages as being up for sale in 2010: oil painting; 36 x 24"; original frame. The painting’s date was given as 1910; it wasn’t clear from the web page whether Isabel had actually written the date on the painting; as I’ve indicated above, Memorabilia suggests that the date was rather later.
No more paintings are mentioned by Isabel as having been completed or even started after Castles in the Air. I think Isabel meant it to be her last work as an artist.
The Alchemical Society was founded as a forum for the study of alchemy in theory and practise. Isabel and A E Waite both joined it, and maintained a friendly attitude despite Isabel’s recent criticisms of Waite’s attitude to Mary Anne Atwood. They were the Society’s two honorary vice-presidents during the two years of its existence. The Society held meetings each month.
Source: Memorabilia p273 but Isabel dates the founding of the
Society as January 1913. Perhaps that’s the date she first went to a
meeting. I’m supposing most meetings were held in
Source for the Society’s founding and for Waite’s changed attitude towards the work of Mary Ann Atwood: A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts by R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Crucible 1987: p151-52.
1 JANUARY 1913
Isabel read an article in the weekly paper The Christian Commonwealth which she identified with: it argued that programmes of social reform should be seen as complementing religious commitment, not as replacing it.
Source: The Christian Commonwealth volume 33 issue 1629 of Wednesday 1 January 1913. Page 251: Religion and Social Reform, by Rev E W Lewis. The subtitle of Rev Lewis’ argument was: “does religion need to be saved from the social reformer?”, too many of whom (he argued) had no particular religious belief and wanted to improve social conditions by taking action, rather than through prayer and contemplation. Isabel agreed very strongly with Rev Lewis’ argument that social reform without religious practice would always result in a lack of quality of life; and she incorporated a reference to it in the book form of Superhumanity (its page 118). He also argued that the Church must resist any attempt by social reformers to use it for their purposes; he especially mentioned the extension of the right to vote, in this context. Religious observance and social reform were not an ‘either/or’; but if it came to a choice of one or the other, Society would be the better for choosing the Church rather than a programme of social reform. I don’t know whether Isabel would have been quite so comfortable with Rev Lewis’s parting shot, though: that if the Church, rather than social reformers, was to undertake to improve society, it could only be after the Church itself had undergone “the biggest revolution the world has ever seen”.
If Isabel read the paper’s next issue, that of Wedneday 8 January 1913,
she will have seen an editorial quoting evidence for a continuation of the
decline in church and Sunday school attendance that had begun in 1906; using
figures from churches in
Source: The Christian Commonwealth volume 33 number 1630 issue of Wednesday 8 January 1913 p273, p270.
Comment by Sally Davis: The Christian Commonwealth was first published in 1881; it managed to survive changing times, and the first World War, but ceased publication in September 1919.
Judging from adverts and articles in the issues of January 1913 its
Christian stance was a broad-minded one: there was coverage of the visit to
SPRING 1913 TO AUGUST 1914
Isabel’s book Superhumanity was published in several parts in the journal The Path. This was the work Isabel was particularly thinking of when she said her writings were looking ahead to the Age of Aquarius, an Age Isabel thought would be accompanied by “a further step forward in man’s evolution”.
More information on magazine The Path from Villeneuve’s Rudolf
Steiner in Britain (for full publication details see just below) p245, 248 The
Path had been set up by the newly founded (or possibly re-founded)
Theosophical Society Scottish Section; its first issue had been published in
July 1910. It was printed by the Blavatsky Institute, whose headquarters
were at Hale near Altrincham in
Sources for the serialising of the book: Occult Review volume 17 number 5 May 1913 p295, Occult Review volume 20 number 2 August 1914 p120 and Memorabilia p136, p274-75.
Some sources for the Blavatsky Institute:
The Theosophist volume 32 1911 p155; catalogue.nla.gov.au, in the introduction to its issues of The Path; and www.suffolkpainters.co.uk, biography of Alice Leisenring.
Comments by Sally Davis:
1) The central figures in the Theosophical Society in
2) I’ve come across this feeling that Humanity was at or approaching the dawn of a new and better age in quite a few works by GD and TS members. Even the first World War didn’t put an end to the hopes of some of them.
19 JULY TO 2 AUGUST 1913
Isabel attended the Steiner-influenced 5th International Summer School, held at the Peebles Hotel-Hydro.
Source for the occasion: Memorabilia but I can’t find the page number!
Source for the exact dates and place: Rudolf Steiner in Britain: A
Documentation of his Ten Visits. Volume 1 1902-21. By Crispian
Villeneuve. Forest Row: Temple Lodge 2004 p412 quoting the official
announcement, published in the TS’s members’ magazine The Vahan.
Just noting from p11 of this volume that Isabel could have met Steiner in
?1913; or possibly as late as 1923
Isabel joined what she called the Anthroposophical Society of Spiritual Science.
Source: Memorabilia p135
Website www.anthroposophy.org.uk is the Society’s own: a
spiritual path respecting the freedom of the individual; and recognising that
freedom was something inside you, to be worked towards through spiritual
development. Founded 1913 in
Information from wikipedia on Rudolf Steiner: born 1861
Comment by Sally: Steiner’s idea that each person should follow their own spiritual path; and his emphasis on meditation; were tailor-made for Isabel.
14 NOVEMBER 1913
Isabel read her paper The Hermetic Mystery at an Alchemical Society meeting. It was later published in the Society’s Transactions.
Source: Memorabilia p274.
Christian David Ginsburg died.
Comment by Sally Davis: see 1864 for Isabel meeting him through the Crosfields; and 1883 for why Isabel might not have been aware that he had died; though from her mentions of the work of Jewish scholars on the books of the Old Testament, she still appreciated her discussions with him on the subject.
Isabel’s nephew Verney Cameron Turnbull’s book Stories from Robert Browning was published.
Source: the book - Stories from Robert Browning by V Cameron
Turnbull with 12 illustrations by Sybil Barham.
Comment by Sally Davis: this may be of no relevance to Isabel at all. The book’s dedicated to Verney’s parents - Isabel’s sister Helena Turnbull and her husband the Rev John - and there’s no mention of Isabel anywhere in it. I include it in this life-by-dates for three reasons: firstly, Verney ended his working life as a reader for a publishing company - perhaps Harrap was that company; secondly, this book is the only item I’ve found published by any of Isabel’s close relations; and thirdly, while she ignored many of her nieces and nephews, Isabel did leave something to Verney in her Will.
A E Waite closed down the Independent and Rectified Rite or Order, which had been dogged by the same kind of internal strife that had bedevilled the GD. I’m not sure that the closure made much difference to Isabel as she hadn’t been a very active member of the Order.
R A Gilbert’s The Golden Dawn Companion published Wellingborough Northants, The Aquarian Press 1986 p175.
BY SUMMER 1914
Isabel had moved to Llangollen where she was living in a house called Vron Dêg. She was still living there in mid-1915.
Source: Occult Review volume 20 number 1 July 1914 pp45-47; and Occult Review volume 21 number 6 June 1915 pp356-57.
Once again Isabel felt herself called upon to defend the reputation of Anna Bonus Kingsford, and to a lesser extent Edward Maitland; this time against an article in the magazine The Seeker. What had upset Isabel particularly was the article’s suggestion that Dr Kingsford was not a genuine mystic, just a woman exploiting occult teachings for her own ends; and that she was making money during her lifetime from selling patent medicines.
Source: Occult Review volume 20 number 1 July 1914 pp45-47. The article that had so annoyed her had been published in The Seeker’s issue of May 1914.
I think the War delayed the re-publication of Mrs Atwood’s book.
BY JUNE 1915
Isabel had inherited a manuscript entitled Divine Revelations and Prophecies, apparently written down by Mrs Jane Lead (sic). Isabel was particularly curious about one prophecy, headed, ‘Remarkable Prophecy by a Jew’ which predicted the birth of an Englishman who would build a new Jerusalem and convert the Jews to Christianity. She wrote to Occult Review wondering if any readers knew who the Jewish prophet might have been.
Source: Occult Review volume 21 number 6 June 1915 pp356-57. Looking through the volumes for the next few years, I couldn’t find any reply to Isabel’s query.
Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel didn’t mention who she had inherited this manuscript from; or how long she had owned it herself. Perhaps it had been Mrs Atwood’s.
BY THE END OF 1915
Isabel had left Llangollen.
Source: at cymru1914.org is the edition of the Llangollen Advertiser for 17 December 1915 in which there’s an advert for Vron Deg, available to be let.
Comment by Sally Davis: I suppose she moved back to Rock Ferry; she was certainly living there again by March 1917.
Isabel’s articles in the magazine The Path (1913) were published in book form as Superhumanity: A Suggestive Enquiry into the Mystic and Material Meaning of the Christian Word Regeneration.
Source: the book, published
Comment by Sally Davis: in the Preface Isabel admitted that, as articles, her ideas had only reached “a small circle of readers”. Their response, though, had been “so gratifying and stimulating” that she had been encouraged to publish the articles as a book. She felt like a Cassandra in doing so, however. Superhumanity would be drawing attention to an “unforeseen crisis” of Christianity that was being overlooked by a world at war. If something was not done about the crisis as a matter of urgency, the human species was in danger of a second Fall and Christianity would lose its status as the world’s dominant religion and source of social organisation. The second Fall would also delay or even prevent the achievement by the human species of a higher level of spiritual development: the superhumanity of the title. Isabel envisaged that super-human status would be achieved by means of eugenics - the procreation of those who were more spiritually advanced than the rest of society and the discouragement of procreation amongst those who were less so.
Source for Isabel’s reasons for publishing: Preface pv-vi.
1917 AND PROBABLY FOR MANY YEARS BEFORE
Isabel was a regular reader of the Daily Mail for which she had an ”esteem” which was “extreme”. However, an article called ‘Psychic Brain Storms’ had annoyed her and she wrote to the Occult Review to denounce it, especially its “contemptible” treatment of the work of spiritualist Sir Oliver Lodge - apparently the Mail had called his latest publication a “Spook Book”.
Source: Occult Review volume 25 number 3 March 1917 pp174-75.
BY MARCH 1917
Isabel had moved back to Rock Ferry.
Source: Occult Review volume 25 number 3 March 1917 pp174-75.
Isabel’s Superhumanity was published in book form, by publisher Elliot Stock. The subtitle Isabel had chosen for the work consciously echoed Mrs Atwood’s book. It was “A Suggestive Inquiry into the Material and Mystic Meaning of the Word Regeneration”.
Source: Occult Review volume 26 number 4 October 1917 p241 in the forthcoming publications section.
22 FEBRUARY 1918
After a gap of several years, Isabel went back to writing Memorabilia, beginning again with Chapter X and the 1870s and possibly revising one or two chapters she’d written earlier. By this time she was aware of post-Impressionism and even Cubism, but felt that both styles reduced art solely to an expression of feeling and refused the challenge of painting in three dimensions.
Source: Memorabilia p95, p110-11.
Isabel’s new edition of Mary Anne South’s A Suggestive Inquiry into
Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy was finally published, under Miss South’s
married name of Atwood. Some people wrote to Isabel to congratulate her
on the editing and other work she had done to get it back in the public
domain. However, A E Waite in Occult Review mentioned only Walter
Leslie Wilmhurst as author (Wilmhurst had done the introduction but nothing
else) setting a trend that still continues of ignoring Isabel’s far greater
contribution. One friend who wrote to Isabel to acknowledge what she had
done was ex-GD member
What Isabel considered her final task as Mrs Atwood’s last pupil was done. Looking back at the re-issue at the end of the 1920s, she felt depressed about the outcome. She felt that hardly any more people had read the re-issued work than had read the original publication.
Publication details for the new edition of Mary Anne South’s book: A
Suggestive Inquiry into Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy by Mary Anne
Atwood, published in
Source for Waite’s misleading review: Occult Review volume 28 number 1 July 1918 pp44-46, article by A E Waite: The Hermetic Tradition.
Source for Isabel’s reflections: Memorabilia p221, p240.
Comment by Sally: for a website which completely ignores Isabel’s contribution, see wikipedia’s page on the book, where Wilmshurst is given all the credit and Isabel’s name isn’t even mentioned.
20 MAY 1918
Isabel’s sister Rosamond Elizabeth Burton died.
Source: Probate Registry 1918.
The effort she had made, over several years, to resurrect Mrs Atwood’s great work, had left Isabel feeling tired and in low spirits but she was still reading Occult Review regularly, and with care. She wrote to agree with an article by Richard Bush in which he argued that a child was conceived by the actions of the parents, not by the direct action of God. However, she did still believe that there was a “spiritual tincture” in a human foetus that lifted it above the foetus of any other animal. This spiritual tincture gave Man a capacity to rise to a super-human state of being, provided Man had true faith in God.
Source: Occult Review volume 28 number 1 July 1918 pp47-48.
Comment by Sally Davis: because Memorabilia was about Isabel’s life in the occult more than her life with her family, she didn’t mention the death of her sister as a reason for her low spirits this year. It was over 30 years since their two brothers had died, but with Rosamond’s death a new threshold had been crossed. But even the war might have been getting Isabel down like it was everyone else as it remorselessly entered its fifth summer of fighting, having brought food shortages in 1917 and being about to bring Spanish flu.
25 MARCH 1920
Isabel’s niece Theodosia Lace died, the last of the children of Isabel’s brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace.
Source: Probate Registry 1921.
Isabel began on Memorabilia chapter XIII. In that chapter and those that followed she covered her meetings with Kingsford and Atwood, spiritualism and theosophy - the beginnings of her spiritual quest.
Source: Memorabilia p125.
Isabel’s brother-in-law Rev John Turnbull, and her sister Helena Turnbull, died within weeks of each other.
Source for both deaths: Probate Registry 1922.
Comment by Sally Davis: Rev John seems to have retired from active work
as the rector of Great Linford a few years before his death. Leaving the
charge of the parish to a curate, he and Helena went to live at
In January 1922 an article by S Foster Damon appeared in Occult Review in which he likened what spiritualists called ectoplasm to what alchemists called “first matter”. Isabel was inspired to write in, not discussing whether Foster Damon was right or wrong, but describing the contradictory reactions of alchemists to their creation of first matter, a process that was not only illegal, but against the laws of nature, and very dangerous as well. Alchemists were willing to take the risks of offending both God and men, though, on the chance that they might create gold by chemical process. She ended the article with a quote from Philalethes, whose work she knew well.
Source: Occult Review volume 35 number 5 May 1922 pp298-99.
BY MAY 1922
Isabel had changed her address for what was probably the last time, moving across the Mersey to 42 Hawarden Avenue Liverpool, on the edge of the Aigburth district where she had begun her married life.
Source: Occult Review volume 35 number 5 issue of May 1922 pp298-99.
Comment by Sally Davis:
IN 1924 and possibly up to Isabel’s death
Isabel was still employing one servant, a woman called Clare or Clara Reece.
Source: Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger 6 March 1924.
Comment by Sally Davis: I’ve searched for the woman Isabel actually calls ‘clare’ Reece, but can only find (on the 1911 census and elsewhere) women called Clara; so that’s a bit confusing. If Clare or Clara was still working for Isabel when Isabel died, she will have been one of Isabel’s beneficiaries.
Isabel prepared her Will. It was signed on 6 March 1924.
Source: the Will.
Comment by Sally Davis: the witnesses
were a Dr Parry Jones of
31 MAY 1924
Another of the generation
below Isabel died: Herbert Arthur Sutton of Kelham House,
Source: Probate Registry 1924.
Isabel covered the years just before the first World War, and finally
brought her life up to date, in Memorabilia chapters XXI to XXVII.
She was living very quietly, with very few friends but quite a few
Source: Memorabilia p220-221.
Comment by Sally Davis: A E Waite was an ex-GD member, of course; and Sydney Turner Klein been in the GD in the 1890s.
John Robert Henry Dubourg’s daughter Gladys married Lancelot Edwards and went to live in Essex.
25 MAY 1926
Dora Crosfield, daughter of Isabel’s close friends William and Fanny Elizabeth Crosfield, died.
Sources: Probate Registry 1926 and www.toxtethparkcemetery.co.uk an Index to burials in
28 AUGUST 1926
A short codicil to Isabel’s Will was signed.
Source: Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger. Unlike the main body of the Will from 1924, the codicil was typed. It was witnessed by schoolteacher Florence Huntley, and office worker Ernest Gabrielson.
Comment by Sally Davis: I bet thereby hangs a tale! The codicil leaves what was then quite a large sum of money to one of Isabel’s nieces, one not mentioned in the Will itself, and not one of the unmarried women nieces Isabel had, who might have been in more need of the money.
1 JANUARY 1927
Isabel de Steiger died at her home at 42 Hawarden Avenue, a few weeks short of her 91st birthday. The two executors of her Will were John Robert Henry Dubourg and Léonie Topham Steele.
Sources: Probate on Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger; Probate Registry 1927; and Occult Review volume 45 number 2 February 1927 pp78-79.
Comments by Sally Davis: in On A Gold Basis and again (with more urgency) in Superhumanity, Isabel had discussed the concept of death as “the supreme initiation”, as the gateway to eternity; so that your life needed to be a preparation for that moment. This was something that she had read about in the works of Jacob Böhme, and probably talked over with Anna Bonus Kingsford. No one can say that during her life, Isabel had not done her very best to prepare herself; I’m sure she was ready.
On a more mundane level, Isabel had continued mentally alert until her final illness: only a few days before contracting pneumonia she had written an eleven-page letter to Occult Review, defending Mary Anne Atwood’s views on alchemy. The letter wasn’t published. Times had moved on - Occult Review had a new editor, who paid tribute to Isabel in his editorial for the February issue, but didn’t think her of sufficient interest for a separate obituary. However, he did wish Isabel’s soul well after her “long and active” life, sure that it would now be undergoing the spiritual regeneration that she had so fervently believed in.
Sources for Isabel’s attitude to death as a passage to the world beyond:
On A Gold Basis: A Treatise on Mysticism. London: William Rider and Son Ltd 1909: p24 mentioning the work of Böhme.
Superhumanity: A Suggestive Enquiry into the Mystic and Material Meaning of the Christian Word Regeneration London: Elliot Stock 1916: p163 with a footnote citing Kingsford’s The Perfect Way.
Memorabilia: Reminiscences of a Woman Artist and Writer by Isabelle (sic) de Steiger was published in London by Rider and Co, publishers of Occult Review. A E Waite had written a Preface for it.
Source: the book.
Now that the Dubourg family have sent me a copy of Isabel’s Will I can write a short section on who was bequeathed something in it - and who was not.
Source: Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger dated 6 March 1924 and one Codicil dated 28 August 1926.
Isabel’s executors were her two friends Léonie Topham Steele and John Robert Henry Dubourg.
WHO BENEFITED? And who didn’t. Comments by Sally Davis:
When Richard Dubourg first sent me a copy of Isabel’s Will, I emailed him back that I hardly knew any of the beneficiaries! I’m still not sure about the identification of one of them, whose name I found difficult to read. Not all of them were family. In fact, non-family members did well out of the Will while most of Isabel’s nephews and nieces were ignored in it.
Isabel left several people pieces of jewellery:
- Mary Pitt-Taylor got an oval brooch in gold with garnet decoration
- Léonie Topham Steele was left Isabel’s topaz cross and her amber necklace
- if Clara Reece had still been in Isabel’s employment when Isabel died, she will have got Isabel’s silver watches (as well as other things)
- Constance Turnbull (who was also one of the legatees) got all Isabel’s other jewellery, Isabel mentioning two rings in particular - a small diamond and sapphire ring and one with an amethyst with diamonds set round it
- this is the person whose name I can’t quite decipher: a Miss ?E Bewley was left Isabel’s gold chain
- a signet ring with the de Steiger family coronet on it was to be returned to the de Steiger family, whose property Isabel clearly thought it was
- Verney Cameron Turnbull got a large sapphire ring that Isabel had inherited from Mary Ann Atwood. I’d love to know where that is now.
As well as the silver watches, if Clara Reece was still working for Isabel when Isabel died, she would have inherited all Isabel’s clothes and all her furniture and other items in the house which were not specified as going to anyone else.
To me, this is the interesting bit: what Isabel left to John Robert Henry Dubourg. He got all the pictures Isabel still had amongst her possessions, and all the photographs she had of her paintings; a black and white engraving of a Christ figure; and some coloured Egyptian panels which she had put over the doors in the hallway (Isabel had probably been carrying them about with her since she had lived in Egypt). Isabel also returned to him some colour-prints he had given her which she had hung on the walls in her bedroom. Perhaps hoping that he might derive some financial benefit from it, Isabel left him the right to any royalties from her three occult works (which they had probably spent many hours discussing): The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary (in which she was translator not author); On a Gold Basis; and Superhumanity. Lastly, John Robert Henry Dubourg got the manuscript of Isabel’s Memorabilia, which he duly saw through the publication process.
Isabel left £5 to Charles Barlow, manager of the Bank of Liverpool and Martin’s Limited at Rock Ferry; perhaps as a ‘thank you’ for financial help he had given her.
Isabel’s niece Constance Helena McCorquodale (one of her sister Rosamond Burton’s daughters) got £300. This was an afterthought, in a Codicil signed two years after the Will.
Everything else was given equally to her niece Constance Turnbull and Constance’s brother Verney Cameron Turnbull (two of the six children of Isabel’s sister Helena Turnbull). The ‘everything else’ must mostly have been any stocks and shares Isabel owned, as the contents of the house were all going to other people unless Clara Reece had left Isabel’s employment.
To me, who amongst Isabel’s family was NOT left anything is as intriguing as who did benefit. Isabel left nothing to her only surviving sister Constantia Lace. Maybe Isabel supposed that Constantia would die before her; but she also left nothing to any of the descendents of her brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace whom Constantia had cared for for so long. In leaving money to Constance McCorquodale, Isabel was benefiting the child of Rosamond Burton whose financial circumstances were probably the most comfortable; while ignoring Constance’s three sisters and one brother, one of whom might even have been a god-child. And she also left nothing to the other four Turnbulls, children of her sister Helena. I suppose that to benefit all of them would have reduced the value of the bequests to very little; but I do feel that thereby hangs a tale, probably several tales, of family indifference or even strife. That Verney Cameron Turnbull should be left an item Isabel had been bequeathed by Mary Anne Atwood suggests that he had taken at least some interest in Isabel’s occult studies; but I haven’t found any other indication of that - he isn’t mentioned at all in Memorabilia and none of Isabel’s publications are dedicated to him.
AFTER ISABEL’S DEATH
Isabel’s sister Constantia Mary Lace died aged 96 in the Turnbulls’ house at Olney, Buckinghamshire.
Source: Probate Registry 1929.
Comment by Sally Davis: Constantia was the first Lace sister to be born; the only one not to marry; and the last to survive. Perhaps there’s a message in there somewhere!
John Robert Henry Dubourg died in Liverpool.
Source: Probate Registry 1934. William Ernest Dubourg was his executor.
Isabel’s niece and beneficiary Constance Mary Verney Turnbull died.
Source: Probate Registry 1943.
Comment by Sally Davis: as far as I’ve been able to discover, none of
the Turnbull children ever married. Certainly, Constance Turnbull didn’t
do so. Without obtaining a copy of
Isabel’s beneficiary Verney Cameron Turnbull died.
Sources: Probate Registry 1965, 1966.
Comment by Sally Davis: Verney was the second-last of the Turnbull
children to die; he was living at
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
30 May 2017
Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: