ISABEL DE STEIGER (1836-1927). My life-by-dates continues with the period January 1885 to 22 February 1888, the day Isabel’s best-beloved friend - Anna Bonus Kingsford - died.
This particular update: March/April 2018
Just re-stating the Golden Dawn connection:
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 - that is, a few months after the last event in this file. 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 in the early 1890s 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.
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.
DATE UNCERTAIN BUT PROBABLY 1885/86
Isabel knew another of the first women to practice medicine in England. As well as being a friend of Dr Kingsford, through the British National Association of Spiritualists, she also knew Arabella Kenealy. It was Dr Kenealy that diagnosed Kingsford as suffering from TB.
Source for Dr Kenealy’s diagnosis: Memorabilia p168. Isabel says that Dr Kenealy told her of Kingsford’s illness; and that it would be fatal. This was, apparently, two years before Dr Kingsford actually died.
Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel would scarcely have needed telling that TB killed you but perhaps Dr Kenealy didn’t know how Isabel’s husband had died. Being told of the diagnosis by Dr Kenealy of course, was a breach of medical confidentiality but perhaps Dr Kenealy felt that someone should know Dr Kingsford’s condition who might be able to help her when she became seriously ill; and that Dr Kingsford was not likely to tell anyone herself.
Arabella Kenealy LRCP (born 1859) was the daughter of barrister and MP Edward Vaughan Kenealy. She studied medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women and worked in general practice in London and Watford from 1888 to 1894. In 1894, however, she suffered such a severe attack of diphtheria that she was unable to work in medicine again. She turned instead to writing, publishing magazine articles and books on medicine; and some novels. Later in life she listed as one of her recreations the study of race improvement; so she and Isabel shared an interest in eugenics.
Source: Who Was Who volume 3 p743 although not for the year of her birth, which I got from freebmd.
DEFINITELY 1885, POSSIBLY IN APRIL/MAY
Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland’s The Virgin of the World... was published - a book of translations of works allegedly by Hermes Trismegistus.
Comment by Sally Davis: although she doesn’t mention this book in Memorabilia, Isabel will have been involved with the work-in-progress, as she had been with other publications by Anna Bonus Kingsford. Her painting A Legend of the Soul... (exhibited autumn 1887) was an illustration of Kore kosmou, the first of Kingsford and Maitland’s translations.
The Hermetic Works. The Virgin of the World.... translated into English with essays, introduction and notes by Dr Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland. London: George Redway 1885.
It’s reproduced at www.philaletheians.co.uk as
The Hermetic Works of the Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus translated, and with introductions and notes by Dr Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, authors of The Perfect Way. 1885 Bath: Bath Occult Reprint Series, run by Robert H Fryar who also does an introduction to the book.
Date of publication: there was no advert in the Times announcing this book. However in the New Books column, Times Wednesday 13 May 1995 p12 George Redway had a one-line advert announcing that its new list was available. Perhaps The Virgin of the World was on that list.
Isabel showed two paintings at the Nineteenth Century Art Society’s exhibition in their galleries in Conduit Street: a painting just described as Portrait; and The Sorceress which might be a renaming of The Enchantress.
The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art published by J W Parker and Son. Volume 60 1885 p612: exhibition review. Catalogue number 28 - Portrait; catalogue number 172 - The Sorceress.
Comment by Sally Davis: the Saturday Review’s reporter had been hard-put to find any paintings in this show that deserved “more than a shuddering glance”! He or she did single out Isabel’s paintings from the mass, as at least possessing some merit; although he or she thought Isabel’s treatment of The Sorceress’s flesh was “hard and crude” and that the painting as a whole was “full of ill-distributed accents”.
Isabel exhibited her painting The Enchantress for the second or third time, at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin.
Source for its being shown this year:
Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts: Index of Exhibitors 1826-1979 compiled by Ann M Stewart. Volume 1: A-G. Dublin: Manton Publishing 1986. On p210 as de Steiger, Mme Isabel. The Enchantress was catalogue number £98, price £100.
Comment by Sally Davis: £100 was the price Isabel had been asking for The Enchantress when she had showed it in Liverpool in 1883. It hadn’t sold then, but it might have been sold on this second outing in Ireland (see entries for November 1897).
27 APRIL 1885
The Hermetic Society held its annual general meeting, at the Royal Asiatic Society, 22 Albemarle Street off Piccadilly; which was also the venue for all the talks that year.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: p214 issue of 2 May 1885 had a short report with very little detail. Edward Maitland was now the Society’s hon sec. On p225 issue of 9 May 1885 there was a summary (not the full text) of a talk by Anna Bonus Kingsford: Kore Kosmou, the Virgin of the World. It’s not clear when she gave it, but perhaps it was at the AGM.
Comment on the change of venue by Sally Davis: it’s possible that the Society didn’t want to impose any longer on Francis and Mary Lloyd, who had hosted the meetings of 1884 in their drawing-room. However, Francis Lloyd, a serving officer in the Grenadier Guards, had been sent to Egypt in the autumn of 1884 and perhaps his wife had left town. Captain Lloyd went to join the attempt by General Garnet Wolseley’s troops to end the siege of Khartoum and rescue Charles Gordon. Khartoum was taken and its whole garrison killed by the Mahdi’s forces in January 1885, before the relief force got there; but it’s likely Captain Lloyd was in Egypt for several months afterwards.
Sources: wikipedia pages for Major-General Francis Lloyd; and the siege of Khartoum.
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS ?APRIL TO JULY 1885
The Hermetic Society held this season’s series of talks. Isabel didn’t give any of the lectures but she probably went to most if not all of the meetings. Admittance was by visitor’s card.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 which covers all the talks at the Hermetic Society that spring; although it doesn’t give any guests lists: p214 issue of 2 May 1885 has a list of speakers, though no details on the subject of their talks; p225 issue of 9 May 1885 details of the meetings – time and place and how to gain entrance.
Comment by Sally Davis: the Hermetic Society was a private one. Light never published a list of its members or any details of its finances or committee members. The only names published in Light were the speakers, and – occasionally – the names of audience members who had contributed something of particular interest to the post-talk discussion. Except for one occasion, I have no proof of which meetings Isabel attended. However – as she was such a close friend of Anna Bonus Kingsford, the Society’s founder and president, and found the subject-matter of such absorbing interest – I imagine she made every effort to go to all of them.
13 MAY 1885
Anna Bonus Kingsford was the speaker at the Hermetic Society meeting: The Method of the Mystics.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885. On p251 issue of 23 May 1885.
20 MAY 1885
Edward Maitland was the speaker at the Hermetic Society meeting. His subject was The Present Revival of Mysticism.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: p263 issue of 30 May 1885 had a summary of the talk but not its full text. Maitland was talking about cycles of history and his talk was based on a recent publication, How the World Came to an End in 1881. This book had been published anonymously but most of the audience would have known that Maitland and Anna Bonus Kingsford were its authors. In the book the author or authors argued there would be 10 cycles of history: both eastern and western philosophy provided evidence for them. The 8th cycle had been from ACE 700 to 1300. The 9th had begun around ACE 1300 and – despite the book’s title – was continuing.
Comment by Sally Davis: the cycles of history was a subject that fascinated the occultists of the time. They were sure that the world was entering a new cycle, one in which Mankind would develop spiritually and psychically to reach a new, higher level of consciousness. GD members Emily Katharine Bates and Ellen Gaskell were amongst those who wrote about it; Henry Pullen Burry taught a course about it in the 1920s; and it’s clear from Isabel’s writings that she believed it.
How the World Came to an End in 1881 was published anonymously but is understood by those studying Anna Bonus Kingsford to be either by Edward Maitland or by Maitland and Kingsford writing – as they usually did – together. At least part of a copy of it is now at archive.org. The title page states published London: Field and Tuer 1884; and gives two dates: Anno Domini 1884; Anno Dominae 3. It’s a short work, 78 pages long.
3 JUNE 1885
Isabel’s nephew Charles Verney Lace - son of her dead brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace - married Cécile Marguérite Forget, daughter of the man who had first employed Isabel’s husband-to-be when he arrived in Liverpool.
Also via www.genesreunited.co.uk to the Morning Post issues of 19 March 1885 and 6 June 1885: announcement of the engagement and then of the marriage at St Matthew and St James Mossley Hill.
Comment by Sally Davis: surely Isabel went to this wedding. Just noting here that the Morning Post was a national, not a local newspaper; and it was a very Conservative and conservative paper.
3 JUNE 1885
Edward Maitland gave another talk at the Hermetic Society: The Symbology of the Old Testament.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: p287 issue of 13 June 1885 had a summary of the talk, which it said was the 6th this year, so I seem to have missed two of them in Light. On p288 there was a comment that the post-talk discussion had been particularly lively, with more of the audience than usual taking part. No names were given, though, and I imagine this was one talk which Isabel had to miss.
BETWEEN 6 JUNE AND 15 AUGUST 1885
Isabel and some friends went to the Albert Palace in Battersea. While they were wandering about they came across the Electric Girl, who delivered an electric shock to anyone who shook hands with her.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: p391 issue of 15 August 1885. Visitors were asked to take the girl’s hand; and to put their finger in a glass of water she held. When Isabel did so, she got an electric shock each time; and so did all the others in her group except one man, who then accused everyone else of making it up. In a beautiful (though unwitting) illustration of Arthur C Clarke’s third law, Isabel thought that, in the ancient world, the girl would have been seen as “a wonderful magician...a very goddess Electra”. She asked if any of Light’s readers could explain what had happened: she knew it wasn’t magic, of course.
See the wikipedia page of Arthur C Clarke’s three laws for further information. The third law states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Published in the 1973 revision of Profiles of the Future, its essay Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination. Much quoted and mangled since.
On Albert Palace: see its wikipedia page and website www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/RiversideTheatre.htm which prints the text of a contemporary article on its official opening, in Battersea, on 6 June 1885. It had originally been built in Dublin in 1865 for an exhibition, then taken to bits and shipped to south London in 1882 to be rebuilt as a rival to the Crystal Palace. The project was a failure and it shut down after only three years; mostly because visitors had to pay to get in.
On the Electric Girl. I could only find references to electric girls in the USA: see wikipedia on Mattie Lee Price 1869-1899; and //geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Lulu_Hurst 1869-1950 where there’s a mention of copycat acts springing up late in 1885, causing Hurst to cancel a visit to Europe. In The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes 2017 p15 an Electric Girl, a Human Ostrich and the Transparent Man are mentioned as acts the Houdini family shared stages with; but I think that was in the 1890s.
10 JUNE 1885
Hon Roden Noel gave this week’s talk at the Hermetic Society, on The Value of the Historical Element in Christianity.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: pp299-300 issue of 20 June 1885 gave a summary but not the full text. So many members of the audience wanted to comment on this talk that it was agreed to continue the discussion at the next meeting. Anna Bonus Kingsford was the only audience member named in Light’s coverage: she was pointing out the discrepancies between the accounts of Christ’s life in the various Gospels.
17 JUNE 1885
Edward Maitland’s talk on The Intention and Method of the Gospels at the Hermetic Society was followed by more comments on the historical reality of Christianity.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: pp311-12 issue of 27 June 1885. When Maitland’s talk had finished, the discussion on the Historical Element in Christianity – held over from the previous week – continued; once again Anna Bonus Kingsford led the comments.
26 JUNE 1885
The Hermetic Society meeting heard a talk by Charles Carleton Massey on Individuality.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: pp316-17 issue of 27 June 1885 printed a summary of the talk. Light published more names than usual of those who took part in the post-talk discussion: Anna Bonus Kingsford, Hon Percy Wyndham, Edward Maitland.
1 JULY 1885
Anna Bonus Kingsford gave the last Hermetic Society talk of the season, on The Communion of Saints.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: pp330-31 issue of 11 July 1885 gave a summary of Kingsford’s talk and noted that the post-talk discussion focused on how to reconcile the doctrines of Christianity with those of hermeticism.
Comment by Sally Davis: I think that the debate about the Bible as history had become known to people who didn’t usually go to Hermetic Society meetings; more people attended this last talk of the year than had gone to any previous meetings, and the room was actually “crowded”. The debate had also spread from Hermetic Society meetings to the other pages of Light: on p331 there was a letter from Dr Kingsford about a letter Light had printed on the subject by George Wyld. Dr Kingsford rejected Wyld’s allegation that deep differences had become obvious between the views of the original speaker, Roden Noel, and other Society members. On pp341-42 issue of 18 July 1885 there was a long letter from Edward Maitland, also rejecting Wyld’s assertions; and on p343 a letter from Wyld, a riposte to Dr Kingsford’s of the previous issue. In the next issue of Light, Isabel waded into the debate:
27 JULY 1885
A letter from Isabel was published in Light, her contribution to the debate within the Hermetic Society started by Roden Noel’s talk on the Historical Element in Christianity.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: pp353-54.
Comment by Sally: the argument boiled down to whether the Bible was or was not an esoteric document. Isabel’s friend Dr George Wyld was the most vocal member of the group that said it wasn’t. Isabel wrote in to Light as another of those who disagreed with him, saying that in her view, his argument was “untenable”.
Comment by Sally Davis: as the exchanges on the subject were getting increasingly shrill, perhaps it was timely that the Hermetic Society meetings were over for the year and most members were about to go on holiday!
SAID BY ISABEL TO BE 1885 BUT POSSIBLY 1886
Isabel returned to Brittany for the summer, and then went to Paris, where she saw an exhibition of Impressionist paintings. She wasn’t impressed: she described the style as an “illness”.
Source: Memorabilia p287, p290.
Comment by Sally: there’s definitely a problem with Isabel’s recollections here:
Website arthistory.about.com gives accounts of all 8 impressionist exhibitions; and there are discussions on wikipedia pages and elsewhere of some of the paintings exhibited at them. The 7th impressionist exhibition was held in March 1882; then four years passed before the 8th one, held at 1 rue Lafitte from May-June 1886. Neither of those dates fits Isabel’s recollection so either she has got the date wrong and means 1886; or she didn’t mean either of those exhibitions, but some other show involving impressionist works.
15 AUGUST 1885
Light published Isabel’s letter about the Electric Girl at Albert Palace.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 5 January-December 1885: p391 issue of 15 August 1885 and she signed herself Isabelle not Isabel: ‘isabelle’ was how she had been baptised, but she hardly ever used that spelling at this stage in her life.
Comments by Sally Davis:
It’s easy enough for a modern reader to work out how an electric shock could be delivered in those circumstances. Isabel knew there was a rational explanation; and two readers of Light wrote in, who knew what it was. On p451, Light’s issue of 19 September 1885 the writer “CT”, giving an address in Cheapside, said that “a simple contrivance” could cause the effect, but he or she wouldn’t threaten the girl’s livelihood by explaining it. On p463 issue of 26 September 1885, the writer “Kela” from Edinburgh was not so kind to the girl. Kela described how an electric circuit would have been set up in the floor on which she was standing, and then covered with a conductor – lead or copper – connected to a battery. Taking the girl’s hand or putting a finger in the glass of water completed the electrical circuit.
Isabel’s letter was read by someone who passed it on to the Journal of Science and Annals of Astronomy…; on p565 of volume 22 1885 some disparaging remarks were published about the ignorance of Isabel and her friends.
Once again Isabel was an exhibitor at the Walker Art Gallery’s autumn exhibition. She showed just the one work, this year: “Trust her not, she is fooling thee”.
15th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1885. List of exhibitors p124. List of exhibits p75 catalogue number 1254 - “Trust her not, she is fooling thee” (Isabel’s quote marks), price £10.
Comment by Sally Davis: I don’t know why the title is in quotes. Assuming it to be taken from a poem, I searched for the words on the web but didn’t get any useful responses.
Isabel lived at 3 Woodstock Road Bedford Park, Chiswick. The house didn’t have a studio and after three years she decided she couldn’t afford to pay rent on two addresses; so she moved out of Bedford Park, back into town.
Source: Memorabilia p168, p80.
Comment by Sally Davis: several other future GD members were living in Bedford Park by the late 1880s: John and Frances Brodie-Innes, Henry and Henrietta Paget, John Todhunter and the Yeats family. I’m assuming that when she moved out of Woodstock Road, she also gave up the studio at Avonmore Road.
APRIL TO JULY 1886
The Hermetic Society held this year’s series of talks. Most were in the afternoon, in a room at the Royal Asiatic Society, 22 Albemarle Street off Piccadilly.
Source: Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. On pi (the front, small ads page) of issue of 10 April 1886: an advert for the first of the talks, with the Society describing its purpose as the investigation of transcendental philosophy and the comparative study of religion. Edward Maitland was the Society’s hon sec.
Comments by Sally Davis: the original set of talks was not carried out as planned. There were some late cancellations with replacement speakers stepping in at the last minute; and this gave a chance for Samuel Liddell Mathers – a future founder of the GD – to come to prominence. Admission was by showing your visiting card; visitors were welcome if they gave their name and address at the door.
As in the two previous years of meetings, Light focused its coverage on the text of the talks, publishing most of them. The names of those who attended the talks were not published except for the speaker and audience members who contributed to the post-talk discussion. Isabel is not mentioned in any of the reports of 1886’s meetings; but I imagine she would have attended all of them unless prevented by illness or upset of her plans.
Anna Bonus Kingsford, as the Society’s president, gave the first talk of the Hermetic Society season, on Bible Hermeneutics.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. On pi (the front, small ads page) of issue of 10 April 1886. I forgot to note down the date of the talk! On p207 issue of 1 May 1886 the report on the meeting didn’t include the full text of Dr Kingsford’s talk as it was going to be published in a book. There was only a very short precis and a mention that in the post-talk discussion “an admirable exposition of Kabalistic doctrine was given by a visitor, Mr Mathers”.
22 APRIL 1886
Edward Maitland was the speaker at a meeting of the Hermetic Society that had not been included in its advert of forthcoming talks. He spoke on Higher Alchemy.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: pp222-23 issue of 8 May 1886 included a precis of the talk but not the full text.
3 MAY 1886
Mrs Sidgwick gave a talk at the Society for Psychical Research in which she declared that there was no such thing as psychography. This was seen and was probably meant as an attack on the well-known professional automatic-writing medium William Eglinton.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Pubg Co Ltd of 16 Craven St WC. Volume VI January-December 1886, p536 for the date of Mrs Sidgwick’s talk, the fallout from which – in spiritualist circles – was considerable. A full-page advert on pii (the back page) of the issue of 25 September 1886, and pp475-502 – virtually the whole of the issue of 16 October 1886 – contained Eglinton’s response. Eglinton had mounted a vigorous campaign of rebuttal, putting together endorsements both recent and historical to support his belief that (p502) “I possess abnormal powers not explainable by...science”. Amongst those who wrote letters of support was Isabel. There’s no date on her letter, which appears on p499, but I imagine she wrote it quite soon after Mrs Sidgwick gave her talk. She wrote to Eglinton personally and probably didn’t expect that her letter would appear in print. If she had expected it, she might have been more careful with her language, some of which verged on the libellous. She called Mrs Sidgwick’s talk “remarkably foolish” and spoke of her as “greatly to be pitied” - a “hopeless case”, in fact - for not being able to alter her views even in the face of the evidence. I think you can see this letter as an unintentional glimpse of how Isabel could express herself when speaking or writing amongst friends.
TUESDAY 4 MAY 1886
The Hermetic Society heard a talk by Hon Roden Noel on Jacob Böhme.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. On pi (the front, small ads page) of issue of 1 May 1886. On p233 issue of 15 May 1886 Light apologised for not being able to give a report on this talk, beyond saying that Mr Noel’s subject had excited a great deal of interest and a lively post-talk discussion. The text of the talk was not published.
TUESDAY 18 MAY 1886
Arthur Lillie gave a talk at the Hermetic Society on The Indian Rama. Future GD founders Dr William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers took part in the post-talk discussion.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. On pi (the front, small ads page) of issue of 10 April 1886. On p253 issue of 29 May 1886 “Dr Westcott” and “Mr Mather (sic), the deep student of the Kabbalah” made “some noteworthy remarks”; and so did “Mr Mohini”.
Comment by Sally Davis: it’s likely that Mr Mohini – Mohini Chatterjee – was the only Hindu present! If Isabel opted to miss any of this season’s talks it was probably this one and the one given by Chatterjee himself a few weeks later, given her preference for western esotericism.
27 MAY 1886
Edward Maitland gave the talk he had been scheduled to give at the Hermetic Society: on A Forgotten View of Genesis. It attracted a larger audience than usual.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. On pi (the front, small ads page) of issue of 10 April 1886. On pp261-62 issue of 5 June 1886 a short report on it.
Isabel showed two works at the summer exhibition of the Nineteenth Century Art Society. Both works were in oils: Strada Tiberio Capri; and Villa Pompeiana.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Summer 1886: p3 for their whereabouts, in the large gallery which was all oil paintings; p22 for Strada Tiberio Capri, catalogue number 224, for sale at £6/6; and p24 for Villa Pompeiana, catalogue number 253, priced £7/7.
Comment by Sally Davis: it’s most likely that the two paintings were landscapes, but given Isabel’s enthusiasm for Alma Tadema, they may have focused on ruined pieces of Roman architecture.
3 JUNE 1886
Samuel Liddell Mathers gave a talk at the Hermetic Society on “The Qabalah”.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: PP283-84 issue of 19 June 1886; full text of the talk and gist of some comments on it by Edward Maitland.
Comment by Sally Davis: see above for Mathers as a visitor at the first Hermetic Society meeting of the year; at which time he seems to have been unknown, at least to Light. After his impressive display in the post-talk discussion at that meeting, he must have been offered this opportunity to expound at length.
THURSDAY 10 JUNE 1886
Mohini Chatterjee was the speaker at the Hermetic Society. His subject was Krishna.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: pp262 issue of 5 June 1886 as a forthcoming attraction. On p290 issue of 26 June 1886 there was a paragraph on the talk, but nothing more.
22 JUNE 1886
At the Hermetic Society, Edward Maitland gave an expanded version of his talk on The Higher Alchemy.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: p290 issue of 26 June 1886. On p303 issue of 3 July 1886 the text of the talk which was now described as a “continuation” of his original one.
29 JUNE 1886
Anna Bonus Kingsford gave her second talk of this year’s Hermetic Society season: The Evolution of the Ego.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: p290 issue of 26 June 1886: advance notice. On p310 issue of 10 July 1886 a short report on her talk, which was now described as a joint work by her and Maitland with a new title: Constitution and Nature of the Ego. The full text was not printed as a longer version would be published in her forthcoming revised edition of The Perfect Way.
THURSDAY 8 JULY 1886
Samuel Liddell Mathers gave a second talk at the Hermetic Society, on Physical Alchemy.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: p303 issue of 3 July 1886 as forthcoming. On p326 issue of 17 July 1886 Light apologised for not being able to publish the talk’s text.
THURSDAY 15 JULY 1886
Edward Maitland gave his third talk of the year at the Hermetic Society: The New Illumination.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: on p310 issue of 10 July 1886 as forthcoming. On pp337-38 issue of 24 July 1886 full text.
THURSDAY 22 JULY 1886
The last of this year’s Hermetic Society meetings was Anna Bonus Kingsford taking questions from the audience. Unlike the other meetings, it took place in the evening.
Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC: on p326 issue of 17 July 1886 as forthcoming.
Isabel had two oil paintings with figures in, in the Nineteenth Century Art Society autumn exhibition: an Odalisque, Cairo; and A Lonely Beggar in a Lonely Road, Capri.
Comment by Sally Davis, at May 2017: I still haven’t been able to date Isabel’s trip or trips to Capri.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Autumn 1886; p3 for where Isabel’s paintings were hung - the large gallery again. P13 for An Odalisque: Cairo, catalogue number 112 price £8/8. P21 for A Lonely Beggar... catalogue number 204, for sale at £12/12.
And just confirming from the catalogue’s p49 that Isabel was a member of the Society, at least at this stage. I haven’t been able to find out how long the Society lasted.
AFTER 1886, PROBABLY AFTER 1887
Isabel was invited to attend some of Lady Wilde’s famous Saturday afternoons. She met Oscar Wilde at one of them but didn’t really take to Lady Wilde’s social circle. She also fell out with Lady Wilde when she refused Lady Wilde’s request to arrange a seance in her house. Isabel was giving her own “studio receptions” at the time at her studio in Avonmore Road; which included seances.
Source: Memorabilia p81, p85-86, p107 but Isabel seems to associate it with the 1870s which can’t be right.
Comment by Sally on how Isabel and Lady Wilde met: in Memorabilia Isabel mentions knowing Lady Wilde’s elder son Willie, who was interested in theosophy. It was most likely Willie who invited her.
Comments by Sally on Isabel and the Wilde family: perhaps Isabel saw Lady Wilde’s Saturdays as a rival to her own receptions. I’ve been able to tie Isabel and Lady Wilde down to the late 1880s through a work by another GD member, Anna de Brémont. de Brémont’s Oscar Wilde and His Mother was published in London by Everett and Co Ltd 1911. On p42: when Anna arrived in London in mid-1886 Lady Wilde was still living in Mayfair. P57 Lady Wilde moved to Oakley St Chelsea soon after Anna began to write (which was about 1887/88). Isabel says that when she was going to Lady Wilde’s Saturdays, they were in Chelsea; so she can’t have been invited before 1887.
It’s likely that it was through Lady Wilde that Isabel met the public raconteur Romola Tynte, whose portrait she painted in 1887 (see below).
Isabel showed two works at this year’s autumn exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool: The Valkyrie Maidens (for the fifth and last time); and The Lost Pleiad.
16th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1886. List of exhibitors p115. List of exhibits: p12 catalogue number 93 “The Valkyrie Maidens (vide Robert Buchanan’s Poem)” (my quotes), price £47/10; and p65 catalogue number 1071 - “The Lost Pleiad. Blind Merope - Hope Abandoned. Vide Edwin Arnold” (again my quotes), price £31/10. Both were oil paintings.
Comments by Sally Davis: firstly on the Valkyrie painting’s last outing. It was quite usual for Isabel to vary the title slightly when showing a painting that had been exhibited before; so by September 1886, the Valkyrie painting’s title had gone through five slight variations. I’m sure she was hoping that regular art-gallery visitors would think they were seeing a new painting rather than one they might have looked at before.
This, the title included mention of the work that must have inspired it.
Sources for Robert Williams Buchanan 1841-1901: there’s a wiki on him with a list of some of his works. Though these lines were not published until 1885, after the painting must have been finished, Isabel obviously thought they gave a flavour of what she was trying to portray:
Like Valkyries heavenly-eyed
From the storm-cloud trooping forth
They appear in Buchanan’s The Earthquake. At www.robertbuchanan.co.uk you can see the full text of the poem, The Earthquake; Or Six Days and a Sabbath published Chatto and Windus 1885.
Comment by Sally Davis on The Lost Pleiad: Isabel had taken her inspiration this time from Sir Edwin Arnold’s The Lost Pleiad: A Story of the Stars - you can read the full text at poetrynook.com. Isabel would have met Arnold in the mid-1880s at the Sinnetts’ Sunday evening receptions, but she probably his poetry many years before: The Economist 1856 p538 issue of 17 May 1856 had a review of The Lost Pleiad, as one of Arnold’s anthology Griselda and Other Poems, published in London by Bogue.
I haven’t found many reviews of Isabel’s exhibited paintings on the web, but it so happens that both the paintings at this year’s Walker Art Gallery exhibition did get mentioned in a Liverpool newspaper:
Via genesreunited to Liverpool Mercury 1 November 1886: The Lost Pleiad was mentioned in the Art Notes column. And also via genesreunited to an issue of Liverpool Mercury from a few weeks later, 18 November 1886, which had comments on both the Valkyrie Maidens and The Lost Pleiad. The Mercury’s critic described The Lost Pleiad as “very fanciful in design”. I’m not sure whether that is a compliment!
Via google to The Pall Mall Budget which was a weekly selection of articles previously published in the Pall Mall Gazette. Pall Mall Budget volume 33 described by google as 1885 but surely 1886: p83 singled out The Lost Pleiad for praise, in a review of the Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibition, describing it as “the only attempt in the direction of imaginative art in the gallery”.
Just noting here that not all references to The Lost Pleiad mean the painting by Isabel: I noticed the Liverpool Mercury of 10 October 1887 referring to a painting with the same name by William Padgett; catalogue number 266 at the Walker Art Gallery that year.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky settled permanently in London.
Information from: Helena Petrovna Blavatsky introduced and edited by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Berkeley California: North Atlantic Books 2004; p14.
A more specific date found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blavatsky_Lodge which says she arrived in England from Europe on 1 May 1887, having been invited by members of Blavatsky Lodge.
Isabel may have done a portrait of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. When the painting was for sale at a French auction house in 2001 or 2002, it was tentatively entitled ‘Portrait of Madame Blavatska’.
Comment by Sally Davis: I’m rather cautious about seeing the painting as a portrait of Blavatsky; and so was the French auction house. There’s no doubt that the painting sold in 2001 and/or 2002 was done by Isabel in 1887: the 2001 catalogue details noted that her signature and the year were in the bottom right hand corner. The person (or entity) depicted bears no resemblance whatever to the well-known photographs of Blavatsky in later life. Perhaps Isabel was painting her subject as she would have been in her youth; or even painting Blavatsky’s soul rather than her body. In Memorabilia Isabel doesn’t mention having painted Blavatsky’s portrait; but hardly any of her paintings are mentioned in it.
Sources for the 1887 painting sold in 2001 and/or 2002.
The painting in question can be seen, though not well, at www.artnet.com; and on Pinterest. There are more details of it at www.auction.fr which describes isabel as a “peintre orientaliste”; and at www.auctionclub.com where Isabel is said to be German. According to both these websites, the painting was in an auction at Beaussant-Lefèvre Paris. The French website gives the date of the sale as 2001 while auctionclub says it was 2002. The painting could have been for sale twice in quick succession after not having met its reserve price the first time.
A list of paintings exhibited by Isabel in 1887. Perhaps the ‘madame Blavatska’ is actually one of these:
1887 The Fairy Syren (sic) of the Water Lilies
1887 A Legend of the Soul...
1887 Portrait of Romola Tynte The second of two showings
1887 The Rock Syren (sic) Singing the Storm Song
1887 Head of Beatrice
I don’t think it’s very likely that it’s one of the two ‘syren’ paintings; and Isabel’s long sub-title for what’s going on in her Legend of the Soul painting makes that one an unlikely candidate. If it is not a previously unknown portrait by Isabel of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky; and if it was exhibited and not just given to the sitter, whoever that was, the two most promising paintings are: Harmonia; and Head of Beatrice.
ALSO DURING 1887
Isabel’s portrait of Romola Tynte was shown at the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts in Dublin.
Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts: Index of Exhibitors 1826-1979 compiled by Ann M Stewart. Volume 1: A-G. Dublin: Manton Publishing 1986. On p210 as de Steiger, Mme Isabel. Catalogue number 296; not for sale.
Comments by Sally Davis: Romola Tynte was the professional name of Mary Magill Tynte Potter (1852-1913), daughter of the Rev Samuel George Potter and distant cousin of Isabel’s hostess acquaintance Lady Wilde. For a few years from about 1886 to the mid-1890s, Romola Tynte was known as a reciter of stories, sketches and extracts from plays, on the social circuit in private houses in Ireland, England and the USA. She was helped to establish herself in this role by both Lady Wilde and Oscar Wilde, especially when she went to America. Later she went to work for the Women’s Franchise League as assistant to Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy.
I think Isabel met Romola Tynte through the Wilde family, probably at one of Lady Wilde’s Saturday afternoons. Perhaps the portrait was commissioned as part of the Wildes’ efforts to establish Romola’s public career. When Isabel exhibited the painting it was not for sale. As it was most likely done as a favour to Lady Wilde, she probably gave it either to Lady Wilde or to Romola herself.
Sources for Romola Tynte:
For the mutual friend Jane, Lady Wilde, see her wiki.
At freepages.genealogy.rootsweb, a transcription of Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life 1866-1916 by Rev Canon W Odom. Rev S G Potter appears in Chapter VI: well-known churchmen Odom had known personally; as vicar of St Luke’s Hollis Croft from 1869; as one who revelled in controversy; and as an Orangeman whose parish was mostly occupied by Roman Catholics.
At www.worldcat.org a few copies of a pamphlet: Church and State: Controversy Between Rev S G Potter and...”Pastor Gordon”. In 14 Letters. 1874 in London, Manchester and Sheffield. Pastor Gordon is John Henry Gordon.
Marriage of Mary’s parents: at www.cotyroneireland.com/marriages/cookstown.html, Cookstown marriage announcements taken from the local parish registers; the Strabane Morning Post; the Londonderry Sentinel; and the Londonderry Standard. In the list published one of those papers on 11 October 1845: marriage of Rev Samuel George Potter of Cushenden county Antrim to Elizabeth daughter of Samuel Rankin Magill Esq JP of Cookstown. S G Potter described as the eldest son of Samuel Potter of Springfield county Donegal.
Rev S G Potter and his family are on the census for 1871 at an address I couldn’t read fully, in the St George district of Sheffield; a household where all except the servants had been born in Ireland.
Romola Tynte, raconteur:
Dublin Daily Express 12 May 1887: coverage of her farewell recital, under the patronage of Prince and Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar.
A [Gerard Manley] Hopkins Chronology by John McDermott. London: Macmillan 1997 p113 text and footnote. On 25th [April 1887] Hopkins went to Mrs More Madden’s house to see Romola Tynte recite. She had been wearing a dress designed by Oscar Wilde. On 27th [April 1887] he went to the Antient Concert Rooms to see her farewell recital. On 1 May  Hopkins told a contact that Romola was “a beautiful Sappho”.
Comment by Sally Davis: does Hopkins think she is a lesbian? Or just a poet?.
At ebay and on google there was a picture of Romola Tynte in profile, originally on the front page of The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News volume 39 number 770 issue of 25 August 1888.
Not dated but probably from 1891-92: at www.christies.com, in a sale held in New York in December 2009: an autographed letter of introduction, addressed by Oscar Wilde to James B Pond, introducing Romola to Pond. Written on 16 Tyte St headed paper but without a date. Oscar Wilde describes Romola as having had “great success as a reciter” in England. The letter was published in the Holland and Hart-Davis Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde p292 with a note explaining that Pond had arranged a lecture tour in the US for Oscar Wilde, in January-March 1882.
Comment by Sally Davis: during that lecture tour Oscar met future GD member Anna de Brémont who was later a close friend of Lady Wilde and Constance Wilde.
Seen via google: autograph letter by James C Potter of New York to Romola Tynte, written during 1892 on the headed paper of the Hotel Boswyck.
At www.newspapers.com the Brooklyn Life of Saturday 3 December 1892 p18 the Social Column. Mention of a “series of entertainments” on 9 December  at the St George Hotel, starring a Mr McKernan and “another celebrity” Miss Romola Tynte. It is this profile of Romola Tynte that states her real name and her relationship to the Wilde family.
At //cdnc.ucr.edu, California Digital Newspaper Collection: Los Angeles Herald volume 42 number 39 issue of 20 May 1894 prints a paragraph on Romola Tynte, even though she doesn’t seem to have visited LA or be about to visit it, saying that her recitals had been “a feature of New York drawing rooms the past season”. Her “earnest and spirituelle face” had been used by Poynter for his head of Christ in the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. She had also been used as a model by Lant, for his Lesbia; by Edwin Long for his Diana or Christ; and by Frank Topham for his picture of Romola.
Comment by Sally Davis on Topham’s Romola: I presume Tophame was illustrating the novel Romola, by George Eliot.
Romola Tynte as a womens’ rights campaigner:
The Women’s Suffrate Movement: New Feminist Perspectives. Editors Maroula Joannou and June Purvis. Manchester: Manchester University Press 2009 p21 a mention of Romola as working for the Women’s Franchise League; and it’s October 1890.
Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and the Victorian Feminist Movement by Maureen Wright. New York and Manchester: Manchester University Press 2011. On p143 Wright mentions Romola Tynte giving two recitals in May 1890 to raise funds for the Women’s Franchise League.
Probate Registry 1914 re death of Mary Magill Tynte Potter, spinster, on 30 July 1913 in south Devon.
18 JANUARY 1887
Isabel went to the monthly conversazione of the London Spiritualist Alliance, held at its usual venue, the banqueting room of St James’s Hall. Isabel’s friend Charles Carleton Massey gave the evening’s talk, on The Application of Spiritualism to Scientific Research. Also at the LSA that evening were future GD members Florence Kennedy and Florence’s sister Cecilia Macrae, with their husbands; and Mrs Annie Louisa Procter.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume VII January-December 1887. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. Issue of 5 February 1887 p61.
12 FEBRUARY 1887
A long letter from Isabel was published in Light, on the subject of Training for Old Age. She was following up an article in Light’s issue of 29 January 1887 and a letter from the writer called Nizida the following week.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume VII January-December 1887. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. Issue of 12 February 1887 pp74-75.
Comments by Sally Davis: Isabel never agreed with anyone whole-heartedly, she always had reservations about what they had said. In this case, she agreed with Nizida that a long life could be a blessing; but only if the person’s age is “the crown” of their youth. Isabel reflected that, too often, as people got old they lost all their best qualities and kept their worst ones: the result, she felt, of having lived an “inharmonious” life. She thought the tendency of the old to retreat into the past wasn’t healthy. Their bodies might be failing but they should resist “timidity of the spirit”. However, if the old had worked when younger to improve their self-awareness and self-knowledge and to curb the negative parts of their personality, old age could be a time of spiritual progress.
26 FEBRUARY 1887
Another letter from Isabel was published in Light, this time on the subject of whether death freed a person’s spirit.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume VII January-December 1887. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. Issue of 26 February 1887 p96.
Comments by Sally Davis: Isabel was replying to an letter from a Mr G D Haughton published in Light’s issue of 12 February 1887, disagreeing with his assertion that death will free the spirit. Isabel thought that death could not free the spirit if it wasn’t prepared to be liberated: a criminal’s death wouldn’t free his spirit, though his spirit might leave his body. Isabel’s letter brought a response from G D Haughton. Haughton and a correspondent called “E.M.” exchanged letters for the next few weeks; but Isabel didn’t join their debate.
MARCH TO MAY 1887
Isabel showed a work at the Society of Lady Artists for the last time: The First Blossom of Spring: Almond Blossom, Capri, Italy.
The Society of Women Artists Exhibitors 1855-1996 editor Charles Baile de Laperrière, compiled by Joanna Soden. Hilmarton Manor Press 1996. Volume 1 A-D p328 as De Steiger, Isabel; painter. Listing for 1887: catalogue number 267, for sale at £10. Isabel was still living at 3 Woodstock Road Bedford Park at the time of the exhibition.
Comment by Sally Davis: there’s no mention of a visit to Capri, in Memorabilia; perhaps Isabel went there with her husband - that is, in the late 1860s or early 1870s.
23 APRIL 1887
There was an announcement in Light that, due to Anna Bonus Kingsford’s illness, there would be no meetings of the Hermetic Society until further notice.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research published London: Eclectic Publishing Co of 16 Craven Street London WC: p181 issue of 23 April 1887.
Comment by Sally Davis: I imagine Isabel would already have known this and grieved over it on several counts. She knew too that Dr Kingsford had gone to Italy to try to recover her health; I expect they were exchanging letters and perhaps Isabel had been in Italy with her at some point – hence the paintings of Capri. In fact, Dr Kingsford never did get well, and as she was the epicentre of the Hermetic Society, it never met again.
Sources for Anna Bonus Kingsford in Italy: letters from her published in Light: on pp161-62 issue of 9 April 1887, written from Rome; on p219 issue of 14 May 1887 another written in Rome; and p255 issue of 4 June 1887 written in Florence.
Isabel exhibited three paintings at the Nineteenth Century Art Society’s spring exhibition. Once again, they were all oil paintings: The Fairy Syren (sic) of the Water Lilies, Harmonia, and L’Amour de la Nuit - La Lune - Sur la Terrasse de l’Hotel; Impression du Voyage.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Spring 1887: p3 for where all three paintings were hung. P10 for The Fairy Syren..., catalogue number 85, price £10/10; p13 for Harmonia (which I would suppose was a classically-draped female figure), catalogue number 116, and for sale at £90, which I think was the highest price Isabel demanded for a work shown with this particular Society; and p20 for L’Amour de la Nuit..., catalogue number 205, priced at £5/5.
Isabel showed three more works at the Nineteenth Century Art Society in its summer exhibition: Old Court Daventry; The Rock Syren (sic) Singing the Storm Song; and Head of Beatrice.
“19th” Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Summer 1887. P57 for Old Court Daventry, catalogue number 271 for sale at £9/9; p49 The Rock Syren... was a charcoal drawing, catalogue number 539 for sale at £6/6; and p50 for Head of Beatrice, a study in charcoal and red chalk, catalogue number 540, priced £5/5.
Comments by Sally Davis: this catalogue was the last I could find of exhibitions held by the Nineteenth Century Art Society. If the Society held any more after summer 1887, the catalogues have been lost.
On Head of Beatrice. Isabel wasn’t really into doing paintings based on characters from Shakespeare, although that was a lucrative area for genre painters. I suppose, therefore, that Beatrice was a friend or relation, though I haven’t identified any likely sitter as yet (May 2017).
On Old Court Daventry: I take this painting as evidence that Isabel did visit some at least of her relations from time to time, even though they are hardly ever mentioned in Memorabilia and there are no portraits of any of them by Isabel as far as I know. In 1862 Isabel’s sister Rosamund (or Rosamond) had married Edmund Charles Burton of Daventry. Burton was a solicitor, and also Town Clerk of Daventry. On census day 1881 the Burtons were living at 29 High Street Daventry with their son, and their four daughters, none of whom were called Beatrice. By 1891, Edmund Charles’ father had died and he and Rosamond had moved into the family’s main house, The Lodge Daventry. When I looked on the web I couldn’t find any evidence of a building called ‘old court’ Daventry. At daventry.mapcomp.co.uk a pub called the Old Court House was mentioned, at 23 North Street; perhaps this is the building Isabel painted.
Isabel showed two pictures at the Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibition: A Legend of the Soul; and Impression de Voyage.
17th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1887. List of exhibitors p109. List of exhibits p66 catalogue number 1126 - A Legend of the Soul, price £25/10; and catalogue number 1127 - Impression de Voyage for sale at £6/6. As usual both were oil paintings.
Comment by Sally Davis: A Legend of the Soul had a sub-title: Persephone Sinking into the Abyss of Hades. Isabel also sent in a long quote, which the Corporation of Liverpool duly reproduced in the catalogue: “Persephone, wilfully straying from the Mansions of Heaven, falls under the power of the Hadean God, in other words Persephone typifying the Soul sinks into the profound depths of a material nature. Hermes Trismegistus”. I haven’t seen the painting but it must be an illustration of kore kosmou, the first of a group of works by the supposed Hermes Trismegistus translated by Anna Bonus Kingsford and Edward Maitland, in their The Hermetic Works. The Virgin of the World (see 1885). Kingsford and Maitland saw the tale of Persphone and the Underworld in two ways: as showing how closely linked were the religions of the Classical world and the early forms of Christianity; and as an allegory of spiritual or psychological death and rebirth, a way in which it is still seen today.
At www.philalethians.co.uk you can read the full text of the book, though it has a slightly different title: The Hermetic Works of the Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus translated and with introduction and notes by Dr Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, authors of The Perfect Way. 1885 Bath: Bath Occult Reprint Series, run by Robert H Fryar who also does an introd to the book.
Isabel doesn’t mention A Legend of the Soul in Memorabilia. I do wonder, though, whether she had in her mind when she was painting it, that Anna Bonus Kingsford was very ill with TB: Dr Kingsford’s actual death and possible rebirth on some other plane were likely to take place quite soon.
29 NOVEMBER 1887
Isabel went to the London Spiritualist Alliance’s monthly conversazione. Rev William Stainton Moses, the LSA president, was due to give the talk. He began, but was so ill the doctors in the audience ordered him to go home; the rest of the talk was read by E Dawson Rogers.
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume VII January-December 1887. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. Issue of 3 December 1887 p570 though it doesn’t say what Rev Stainton Moses was talking about! Also in the audience that evening was future GD member Mrs Catherine Amy Passingham.
12 NOVEMBER 1887
Light published another letter from Isabel, this time replying to an enquiry made by the writer calling himself 1st MB (Lond): Where Does the Danger Lie?
Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume VII January-December 1887. London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 16 Craven Street London WC. Issue of 12 November 1887 pp538-39.
Comment by Sally Davis: 1st MB (Lond) was specifically asking what dangers you were likely to encounter in a visit to the astral plane. Isabel’s reply was that the main danger was your own self, in your senses and intelligence, good for daily life but possibly “not sufficient” for visits to other planes of existence, particularly the astral plane. There would be no danger if you were prepared; occultism and Christian belief could prepare you. Preparation of the intellect alone, however, by “magical ceremonies, spiritual seances and so forth” was not enough: your spirit also needed to be ready. The most likely danger the unprepared would encounter was that of being possessed by a psychic force. Isabel’s letter brought a response from 1st MB (Lond) which was published in Light’s issue of 26 November 1887. It said that she had missed the point: he believed that a moral man had nothing to fear from encounters with less spiritual beings than himself. Isabel made no further comment but on 10 December 1887 Light published a long article on the subject by the writer Nizida and also one by 1st MB (Lond) on The Soul’s Work.
22 FEBRUARY 1888
Isabel received a telegram at her house in Bedford Park, summoning her to go to the aid of Rev Kingsford (Dr Kingsford’s husband, now her widower) and Edward Maitland (her partner in esotericism) as Dr Kingsford had died during the night. Isabel went at once, shocked, as she hadn’t realised Dr Kingsford was so ill.
Source for the incident though not the date: Memorabilia p168-169.
Source for the date: Biography of Anna Bonus Kingsford and her Founding of the Hermetic Society by Samuel Hopgood Hart. I bought a Kessinger Legacy Reprints in 2013 but originally the Biography was only the introductory essay to Hopgood Hart’s edition of Kingsford’s writings, The Credo of Christendom published 1930; p52.
Comment by Sally: it sounds from Memorabilia as though Isabel had not been able to bring herself to accept that Anna Bonus Kingsford was dying, until her death had actually taken place. It’s possible, of course, that Dr Kingsford had undergone a sudden decline in the last few weeks, so that though her death was half-expected, Isabel didn’t expect it so soon. However it happened, her death and the loss of her friendship, was a defining moment in Isabel’s life, for all the wrong reasons. In her Memorabilia she doesn’t mention any other woman to whom she was so close - her relationship with Mary Ann Atwood was not the same at all.
The death of Anna Bonus Kingsford ends this file in the life-by-dates of Isabel de Steiger. The next file covers the years the rest of 1888 to the end of 1889; including Isabel’s initiation as a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn.
COPYRIGHT SALLY DAVIS
3 April 2018
Email me at
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: