ISABEL DE STEIGER part 1: from her birth to the death of her husband in December 1872. A lot more parts follow this one - she had a long life! There’s also a separate file giving some information on her work as an artist.
Isabel de Steiger was one of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s earliest members, being initiated at its Isis-Urania temple in London in October 1888. She chose the Latin motto ‘Altiora peto’. She took her time over the learning and exams required for the GD’s inner, 2nd Order and was initiated into it in May 1896. She moved out of London and was a member of the GD’s Horus temple in Bradford for a time; and then (in the late 1890s) of its Amen-Ra temple in Edinburgh.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2022 correcting Isabel’s birth data for any astrologers out there who are interested.
A big update seemed to be the appropriate response when I was contacted by Richard Duboug, descendant of a family who were friends of Isabel in her last years. Richard Dubourg sent me a copy of Isabel’s Will, which revealed the names of several more friends Isabel had, that I’d never seen mentioned in any other source. The Will also prompted me to dig a bit deeper with Isabel’s family and to include them in the life-by-dates. Thanks to Richard Dubourg, the life-by-dates below is much more comprehensive than it was. And a lot bigger!
Three cheers for Isabel de Steiger! One of only four GD members to write a long memoir; the only woman to do so. The three men were W B Yeats, Aleister Crowley and A E Waite. I have based my account of Isabel’s life on her Memorabilia: Reminiscences of a Woman Artist and Writer; however, I have encountered a few problems with doing so.
Isabel’s intention in writing Memorabilia was not so much to keep an account of her own life but to say what she knew about three remarkable women she had been friendly with, whose contributions to the occult and to western esotericism were (she felt) in danger of being forgotten. The memoir concentrates very much on the three - Mary Anne Atwood, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Anna Bonus Kingsford. Other people are not written about in such detail and many of Isabel’s other friends and acquaintances were left out altogether. In particular, there’s hardly any mention of Isabel’s family and her relations with them after her marriage.
Isabel began keeping a journal in her teens and wrote it up regularly; but most of her early journals were probably destroyed in 1900. Memorabilia is mostly written from memory. By the time she was finishing it off, in the mid-1920s, Isabel was looking back at 90 years or so of life, and she gets confused sometimes, especially about dates, and where she was living at particular times.
The memoir was written in three stages, and Isabel didn’t bother to do much revision when going back to it (twice) after gaps of many years. She began Memorabilia on 18 November 1911 and got as far as the 1870s before putting it aside to concentrate on another project. She took it up again at the end of 1918; then worked at it on and off over the next three years; before leaving it again until having her last go at it, and finally getting it finished, in 1925-26. She only revised one or two chapters of it, and the manuscript doesn’t seem to have been edited by anyone else either. It was published as she had left it, with some events mentioned twice but remembered rather differently, and some conflicting accounts of particular events.
Despite these snags, I am very grateful to have had Memorabilia to work on, and to get to know Isabel better than I will be able to know any other GD member.
The memoir’s full publication details: Memorabilia: Reminiscences of a Woman Artist and Writer. Isabelle de Steiger. London: Rider and Co. The book doesn’t have a publication date but there’s a British Library stamp in it saying “27 MAY 27". The date Isabel started it for the first time is given on the first page; p6.
THE LAYOUT BELOW which I hope isn’t too difficult to read.
What Isabel was doing, tends to be in italics. My comments, and the sources, are typed in my usual Times New Roman.
Lastly, before we start, a quick note on her name: she was baptised with it spelled in the French way - Isabelle - and did return to that spelling from time to time in her life. For most of her life, however, she used ‘Isabel’ and I’ll stick with that.
ISABEL’S LIFE IN DATES
PREAMBLE - Isabel’s ancestors
Isabel was a daughter of Joshua Lace (whose father had the same name so I’ll call this one ‘the younger’) and his wife Helena Elizabeth, née Cameron.
Sources: Memorabilia p2, p5 and website www.ancestryresearchservice.com for Hector Lochiel Cameron.
On her mother’s side, Isabel was descended from Scottish and Irish professional families, with the men often in the British army or clerics in the Church of England. Isabel’s mother’s father was Colonel Hector Lochiel-Cameron (1777-1833), a veteran of the Peninsular War. In 1797 he had eloped with Elizabeth Lovett, daughter of Rev Dr Verney Lovett the dean of Lismore, county Waterford. Hector and Elizabeth had two daughters and four sons. Helena Elizabeth (born 1816) was the younger daughter.
Memorabilia does not mention where the Lace family came from originally. It’s an unusual name in England but while I was trawling the census I noticed that it’s quite common on the Isle of Man; so I’m assuming that it’s the Isle of Man that Isabel’s ancestors came from, on her father’s side. A man called Ambrose Lace, who is probably Isabel’s great-grandfather, had moved to Liverpool by 1787 and was a partner in the solicitors’ firm Aspinwall Roscoe and Lace.
Sources, all seen on the web:
The Herculaneum Pottery: Liverpool’s Forgotten Glory by Peter Hyland 2005. Chapter called Renaissance 1833-36: p195 footnote 1.
Liverpool as it was in the last quarter of the 18th century by Richard Brooke pubd 1853. In Chapter 6 p469 and p649 footnote 1 which has a reference to the firm appearing in Liverpool Directory issue of 1787.
Liverpool, the first 1000 Years by Arabella MacIntyre-Brown 2001: p143 in a section on Liverpool Law Society which was founded as the Law Library in 1827. Its first President was Joshua Lace (that’s Isabel’s grandfather, not her father - Joshua Lace the elder). The modern Liverpool law firm of Berrymans Lace Mawr is a descendent of the 18th century Aspinwall, Roscoe and Lace.
A Treatise on the Office and Practice of a Notary of England by Richard Brooke pubd 1838. In an Appendix, p82: Joshua Lace (that’s Isabel’s grandfather) mentioning that he’d been a Notary for over 55 years.
Source: Memorabilia p13
Inevitably, the families of the partners in Aspinwall Roscoe and Lace became related by marriage: Joshua Lace senior’s daughter (Isabel’s aunt) Margaret married Edward Roscoe.
Joshua Lace the elder and his wife Margaret had at least two sons: Ambrose and Isabel’s father Joshua the younger; and at least one daughter, Martha. Ambrose was considerably the older of the two sons (born c 1793). Joshua Lace who was Isabel’s father was the younger son, born in 1805.
Source for birth of Joshua Lace the younger: via familysearch to England EAS-y GS film 1068893.
Both Ambrose and Joshua the younger went into the family firm and qualified as solicitors. However, Ambrose was by far the more committed to his work. He was an active member of the Liverpool Law Society and served as its president in 1832-33. He married Margaret Clarke in October 1822. As far as I can tell they had no children; but after his brother’s death, they took in some of his children including Isabel.
1) Liverpool Law Society’s website at www.liverpoollawsociety.org.uk, the page on the Society’s history:
2) marriage registers of the church of St George Derby Square Liverpool; Marriage Register 1813-83 p16 entry 47 transcribed at www.lan-opc.org.uk/Liverpool. Ambrose and Joshua the younger’s sister Martha Lace was one of the witnesses.
Isabel’s father was a very cultured, artistic man, temperamentally unsuited to work as a lawyer. Before his marriage he’d travelled in Europe, spending time in Paris, Italy and Switzerland. He collected paintings, china, sculpture and ivories and amassed a good library of classics. The Lace family owned property in Liverpool and thus had income from rents. And in the 1830s at least, they succombed to the frenzy of investment in the latest method of transport, and bought shares in a railway company.
Source: Memorabilia p8, p13.
Sources for the investments of Ambrose and Isabel’s father Joshua Lace the younger:
The Herculaneum Pottery: Liverpool’s Forgotten Glory by Peter Hyland 2005. In Chapter 16: p210 the final years meaning 1836-40. The pottery made earthenware goods. It rented property in Toxteth Park from Ambrose Lace and Joshua Lace the younger, who granted the firm a new lease in 1836.
Parliamentary Papers House of Commons volume 48 1837 p32/pvii, part of a list of shareholders in the Cheltenham, Oxford, and London and Birmingham Railway. Joshua Lace the younger has 10 shares for which he had paid £1000; Ambrose Lace has bought 20 shares at £2000.
Isabel’s parents were distantly related to each other, through the Pigott family. They met during a visit made by Helena Elizabeth to her relations in Liverpool. The marriage didn’t meet with unqualified approval in either family, mostly due to religious differences: the Camerons were Evangelicals; the Laces, on the other hand, had relations who were Unitarians though Joshua Lace the younger was Evangelical himself.
Source: Memorabilia p5.
Comment by Sally: this was a big divide, at the beginning of the 19th century. Evangelicals believed that the Bible was the word of God and thus beyond question or change. Unitarians didn’t believe that Jesus was the son of God and so rejected the idea of the holy trinity; many Christians thought them barely Christian at all.
I could not find a record of the marriage of Joshua Lace the younger to Helena Elizabeth Cameron. It probably took place in 1831. They had two boys and four girls. The sources are baptism records seen at Familysearch; at least in Isabel’s case the baptism took place four months after the birth.
* Joshua Verney Lovett Lace 7 June 1832 England EAS-y GS film 1546288
* Constantia Margaret Lace 24 July 1833 England EAS-y GS film 102362-2
* William Henry Lace 3 April 1835 England EAS-y GS film 1546288
* Isabelle (sic) Elizabeth 29 June 1836 England EAS-y GS film 1546288
* Helena Cameron Lace (Nina) 5 July 1838 England-ODM GS fukn 1546288
* Elizabeth Rosamund Lace 10 Sep 1840 England ODM-y GS film 1546288
All the Lace children were baptised at St Bride’s, the new Church of England church which had a series of Evangelical clergy including (in the late 1830s) the Rev John Ellison Bates father of GD member Emily Katharine Bates.
0832GMT 28 February 1836 at 2 Canning Street Liverpool: Isabelle Elizabeth Lace was born.
Sources are all in Memorabilia but on different pages: p6 for the date and the exact address; opposite p276 for the time which is very specific but Isabel doesn’t say how she knew it.
Comments by Sally Davis, for those interested in Isabel’s birth chart. Opposite Memorabilia p276 is Isabel’s natal chart as she understood it. It was done for her – she admitted that she was no astrologer – with the details she gave an astrologer friend. The chart is shown without any aspects but with both Uranus and Neptune included. It has 23Aries rising and that has turned out to be a problem.
I checked out that birth data in December 2022 and when I put 0832, 28 February 1836, Liverpool into the software at //horoscopes.astro-seek.com it came back with an Ascendant in Taurus. I fiddled around, trying London instead of Liverpool. With misgivings – the time of birth was so exact - I moved the birth-time back, tried Liverpool, tried London; but I had to go back nearly 20 minutes before an Ascendant in Aries appeared. I was peering at the chart opposite p276, wondering why my charts didn’t match the one Isabel knew, when I realised that the longitude on it was wrong: 0W12 instead of 2W59 which is correct for Liverpool. I guess as Isabel was no geographer, she never noticed.
0832gmt on 28 February 1836 at 2 Canning Street in central Liverpool – 53N25, 2W59 – gives an Ascendant of 6Taurus.
As at December 2022 I can’t trace the source for my conviction that Isabel thought she had a Moon/Jupiter conjunction. Her belief suggests that the astrologer who did the chart for her had been taught the rules used by Indian astrology for aspects, where all planets in the same sign are conjunct. I was taught the western rules – conjunctions allowed with 10 degrees for Sun and Moon, 8 degrees for the planets - so I would not allow that conjunction: Jupiter at 5 degrees Cancer and Moon at 21 are too far apart for me. The western rules leave Isabel’s Moon with only one major aspect, a square to Venus in Aries which – she won’t have known this of course – is in a very close conjunction with Pluto. Unlike Indian astrology, the western method allows conjunctions with planets in next-door signs. That way, Isabel has Sun conjunct Uranus in Pisces; with Uranus also being conjunct Mercury and Neptune in Aquarius. Sun/Uranus makes up one corner of a grand trine in water signs, with Jupiter in Cancer, and Saturn on the Descendant in Scorpio.
See further along in this life-by-dates for Isabel’s close friendship with Dr Anna Bonus Kingsford, the mystic and translator of occult texts. All Dr Kingsford’s circle had their horoscopes calculated, and interpreted them as part of their esoteric studies. In 1888 Isabel will also have needed to provide her birth data as part of the GD’s vetting process for potential initiates.
Sources for when Isabel’s horoscope was calculated. Isabel doesn’t give a specific date, in Memorabilia but on p144, she notes that she met Anna Bonus Kingsford at a dinner party in June 1879. On p247 she mentions that everybody in Kingsford’s circle had their natal chart done, but Isabel doesn’t say who was the astrologer; on that page she’s discussing events around 1880/81.
The Lace family continued to live at 2 Canning Street. Amongst their neighbours were the Gladstone and the Duckworth families. Summers were spent with relations in Waterford and Scotland (her mother’s family) or the Isle of Man (her father’s family). In 1844, however, they opted to go abroad instead; Isabel remembered visiting the Waterloo battle site.
Source: Memorabilia chapters 1 to 5, which were written c 1911.
Source for the environs of Canning Street: visit to Liverpool August 2012 by Sally Davis and Roger Wright. 2 Canning Street is on the corner with Gambier Terrace, on the edge of a district of Georgian houses and above where Liverpool’s CofE Cathedral is now although the building hadn’t even been started when Isabel lived there. Behind those streets was the newly-built St Bride’s church where Isabel and her siblings were baptised.
The Lace family and the Rathbone family knew each other. Isabel’s father was a friend of William Rathbone.
Source: Memorabilia p47, p101.
Comment by Sally: the friend of Isabel’s father Joshua Lace the younger is William Rathbone V (1787-1868) partner in the family import/export business and also in the insurance broking and ship-owning partnership of Rathbone Martin and Co. The most well-known William Rathbone is the V’s son (1819-1912) partner in Rathbone Brothers, MP and philanthopist, and father of Eleanor Rathbone MP. In Memorabilia it’s William Rathbone VI that Isabel particularly mentions, but it’s clear from Memorabilia and other sources that she knew other family members and their business associates as well.
Source for Rathbone Martin and Co:
London Gazette 21 May 1867 p2949 dissolved partnerships: includes a notice issued 30 April 1867 announcing that the partnership Rathbone Martin and Co had been dissolved due to the retirement of Samuel Martin. The business would continue with the remaining partners: William Rathbone; Philip Henry Rathbone; and Robert Topham Steele. They worked as insurance brokers, underwriters and ship-owners.
A couple of comments by Sally on the close relationships between the Lace family and partners in Rathbone Martin and Co:
1) Philip Henry Rathbone was a Liverpool city councillor for many years. During the 1880s and 1890s he was an important member of the Corporation committees which ran the annual autumn art exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. Isabel exhibited more paintings at the Walker than at any other gallery.
2) At the end of the 19th century, Isabel became a close friend of Robert Topham Steele’s second wife, Léonie. Léonie was one of the two executors of Isabel’s Will.
Isabel’s mother Helena Elizabeth died during the spring. Helena was only 27, Isabel was six. Isabel’s father had always had a reclusive tendency and this became more pronounced after his wife’s death.
Sources: freebmd, Memorabilia p13.
Isabel and her sisters began their education at a day-school in Percy Street in the village of Rock Ferry. The school was run by the Hackney sisters. Pupils were taught grammar, writing, arithmetic to long division standard, geography and history, music and singing. Much of the teaching was rote-learning but Isabel’s poor memory meant that later on in her life she couldn’t recall any of the poetry she’d been forced to memorise. It was at this school that she had her first drawing lessons, from the landscape artist Andrew Hunt, father of Alfred William Hunt. He thought Isabel had talent and told her to tell her father to arrange for a proper training; but Isabel didn’t enjoy his drawing classes, she preferred the music lessons, so she never passed the message on!
Source: Memorabilia eg p14, p41 although Isabel doesn’t give exact dates.
Comments from Sally: the curriculum at the Hackney sisters’ school was much wider than was normal in schools for girls at that time. It also had higher standards, at least in its art training. Most schools for the daughters of the wealthy middle-classes gave the pupils lessons in drawing and painting, but the employment of an artist who regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy set the Hackney sisters’ school apart. Andrew Hunt (1790-1861) is best known as a teacher, but he also found time to work as a landscape and genre artist. He lived in Liverpool and often exhibited at the Liverpool Academy. He had a son and four daughters; perhaps Isabel was acquainted with them. They all became painters so Isabel will have realised quite early in her life that it was possible for a woman to earn a living as an artist.
Rock Ferry is on the other side of the Mersey from the port of Liverpool. In the 1840s it was still a rural village. Isabel always had fond memories of it and returned there to live, at least twice, much later in her life when it was beginning to be built over like everything on the Birkenhead side.
Sources for Andrew Hunt, and his son Andrew William Hunt, also an artist:
Bénézit’s Dictionary of Artists, a vast work, published Editions Gründ Paris 2006. In Volume 7 Her-Koo p455.
Dictionary of British Art. Volume IV: Victorian Painters I: The Text. By Christopher Wood. Published Antique Collectors’ Club 1995 p268.
??LATE 1840s TO 1855
Joshua Verney Lovett Lace, the elder of Isabel’s two brothers, was in business with William Lawford as an importer and crusher of seeds to make vegetable oil; at 18 Kent Street Liverpool. Their partnership was dissolved in late 1855.
Source: London Gazette 5 November 1855 p4155.
Isabel began keeping a journal; a practice she continued throughout her life; though a lot of volumes of it were destroyed in 1900.
Source: Memorabilia pxx
ALSO DURING 1850
Rudolph Adolf von Steiger von Riggesberg arrived in Liverpool and found work with the cotton-broking firm of Melly, Forget and Co. Rudolph had been born in Bern, Switzerland. His family owned land outside the town but their wealth and social position were in decline. The family was Calvinist, and spoke French, German and Romansch.
Source: Memorabilia p63-64, p279
Comment by Sally Davis: the larger-than-life jazz singer and entertainer George Melly was a member of this Liverpool Melly family.
UNKNOWN DATE BUT BEFORE 1851
Isabel continued her art education in the way recommended to students in this period - she copied paintings owned by her father, which were themselves copies of originals by van Dyck and Kneller.
Source: Memorabilia p57.
Isabel’s father, Joshua Lace the younger, died aged 47 on 28 February 1851. The house at 2 Canning Street was sold; so were all its contents including the pictures and the library.
Sources: Source: Memorabilia p13, p32, p16; freebmd, census etc. Isabel had lost both her parents by the age of 17. She and her siblings went to live with their father’s elder brother Ambrose Lace and his wife Margaret, at their house called Beaconsfield in the village of Little Woolton (then on the outskirts of Liverpool). Isabel and her siblings were part of Ambrose and Margaret’s household on the day of the 1851 census, a few weeks after Joshua Lace’s death. However, I think that the household didn’t last very long in the form it had on that day, because (although I am not certain about the identification) Ambrose’s wife Margaret may have died in 1852 - another death for Isabel to cope with before she had even left school.
1851 to ?
Isabel attended Avon Bank school just outside Stratford-upon-Avon. Effie Gray had been a pupil there.
Source: Memorabilia p16.
Comment by Sally: I presume Isabel’s sisters also attended the school. Effie Gray, of course, was later the wife of Ruskin and then of Millais.
Sources for Avon Bank school:
Website bristowefamilies.com/avonbank.html has a transcription of the 1841 census entry for Avon Bank School. Euphemia Gray aged 13 is amongst the pupils. The household is headed by the school’s headmistress Maria Byerly, followed by Jane Byerly; and Mary Ainsworth and Alicia Ainsworth, all described as governesses. The website says that the Byerly sisters were nieces of Josiah Wedgewood.
Wives and Stunners: the Pre-Raphaelites and their Muses by Henrietta Garnett 2012 footnote 24 but I couldn’t see a page number on the snippet: the original owners of Avon Bank were Maria and Jane Byerly. They retired in 1840 and handed the school on in 1841 to the Ainsworth sisters.
The 1851 census listing for Avon Bank Old Stratford has Mary Ainsworth as its head and principal of the school. Her sisters Harriot, Alicia and Helen all work as schoolmistresses. The pupils are listed next - 29 of them, all girls of course, the majority between 15 and 17 years old. Then there are the names of two more teachers, one born in Paris the other born in Dresden. There is no one in the household called Lace or Smiles.
As well as Effie Gray, Elizabeth Stevenson Gaskell had been a pupil. Sources:
Elizabeth Gaskell by Angus Easson p3 says she left the school 1827. The school’s curriculum when Elizabeth was a pupil included dancing, drawing, Italian, French and music.
Mrs Gaskell: Novelist and Biographer by Arthur Pollard 1965 pix Stevenson was a pupil at Avon Bank 1825-27; page makes clear it was her only formal schooling.
Faith, Duty and the Power of the Mind: the Cloughs and their Circle by Gill Sutherland 2006 p73 author is discussing the education of middle-class girls in the early part of the 19th century. She uses Avonbank to illustrate the best education that was available. Samuel Smiles’ sister Julia went to the school.
Comment from Sally: Ambrose Lace’s decision to send Isabel away so soon after her father’s death was harsh. Even at the end of her life she found it hard to deal with.
?UNKNOWN DATE, TO ?1854 ?1855
Isabel was sent to Miss Stevens’ school at North End Road, Fulham. The only thing Isabel could remember that happened while she was there was her refusing to do the art classes because they involved more copying.
Source: Memorabilia p47, p53.
Isabel ‘came out’ in Liverpool, where the social scene focused on balls in the Wellington Rooms. It was at one of the dances there that she met Rudolph von Steiger.
Source: Memorabilia p47, p53.
AFTER 1855 UNTIL BEFORE 1871
Isabel’s brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace was in business as an importer of goods from the East Indies.
Source: 1861 census.
Isabel’s younger brother, William Henry Lace, followed his uncle Ambrose and his father Joshua into the family solicitor’s firm. As the rest of the family began to scatter through England and elsewhere, he remained in Liverpool.
Source: 1861 census IF this is the right person, but the William Henry Lace who is one of the lodgers at 4 York Street Liverpool is described as a “gentleman” not as a solicitor.
Isabel’s brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace married Theodosia Fanny Walker, in Liverpool. They went to live at Christleton Old Hall on the outskirts of Chester. They had three children: Charles Verney Lace; a younger Theodosia; and Josephine.
Source: freebmd; 1861 census.
Sources for Christleton Old Hall: wikipedia with a list (not entirely accurate) of who lived there; and www.christleton.org.uk/site/oldpics/images/oldhall.htm which has a photograph probably taken around 1908.
Isabel and her sister Helena were living at 57 New Bath Street Southport, where they employed one general servant.
Source: 1861 census. Comment by Sally Davis: as was all-too-usual, the census official doesn’t seem to have asked either of the sisters for the details of their sources of income. Isabel was listed as head of household, I supposed because she was older. I don’t know how long Isabel and Helena had been living there, but as Isabel was about to be married, I presume they left the house within a month or two of census day.
Isabel Lace married Rudolph von Steiger von Riggesberg at the fashionable All Saints Childwall Church in Liverpool. They went to Switzerland immediately afterwards so that Isabel could meet his family. She never got on with them, especially with his mother - communication was part of the trouble though so also was Isabel’s lack of interest in domestic matters and the fact that she wasn’t Swiss. Despite these difficulties, Isabel did continue to visit Rudolph’s family at least until the 1880s.
By the time Isabel and Rudolph were married, Rudolph had left Melly, Forget and Co and set up his own business, selling American cotton to manufacturers in Germany, Switzerland and France. He had also begun to manifest the coughing-up of blood that was one of the early symptoms of TB.
Source: Memorabilia pp54-55, p59; and freebmd.
For All Saints Childwall: wikipedia and www.allsaintschildwall.org.uk
Several comments from Sally Davis:
Firstly about that surname: Isabel always used ‘de’ rather than ‘von’ when writing her surname, so I shall do so.
Secondly: it was most likely to be as a wedding present that Isabel was given a signet ring bearing the von Steiger family coronet. She still had it in the 1920s though she bequeathed it back to Rudolph’s family in her Will. Source: Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger dated 6 March 1924.
Thirdly, it was not the best time to be marrying someone involved in the cotton industry - at the time of the marriage, Rudolph’s business must have been badly affected by the American Civil War. However, Isabel makes no mention at all of the war in Memorabilia.
Back in Liverpool after their honeymoon trip, Isabel and Rudolph de Steiger set up home in the Liverpool suburb of Aigburth. They were rich enough to afford to have a one-horse carriage, which Isabel learned to drive; and to employ a groom. As a married woman without children, and not wanting to be involved in the minutiae of running her household, Isabel had a life of “rather lonely leisure” during the first years of her marriage. She tried to get involved with some local charities including the Cancer Hospital in Hope Street, and William Rathbone’s home nursing scheme, but her involvement didn’t last; she “had...no affinity or ability for a truly practical scheme” something she felt guilty about as “one of my many defects of character”. Source: Memorabilia p55, p59, p66, p100-101
Comments from Sally: although she doesn’t say so in so many words, Isabel gives the impression that she resented the amount of time Rudolph had to spend on business matters. The Rathbone Isabel means is William Rathbone VI, who set up what was the first district nursing scheme after the death of his first wife. And on the question of servants: because Isabel and Rudolph never appeared on the census as a married couple, I don’t know how many servants they employed.
Isabel’s youngest sister Rosamond (sometimes spelled Rosamund) married Edmund Charles Burton, solicitor, of Daventry, Northamptonshire.
Comment by Sally Davis: Rosamund’s husband was the third generation of the Burton family to be a solicitor and act as town clerk of Daventry. The head of the family lived in the town at the house called The Lodge; though until his father died Rosamund and Edmund lived in a house on the High Street. Rosamund’s husband was important in the social life of the district; a regular Church of England church-goer; a member of the Pytchley hunt and of the National Hunt Committee. When he died, the town paid for a memorial to him which is now in Daventry’s Market Square. Rosamund and Edmund Charles had four daughters and one son, Edmund Gerald, who took over the family solicitor’s firm on his father’s death.
Sources for Edmund Charles Burton (1826-1907):
At www.waymarking.com a photo of the Burton Memorial in Market Sq Daventry and some details of his life.
Via www.genesreunited.co.uk to issues of the Northampton Mercury during the late 19th century, with quite a lot of coverage of the Burton family and their social set in Daventry. Including:
- issues of 8 September 1883 and 15 September 1883 on the marriage of Evelyn Margaret Burton to Thomas William Thornton of Kingsthorpe Hall. The Thorntons were another prominent local family.
- issue of 2 February 1889 which has a report on the Pytchley Hunt Ball: Mrs E C Burton and her unmarried daughters Rosamund, Constance and Blanche were all there.
- issues of 25 July 1890 and 1 August 1890 on the marriage of Rosamond (sic) Burton to William Rhodes of Floore Fields Daventry.
POSSIBLY AS EARLY AS 1864 although Isabel writes as if it was 1883
Isabel met Christian David Ginsburg through her friends William and Fanny Crosfield.
Source for her knowing him through the Crosfields: Memorabilia p169 in pages where the rest of the action is taking place in 1883.
Comments by Sally Davis: Isabel could have read some of Ginsburg’s work as early as 1864 and 1865 - two papers by him, on the Essenes and on the Kabbalah, were published by the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool. However, she writes of him in Memorabilia as if she only knew his work in the 1860s, that she had not met him in person until 1883. This is a bit puzzling because the Crosfields knew Ginsburg from the late 1850s. The Crosfields were Quakers, owners of a sugar importing and grocery business in Liverpool. The family were active supporters of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Jews. It was that Society’s mission in Warsaw that had convinced the Jewish David Ginsburg to convert to Christianity in 1846 and receive the new forename ‘Christian’. He later worked as a missionary for the Society, firstly in London and from 1857 to 1863 in Liverpool. Ginsburg married William Crosfield’s sister Margaret in 1858. Margaret died in the summer of 1864, giving birth to their daughter, and in 1868 Christian David married Emilie, daughter of Friedrich Hausburg of Woolton, Liverpool.
Sources for Ginsburg: Memorabilia and his entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography volume 22 p337, which lists several more published works than are listed in the British Library catalogue.
British Library catalogue has these two early works:
Essenes: their History and Doctrines: An Essay, reprinted from the Transactions of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool. London: 1864.
The Kabbalah: its Doctrines, Development and Literature London and Liverpool: 1865.
Spending time in Switzerland, Isabel and Rudolph visited Davos. On their return to England Isabel wrote an article about their time there which became her first published piece of work. It appeared in the magazine The Queen; under the pseudonym Esmé Suisse.
Source: Memorabilia p57 however, at November 2015 I’m no longer sure that Isabel had got the right year for her stay at Davos and her article about it. I looked through issues of The Queen volume 40 - August to December 1966 - and couldn’t find any references to Davos let alone an article on it; nor any articles under the pseudonym Isabel chose. I’m sure she and Rudolf did go to Davos one summer; perhaps it was 1867 or 1864.
Comment by Sally Davis: I’m assuming that Isabel chose to send her account of Davos to The Queen because it was a paper she read herself. The full title of the weekly newspaper usually known as The Queen is: The Queen: The Lady’s Newspaper and Court Chronicle. It purported to be aimed at a wealthy, leisured female readership with strictly feminine interests and narrow horizons. Several pages in each issue were given over to court and social news at home and abroad (there was no political news); several more to fashion, particularly Paris fashion; and several more to sewing - that is, embroidery, not making your own clothes. There was some coverage of sport, mostly archery and hunting, with a bit of croquet. There was a page on housekeeping but written on the assumption that the reader would be supervising her housekeeper, rather than doing any of the work herself. All such magazines are upwardly mobile, of course, but this one cost 6d, 7d if you had it posted, and that’s a lot of money for a weekly paper in 1866. In September and October of 1866 there were several very short articles probably written by readers about places they had visited in Europe but like every other column in the magazine, they were published anonymously.
All in all, The Queen casts a surprising light on Isabel in her early 30s.
Constance Helena Burton was born, daughter of Isabel’s sister Rosamond Burton. Constance was a beneficiary of Isabel’s Will, though rather belatedly, in a codicil drawn up two years after the main body of the Will.
Sources: Familysearch for the baptism; I haven’t been able to find a birth registration. And: codicil to the Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger, signed 28 August 1926.
UNKNOWN DATE to LATE 1860s
As the decade progressed, Rudolph’s TB got worse and eventually he and Isabel decided to move to a climate that might arrest his decline. Rudolph closed down his business in Liverpool and started up again in Alexandria, Egypt. Rudolph and Isabel lived in the suburb of Ramle (also seen as Ramleh), which was popular with Europeans. They didn’t meet many Egyptians though they did attend balls and receptions given by the Khedive. The ex-pat community was small, and mostly made up of business people. Everyone spoke several languages; Isabel got used to conversing in French and Italian and even tried to learn some Arabic. She also took painting lessons from Dunelli, an Italian artist who specialised in ‘picturesque’ scenes. Isabel at least (she doesn’t talk about her husband) was still a regular church-goer at the Protestant church in Alexandria, where she was in the choir. Amongst the people Isabel met at this time were Charles Gordon (Gordon of Khartoum) and Lady Anne Blunt. I think she must also have met Lady Anne’s husband Wilfred Scawen Blunt though she doesn’t say so in so many words.
Source: Memorabilia p59, p73-77, p90, p215.
Comment from Sally: as at July 2013 I’ve been unable to identify Dunelli. I can’t find anything about him (or possibly her) on the web. I’m also slightly puzzled that Isabel says she met Gordon of Khartoum. According to his wikipedia page, he didn’t arrive there to begin working for the Khedive until 1874. Lady Anne Blunt married Wilfred Scawen Blunt in 1869 so it’s likely Isabel was acquainted with both of them. By the time Isabel was writing the Memorabilia, however, Wilfred’s serial adulteries had caused them to be divorced so Isabel preferred to be rather vague about having met him.
Bénézit in English: Dictionary of Artists a vast work, published Editions Gründ Paris 2006.
In Volume 6 Cos-Dyc I looked for this Dunelli person with every spelling and mis-spelling of the surname that I could think of and still couldn’t find an entry for him/her. However, none of the volumes has an entry for Isabel, either, so it was just Dunelli’s bad luck, I suppose, not to be included, just like it was Isabel’s although in her case there was probably anti-feminist prejudice going on as well.
Isabel’s sister Helena Cameron Lace married Rev John Turnbull.
Comment by Sally Davis: I would suppose that Isabel wasn’t able to attend this marriage as she and Rudolph were in Egypt by this time. Rev John was the son of Robert Turnbull of Hackness in Yorkshire. After Cambridge University he had been ordained in 1862/63 and spent some time as a curate in the Isle of Man, before becoming curate of All Saints Childwall in 1864, a bit too late to marry Isabel to Rudolph.
Sources for Rev John Turnbull:
Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen on web so no volume number visible, but p244 in that volume.
At www.tenews.co.uk, the Temple Ewell Newsletter has a short article on Temple Ewell church, which was restored from a delapidated state, 1875-75, largely due to the efforts of Rev John Turnbull.
Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East published by the Society 1881 p79: Rev John Turnbull organising a collection for the Society after Sunday service.
Helena and John Turnbull’s eldest child was born: Constance Mary Verney Turnbull, who became the residuary legatee of Isabel’s Will. Also born that year was Rosamond and Edmund Charles Burton’s daughter Blanche Isabel, who had two aunts Isabel - my Isabel and Edmund Charles’ sister Isabel Burton.
Sources: freebmd; Will of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger 1924.
Comment by Sally Davis: Blanche Burton was the most likely of all Isabel’s nieces to have been her god-child. However, you would expect in that case that Isabel would leaver her something in her Will; but she didn’t, it was Blanche’s sister Constance who was the only Burton beneficiary.
Isabel’s uncle Ambrose Lace died.
Source: freebmd, probate registry.
Rudolph was too ill to run his business properly, and it was also badly affected by the Franco-Prussian war in Europe. Isabel was his chief nurse.
Source: Memorabilia p73.
Isabel’s brother-in-law Rev John Turnbull became vicar of Temple Ewell, just outside Dover. He remained in post there until 1900.
Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen on web so no volume number visible, but p244 in that volume.
31 DECEMBER 1872
Rudolph von Steiger von Riggesberg died in Alexandria.
Source: Probate registry, Will of Rudolph von Steiger von Riggesberg.
THAT’S THE END OF THIS FIRST FILE IN MY LIFE-BY-DATES OF ISABEL DE STEIGER.
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. As far as I know, the records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have not survived either.
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.
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. Very good on bankruptcies!
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.
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
8 December 2022
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