ISABEL DE STEIGER (1836-1927) This part of my life-by-dates begins in early 1890. It covers her move back to Liverpool in 1891 and ends part-way through 1894 with her moving to Edinburgh.
BIG UPDATE JANUARY 2023 on this period in Isabel’s life.
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.
OVER THE HOLIDAY CHRISTMAS 1889/NEW YEAR 1890
Isabel contributed £1 in response to Light’s latest appeal for money.
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. Small ads pi issue of Sat 4 January 1890.
Comments by Sally Davis: although the Eclectic Publishing Company was closely associated with the London Spiritualist Alliance, it was a separate organisation and couldn’t call on LSA’s membership fees to help it make ends meet. Like so many similar magazines, Light was always short of funds.
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.
18 JANUARY 1890
A letter from Isabel appeared in Light discussing the problems of getting old “happily and wisely”.
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 of Sat 18 January 1890 pp34-35
Comments from Sally Davis: the subject of how spiritualists could face growing old had been a theme in Light for a while. Isabel was replying to a letter from her friend Ann Judith Penny, published in Light on 4 January 1890, wishing that Mrs Penny had come up with more suggestions. Isabel was a few weeks short of her 54th birthday in January 1890; but being 54 then was a great deal older than being it now and Isabel might reasonably be expecting to have only a few years left in her.
TUESDAY 21 JANUARY 1890
Isabel went to a London Spiritualist Alliance conversazione at St James’s Hall.
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 of Sat 25 January 1890 p43. Other guests that evening included a “Miss Bates” who might be future GD member Emily Katharine Bates. On p46, two talks by Isabel were included in the list of LSA meetings due during 1890; but that was a mistake by Light’s back-room staff – she’d given both of them during 1889.
15 FEBRUARY 1890
A letter in Light from Isabel criticised the spiritualist Sunday schools known as Lyceum schools for lax discipline. She also criticised more orthodox Sunday schools for stuffing the children with “other people’s ideas” rather than helping their minds to grow, a process she likened to gardening.
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 of Sat 5 February 1890 pp82-83.
Comments by Sally Davis: the Lyceum schools were not something Isabel knew about from personal experience. As usual she was responding to a previous letter; this time one by a Mr J Robinson who couldn’t understand why more spiritualists didn’t send their children to them.
3pm 22 FEBRUARY 1890
A memorial service for Anna Bonus Kingsford was held at the Steinway Hall.
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 of 15 February 1890 pi in the small ads. Issue of 1 March 1890 p106 a short account of the event. Only two names were mentioned in connection with it: Charles Carleton Massey, who “presided” over it; and George Chainey who made a speech. The hall had been full.
Comments by Sally Davis: oh, how I would love to see a guest list, but I daresay one wasn’t kept, as admission was by visiting card, rather than by invitation. Though it was described as a memorial service, it was organised more like a typical evening meeting of the time, with Chainey’s speech, about his travels around the world promoting Kingsford’s work, as its main focus. If the afternoon had any religious elements, Light’s account didn’t mention them; and Steinway Hall was not a particularly appropriate place for them. I can’t imagine Isabel missing the memorial service; she’s more likely to have helped organise it and perhaps even instigated it.
For more on George Chainey see the previous file in this life-by-dates sequence, entry for 10 December 1889. Chainey was a relatively recent, very active, convert to spiritualism.
Over the next few weeks, the reissue of Kingsford’s works by publisher George Redway was advertised in Light.
25 FEBRUARY 1890
Isabel went to another meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance. Also there were GD members or future GD members Henry Pullen Burry (though not his wife Rose); Alexander James and Ann Rule Carden; and Mrs Jeffreys, mother of GD member Louisa Wynn ffoulkes.
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 of Sat 8 March 1890 p119.
11 FEBRUARY 1890
Isabel attended another meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance; this time to hear Edmund Dawson Rogers talk on Perplexities.
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 of 15 March 1890 p131; Isabel was the only GD member at this meeting.
10 MAY 1890
An article by Isabel was published in Light in which she put forward some eugenics-orientated views on how to deal with murderers.
Comments by Sally Davis: beginning with Isabel having sent in an article rather than a letter – that was unusual for her. It’s not too strong to describe the trial of Florence Maybrick for the murder by arsenic poisoning of her husband James, as having convulsed the nation. The morning after the end of the trial, the Times described her conviction as a great surprise, in the face of such conflicting evidence. She had been sentenced to death and at that time English law had no procedure for appeals in criminal cases. Petitions to the Government were soon being prepared, asking the Home Secretary to advise the Queen to commute the sentence, or even to overturn the verdict; and the sentence was reduced to life with penal servitude. The wider aspects of the case didn’t go away, however, and Isabel was replying to a request by the editor of Light for its readers to sign a petition against capital punishment.
It’s likely that Isabel had taken a more than usual interest in the trial of Mrs Maybrick: the murder, if it was one, had taken place in Aigburth, the suburb of Liverpool where Isabel had lived in the first years of her marriage; and the trial had taken place in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall, which Isabel must have visited many times.
Isabel wrote her article under the impression that the petition she was being asked to sign had been put together by Light’s owners, but an editorial the following week explained that that was not the case. Editor Stainton Moses didn’t say where the petition had come from. However, Emma Hardinge Britten, editor of the Manchester-based spiritualist magazine The Two Worlds had also received a copy; she told her readers that it had been prepared by a group in Newcastle-upon-Tyne who were campaigning to have the death penalty abolished.
In her article, Isabel wrote that she was inclined to sign the petition, but what she really wanted to say was that a better approach to the problem of what to do about murderers was (I quote Isabel and they are her italics) to “prevent the birth and life of future murderers”; that is a basic argument of eugenics, and when a Eugenics Society was founded in England, Isabel joined it.
Did Isabel sign the petition? She would have had to go to Light’s offices by Charing Cross station to do that, and people’s busy lives being what they are… Ann Judith Penny wrote in to Light praising the “clear-sighted tranquillity of [Isabel’s] reasoning”. Isabel’s argument hadn’t persuaded Mrs Penny, however; she wrote that she definitely wouldn’t be signing the petition, on the grounds that having no death penalty would only increase the general level of violence in society.
Stainton Moses’ editorial explaining that it was not Light’s petition also ticked Isabel off for making her article too long; and whether for this or other reasons, there were no more articles or letters from Isabel in Light in 1890.
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 of 10 May1890 pp224-225: Isabel’s article Capital Punishment. Issue of 17 May 1890 p233 M A Oxon [Stainton Moses]’ editorial. Issue of 24 May 1890 p256: Ann Judith Penny’s response. In the issue of 31 May 1890 p267 there was a letter from Eliza Lutley Boucher, also replying to Isabel’s article. I mention it because although Boucher was writing from Boulogne-sur-Mer I think I remember previous letters from her to Light having an address in Bedford Park, so she and Isabel may have been acquainted.
See www.iapsop.com for The Two Worlds issue of 2 May 1890 p290 where Emma Hardinge Britten as editor reprints an article originally in the Manchester Sunday Chronicle about capital punishment, which was still in the news. Below it, Britten mentions receiving a copy of the petition and where it had come from.
Coverage of the verdict and reprieve from the Times:
- on the unexpected verdict in the trial of Florence Maybrick: Thurs 8 August 1890 p7.
- on a petition set up by barristers on the northern circuit arguing for mercy because of the “great conflict of medical testimony as to the cause of death”: Fri 9 August 1890 p3.
- reporting that the Home Secretary had advised Queen Victoria to commute Mrs Maybrick’s sentence; partly because the prosecution had failed even to prove beyond reasonable doubt that James Maybrick had died of arsenic poisoning: Fri 23 August 1890.
- reporting the delivery of the reprieve at Walton Gaol, where Florence Maybrick had been shocked that the verdict hadn’t been overturned – that she would still have to serve a life sentence (which she did): Sat 24 August 1889 p16.
The phrase of Isabel’s article that I’ve quoted was also quoted in an article by Christine Ferguson of the University of Alberta, in which she argued that the aims of spiritualism and those of eugenics were closely aligned when it came to the improvement of humanity. Journal of Victorian Culture volume 12 number 1 Spring 2007 pp64-82: Eugenics and the Afterlife: Lombroso, [Conan] Doyle and the Spiritualist Purification of the Race. Published by Edinburgh University Press.
12 JUNE 1890
Isabel went to the London Spiritualist Alliance’s last meeting of the social season, at the Banqueting Hall of St James’s Hall. Quite a few other GD members and future members were also there: Rose Pullen Burry; Emily Katharine Bates; Alexander James and Ann Rule Carden and their daughter Pamela Carden (who in due course married the GD’s Percy Bullock); Jane Anna Davies (with her husband Rev Maurice Davies who was not a GD member); and Annie Procter.
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 of 21 June 1890 p298.
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 www.genesreunited.co.uk to Northampton Mercury issues of 25 July 1890 and 1 August 1890.
At www.highsheriffnorthamptonshire.com 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 archive.org 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.
16 DECEMBER 1890
After missing most of the London Spiritualist Alliance’s autumn meetings, Isabel went to the last one of the year, to hear A E Waite’s talk The Interior Life from the Standpoint of the Mystics. Also at that meeting were GD members Alexander James and Ann Rule Carden.
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 of 20 December 1890 p624. Charlotte Despard was also at this meeting.
Comment by Sally Davis: please see her wikipedia page for the extraordinary life of Charlotte Despard, née French (1844-1939). I couldn’t begin to do her justice and I’m not going to make the attempt, because my mind boggles at the thought of her and Isabel getting on. Certainly, Isabel doesn’t mention her, even to criticise her, in Memorabilia. I don’t suppose they got beyond being introduced, if as far.
MARCH 1891 TO ?AUTUMN 1891 ?SPRING 1892
Isabel was very excited by the serialisation of GD member John William Brodie-Innes’ book The True Church of Christ: Exoteric and Esoteric. It helped her see a way to reconcile inner spiritual needs that had seemed in conflict. When the serialisation of the book was finished, in October 1892, she wrote a long letter to Light which was part book-review, part a statement of her own new position.
Comments by Sally Davis: Isabel had been brought up an Evangelical Christian but after the death of her husband in December 1872 she never attended church services regularly again. She developed a loathing of any kind of religious dogma and saw the Christian churches (Protestant and Catholic) as obsessed with outward conformity and as exercising their authority by insisting on belief in precepts devoid of inner meaning. Her occult researches in the late 1870s had led her to believe that your spirituality was a personal thing and could incorporate understanding gleaned from many different religions. Belonging to a church was not necessary, and being a practising Christian handicapped spiritual growth. Meeting Anna Bonus Kingsford and in the 1880s being privy to the ideas that were published as The Perfect Way had caused Isabel to step back from those extreme positions. Kingsford had been moving towards a spirituality that encompassed both a Christianity based on the life and teachings of Jesus; and the mysticism of the ancient Mysteries. She had died in 1888 with the process unfinished, and since then people like Isabel, who wanted to believe in both, had been struggling. Reading her friend John William Brodie-Innes’ book, Isabel felt that he had hit on a formula that could work for her: seeing the Christian church as having two aspects, an inner one personal to the individual, and an outer one involving many individuals believing together. Isabel still thought that the Christian churches peddled a debased shadow of Christ’s teachings, but after reading the serialisation she was prepared to agree with Brodie-Innes that down in the depths of current Christian dogma still lurked a remnant of the ancient Mysteries, making it possible to be both a Christian and a hermeticist.
An essay by Anna Bonus Kingsford’s collaborator Edward Maitland began at the end of Lucifer volume 8 – The Esoteric Christ. Though Isabel will have read this as well as Brodie-Innes’ work, it didn’t make the same impact on her, despite the two essays covering some of the same ground.
The serialisation that Isabel was so pleased to read appeared in Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine volume 8 March-August 1891 at one chapter per month:
- pp23-28: Introduction
- pp141-45: Astral and Visible
- pp210-216: The Voice of the Church
- pp321-327: The Life Principle of the Church
- pp404-410: The Karma of the Church
- pp494-99: His Substance.
And Edward Maitland’s The Esoteric Christ: issue of 15 July 1891 pp404-10; issue of 15 August 1891 pp470-76.
The Brodie-Innes serialisation continued in Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine volume 9, September 1891-February 1892, sole editor Annie Besant. London: Theosophical Publishing Society of 7 Duke Street Adelphi:
- 15 September 1891 beginning p74
- 15 October 1891; the last, beginning p151
Perhaps the Maitland essay did too; but I haven’t found a copy of Lucifer volume 9 to check that out. When I ordered volume 9 at the British Library it didn’t arrive; and as at December 2022 I haven’t found one online. When I ordered volume 8 at the British Library, I was told the BL had lost its copy; but you can now read it at the Gutenberg Project website, www.gutenberg.org.
The Brodie-Innes serialisation was published as a book in 1892: The True Church of Christ, Exoteric and Esoteric. London: Theosophical Publishing Society.
Isabel’s review of Brodie-Innes’ book:
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 12 January-December 1892. Issue of Sat 29 October 1892 pp525-26. She didn’t mention Edward Maitland’s article at all in it.
21 MARCH 1891
A letter from Isabel appeared in Light reviewing a book published recently by her friend Francesca Arundale: The Idea of Re-Birth.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 11 January-December 1891 issue of 21 March 1891 pp136-137. Massey’s talk: Light volume 11 issue of 7 February 1891 p71.
Comments from Sally Davis: Light did do reviews, of course, but not of every book its publishers received, and not always at any length. Isabel felt Arundale’s hard work deserved more, and decided to make sure that her book got it. The majority of the book was Arundale’s translation from the German of an essay by Karl Heckel in which he considered the history of reincarnation as an idea. In her Introduction, Arundale said that Heckel had concluded that reincarnation was a core belief in most ancient religions, and that the doctrine of original sin was Christianity’s variation on it. In her letter-cum-review Isabel wrote that she was going to send to Light a piece of work of her own on Karl Heckel. She didn’t do so, as far as I can see, perhaps because she had read in Light that Charles Carleton Murray was giving a talk on the book at the Christo-Theosophical Society. She might also have reflected that whatever she wrote about Heckel might be seen as criticising Arundale’s work; and she wouldn’t want to do that so publically to a friend.
Francesca Arundale’s book: The Idea of Re-Birth… Preface by A P Sinnett. Introduction and translation of Heckel by Francesca Arundale. London: Kegan Paul and Co 1890 but I think not easily available until 1891 – the BL date stamp was 13FE91.
On the day of the 1891 census Isabel was still at 58 Blomfield Road in Maida Vale. 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 and Isabel’s nieces Theodosia and Josephine Lace. Constantia had scaled down her household somewhat, probably after nephew Charles Verney Lace’s marriage in 1885: she now employed only a cook, a housemaid and a kitchen maid. 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 on census day with their unmarried daughter Blanche. As it was still term-time their son Edmund Gerald was away at Westminster School. Their 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 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. Blavatsky had become ill around 24 April and seemed to be making a recovery before suffering a sudden relapse.
Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume 8 March-August 1891. Issue of 15 June 1891 pp267-71: an account of Blavatsky’s illness and death by Laura Cooper, sister of Isabel Cooper-Oakley, who had helped nurse her.
Information on the date of the death 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.
SUMMERS FROM 1891
Comments by Sally Davis: the pattern may have begun before this year but from 1891 onwards it is easier to spot in Isabel’s life. She would rent a house or some rooms from the autumn to the late spring; then leave that address, putting most of her possessions into storage while she either went abroad, or went to stay and go on holiday with Mary Ann Atwood. She did not usually go back in the autumn to the place she had left in the spring. 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. She might have stayed in London for a few months in 1902 but she never lived there again.
BETWEEN APRIL AND AUTUMN 1891
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. Perhaps she was in Liverpool for a few months that year, but the census and other sources show her still living in London until mid-1891.
Comment by Sally Davis on this big decision: 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 www.globalfinancialdata.com. 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 faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu. 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.
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, were 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.
WHILE ISABEL WAS LIVING IN LIVERPOOL - that is, from mid-1891 to mid-1894
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 once a month, but I imagine that was an important point in her decision to give up going there.
WHILE ISABEL WAS LIVING IN LIVERPOOL 1891-1894
Isabel got to know the Dubourg brothers, who shared her occult interests. In 1924 Isabel named one of them - John Robert Henry - as one of her two executors.
Comment by Sally Davis: as of November 2022 I think she knew the Dubourg family by autumn 1893. I can’t think who else could have lent her a copy of the British Medical Journal.
Source for the BMJ: Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue Sat 4 November 1893 pp530-531: a letter from Isabel with the title Of Magnetism in which she mentioned having consulted the British Medical Journal issue of 20 October 1893.
Source for John Robert Henry Dubourg as Isabel’s executor: Will of Isabelle de Steiger dated 1924 and 1926.
Comment and account of the Dubourg family by Sally Davis. Firstly I’d like to thank 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 another friend of Isabel, Léonie Topham Steele, through the Gueyral family of France and Algiers.
John Robert Henry (who was known as Henry) and his older brother William Ernest Dubourg were sons of Augustin Jules Dubourg who had come to Britain to work as a teacher of French. Augustin had arrived in Scotland 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, and both his sons studied medicine there; but when they had qualified as doctors, they both chose to return to Liverpool to set up in general practice. They both lived in Liverpool until they died. When Henry and William Ernest were studying medicine at Edinburgh University in the early 1890s, Robert Henry Felkin, GD member and future founder of Stella Matutina, was on the medical faculty staff, teaching tropical medicine. Both the Dubourg brothers joined Stella Matutina, so they must have kept in touch with the Felkins.
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.
R A Gilbert’s GD 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 Biographies: Rolls of Honour published 1917 p123 entry for John R H Dubourg.
GMC Registers for Henry and William Ernest Dubourg.
PROBABLY WHILE ISABEL WAS LIVING IN LIVERPOOL
Isabel got to know Oliver Lodge and his wife Mary née Marshall.
Comments by Sally Davis: I say ‘probably’ because in Memorabilia Isabel doesn’t mention the Lodges until she’s talking about 1900. However, I find it difficult to believe that she didn’t meet them in Liverpool, where they would surely have been moving in the same social circles. Oliver Joseph Lodge and Mary Marshall were both younger than Isabel, being born in 1851 (to her 1836). They had both grown up in the Midlands and had married in 1877. Oliver was appointed Professor of Physics at University College Liverpool (now the University of Liverpool) in 1881. He was granted several patents for the results of his work, and with his sons set up Lodge Brothers to develop, make and sell spark plugs, which Oliver had invented; the firm was in business until the 1960s.
On census day 1891 Oliver and Mary were living at 21 Waverley Road, a short walk from the house Isabel would rent in Fern Grove. By 1893 they had moved even closer to Isabel, to 2 Grove Park. Though by the end of the 19th century middle-class families were getting noticeably smaller, the Lodge’s family was big: 7 children at home on census day 1891; one away at school; and another four to come between 1892 and 1896. Mary was managing her busy household with the help of a cook, parlour maid, housemaid and a nurse.
Isabel had more in common with the Lodges than you would suppose from the very different daily lives they led. Both Oliver and Mary were spiritualists though as a scientist Oliver wanted evidence that the claims of its mediums were genuine: he was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and a good friend of two of its leading activists, Frederic Myers and Edmund Gurney. In 1889 Oliver Lodge helped with the Society’s investigation of the American medium Leonora Piper; he became convinced that Mrs Piper’s abilities were genuine. In addition to this interest common to Isabel and both the Lodges, Mary was an artist; though I think not a professional one. A little more on Mary, then, as she shared Isabel’s knowledge of the work and joys of painting. Mary’s father, Alexander Marshall, had died before she was born. Her mother, also called Mary, had married again in 1852. The older Mary’s second husband, the man the younger Mary probably thought of as her father, was William Tomkinson of Newcastle-under-Lyme; a businessman trading in guano (used as fertiliser) and shares.
Sources for the Lodges:
Wikipedia on Oliver Joseph Lodge born Stoke-on-Trent 1851; died 1940. B Sc London 1875; D Sc 1877.
The archives at Liverpool University have notebooks on Oliver Lodge’s physics research and there are also items about him in the University Archives and their Rathbone Archives. See //libguides.liverpool.ac.uk.
There’s an obituary at //royalsocietypublishing.org taken from the RS’s Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society volume 3 number 10, 1 December 1941. Oliver Lodge was elected FRS in 1887.
Lodge Brothers and Co. There’s plenty on the web about the firm and the spark plugs are still available for use in cars that are now classic. My partner Roger Wright remembers that his father’s Daimler Special Sports car had spark plugs by Lodge Brothers; that would have been in the 1960s. A good account of Lodge Brothers, with some photographs, is at www.thepotteries.org; and there’s also information at www.gsparkplug.com. Some of the products are in the Science Museum collections.
Procedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume 9 1893 and 1894. Published for the Society in London by Kegan Paul Trench Trübner and Co. On p371 Oliver Lodge is listed as one of the members of the Society’s Council. On p384 Oliver Lodge D Sc, FRS is on the list of full members; at 2 Grove Park, Liverpool.
The sessions with Leonora Piper: see //psy-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk, the London Society for Psychical Research website. When Mrs Piper visited Britain in 1906 she spent part of her time staying with the Lodges in Birmingham.
Raymond Lodge was the only one of Oliver and Mary’s children to fight in World War 1. There’s long account of his life at www.bedales.org.uk including coverage of his time training at Great Crosby and in the trenches in Flanders. He was killed by shell fire near Ypres on 14 September 1915.
At //psy-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk, the London Society for Psychical Research website, there’s some information on the involvement of the whole Lodge family in attempting to contact Raymond after he was killed. Letters from Raymond both before and after his death were published in Raymond or Life and Death by Sir Oliver Lodge. New York: George H Doran and Co 1916. It became best-seller. You can read it at www.gutenberg.org and download it as a pdf.
At //mimsy.bham.ac.uk there’s a small reproduction of what is thought to be a photo of Mary, Lady Lodge. There’s a note saying that in the attempts to receive messages from Raymond after he was killed, the Lodges employed the medium Gladys Osborne Leonard (1882-1968).
Alas, there is nothing about Isabel in Oliver Lodge’s Past Years: An Autobiography of Sir Oliver Lodge. Hodder and Stoughton 1931. Myers and Gurney: p275 and pp276-77. Mrs Piper’s visit to the Lodges: pp283-84.
The Lodges are not mentioned often in Memorabilia so it’s hard to know how long an active friendship lasted between them and Isabel. However, Isabel was still writing to Oliver Lodge in 1916: see //archivesearch.lib.cam.ac.uk/repositories/2/archival_objects/632080 – four letters in archives of the Society for Pyschical Research, Cambridge University; which contain Sir Oliver Lodge’s correspondence and papers.
On the family: freebmd; census returns 1891, 1911.
At www.natgould.org some info on William Tomkinson and a photo of him with Mary his wife and Mary Marshall his step-daughter.
Because Oliver and Mary’s daughter Rosalynde (born 1896) married Sir Henry Yarrow, 2nd baronet and chairman of the family ship-building firm, the children are all listed at www.thepeerage.com. Only three of the twelve married: the eldest son Oliver; and the youngest two daughters, Rosalynde and Barbara who must be twins. Barbara married Philip Godlee whose mother was Mary Sophia Crosfield.
Probate Registry entries for Mary Lodge 1929; and Oliver Joseph Lodge 1940.
?WHILE ISABEL WAS LIVING IN LIVERPOOL though it must be in or after 1894 and to muddy the water further, in Memorabilia pxix Isabel remembers it as happening in the mid-1880s
Isabel read Froude’s edition of the letters of Erasmus.
Comment by Sally Davis: the thoughts of Erasmus gave Isabel more confirmation that there could be room for mysticism in Christianity; and that there had been room for it in the past.
Isabel saw Erasmus as encouraging deep reflection and as seeing the accumulation of knowledge as an intellectual equivalent of 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 just remind readers here that Isabel was writing her memoirs long after her diaries had been destroyed (see 1900 for how), so she couldn’t check up on dates like this
PROBABLY AUTUMN 1891
Isabel 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 in many of her writings Isabel displays the common attitude of the Victorian middle-classes towards people they perceived as being of a lower class than themselves: a mixture of often overt contempt, and fear of the power that such large numbers of people could have, acting together. There’s a good example of that in her letter to Light published 14 November 1892; see below.
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.
14 NOVEMBER 1891
A letter from Isabel added to the attacks on theosophy being made in the wake of Blavatsky’s death; criticising both her and Annie Besant.
Comments by Sally Davis: I have been astonished by how little time it took for very negative accounts of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky to appear in the press. As early as 30 May (Blavatsky had died on the 8th) Light had published a letter jointly signed by many of her inner circle, objecting to what was being published (though not published by Light, where the death was hardly covered at all). Annie Besant was leading the fight-back on behalf of the TS’s members.
Isabel began her letter by giving her recollections of how the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society had first been set up; and remembering Blavatsky as a woman of extraordinary talents. She was confirming what had been said in a letter that had been published in the Daily Chronicle but also, I think, looking back fondly to a time when TS members had studied eastern and western occultism equally and without dispute.
Isabel went on to make some very class-biased comments about morals, arguing that the masses of humanity needed to have morality imposed on them by law; but that the educated and exceptional could be allowed to decide their own morals. She included both Blavatsky and Annie Besant in the educated and exceptional group; but she then undermined her own argument, writing that in Blavatsky’s case, her decisions had sometimes led to problems for other TS members when they thought she was acting unwisely. Isabel admitted that Annie Besant had in the past accused her of meddling when Isabel had tried to change Blavatsky’s mind on something. Isabel’s loyalty to Blavatsky had been questioned, too, by other TS members, when Isabel had refused to join Blavatsky Lodge after discovering that no discussion of western hermeticism would be allowed at its meetings.
Isabel ended her letter by naming Annie Besant as the best candidate to lead the TS now that Blavatsky was gone. Her endorsement was unenthusiastic, however: she wrote that she wished Besant would be less noisy and dogmatic in her defence of Blavatsky and the mahatmas, and more humble about the limits of her own understanding. She went further, saying that Besant’s activities had made theosophy so successful that it was now attracting the wrong kind of people; perhaps she was thinking of those Socialists in the TS’s Liverpool Lodge. Isabel tried to soften the blow by saying she felt the same about the promoters of Christian Science but I doubt if it made Annie Besant any less annoyed to read Isabel’s views on her leadership of the TS in crisis.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 11 January-December 1891
- issue of 30 May 1891 p262 for the letter objecting to press coverage of Blavatsky. It was signed by – amongst others – GD founder William Wynn Westcott who was vice-president of Blavatsky Lodge, the lodge to which Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s inner circle all belonged.
- the letter to the Daily Chronicle had been published anonymously but had turned out to be by Isabel’s friend Charles Carleton Massey, a regular contributor to Light; it was reproduced with his name on it in Light on 3 October 1891 pp475-76.
- issue of 14 November 1891 pp548-49 Isabel’s letter: A Still Further Remonstrance – Theosophy.
Isabel again confirmed herself to be very much of her time when writing about the kind of person who made a good spiritualist medium. She also confessed she was not an astrologer.
Comments by Sally Davis and taking the astrology first: some knowledge of astrology was necessary to advance as a GD member to the point of being able to take its second initiation, into its second, inner order. That might be one reason why Isabel as an experienced occultist still took so long to reach that second initiation, which she was given as late as May 1896.
Isabel was writing to Light again after a gap of several months probably filled with work on her painting. She was agreeing with a recent letter by “JWB” that there was a particular type of person who made a good medium: someone in what the Victorian era called ‘delicate health’. If she had been an astrologer, Isabel wrote, she would have looked at their natal charts for the evidence. As she was not, she had used phrenology. In Isabel’s opinion, the skilled medium was pale of face and had a tendency to catch infectious diseases easily but recover well, if dosed with homoeopathic medicine or the medicines sold under the label ‘Count Mattei’ – the letter reads as if Isabel had been doing the nursing herself in some cases. He or she also had the “full and swelling brow” associated with genius types - Isabel must have been reading Hereditary Genius as well as some of the many books on phrenology. Her interest in heredity persisted; she joined the newly-formed Eugenics Society in 1909.
A note on Count Mattei’s remedies: they were being advertised regularly in Light at this time; but they were very controversial. Though nobody other than the Count and his employees knew exactly what they were made of, they seem to have been based on homoeopathy: the Count’s book on them was entitled – in eye-catching style – Electro-Homoeopathic Medicine. In 1894 GD member Robert Masters Theobald was struck off the medical register for continuing to prescribe and promote them in the face of the British Medical Association’s loud opposition.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 12 January-December 1892. Issue of Sat 11 June 1892 pp286-287 letter by Isabel: Health and Mediumship.
The first edition of Hereditary Genius - hugely influential, though now as discredited as Count Mattei’s remedies - was privately published by Francis Galton in London in 1869. A new edition was published by Macmillan and Co in 1892: perhaps Isabel read a copy of it to help her with her phrenological analyses.
Robert Masters Theobald was the translator of Count Mattei’s 1880 book on his remedies: Electro Homoeopathic Medicine: A New Medical System published 1888 London: David Stott.
Theobald being struck off the GMC Register: Chemist and Druggist volume 45 1894 p834; Times 1 December 1899 p11 in a report also announcing that Dr Theobald had been allowed back on the GMC list.
Had Isabel read this report in Light in 1890? If she had, it hadn’t lessened her faith in Count Mattei’s medicines:
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 of 8 November 1890 p537 a short letter with graphs from Alfred W Stokes who worked as a public analyst for the LCC and several local authorities in London. He had made a number of analytical tests on medicines sold under the Count Mattei label and could state that, “None of these fluids differ at all from water in any of their properties”.
Light published a letter from Isabel in which she described and to some extent analysed some of her own dreams.
Comments by Sally Davis: see 1836 in this life-by-dates for more details of Isabel’s birth chart; here I’ll just say that it has a lot of water in it. There’s a grand trine in water signs; and she has both Jupiter and Moon, in Cancer, at the bottom of the chart. So perhaps it was not surprising that she wrote “water has always been my dream”. Taking her cue from Paracelsus’ belief that our dreams reveal the state of our spiritual progress, she always wrote down what she could remember of her dreams. In her letter she described floating on the sea or swimming in it; being caught in storms and tidal waves; leaving harbours and approaching them – so much material for psychological analysis! Would she have been so honest, after Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams was published? - I think not. She ended her letter by referring to George du Maurier’s novel Peter Ibbetson, which had recently been published. The main plot of it was a relationship between a man and a woman who can only meet in the world of their dreams; Isabel thought the book might have been describing spirits meeting on the astral plane – perhaps Isabel did that in her dreams.
Though Freud’s Die Traumdeutung was still several years away; and a translation into English even further off (though of course Isabel could have read it in German) the large number of responses to her letter showed that the readers of Light, at least, were already convinced that their dreams had meaning which could be understood. Freud seems to have been plugging in to a wider interest in the subject. Articles on the psychology of dreams appeared in the Contemporary Review and The New Review at the end of 1892; perhaps Isabel’s letter had inspired the author of those.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 12 January-December 1892. Issue of Sat 20 August 1892 pp398-99: Symbolic Dream Vision. Isabel was, as so often, replying to something she had read in an earlier issue of Light, in this case a letter by “WS”. Over the next few weeks Isabel’s letter had responses from the poet and regular contributor to Light, Mary L Hankin; Lucy Hoyle writing from Brussels; and from Mary Everest Boole, another regular contributor; amongst others.
Issues of: 27 August 1892 p419 – Hankin; 3 September 1892 p430 two correspondents; 10 September 1892 p443 letter from “OTG”; issue of 17 September 1892 p455 – Hoyle and pp455-56 Boole. Just noting here that all the correspondents who were willing to put their name to their letter – rather than hide behind initials or a pseudonym – were women. Or is that just me noticing the women and not bothering with the men?! Light’s issue of 12 November 1892 p554 mentioned the two recent articles on dreams in its editorial; both articles were by Frederick Greenwood.
Peter Ibbetson. [A Novel] by George du Maurier. London: Osgood and McIlvaine  1892.
Die Traumdeutung by Sigmund Freud. Leipzig and Vienna: Franz Deuticke, dated 1900 but actually on sale late in 1899. At the time it was not particularly popular; it was only as understanding of psychoanalysis became more widespread that it began to be read and referred to more widely. The first English translation as The Interpretation of Dreams was by psychoanalyist A A Brill. Online I could see a 3rd edition from 1920 but I couldn’t find a first edition to date it.
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, with no particular method 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.
29 OCTOBER 1892
Isabel’s review of John William Brodie-Innes’ The True Church of Christ was published in Light.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke Street Adelphi. Volume 12 January-December 1892 issue of Sat 29 October 1892 pp525-26.
Comments by Sally Davis: see above, Spring-Autumn 1891, Isabel had read the serialisation of Brodie-Innes’ book in the theosophical magazine Lucifer volumes 8 and 9. However, when she wanted to make some public comments on it, she didn’t write to Lucifer, now solely controlled by Annie Besant; she wrote to Light instead. Light was her usual outlet for her opinions and ideas, especially while she was in Liverpool; but I think that by this time she had guessed she was not particularly welcome at Lucifer.
In her review-cum-comment on The True Church of Christ Isabel suggested a book that the readers of her letter might like to seek out if they wanted further information on the role of the Essenes in early Christianity. The book was E A Hitchcock’s Christ the Spirit and that illustrates how widely Isabel had been casting her net in search of spiritual enlightenment: Ethan Allen Hitchcock’s book was published in the USA and was already nearly 30 years old by the 1890s. It had not been published in the UK – the British Library still has no copy of it – so either Isabel found out about it somehow and was able to order a copy by post; or a kind friend, knowing of her interest, brought it back from the USA with them.
Christ, the Spirit: Being an Attempt to State the Primitive View of Christianity. By Ethan Allen Hitchcock. Published New York: James Miller 1864.
10 DECEMBER 1892
Isabel replied to some criticisms of her changed attitude towards Christianity made by very active theosophist T L Henly whom she will have remembered from 1888/89 at the Bedford Park Society.
Comment by Sally Davis: Henly had called Isabel to account for changing her mind. In her reply Isabel was happy to acknowledge that her attitudes had been wrong in the past. She knew much more now. She put in a plea for Christian clergy to study The Perfect Way and embrace once again the occultism that was originally an important part of Christian teaching.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published London: Eclectic Publishing Co Ltd of 2 Duke Street Adelphi. Volume 12 January-December 1892 issue of Sat 10 December 1892 pp607-08
14 JANUARY 1893
Perhaps writing quickly, Isabel had forgotten to sign the letter published in Light in December 1892 with her usual “FTS” – Fellow of the Theosophical Society. An editorial in Light wondered if she had actually resigned from the TS; a very natural conclusion given what Isabel’s letters had been saying recently. So Isabel wrote in again to correct the error. During her letter she may have invented a new occult term – theosophia. She also gave her opinion on the responsibilities of the occultist and the burdens that following the occult path could bring.
Comment from Sally Davis: in what turned into a very long letter, Isabel began by telling the editor of Light that she was still a TS member; and assuring Light’s readers that you didn’t have to give up Christianity for Buddhism to join the TS – an assurance they may well have needed, because writings to Light show how many of them were under the impression that you did have to. Once again harking back to the TS’s earliest years, Isabel explained that though “theosophia” – this new word - favoured western esotericism over eastern, she herself had reached theosophy from the east, setting out on her journey after reading Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled. Kingsford’s The Perfect Way had come later, leading Isabel to where she was now, able to see “the sublime meaning underlying common or orthodox Christianity”. Light’s editorial had also been surprised at Isabel’s sudden willingness to bow to the authority of the Church of England. The editor had been wrong there too, Isabel replied: she saw a difference between sacred authority and the temporal authoritarianism of the CofE. She said that an occultist friend had written to her warning her that rebellion against authority leads to anarchy. As she was definitely not a rebel, Isabel wrote, she now chose to submit to authority and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s; while still viewing current orthodox Christian teaching as “degraded”, and still feeling herself free to study other philosophies. In this connection she mentioned an article by Ann Judith Penny that Light had recently published, in which Mrs Penny had argued that it was up to the individual to decide whether they would submit to Church authority. Was it Mrs Penny who had warned Isabel where rebellion might lead? Isabel would have been horrified to think of herself as encouraging anarchy!
After saying she’d already gone on too long to write a reply to a recent letter by Edward Maitland, Isabel went on to continue the exchange she was having through Light’ s letters with T L Henly, who had written in saying that Isabel wanted to “enforce magic” on believers. Isabel denied being so authoritarian and asked: who had the right to enforce theological authority? - not giving a specific answer but hoping that whoever it was did at least have some wisdom to impart to his or her followers.
Isabel signed off her letter at that point but, worried that she hadn’t made her views sufficiently clear, added a long PS on magic. Knowing a great deal more than Henly was likely to about its pitfalls – a subject she returned to in future letters – Isabel pointed out the dangers of “knowledge without goodness” – head full, heart empty. Christ’s teachings could help prevent believers from becoming lost in the “astral realms of chaos and disorder” that magic could lead the unprepared into. Finally she warned Henly and Light’s readers that occult knowledge brought responsibility. It was a position of loneliness and self-reliance. It didn’t bring happiness.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors (who were the London Spiritualist Alliance) at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of Sat 14 January 1893 pp22-23 The True Church of Christ. The article by Ann Judith Penny that Isabel referred to was in Light volume 12 Issue of 24 December 1892 pp629-30 A J Penny: The Image.
25 FEBRUARY 1893
A letter from Isabel, in Light, contributed to a long-running debate on the Substance of Existence.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of Sat 25 February 1893 pp94-95. And Charles Strange’s reply: issue of Sat 11 March 1893 pp118-119.
Comment from Sally Davis: the occult, and philosophy, are essentially closed books to me. What would Isabel think of me?! So I’m not going to go into the details of Isabel’s views on this particularly arcane subject. I shall only note that, as so often, Isabel was replying to something she had read in Light, this time a letter from Charles Strange about the forces that had caused Creation. About the ongoing debate, Isabel wrote that there had been very little “reasonable thinking” in it so far; so she shouldn’t have been surprised when Mr Strange wrote a rather irritable reply refusing to get into an exchange of views with her. Though she shouldn’t have been surprised, I think Isabel would have been very sorry that Mr Strange refused to continue the discussion-by-letter. The frequency of her letters to Light at this time, and the length of some of them, suggest Isabel was missing the philosophically-inclined social life she had in London; where this sort of subject would be debated by a group of her friends in someone’s drawing-room.
It’s likely that if Isabel had still been living in London, she would have gone to hear W T Stead lecture on his occult experiences at a meeting of the London Spiritualist Alliance; on 14 March 1893. A crusading journalist and consequently a well-known public figure, Stead was an important capture for the spiritualist movement in a decade when enthusiasm for spiritualism was in decline. Unable to question and comment on Stead’s talk during the evening he gave it, all Isabel could do was write another letter to Light once she had read the text of what Stead had said.
15 APRIL 1893
Isabel’s response to what W T Stead had been doing was published in Light. She wrote as an experienced occultist giving advice to a newcomer.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors – who were the London Spiritualist Alliance - at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. For the talk and a list of the large number of guests at it: issue of Sat 25 March 1893 p134. The text of the talk was published in Light and over the next few weeks there were plenty of responses. Isabel’s own thoughts appeared in the issue of Sat 15 April 1893 pp177-178: Mr Stead’s Address.
Comments by Sally Davis: after praising Stead for speaking up so truthfully about his séances, Isabel wrote that – counter to what Stead had stated in his talk – it was not his physical body controlling his hand in a session of automatic writing; it was his astral body. She went on to say that reality exists on all planes of being, and to describe at length the three types of consciousness that exist in all individuals; which if he read her letter probably took Stead, as a newcomer to all this, way out of his depth.
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.
15 JULY 1893
In a letter in Light Isabel entered into another subject that had been featuring in the magazine for some time: Conditional Immortality. Once again, she was replying to a letter in Light from T L Henly.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of Sat 15 July 1893 pp335-336.
Comment by Sally Davis: Isabel’s contributed to the debate about gaining immortality by asserting her belief that it would involve the physical body; and that it would take place on this planet. The knowledge of their immortality would come via revelation to each individual when they were ready. Isabel warned those seeking a short cut to that point via occult study that they risked “knowing too much evil before the good...is attained”.
12 AUGUST 1893
A letter from Isabel in Light showed her continuing to reflect on the dangers facing newcomers to spiritualism and occultism.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of Sat 12 August 1893 pp383-384.
Comment by Sally Davis: on the dangers of automatic writing, and expecting to receive the whole Truth at once, Isabel quoted Eliphas Lévi’s History of Magic: as an “enlightened occultist”, Lévi’s opinion was worth Stead and other newcomers to occultism taking into account. Lévi’s Histoire de la Magie had not been published in English yet, so if he was going to take Isabel’s advice Stead would have had to read it in French, as she had done. Though they were not readily available in England Lévi’s various writings were known to the members of the GD.
Histoire de la Magie by Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-75) writing as Eliphas Lévi, published Paris 1860.
Isabel’s friend GD member A E Waite published the first English translation of Histoire de la Magie: The History of Magic London: William Rider and Son 1913.
For more on GD members’ Parisian connections, and accounts of several French occultists who influenced the magic of the GD, see Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Epoque by Tobias Churton. Rochester Vermont and Toronto Canada: Inner Traditions 2016.
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 taking over from Ann Judith Penny as Mary Ann Atwood main companion/pupil; and spending more of her time in summer with Mrs Atwood (see below for how that happened). In the following years, Isabel’s commitment to esotericism grew, and she had less and less time for her art.
8 SEPTEMBER 1893
Isabel’s niece Josephine Constance Stanley Lace married Herbert Arthur Sutton of Kelham Hall Newark. Josephine was the younger daughter of Joshua Verney Lovett Lace, Isabel’s elder brother.
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 www.thepeerage.com: 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 www.genesreunited.co.uk to Nottinghamshire Guardian of 10 September 1893: announcement of the wedding, at Christleton parish church near Chester.
For Kelham Hall and Kelham House, see www.newarkadvertiser.co.uk 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 www.picturethepast.org.uk 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.
Isabel began to read W T Stead’s new occult magazine, Borderland.
Comment by Sally Davis: presumably Isabel became a subscriber after reading what Stead had said at the London Spiritualist Alliance in March. She was hoping that its existence showed that the masses were – finally – ready to receive the full Truth by divine revelation; and that there would now be “an upheaval of popular thought”. Alas, I think she was mistaken, and Borderland ceased publication after only four years.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of Sat 15 July 1893 pp335-336.
Borderland was published quarterly. Volume 1 number 1 appeared in October 1893; its last issue, Volume 4 number 4 came out on 4 October 1897.
4 NOVEMBER 1893
A letter in Light from Isabel speculated on the affect of magnetism on the human body.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of Sat 4 November 1893 pp530-531: Of Magnetism.
Comment by Sally Davis: as usual, Isabel had been set thinking by items she had read in Light during the last few weeks; a letter from Mary Everest Boole in the issue of 23 Septemer 1893 and an article published in 21 October’s issue, particular phrases in which had puzzled her. Magnetism, its affects on the body, and the use of it to cure illness, was very much in the news and as part of preparing her response, Isabel read the British Medical Journal issue of 20 October 1893, which must have been lent to her, probably by one of the Dubourg brothers. She had also looked again at the diagrams in Anna Bonus Kingsford’s The Perfect Way, and suggested in her letter that the writer of the 21 October 1893 article do so too, as the first diagram – of a man in perfect health of body, soul and spirit – had (according to Isabel) all the molecules of his body “polarised centrally, the magnetic conditions being in perfect order”, creating a complete balance of all three that few individuals could expect to achieve in their life. The second diagram showed a more typical human body, under completely different magnetic conditions and with body, soul and spirit out of balance. Isabel ended her letter with one of her negative comments on the modern world, by saying that modern education made individuals less likely to achieve that complete balance than the education of the past.
11 NOVEMBER 1893
An article by regular writer Quaestor Vitae appeared in Light suggesting that on the principle of macrocosm equals microcosm (as above, so below) Man must be the Universe in microcosm, with the Universe as a Universal Mind and each person as an individual mind. The article really caught Isabel’s imagination and her reply was published in Light on 9 December 1893.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Quaestor Vitae: issue of Sat 11 November 1893 pp535-36, An Alternative View of Re-Incarnation. Isabel’s reply: issue of Sat 9 December 1893 p590.
Comments by Sally Davis: Quaestor Vitae was arguing that if Man was the Universe in microcosm, then his body must be penetrated by the other planes of existence including the astral plane, which he or she saw as “continuous” with the physical world. Death could bring the human individual into closer contact with the astral plane. If these things were true, Quaestor Vitae argued, an individual human could reach a level when he or she would be able to realise that his or her mind was a part of the greater whole; when he or she realised this, they would achieve “at-one-ment” and be released from the cycle of reincarnation and karma.
Isabel was delighted with Quaestor Vitae’s ideas, describing his or her argument as “very able, lucid and profoundly interesting”. It had given her much food for thought and she hoped Quaestor Vitae would publish more on the same theme. In her letter Isabel cited what my partner Roger Wright says is the Buddhist position on karma and reincarnation: that the aim of any life is to escape from the cycle of being reborn to play out your karma; once you have made that escape, there is actually no need for reincarnation. Isabel declared in her letter that karma must be true because it was the only explanation for why one individual was born rich and another born poor. I will not comment further on that typically Conservative attitude.
One last thing: Light was publishing a great deal by the writer Quaestor Vitae at the time of his or her article on reincarnation. I have no real evidence to back up my hunch, but I’ve wondered for years whether Quaestor Vitae was Oswald Murray, who chose the motto Quaestor Lucis when he was initiated into the GD at the Isis-Urania temple in July 1892. Later in the 1890s he was living in Paris and was active in the GD’s Ahathoor temple there.
18 DECEMBER 1893
Ann(e) Judith Penny died. Isabel took on Mrs Penny’s old role in Mrs Atwood’s life, that of “chief and only correspondent”.
Comments by Sally Davis: catching up with Ann(e) Judith Penny, whom Isabel had known at least by letter since 1881, Light’s first year of publication – the magazine had brought them together. Articles by Mrs Penny had been published regularly in Light since 1881. Their number increased in 1892 before drying up in the spring of 1893. Mrs Penny was making a big effort to get all her thoughts into the public domain before she died. Around 1890 she had had an attack of illness so severe she hadn’t been expected to survive it. She had done so, but in pain and increasingly disabled. She was often not well enough to see visitors and it’s not clear from Isabel’s Memorabilia when she and Mrs Penny had last been able to meet. As Mrs Penny’s condition deteriorated she lost the use of her hands and had been dictating her articles to her nieces, Louisa Susan and Caroline Brown, who lived with her and were her carers.
Though Ann Judith Penny was understood by her friends and the readers of Light as an authority on the works of Jacob Böhme/Boehme (1575-1624), no book of her writings on him was published until several years after her death.
Sources: freebmd. Probate Registry entry for Edward Burton Penny (Mrs Penny’s husband) 1872. 1891 census at The Cottage Cullompton. Probate Registry entry 1894 which names Louisa Susan Brown as Mrs Penny’s executor.
Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research. Published for the Proprietors at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Volume 13 January-December 1893. Issue of 23 December 1893 p613: a short note, as news of the death reached the magazine just as it was going to press. Issue of Sat 30 December 1893 p617 the issue’s editorial began with a paragraph on Penny’s death. On p618 there was an appreciation of her by Charles Carleton Massey, who had known her since the late 1870s. However, he wrote that Mrs Penny had been her husband’s pupil, rather than his equal, in research on the works of St Martin and Böhme/Boehme; an assumption typical of the time which more recent assessments of her work suggest was incorrect.
An Introduction to the Study of Jacob Boehme’s Writings by A J Penny was published in New York, but not in England, in 1901.
Studies on Jacob Böhme by A J Penny, with a preface by C J Barker. London: John M Watkins 1912.
Comment by Sally Davis on Isabel taking over as Mary Ann Atwood’s closest confident. She makes it sound like an onerous task! For two reasons, perhaps. Firstly: she visited Mrs Atwood regularly but when she was staying with her she felt unable to work at her art; often the days passed in what Isabel wrote was a “dull and uninteresting manner”. Secondly: though Isabel describes Mrs Atwood’s attitude towards her as “exceedingly kind and sympathetic”, she also gives the impression of a woman with a difficult personality and says about Mrs Atwood that she was “more respected than beloved”. The relationship – calling it a ‘friendship’ is definitely not right - brought trouble between Isabel and her family and friends, too, who felt she was neglecting them to spend time with Mrs Atwood instead. Isabel’s family were not interested in the occult and Isabel admits they couldn’t understand why she continued to visit Mrs Atwood when she didn’t even enjoy it much.
Source for Isabel’s ambivalent views on her relationship with Mary Ann Atwood: Memorabilia p190, p198.
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.
PROBABLY BEFORE AUGUST 1894
Isabel moved from Liverpool to 20 Dublin Street Edinburgh.
Source for Isabel’s address in Edinburgh: Theosophical Society membership register but without an exact date for the change of address.
COPYRIGHT SALLY DAVIS
12 February 2023
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