ISABEL DE STEIGER (1836-1927) This part of my life-by-dates begins with the death of Isabel’s friend Dr Anna Bonus Kingsford in February 1888; and ends with a warehouse fire in the summer of 1900 in which most of Isabel’s possessions were destroyed.  It includes all the years in which Isabel was an active member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.


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.


22 FEBRUARY 1888

Isabel received a telegram at her house in Bedford Park telling her that Anna Bonus Kingsford had died during the night.

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.

Anna Bonus Kingsford died of TB.  For more on Isabel’s close friendship with Anna, see Part 2 of this life-by-dates.



Isabel showed one painting at the Walker Art Gallery’s autumn exhibition: Celebration of the Mysteries.


Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1888.  On p51a catalogue number 1261 - Celebration of the Mysteries which was an oil painting.  Isabel was asking £100 for it, one of the highest prices she ever demanded. 

Comment by Sally Davis: the drama at the heart of the painting was going to be unfamiliar to virtually everyone who saw it, so Isabel included an explanation of what was going on:  “Celebration of one of the Mysteries in the Temple of Isis.  The Roman lady, having no Pass-word, is refused admittance by the Priestess.  Roman Period.”  As with the modern web, so with the occult world - including the GD, which Isabel was just about to join - passwords are important in keeping out those who have no business to be there.



Isabel was commissioned by her friend Isabel Cooper-Oakley to paint something to be displayed  on the day Mrs Cooper-Oakley would be opening her new café.  Isabel painted The Spirit of the Crystal for the occasion; in pastels. 

Source for the commission and where it was to be displayed: Memorabilia p159 and p161 but Isabel dates the commission at 1880-81 which is several years too soon.

Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel Cooper-Oakley, a theosophist who had been at Girton College Cambridge, was already in business as the owner of a hat shop.  The projected café was the first of the Dorothy Restaurants – women-only affairs which offered a plain lunch for a fixed price.  Mrs C-O hoped that by keeping the fixed price low the Dorothys would be used by the working women of the West End, but they also became popular with wealthy women shoppers.  Isabel’s painting was reproduced as an illustration in the occult journal Unknown World volume 1 1894.  Below the reproduction was a note that Isabel had painted the original in 1890 (which wasn’t right); it was signed.



Isabel was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at the Isis-Urania temple in London.     

Source for the initiation: R A G The Golden Dawn Companion.

Source for Isabel as a GD member: Memorabilia p117, p135.

Some comments on Isabel in the GD by Sally Davis: the GD’s founders, William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers, had started to move towards setting up the GD in the first few months of 1888.  They were both members of Anna Bonus Kingsford’s Hermetic Society so Isabel would have been well-acquainted with them.  I wonder if the GD would have been founded at all if Dr Kingsford hadn’t died.  Helen Petrovna Blavatsky was increasingly hostile towards western esotericism being studied by Theosophical Society members.  The GD was a place that the Hermetic Society’s members could go to, after Anna Bonus Kingsford’s death, to pursue their western-oriented occult interests.


Isabel mentioned the GD several times in Memorabilia.  She thought of it as a Rosicrucian order and referred to it as such.  She saw being initiated into the GD as part of a sea-change in her life, as she moved from spiritualism, through theosophy, to being “a Rosicrucian”; and then on again to anthroposophy.  At least in its early days, the GD was a Rosicrucian organisation.  Members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (of which Westcott was a very senior member) were asked to advise on ritual and texts for initiates to study.  It only began to move in new and exciting directions - Egyptian magic, Celtic myth - later in the 1890s. 


While she was an active member of the GD she took the duties of initiates very seriously: “my studies were restricted to the manuscripts of the Order”. When I was beginning to investigate Isabel’s life I saw several messages on the web saying that she never mentioned the GD in Memorabilia.  This is true, in the sense that the words ‘Golden Dawn’ are never used in it.  But I think the message-posters forgot to allow for the occult habit of always referring to things obliquely, not directly, and never by name; and also for the oaths of secrecy that members took at their initiation. 



Isabel had moved to 58 Blomfield Road.

Source: see the next entry - Isabel at the Grosvenor Gallery.  Isabel called Blomfield Road Maida Hill, but these days we’d call it ‘Little Venice’. 

Comment by Sally Davis: she was still there on census day 1891.


24 NOVEMBER 1888

Isabel’s The Spirit of a Crystal won her £5 on the opening day of Mrs Cooper-Oakley’s Dorothy Restaurant.

Source for the date:

Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End by Erika Diane Rappaport.  Princeton University Press 2001: p256,  re footnote 146.  This first Dorothy was in Mortimer Street.

Source for Isabel’s competition win: Memorabilia p162.

Source for the interior design of the first Dorothy; and the opening of the second: Constance: the Tragic and Scandal Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle.  London: John Murray 2011.  I saw this via google and couldn’t find a page number.

Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel was one of four women artists Mrs Cooper-Oakley asked to paint works for the opening day.  Customers at the Dorothy on its first day were asked to vote for which of the four they liked best: and the vote went to The Spirit of the Crystal.  Mrs Cooper-Oakley won’t have gone to Isabel for the interior design of the Dorothy, I suppose.  The walls were done in cream with crimson dados; and the room was decorated with Japanese fans and umbrellas.


The first Dorothy’s opening was a relatively quiet affair but by 21 June 1889, the Dorothy in Mortimer Street had become fashionable, so that the opening of Mrs Cooper-Oakley’s second café was an occasion for a big turn-out by the ‘aesthetic’ group.  Constance Wilde attended it; and though the Dorothys were women-only an exception was made this once for Oscar.  Other well-known guests included the art critic Lady Colin Campbell.  Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Countess Wachtmeister were also there; but Isabel probably wasn’t.



Isabel showed some paintings done in pastels in an exhibition - or possibly two exhibitions - at the Grosvenor Gallery at 135 New Bond Street in London. 

Comments on the sources by Sally Davis: this is a tricky one as the evidence I’ve found conflicts with Isabel’s own recollections; and I haven’t tracked down as yet (that’s September 2017) a copy of the Grosvenor Gallery’s first Pastels Exhibition which took place just before Christmas in 1888.  Isabel’s recollections are on Memorabilia p159 in which she says that four of her works were all shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in one exhibition: her portraits of Patience Sinnett and Mabel Collins; Phaedra; and The Spirit of the Crystal.  She doesn’t give the date of the exhibition and the evidence from exhibition catalogues I’ve found so far suggests there were only three paintings not four; that they were not shown together; and two were not shown until 1890.  The Spirit of the Crystal was included in the group on the back of its success at the Dorothy Restaurant.  It didn’t sell, though.

Sources I’ve found so far:

Grosvenor Gallery [etc] exhibitors; compiled by Algernon Graves and covering exhibitions at the Grosvenor to 1894.  This is a set of handwritten entries, leather-bound in 3 volumes; in the collection at the National Art Library in the V&A.  In Volume 1 A-F there’s no entry for Isabel as ‘de’; and in Volume 3 Q-Z there’s no entry for her as ‘S’ either.  However, I think Graves didn’t have any better luck than I have done, finding copies of the exhibitions in which works by Isabel were shown.

I have found copies of Grosvenor Gallery exhibition catalogues for:

-           Summer 1880, which was the first ever held.  Future GD member Florence Kennedy exhibited a painting this time.  There was nothing by Isabel in the exhibition but she may have gone along to see it, to see works by Lady Anne Blunt, whom she had met while she was living in Egypt.

-           Summer 1882.  GD member Henry Marriott Paget had paintings in this exhibition; but again, Isabel didn’t show anything.

-           Summer 1888.  No works by Isabel.

-           Autumn 1888.  No works by Isabel.

I haven’t tracked down any other catalogues from the 1880s yet.

-           First Pastel Exhibition.  I haven’t found a catalogue yet, though I did come across evidence that the exhibition definitely took place, around November/December 1888.

-           (definitely the) Second Pastel Exhibition 1890: p118 in the list of exhibitors: Isabel, at 58 “Bloofield” (sic, it’s Blomfield) Road Maida Hill..  There was one work by Isabel in this exhibition: p67, catalogue number 302, “A Portrait” - which could be either Patience Sinnett or Mabel Collins.

For Isabel’s works in a Grosvenor Gallery pastels exhibition in 1890 see below.


?WINTER 1888 TO EARLY 1889

Immediately after exhibiting at the Grosvenor Gallery, Isabel and a friend left England by P&O steamer.  They went first to Alexandria before taking the popular boat-trip up the Nile, spending the winter at Aswan.  Isabel describes her friend as “my comrade in spiritual investigations” but during this long period spent together, the friend’s nit-picking behaviour strained their relationship severely.

Source for the trip and the problematic friend: Memorabilia p159 in which she doesn’t give a specific date.  However, she associates the long trip with the four paintings she exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery.  She doesn’t give the friend’s name.

Cautious comment by Sally Davis: I do wonder if the comrade in spiritual investigations, who proved so irritating as a companion, was Anne Judith Penny.


5 MARCH 1889                     

Back in London, Isabel went to a meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance, held in headquarters at 2 Duke Street Adelphi.  Mr E Dawson Rogers, the founder of the LSA’s magazine Light, gave a talk: Some Personal Experiences with a Sensitive.


Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi: p130.


2 APRIL 1889

Isabel was at the London Spiritualist Alliance’s rooms again, this time to listen to Edward Maitland on The Probable Course of Development and Ultimate Issue of the Present Spiritual Movement. 

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Pubg Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Issue number 432 Saturday 13 April 1889 pp179-182.  On a list of the more prominent spiritualists in the audience was a “Miss Bates” who might be the GD member and vigorous proponent of spiritualism Emily Katharine Bates.


9 APRIL 1889

Isabel was the speaker at a meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance at 2 Duke Street Adelphi.  Her talk was on Spiritualists and Public Worship.

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Issue number 433 Saturday 20 April 1889 p191-193.

Comment by Sally Davis:

Isabel’s talk was her contribution to an ongoing debate in spiritualist circles, about whether there should be a building where spiritualists could worship, in public, as a group.  In her talk, Isabel described her own spiritual views, which encompassed both the Pantheism mentioned by Maitland in his talk the previous week, and a conviction that students of spiritual science should follow “the law of Christ” (quoting Isabel on p193).  As to whether spiritualists should gather together in public to offer public acknowledgement and thanks to “the gracious Father of the universe” (quoting Isabel on p191), she didn’t think the time had yet come for such a move.  She also thought that students of spiritual science such as herself each needed to follow their own path, in private.  Coming together to worship as a group might suit some, but not all.  Edward Maitland was at this talk and he led the discussion that took place afterwards.



Isabel showed two paintings at the Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibition: The Flight of Aurora; and The First Blush of Spring - Capri.


19th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1889.  List of exhibitors p135.  List of pictures p54 in Room VI which was given over to watercolour drawings; catalogue number 936 - The Flight of Aurora, described as a pastel and available at £15/15.  And p43 catalogue number 722 which was an oil painting - The First Blush of Spring - Capri, price £10/10.

Comments by Sally Davis:

Firstly on The First Blush of Spring: I suppose this must be a second outing for the one Isabel had shown in 1887 at the Society of Lady Artists as First Blossom of Spring: Almond Blossom, Capri, Italy.

Secondly on the Aurora paintings - I think there are two, possibly three.  In Memorabilia pp110-112 Isabel writes of a painting called “Aurora Clothed with the Dawn”.  As it was “a picture after my own heart”, she never exhibited it.  She took it with her as she moved from new address to new address, until it was destroyed by fire in 1900. 

Perhaps Isabel’s memory was playing tricks - she was writing Memorabilia decades after many of the events in it, and without being able to use her diary entries from the time.  Because not only was there a painting by Isabel called The Flight of Aurora, in pastel, exhibited in 1889; there was also another one with the same name, done in oil and shown in 1893, probably as a pair with one called The Chariot of Venus.  It’s all very confusing.  Or am I just making things too complicated?


19 OCTOBER 1889

Isabel went to a meeting of the Bedford Park Society to hear a talk by T L Henly.  The talk was an introduction to Spiritualism.

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Issue number 463 Saturday 16 November 1889 pp554-555, a letter from Isabel in response to one from T L Henly about the way he was treated that evening.

Comment by Sally Davis: editions of Light at around this time have a lot in them by T L Henly - he was a very keen proselytiser on spiritualism’s behalf.  But he was the type to take umbrage very easily.  He was so upset and annoyed by how the audience had behaved both during his talk and in the question-and-answer session afterwards, that he wrote a long, irritable letter to Light about it, which was published in the issue of 2 November 1889.  Isabel wrote in response, trying to tell Henly, in the gentlest manner possible, that she at least thought he hadn’t tailored his talk to fit his rather unusual audience.  His talk, she thought, had placed too much emphasis on spiritualism as a release from the fear of death: such an argument was not likely to weigh as much with a group of bohemian intellectuals as with the audiences Henly was more used to.  Isabel’s letter was her last word on the subject.  Henly didn’t like her criticisms and wrote to Light to say so; provoking one or two other people to write in, arguing on one side or the other.


It’s really interesting to discover that Isabel knew people in the Bedford Park Society in 1889.  I haven’t ever found a list of its members but many people who later joined the GD were living in Bedford Park at the time and were likely to have been members, if not founders, of the Society.  In fact, the sequence of letters in response to Henly’s complaints was closed, in Light’s last issue of 1889, by a short, rather brusque one from W B Yeats saying that Henly should have been prepared for robust debate, lecturing on such a controversial subject.  Yeats’ letter doesn’t say so specifically but I think he must have been at Henly’s lecture himself; perhaps he was on the Society’s committee.  Other people who lived nearby, were members of the GD at one time, and may have gone to Mr Hely’s talk were: Florence Farr; Henrietta Paget and her husband Henry Marriott Paget; John William Brodie-Innes and his wife Frances; John Todhunter; Frederick Leigh Gardner; and Dorothea Butler.  Yeats’ letter was in Light number 469 Saturday 28 December 1889 p619.


26 NOVEMBER 1889

Isabel went once again to a meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance at 2 Duke Street.  This time the speaker was Morell Theobald, a very active member of the LSA.  His talk, Gleanings   Abroad, was an account of his recent round-the-world trip.

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Issue number 466 Saturday 7 December 1889 p587.

Comment by Sally Davis: Morell Theobald’s brother Robert Masters Theobald, a doctor and homaeopath, was a member of the GD.  He gave one or two talks at the LSA on medical matters but probably wasn’t a spiritualist as he didn’t go to many other LSA meetings.



There was another lecture at the Bedford Park Society, this time on theosophy, given by Colonel Henry Olcott.  Isabel may have gone to this too - though she knew the subject well and I haven’t found anything specifically saying that she was in the audience that evening.

Source: Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Issue number 467 Saturday 14 December 1889 p603 and number 468 Saturday 21 December 1889.

Comment by Sally Davis: T L Henly might have been slightly cheered to find from subsequent issues of Light that the Bedford Park Society gave Colonel Olcott quite as hard a time as they had given him.


10 DECEMBER 1889

Isabel gave her second talk of the year at the London Spiritualist Alliance: Spiritualism Amongst the Poets - The Epic of Hades. 

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical Occult and Mystical Research volume IX January-December 1889.  London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Issue number 468 Saturday 21 December 1889 p610-612.

Comment by Sally Davis.  Because poetry is something that I have never got the hang of, I had never heard of the author of The Epic of Hades, Lewis Morris.  Although I think he is not read much now, Morris was very well-known in his lifetime and has his own wikipedia page.  Isabel’s argument during her talk was that Lewis Morris was a spiritualist poet and the The Epic of Hades a spiritualist work.  Amongst a number of characters mentioned in the poem as spending time in Tartarus learning from mistakes they made in their lifetimes was Phaedra.  Isabel described the Phaedra of the poem as still wanting revenge; and she may have been inspired to start her own painting of Phaedra by Morris’ work.  The discussion which followed Isabel’s talk was led by Alaric A Watts; and by Professor George Chainey of Boston Massachusetts who was in London on a lecture tour.  While she was preparing her talk, Isabel had been lent the 30 November 1889 edition of The Agnostic Journal (I wonder who the lender was, perhaps a member of the Bedford Park Society) which had in it an article by George Chainey on Dreamers of Dreams.

Lewis Morris’ The Epic of Hades was first published anonymously in London by Henry S King and Co in 1877.  In 1878 Kegan Paul took it up, and published it with Morris named as its author.  Kegan Paul’s publication was into its fourth edition by the end of 1879; but I don’t quite understand why Isabel had chosen it as a subject for a talk over a decade later.


For further on George Chainey, a convert to spiritualism who had been a Christian minister:

New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America by Mary Farrell Bednarowski.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1989: In the Notes Section p141 note 4.

Whitman and the Irish by Joann P Krieg.  Iowa City: Univ of Iowa Press 2000 p148, which covers Chainey’s decisive intervention when the Boston city authorities were trying to censor Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on grounds of obscenity.  He read out Whitman’s poem To A Common Prostitute in one of his sermons to force a decision on the matter - and the obscenity case was dropped.



Although she was not a member of the new society, Isabel exhibited two works at the Grosvenor Gallery in the First Exhibition of the Society of British Pastellists: Phaedra “The Pale Dark Queen with Passion in her Eyes”; and The Jewel with The Spirit of the Diamonds.


The Exhibition Catalogue 1890: p52 catalogue number 225 for Phaedra; and p80 catalogue number 361 for the Jewel painting, which may or may not be the painting Isabel remembered as ‘The Spirit of the Crystal’. 


Comment by Sally Davis: see the entry for 10 December 1889: Isabel’s Phaedra was inspired by Lewis Morris’ The Epic of Hades, first published anonymously in London by Henry S King and Co in 1877, then published in 1878 by Kegan Paul with Morris’ name on it.



Isabel went to a London Spiritualist Alliance soirée at St James’s Hall.  Also on the guest-list was a “Miss Bates” who might be the GD member Emily Katharine Bates, the traveller and author.

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research.  Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Volume 10 January-December 1890 Issue number 479 published Saturday 25 January 1890 p43.


28 JULY 1890

Isabel’s niece Rosamund Westbrooke Burton (daughter of Isabel’s sister Rosamund) married William Rhodes of Flore Fields near Daventry.

Source: via to Northampton Mercury issues of 25 July 1890 and 1 August 1890.

At just to give a flavour of the kind of circles Isabel’s sister Rosamund was moving in: Thomas William Rhodes of Flore Fields, father of her son-in-law William Rhodes, served as high sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1876-77; and Rosamund’s son-in-law Thomas William Thornton was high sheriff in 1886-87.

Via to Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes volume 29 1877 p12 activities of the Rhodes family as members of the Pytchley and other hunts.



After a gap of several years, Isabel showed a painting at the Manchester Art Gallery autumn exhibition: The Sunny South (Lyme Regis Bay).


Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 8th Autumn Exhibition 1890.  Manchester: Henry Blacklock and Co of Albert Square.  List of exhibitors p59 with Isabel still at the 58 Blomfield Road address.  On p22: catalogue number 239, oil painting, for sale at £10/10.

Comment by Sally Davis: until February 2017, when I began my trawl through individual exhibition catalogues in search of works by Isabel, I had no idea she ever did any landscapes - she never mentions any, in Memorabilia.  There’s no clue in Memorabilia as to when she might have visited Lyme Regis but perhaps she had been there earlier that summer.



Isabel exhibited one work at the Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibition: Phaedra Meditating her Revenge.


Missing its front cover but it’s definitely the 20th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1890. List of exhibitors p122.  P6 catalogue number 4 - Phaedra Meditating on her Revenge; with a quote from Lewis Morris’ Epic of Hades: “The Dark Pale Queen, with Passion in her Eyes”.  Definitely an oil painting, price £25.

Comment by Sally Davis: just making clear that this Phaedra is not the Phaedra Isabel showed at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1890: that was a work in pastel, perhaps part of Isabel’s preparations for the work in oil.


APRIL 1891   

On the day of the 1891 census Isabel was still at 58 Blomfield Road.  Her’s was the only household at that address but it was a modest one, with only one general servant employed. 


Isabel’s eldest sister Constantia Lace, was still at Christleton Old Hall north-east of Chester, looking after her nieces Theodosia and Josephine Lace.  Constantia had scaled down her household somewhat, probably after her nephew’s marriage in 1885: she now employed only a cook, a housemaid and a kitchen maid.  Isabel and Constantia’s nephew Charles Verney Lace and his wife Cécile were living on the west side of Chester at Sealand House; in a household with a cook, two housemaids and a groom. 


Isabel’s sister Rosamond Burton and her husband had moved into the Burton family’s main residence, The Lodge in Daventry, and were there with their unmarried daughter Blanche; as it was still term-time their son Edmund Gerald was away at Westminster School.  Their lavish household included a ladies’ maid (an expensive luxury) as well as a cook, two housemaids and a kitchen maid. 


Rev John and Helena Turnbull were still at the vicarage at Temple Ewell.  Four of their children were at home: Constance; Peveril, currently at Cambridge University but home for the holidays; John, who was working in the offices of a land agent; and Christine,who was nine.  The Turnbulls had also reduced the number of their servants; they now employed only a cook and a housemaid.  However, they also employed a governess for Christine, a woman called Louise Sapolin.

Source: 1891 census.

Comment by Sally Davis: although Louise Sapolin had left the Turnbulls’ employment by 1901 and gone home to her brother’s house in south London, the connection with the Turnbulls remained: Verney Turnbull, beginning a career in publishing, was lodging with them.


8 MAY 1891

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky died from influenza.

Comment by Sally Davis: there was an epidemic at the time.

Information on the date from: wikipedia page on Blavatsky.  Several other TS sources all confirm the date but none give the source, probably an official announcement by the TS.  There is a death registration on freebmd for Helena P Blavatsky, April-June quarter 1891, registered Marylebone.  She was 59.



Isabel went to see Wagner’s Tannhäuser.  In a separate reference, she mentions going to Bayreuth with William and Fanny Crosfield, and seeing Tannhäuser and also Lohengrin there.  She continued to go to Bayreuth occasionally after this first time; she would have liked to go regularly but couldn’t afford it.

Source: Memorabilia p133, p267 though neither give a date.          

Trying to tie down the date: see wikipedia’s page on Wagner.  The date of the first performance of Tannhäuser was 1845.  Wikipedia’s page on Bayreuth and the Wagner festival gives the date of the first performance at Bayreuth as 1891, in a production by Cosima Wagner.  I couldn’t discover whether Lohengrin was also performed during the 1891 season; but I’m assuming Isabel saw them both in the same year, 1891.


Catching up with the Crosfields:

In 1881 the Crosfields, Quaker owners of a sugar and grocery business, had been living at 16 Alexandra Park, Toxteth Park Liverpool.  After the death of William’s father (also named William), William the younger and Fanny moved into old William Crosfield’s house - Annesley, 1 Woodland Road in Aigburth, the district Isabel and Rudolf de Steiger had lived in, immediately after their marriage.  This is where the Crosfields were on census day 1891, with their daughter Dora, and a cook, three housemaids and a kitchenmaid.  Not part of the household, but living in a house in the grounds, were their gardener and his wife.  The Crosfields sound as though they could afford to go to Bayreuth every year. 



Isabel left London and went back to Liverpool, moving into 32 Fern Grove Sefton Park.  Earliest source for the new address: see next entry - exhibition at Manchester City Art Gallery.

In Memorabilia p187 Isabel states that she went back to live in Liverpool in 1887.  However, the census and other sources show her still living in London until mid-1891.

Comment by Sally Davis on this big decision: several times in Memorabilia Isabel mentions how many times she moved house and town in the later decades of her life.  The Sources I’ve found say that between the early 1890s and 1917 she lived in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Llangollen, and Rock Ferry just outside Birkenhead.  Then at some point in the early 1920s she moved back into the city of Liverpool and stayed there.  Many were stays of only a few months - those in Birmingham and Bournemouth, for example.  She might have stayed in London for a few months in 1902.

I think that the deaths of Anna Bonus Kingsford and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky meant that there was less reason for Isabel to stay in London; but I do wonder whether Isabel’s finances also influenced the decision to go.  Isabel had been left money by her husband that had been enough for her to live on comfortably in the 1870s and 1880s; but by 1891 she may have been finding it increasingly difficult to keep up middle-class appearances on her inherited income.  And of course she could never rely on any income in any year from sales of her paintings.  An essay by Bryan Taylor - The Century of Inflation - shows that the years 1815-1914 were a period of deflation rather than inflation in Britain.  See Bryan Taylor’s article at  However, Gregory Clark’s article Housing Rents, Housing Quality and Living Standards in England and Wales 1640-1909 uses Property Tax information to show that rents increased steadily from the 1850s to 1900, rising more steeply from the mid-1870s.   See Clark’s article (published October 1999) at  Most of his statistics are based on properties owned by charities but he argues that private rents followed the same trends.  Then, as now, London rents were higher than rents elsewhere.



She joined the Liverpool Spiritualist Circle.  She also went to some meetings of the local lodge of the Theosophical Society but was horrified to find it full of Socialists. Isabel was particularly put off by the women socialists she met, moving in these circles, calling them “rabid”, “ill-informed” and too much influenced by the men in their lives.


Memorabilia pxxi-xxii in which Isabel described herself as “By nature...a Conservative.  Somehow I distrusted Liberal politicians, their politics and their selves did not seem to match”.  She thought Liberals too inclined to try to please the masses.  She also described herself, in a wider context, as “a pessimist” with “a vague fear of the unknown”.

Comments by Sally Davis: just noting here that the General Election of late 1918 was the first that Isabel was eligible to vote in.  Socialism and its likely affect on the British Empire were in the 1890s a great unknown.



Isabel exhibited a second landscape at the Manchester Art Gallery exhibition: A Summer Song (Study at Boscastle). 


Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 9th Autumn Exhibition 1891.  Manchester: Blacklock and Co.  List of exhibitors p53: de Steiger, Isabel; now at 32 Fern Grove Sefton Park Liverpool.  List of exhibits p39 catalogue number 466; an oil, for sale at £10. 

Comment by Sally Davis: there’s no mention of a visit to Cornwall in Memorabilia but Isabel had spent time in Dorset before 1890 (see the entries for Autumn 1890) possibly as part of a wider tour of the West Country.



Isabel showed two works at the Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibition: A Garland of Roses; and The Spirit of the Crystal.


21st Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1891.  This catalogue was in a very delapidated state, with most of its page-number corners fallen off.   Isabel’s paintings were catalogue numbers 935 - A Garland of Roses, price £15; and catalogue number 1208 - The Spirit of the Crystal, £20.  Both were pastels. 



Isabel showed four works at this year’s Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibition, including the only sculpture she ever exhibited - a wax-clay sculpture of a Toadstool.  The paintings she showed were: Daffodils; An Avenging Angel; and Andromeda Abandoned.


22nd Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1892.  This catalogue had a lot of its page-number corners missing.  Catalogue number 172 - Daffodils, which was an oil painting, price £10.  Catalogue number 679 - An Avenging Angel, price £25; this was a watercolour drawing.  Catalogue number 1085 - Andromeda Abandoned, oil painting, for sale at £110, which I think is the highest price Isabel ever charged.  In the sculpture room catalogue number 1338 - A Toadstool, in wax-clay and costing £2/2, which makes me think it was a small work.



After a gap of eight years, Isabel exhibited two paintings at the autumn exhibition of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.  The paintings were Au Jardin Hôtel du Cygne Montreux; and A Garland of Roses which she had shown in Liverpool the previous year.

Source: Royal Birmingham Society of Artists 66th Autumn Exhibition 1892.  List of exhibitors p73: “de Steiger, Madame Isabel”; at Fern Grove Liverpool.  On p36: Au Jardin... is catalogue number 313; it was on oil painting, price £7/7.  On p64 catalogue number 892, A Garland of Roses for sale at £15/15.

Comments by Sally Davis:

Firstly on the Society’s slight change of name: it happened in 1885.

The sources aren’t consistent about the medium Isabel used for A Garland of Roses, getting its second outing in Birmingham, after its first in Liverpool.  In 1891 the Walker Art Gallery catalogue called it a pastel; The Royal Birmingham Society described it as a watercolour.  Isabel exhibited A Garland... for a third time in 1894 in Dublin but unfortunately, the medium wasn’t given in the Royal Hibernian Academy source I used, so I couldn’t find a casting vote. 

In Memorabilia Isabel doesn’t specifically mention having visited Montreux; however she did visit Switzerland regularly, seeing her husband’s family and then staying for several weeks elsewhere in the Alps.

Though she exhibited in one RBSA spring exhibition, 1892 was the last time Isabel showed any works at the Birmingham autumn exhibitions.



Isabel exhibited at the Manchester Art Gallery exhibition for the last time.  She showed two works: A Song of the Greek Isles; and Princess Scheherazade.


Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 10th Autumn Exhibition 1892.  Manchester: Blacklock and Co.  List of exhibitors p59: de Steiger, Isabel; at the 32 Fern Grove address; p34 catalogue number 362 for Song of the Greek Isles, price £50; and p44 for catalogue number 531, Princess Scheherazade for sale at £100.  Both were oil paintings.

I carried on looking through the V&A’s catalogues of Manchester Corporation’s exhibitions until that of autumn 1899.  There was nothing more by Isabel and there were far fewer exhibitors overall in the 14th Autumn Exhibition of 1896 and from then on.

Comment by Sally Davis: Princess Scheherazade had already been exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1880.  It hadn’t sold then. Did potential buyers find £100 too much to pay for a work by a woman?  Song of the Greek Isles was quite pricey too.  Not having seen it, I can’t say whether it was a landscape or based on an idea from mythology.  In Memorabilia Isabel doesn’t mention ever having visited any Greek islands but some at least would have been easy for her and her husband to get to while they were living in Egypt in the late 1860s. 



Isabel’s membership of the Theosophical Society was finally noted in its records.

Source: TS membership register. 

Comment on the TS by Sally Davis: Isabel had joined the London Lodge when it was founded in 1878 (see my life-by-dates for that period).  In the early 1890s, a period when many new members were recruited, the TS finally made an effort to put its membership records into some kind of order.  The details of all current members were written in a series of ledgers, in no particular order so that newcomers were entered alongside people who had been members for years.  The address given for Isabel at the time of this administrative exercise was the one at 32 Fern Grove Sefton Park.  In the early 1890s Liverpool’s TS lodge was very active.  The TS lodges in Liverpool and Bradford were very close - many members of the TS in both cities were also in the GD - so Isabel would soon have found out about the GD’s Horus temple in Bradford.



Isabel went to GD rituals at the Horus Temple in Bradford for a while.  However, most GD members in Bradford were business-people, so rituals were held on Sunday.  Isabel had to  stay in Bradford over Saturday and then Sunday night, and gave it up after a few months.

Source: Warburg Institute Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73 - letters mostly to Frederick Leigh Gardner from members of the GD.  Letter from Isabel to Gardner no date but possibly 11 November 1897.

Comment by Sally: Isabel told Gardner she had found the travelling too difficult for her.  She didn’t mention the expense of two nights in a hotel in Bradford but I imagine that was an important point in her decision to give up going there.


POSSIBLY WHILE ISABEL WAS LIVING IN LIVERPOOL IN THE EARLY 1890s though evidence for such an early date is lacking

This may be the period in which she got to know the Dubourg brothers.  In 1924 Isabel named one of them - John Robert Henry - as one of her two executors.

Source for her knowing the Dubourg brothers: Will of Isabelle de Steiger dated 1924 and 1926.  Nothing definite beforehand but the Dubourgs had grown up in Liverpool where they and Isabel had acquaintances in common, almost certainly including Léonie Topham Steele.  So I’m going to talk about them here.  They are John Robert Henry Dubourg (born 1861) and his younger brother William Ernest.

Comment by Sally Davis.  Firstly I’d like to thank again Richard Dubourg, great-grandson of William Ernest Dubourg, who contacted me to put right a couple of mistakes I’d made, and then sent me Isabel’s Will with all its fascinating and enigmatic detail about her relationships with family and friends.  Richard Dubourg has been researching the history of his family and their possible relationship with Léonie Topham Steele through the Gueyral family of France and Algiers.


Henry and William Ernest Dubourg were sons of Augustin Jules Dubourg who had come to Britain to work as a teacher of French.  He had arrived in Britain by 1861 and was working in Elgin, where John Robert Henry Dubourg was born.  The family’s connection with Liverpool began in the 1870s when Augustin taught French at Liverpool College.  By 1881 Augustin had returned to Scotland and was teaching in Edinburgh; but when his sons John Robert Henry, and William Ernest, had qualified as doctors, they both returned to set up as GPs in Liverpool and lived there until they died.  Both John Robert Henry and William Ernest studied medicine at Edinburgh University in the early 1890s.  At that time Robert Henry Felkin, GD member and future founder of Stella Matutina, was on the medical faculty staff, teaching tropical medicine. 


Sources for the Dubourgs:

Biographical information on the Dubourg and Gueyral families sent to me by Richard Dubourg in emails during September 2015.

Will and Codicil of Isabelle Elizabeth de Steiger 1924 and 1926; and Memorabilia p281.

RAG Companion p166 reproduces a list of Stella Matutina members which Gilbert believes was compiled between 1910 and 1914.  Both the Dubourg brothers are on the list, William Ernest at 82 Old Hall Street Liverpool; and John Robert Henry at 120 Islington Liverpool where he was still living in 1927.  Neither brother had been in the GD and Isabel was not in Stella Matutina, she was in its rival daughter Order, the Independent and Rectified Rite or Order.

Familysearch Scotland-ODM 6035516: for the birth of John Robert Henry Dubourg on 24 January 1861 at Elgin, Moray.  Parents Augustin Jules Dubourg and wife Mary Anne née Osborne.

Lancashire Biogs: Rolls of Honour published 1917 p123 entry for John R H Dubourg.

GMC Registers for Henry and William Ernest Dubourg.



Anne Judith Penny died.  Isabel took on Mrs Penny’s old role in Mrs Atwood’s life, that of “chief and only correspondent”.

Source: freebmd and Memorabilia p189.

Comment by Sally: Isabel makes it sound rather an onerous task!  See the previous file in this life-by-dates sequence for the beginnings of Isabel’s correspondence with Mrs Penny, an authority on the work of Böhme.



Isabel exhibited at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists for the last time, and for the only time at any of their spring exhibitions.  From their titles at least, they might have been meant as a pair and exhibited as such: The Flight of Aurora; and The Chariot of Venus.


Royal Birmingham Society of Artists 28th Spring Exhibition 1893.  List of exhibitors p66.  P54 catalogue number 637 - The Flight of Aurora; and catalogue number 639 - The Chariot of Venus.  Both paintings were oils and were priced at £10/10.

Comment by Sally Davis: see the entry for Autumn 1889 for the two, possibly three, ‘Aurora’ paintings Isabel did.  One called ‘The Flight of Aurora’ was exhibited in Liverpool in 1889; but it was a pastel not an oil painting, possibly part of the preparations for the work in oil.

Source for the 1889 pastel:

19th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1889.  List of exhibitors p135.  List of pictures p54 in Room VI which was given over to watercolour drawings; catalogue number 936 - The Flight of Aurora, described as a pastel and available at £15/15.


AUTUMNS of 1893-1900

Isabel did not show any works at all at the Corporation of Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery autumn exhibitions.

Sources for the absence: Catalogues of the exhibitions at the Walker Art Gallery 1893 to 1900. 

Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel hadn’t developed a hostility towards the Walker Art Gallery - from 1895 to 1901 she didn’t show any paintings at any of the venues she had previously used.  I take it that this slow-down was the result of her becoming the summer companion of Mary Ann Atwood.  In the following years, Isabel’s commitment to esotericism grew, and she had less and less time for her art.



Isabel’s niece Josephine Constance Stanley Lace (younger daughter of Isabel’s elder brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace) married Herbert Arthur Sutton of Kelham Hall Newark.

Comment by Sally Davis: I mention this marriage mainly because Josephine’s descendants (hanging on the thread of two generations of only children) are the only descendants of Joshua and Theodosia Lace.

Sources for Herbert Arthur Sutton and Kelham Hall:

Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal a set of genealogies which trace all the descendents of Edward III; the Anne of Exeter Volume p161 has the Suttons in it.  Herbert Arthur Sutton is the second son of Captain Frederick Sutton of the 11th Hussars, and his wife Georgina née Croft.

He can also be found in which uses Burke’s Peerage as its source: his dates are 1853-1924.  The descent is through Herbert Arthur and Josephine’s only child Roland Manners Verney Sutton (1895-1957), then through Roland’s only child Ursula Constance Sutton who married Norman Yearsley.

Via to Nottinghamshire Guardian of 10 September 1893: announcement of the wedding, at Christleton parish church near Chester.

For Kelham Hall and Kelham House, see article 4 July 2006 on the donation of a painting of Kelham Hall, done by artist E F Holt around 1885; plus some postcards; by the painting’s owner, Ursula Yearsley; to Newark and Sherwood DC. 

At a photo taken 1979 of the burial plot of Herbert Arthur Sutton where he, wife Josephine and son Roland are all buried.  At St Michael Averham. 


1894 OR AFTER though on Memorabilia pxix Isabel equates this important change in her spiritual views to when she was 50, ie 1886

Isabel read Froude’s edition of the letters of Erasmus.  The book led to another move in her spiritual outlook, away from the Lutheran/Evangelical view that she had grown up with, to a more mystical one.  She saw Erasmus as encouraging deep reflection and seeing the accumulation of knowledge as an intellectual equivalent to adding money into a bank account.

British Library catalogue: Life and Letters of Erasmus by James Anthony Froude.  London: Longmans and Co 1894.

Source for Isabel reading them: Memorabilia pxix.

Comment by Sally: I couldn’t see an edition of the Letters earlier than 1894.  I think, too, that Isabel’s doing herself a disservice in attributing to the Letters the change in her understanding of her own spirituality - what she needed from religion.  Perhaps what reading Erasmus did was to justify what had happened to Isabel already as a result of her own efforts in the books she had read and the people she had listened to - that may be why she wrongly dates her reading of him to nearly a decade before the book was published.



Isabel contributed illustrations to the occult magazine, The Unknown World. 

Source: journal The Unknown World.

Comment by Sally: The Unknown World was a short-lived attempt by A E Waite (as producer and editor) to start an occult magazine.  It lasted only one volume’s worth of monthly issues, but Isabel contributed several illustrations to the issues that did see the light of day.  I would suppose that Isabel was a regular reader, as well as a contributor, while the magazine lasted.  Accidents of history mean that her illustrations are one of the few of Isabel’s works that still exist; which is ironic seeing she did so little illustration work.



Isabel exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin for the last time.  She showed two works: her pastel work A Garland of Roses; and Lavinia.  Although she was about to move away, she still gave the Royal Hibernian an address in Liverpool for correspondence.

Source for the paintings exhibited:

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, at 33 (rather than 32) Fern Grove Liverpool which I presume is a type-setting error.  A Garland of Roses is catalogue number 344, price £15/15; and Lavinia is catalogue number 391, at the same price.

Comments by Sally Davis: this was a third showing for A Garland of Roses - it had already been seen in Liverpool and Birmingham.  As with so many art works by Isabel, I have no information at all on ‘Lavinia’; not even whether it was a portrait or based on a literary work.  As at March 2017 I don’t know of anyone called Lavinia amongst Isabel’s acquaintances.



Isabel moved from Liverpool to 20 Dublin Street Edinburgh.  Isabel continued to be an active member of the TS.  She went to the weekly meetings of the TS’s Scottish Lodge, held in the Edinburgh home of its most active members, John William Brodie-Innes and his wife Frances.

Source for the move: Memorabilia p270 but without an exact date.

Source for Isabel’s address in Edinburgh: Theosophical Society membership register but again without an exact date for the change of address.

Comment by Sally Davis: Dublin Street was on the edge of the 18th century estate known as the New Town; and about five minutes’ walk from Royal Circus where the Brodie-Innes’s lived.  John and Frances Brodie-Innes were GD members.


4 AUGUST 1894

Isabel had a letter published in the magazine Light in which she said that she thought she had seen the same ghostly face in two different photographs. 

Source: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research.  Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi.  Volume 14 1894; issues between August and September.

Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel only meant to suggest that the same spirit had placed itself in the way of two photographs taken several years apart.  She wasn’t accusing anyone of fraud - but that’s how her letter was understood by a lot of Light’s readers. 


The second of the two appearances of the same ghost, that Isabel thought she had seen, was in the photograph which was the frontispiece to The Veil Lifted, published in 1893 and edited by a member of the London Spiritualist Alliance, Andrew Glendinning.  The book consisted mostly of the texts of recent lectures on spiritualism; but there were also some photographs purporting to feature spirits photographed during seances by the well-known medium David Duguid of Glasgow.  That the photographs were genuine had already been doubted by Practical Photographer.  But Isabel rapidly became thought of as the first person to question them in a spiritualist magazine.  Isabel wrote to Light several times, saying that she did believe that spirits from the astral plane could be photographed in certain circumstances.  The point she had been trying to make was that she thought the same spirit from the astral plane had been photographed by Mr Duguid; and in the photograph of a German painting which had been bought (the photograph, that is) by some friends of hers.  She had noticed the similarity when dining with them at their house in Edinburgh and had written to Light to tell its readers about the curious coincidence.


The vehemence of the response from Light’s readers, Mr Glendinning, and friends of Mr Duguid clearly took Isabel by surprise.  In an attempt to pacify all the people who wrote in cricitising her for something she hadn’t actually said, she asked her Edinburgh friends if they would allow their photograph to be displayed at Light’s offices in London so that interested parties could inspect it so as to judge how similar it was to the frontispiece.  Her friends turned out to be GD and TS members John and Frances Brodie-Innes; and the series of letters in Light ended with a furious letter from John Brodie-Innes, saying that he would bring his photograph with him next time he came to London and it would be available for inspection in his barristers’ chambers though certainly not in Light’s offices; but he would not bring it with him unless the harrassment of him and Isabel ceased.  It did cease; but I’ve no idea what happened afterwards because Light never referred to the matter again.  Duguid’s photographs of spirits were faked (see wikipedia) and Isabel is credited with inadvertently starting the chain of events that led to the discovery of how the faking was done - not at all what she had intended!  



Isabel became very friendly with the artist Mrs Traquair.  As women artists they had a problem in common - getting their paintings exhibited.  Isabel was not allowed to join the Royal Scottish Academy. 

Source: Memorabilia p183.

Comment by Sally Davis: Mrs Traquair - Phoebe Anna Traquair - is better known now than Isabel, mostly because so much of her work is still in existence; but also because she had a wider range than Isabel, doing murals as well as easel painting; she also did regular illustration work and jewellery design.  There’s a detailed biography of her at  There was no need for Isabel to take personally the refusal of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) to let her join, and I hope she didn’t.  Despite moving in very cultured circles in Edinburgh and so having all the right contacts, Mrs Traquair wasn’t offered membership until 1920 and even then it was only honorary.  Just another case of male institutions keeping female artists down: members, naturally, got priority if exhibition space was short. 

Just confirming that Isabel was never a member of the RSA: The Royal Scottish Academy 1826-1916 list of members exhibiting; compiled by Frank Rinder.  Originally published 1917; British Library’s copy is Kingsmead Reprints 1975: p384 Isabel isn’t listed. 


?MID 1890s

Isabel must have been working on her translation from the German of the letters of Councillor von Eckartshausen, which she published as The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary.  In his introduction to Memorabilia (pxi) A E Waite saw this as Isabel’s greatest contribution to mystical literature in English.  But Isabel hardly mentions it in Memorabilia at all.

Source: publication date and Memorabilia AE Waite’s Preface pxi.


BETWEEN 1894 AND 1901

Isabel exhibited no new paintings.

Comment by Sally Davis: as well as her translation of The Cloud upon the Sanctuary, in the mid-1890s Isabel was also preparing for her 2nd Order initiation in the GD.  Reaching that level involved a lot of reading and exams as well.  However, the lack of new work continued after her 2nd Order initiation and perhaps indicates a decline in Isabel’s creativity and/or enthusiasm for painting.



A serialisation of The Cloud upon the Sanctuary began in the last issue of A E Waite’s magazine The Unknown World.


Assuming that Isabel knew the Dubourg brothers by now:


John Robert Henry Dubourg married Rose Ellen Hutchings, in Liverpool.

Source: freebmd.



Isabel was living at 7 London Street Edinburgh.

Source: The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitors 1826-1990 editor Charles Baile de Laperrière. Calne: Hilmarton Manor Press 1991.  Volume 4 R-Z p615 entry for Steiger, de; Mme Isabel:



After a gap of a decade, Isabel exhibited a work at the Royal Scottish Academy exhibition in Edinburgh.  She showed her Lorelei painting, borrowing it temporarily from her friends William and Fanny Crosfield, who had bought it.


The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitors 1826-1990 editor Charles Baile de Laperrière. Calne: Hilmarton Manor Press 1991.  Volume 4 R-Z p615 entry for Steiger, de; Mme Isabel.  Catalogue number 68: The Lorelei Maiden Singing to the Fishermen Below. 

Comment by Sally Davis: although Isabel continued to live in Edinburgh for several more years, this was the last year she showed anything at the RSA.  The Lorelei had first been exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1883; it was probably bought by the Crosfields then. 


1896 TO 1900

Though she did some art work for the GD in Edinburgh, Isabel did not exhibit any paintings.


MAY 1896       

Isabel was initiated into the GD’s inner, 2nd Order.  I think the initiation took place in London - perhaps Isabel was in town to supervise The Cloud’s publication.

Source: RAG Companion.


JUNE 1896

John Robert Henry Dubourg’s only child, Gladys Osborne Dubourg, was born in Liverpool.

Source: Familysearch baptism record: 18 June 1896 at St Mary-for-the-Blind Liverpool.  Also freebmd where her surname is written as ‘Du Bourg’.

Comment by Sally Davis: even if Isabel didn’t know the Dubourgs yet, the birth of Gladys is important because in due course, she inherited all the paintings and painting paraphernalia that Isabel had in her house at her death. 



The Cloud upon the Sanctuary by Councillor von Eckhartshausen, translated from the German and with notes by Isabel, was published in London by George Redway. 

Comments by Sally Davis: the British Library doesn’t have any copies earlier than the 3rd edition, published in 1909.  Isabel had asked John William Brodie-Innes to do the preface.  They had obviously discussed the content and meaning of the letters many times.  On pvii and pviii Brodie-Innes described Isabel’s work as “admirable” but doubted that von Eckhartshausen’s vision of an “Interior Church” would be much welcomed by British church-goers too focused on their concept of a “Church Triumphant”. 



The Cloud upon the Sanctuary was reviewed in Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine by Isabel’s good friend Patience Sinnett.

Source: Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XIX number 111.



Isabel was painting the ritual vault at the rooms used by the GD’s newly-founded Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh.

Source: Warburg Institute Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73.  Letter from Isabel to the GD’s Frederick Leigh Gardner; no date but has to be late December 1896.



Isabel read Religion and Art, Ashton-Ellis’s translation of works by Wagner.

Via google to Religion und Kunst by Richard Wagner published 1880 as volume 6 of his Prose Works.  Though Isabel’s German was well up to reading the work in its original language, she does specifically say that it was Ashton-Ellis’ translation that she read.  Ashton-Ellis’ work was  published in 1897.

Source for Isabel reading it: Memorabilia p133.


EARLY 1897

Isabel’s niece Constance Helena Burton, daughter of Isabel’s sister Rosamond, married Norman McCorquodale.

Source: freebmd; I couldn’t find any coverage of the wedding at

Comment by Sally Davis: Constance’s marriage was - in 19th-century terms - the best that any of Rosamond and Edmund Charles Burton’s daughters made.  It had a Liverpool connection: the man she was marrying was the son of George McCorquodale of Liverpool and Newton-le-Willows, founder of the stationery and publishing firm, McCorquodale and Company, that at one time held the contract to print the magazine Harpers and Queen.  Constance’s husband, Norman, worked for his father’s firm, and so in his turn did their son.  Shortly after their marriage, Constance and Norman bought Winslow Hall, on the road from Aylesbury into the town of Winslow Buckinghamshire.  They were still living there when Isabel died.

Some information on the firm’s founder, and on Constance’s son, (also Norman) the first Baron McCorquodale: see

Constance and Norman McCorquodale are in which uses Burke’s Peerage as its main source.

Winslow Hall: a photograph of it at and some history; and there’s also a page on it in wikipedia.


24 APRIL 1897

Isabel’s nephew Charles Verney Lace died; he was the only son of Isabel’s brother Joshua Verney Lovett Lace.

Source, though a puzzlingly long time after the event:

Notes and Queries issue of 1904 p483 a reference to an obituary of Charles Verney Lace giving his DOD as 24 April 1897.  I couldn’t find a death registration on freebmd so perhaps he died abroad. 

Comment by Sally Davis: although Isabel may not have known her nephew very well, his death must have been a sad occasion for her.  Charles Verney Lace was only 37, and had no children, meaning that although Isabel’s father had many descendants, from 1897 on there was no possibility of any of them having his surname.


JULY and AUGUST 1897

Isabel’s translation of The Cloud upon the Sanctuary was serialised in Lucifer.


Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine volume XX numbers 119 and 120: Isabel’s translation of The Cloud...



Isabel’s painting The Enchantress had probably been sold.  GD member Frederick Leigh Gardner had seen it and told Isabel that he’d liked to own it one day.

Source: Warburg Institute Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73 - a letter from Isabel to Frederick Leigh Gardner.  The corner where the address and date had been has been cut away; but a handwritten note by Gerald Yorke says it was written on 11 November 1897.  Yorke doesn’t say why he’s so sure of the date but perhaps it was because he had noted down what was on the corner that was cut away.

Comment from Sally: it’s not clear from the letter exactly when Gardner had seen The Enchantress.  Isabel had exhibited it in Liverpool in 1883 and in Dublin in 1885 and not since; so I’m not sure why it should be mentioned in a letter written so much later.  Perhaps it hadn’t sold in the 1880s and Gardner had seen it in Isabel’s studio more recently.  Gardner was a stockbroker - he could easily have afforded to buy a painting by Isabel.  But he hadn’t bought this one; nor had Isabel given it to him as a gift.  The text of the letter reads as if Isabel no longer had the painting in her possession.  So presumably, someone else had bought it.



Isabel had a pupil.

Source: Warburg Institute Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73 - the same letter from Isabel to Frederick Leigh Gardner that I refer to immediately above this entry; probably written 11 November 1897.

Comment by Sally: Isabel mentions that as an artist she has a pupil as a glancing reference in a letter about other subjects.  I haven’t found any other reference to this pupil, so I can’t say who it was or how long the arrangement lasted.


LATE 1890s

Isabel was living at 90 Canning Street.

Comment by Sally Davis: whether Isabel was in Edinburgh or Liverpool I can’t say for sure.  I looked on streetmap, hoping to find that Edinburgh hadn’t got such a street, but it had.  I suppose I favour it being the street in Liverpool that’s meant - Isabel had spent her childhood further down the street.  If it’s the one in Edinburgh that’s meant, it’s to the west of the Prince’s Street Gardens.

Source for the street but not the town: Theosophical Society membership register though there’s no precise date.


VERY DIFFICULT TO DATE but likely to be 1898 at the earliest

Isabel went to a talk by Ebenezer Howard, and got involved with the garden city movement.

Source for her going to the talk: Memorabilia p99 but the date of the talk is a problem.  Isabel remembers it as being during her time living in London; which she left in 1891.

Comment by Sally Davis: all the sources I’ve seen for Ebenezer Howard suggest that he did not publicise his garden cities scheme until shortly before his book on the subject was published – To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform London: Swan Sonnenschein 1898.  I really think Isabel must have got the date of the talk wrong, because she says that at the end of it, she paid 1 shilling for a share in the company that was being set up to build a garden city; and did some publicity work for the scheme.  Two companies were founded to raise money for a garden city; but not until 1902 – so see 1902 for the next instalment.


DURING 1900                       

After not exhibiting any art works for several years, Isabel was preparing for a one-woman show.

Source: Memorabilia p279.

Comment by Sally: a one-person exhibition is a great honour for any artist and during Isabel’s lifetime it was almost unheard of for a woman to be offered one.  Unfortunately Isabel doesn’t mention where the exhibition was going to be held.  I’d bet on it being planned for either Edinburgh or Liverpool, but it doesn’t really matter all that much, because the show never took place.



After almost thirty years as vicar of Temple Ewell in Kent, Isabel’s brother-in-law Rev John Turnbull (husband of her sister Helena) became rector of Great Linford Buckinghamshire.  He remained in post there until his death in 1922 and his children continued to live in the area after the death of both their parents.


Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen on web so no volume number visible, but p244 in that volume.



Isabel seems to have been between addresses yet again at this time, and had put most of her possessions into store in Edinburgh while she went on her annual visit to Mrs Atwood in Yorkshire.  While she was away, a fire in the Edinburgh storage warehouse destroyed virtually everything she owned, including - most catastrophically of all - most of her finished paintings and all the paraphernalia that surrounds making art - sketches, notebooks, easels, paint brushes, paints etc.  Her friend Andrew Cattanach went to rescue what he could, but all he was able to save were two trunks of books.  When she claimed on her insurance for her lost possessions, she got £500 and a lecture on being under-insured.

Source: Memorabilia p181, pp279-280.

Comments by Sally Davis: no amount of money could make up for the loss of the results of thirty years of painting. 


Andrew Petri Cattanach and his wife Margaret were members of the TS’s Scottish Lodge; Andrew was its secretary and its librarian.  Andrew was also a GD member though Margaret never joined.  In 1901 Andrew was sent by his employer, the Edinburgh paper manufacturer Cowan and Co, to work in their London office.  He and Margaret stayed in England until Andrew retired in 1931. 

Information on Andrew Petri Cattanach from Kenneth Jack.  Kenneth has written a series of biographies of Scottish freemasons, including some of freemasons who were also in the GD. 



All my files on Isabel end on a tragic note!  THIS IS THE END OF THE THIRD OF MY FILES ON THE LIFE-BY-DATES OF ISABEL DE STEIGER.  The first two in the sequence cover 1836 to December 1872; and 1873 to February 1888.  The last in the set of four covers the period after the fire: summer 1900 to Isabel’s death in February 1927.


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; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; 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.





18 September 2017



Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: