Marcus Worsley Blackden (known as ‘Worsley’ not Marcus) was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London on 27 August 1896. Irene Augusta Lloyd was initiated as part of the same ritual, but I don’t think the two of them knew each other beforehand. Although he had little occult experience, Worsley Blackden worked his way quickly through the study needed to be eligible for the GD’s inner 2nd Order, and was initiated into that on 6 November 1897. He played a prominent role in the turbulent period 1900-1903, and then joined one of the two daughter orders that were founded in 1903.
BEFORE I GET STARTED and in case this is the first of the files that you’ve seen: a huge ‘thank you’ to MWB’s great-grand-daughter Nadine Artemis, of Ontario, Canada, for all the photos of paintings and family documents that she sent me. There would have been much less of this ‘life by dates’ without them!
There are plenty of sources for some of the events in Worsley Blackden’s life, so I’ve decided to do a ‘life-by-dates’ set of three files; in which he’ll appear as ‘MWB’. This is the last file: After the Golden Dawn. The first two are: Youth and Background; and Egypt and the GD. And standing rather outside the sequence is a copy of his translations of parts of the Egyptian Book of the Dead - Chapter 62; and The Hymn to Osiris.
AFTER THE GOLDEN DAWN
?LATE 1890s, ?AROUND 1901. POSSIBLY MANY YEARS EARLIER
MWB began his work on the compilation known as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or the Book of the Coming Forth by Day. It continued to be the most important occult work in his life until about 1914.
Source: there isn’t a source for when MWB began this great work. I’ve deduced a possible start-date from the time he was ready to publish his first article on it.
MWB and A E Waite, already friendly through the GD, began to wonder whether being freemasons would help them understand particular kinds of symbolism and ritual more deeply.
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint. 1987; using Waite’s diaries where they still exist; they exist for the period October 1902 to October 1903. P127 quoting A E Waite’s memoirs Shadows of Life and Thought p161.
Shadows of Life and Thought: A Retrospective Review in the Form of Memoirs by Arthur Edward Waite. London: Selwyn and Blount of Paternoster House EC 1938: p161-62 though Waite has got it wrong about who introduced him and MWB to Runymede Lodge 2430; he says it was Robert Palmer-Thomas but Palmer-Thomas was not a member of it as far as I can see; Kirby (see 1902 below) was.
19 SEPTEMBER 1901
MWB and A E Waite were both initiated as freemasons in Runymede Lodge 2430.
10 FEBRUARY 1902
The two of them were raised as Master Masons in St Marylebone Lodge 1305.
Source for both the initiations: R A Gilbert in Magician of Many Parts, in which he’s quoting from from Shadows of Life and Thought p161 and p127.
Comment by Sally Davis: as the GD continued through a period of growing pains, MWB and others began look for similar experiences elsewhere. MWB and A E Waite were introduced to the members of Runymede Lodge 2430 by GD member William Forsell Kirby, the naturalist and translator. The members of Runymede Lodge 2430 was a rather light-hearted group. Many of them worked in the publishing industry and the lodge existed largely to organise pleasant days out on the Thames in summer; it didn’t take itself too seriously. I wasn’t able to find out how long MWB remained a member of the lodge; but he never served as an officer in it.
Runymede Lodge no 2430: Centenary 1892-1992
The only source I could find for St Marylebone Lodge 1305 was Bye-Laws of the St Marylebone Lodge no 1305 printed 1898 London: G S Beeching 174 Strand, Beeching being a member of the lodge. No history of the lodge seems ever to have been written so it wasn’t possible for me to try to discover what entrée MWB and A E Waite had there. I suppose one of them knew one of the members.
A series of articles by MWB was published in Theosophical Review. The articles were all commentaries on and translations of chapters of the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
MWB became a corresponding member of the freemasons’ lodge Quatuor Coronati 2076. Corresponding members were not permitted to take any part in the running of the lodge but they could attend its meetings and they received its magazine Ars Quatuor Coronati.
Sources: Ars Quatuor Coronati...being the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati lodge 2076 volume XV 1902 p50, p69, p177; and list of corresponding members p19, p50 and p64.
AQC...Transactions...QC2076 vol XXIII 1910; main text and corresponding members’ list p20, p63 and p81.
Comment by Sally Davis: QC2076 had been founded as a forum for the study of the origins and symbolism of freemasonry; so it was an ideal place for MWB, Waite and Palmer-Thomas to find out more about freemasonry’s rituals. Palmer-Thomas had been a corresponding member since June 1891 - he probably recommended it to the two others, who joined at exactly the same time, as part of the bigger plan. In later years none of the three went to many meetings but in this first year they made more of an effort. MWB went to the meeting of 7 March 1902 (as a visitor, probably making up his mind whether to invest in being a member); and as a corresponding member to that of Friday 2 May 1902 when Palmer-Thomas and Waite were with him. They all went to the meeting of Friday 3 October 1902 when E J Castle gave a talk on The Reception (Initiation) of a Templar; and MWB and Palmer-Thomas also went to the Four Crowned Martyrs meeting on 8 November 1902, when the worshipful master for the next 12 months was installed.
All three were still corresponding members in 1910 but none of them went to any meetings that year.
10 APRIL 1902
MWB and A E Waite were made members of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA).
Comment by Sally Davis: it was as members of SRIA that William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers had founded the GD. In its first years (though not so much later) the GD focused on rituals derived from Rosicrucian sources and some of SRIA’s most senior members were initiated into the GD to help put the rituals together and advise on symbolism. In 1892, Westcott was elected the SRIA’s Supreme Magus, a post you held for life. SRIA was not a freemasons’ lodge; but it was organised along similar lines and you did have to be a freemason to be a member of it.
Transactions of Societas Rosicruciana Metropolitan College 1902 p2-3 meeting of 10 April 1902.
SRIA’s Transactions volumes 1902 to 1925 to see how active MWB was as a member, particularly Transactions... 1909 p2 meeting of 14 January 1909.
JULY, SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER 1902
MWB’s first article in Theosophical Review, which was published in three parts, with the overall title The Mysteries and the Book of the Dead, also known as the Book of Epiphany.
Sources: Theosophical Review volume 30 March-August 1902. Volume 30 number 179 issue of July 1902: pp393-406. MWB’s article: The Mysteries and the Book of the Dead, also known as the Book of Epiphany. Part 1. Theosophical Review volume 31 September 1902 to February 1903. Volume 31 number 181 issue of September 1902: pp9-19. Part 2 (I). Theosophical Review volume 32 September 1902 to February 1903. Volume 32 number 182 issue of October 1902: pp 105-110. Part 2 (II).
Comment by Sally Davis: It’s clear that this three-part article was the first of a series and perhaps MWB already knew which chapters he would be covering in future articles. The beginning of the first part of the article is an introduction to the Book of the Dead and an explanation of why MWB preferred to translate the title as ‘The Book of Epiphany’. MWB touched on a subject that exercised the minds of many GD members - what place there was now for the study of “the infinite”, the “Cause of all existence”, in a world in which science was increasingly looked to for all the answers. MWB was sure that science had not replaced the search for these Truths, and stated that he believed freemasonry to be the modern descendant of an ancient Mystery tradition which searched for them; now “deformed out of all recognition” and detectable only by the “most persevering student”. Next came a short section on the vexed questions of on the origins of the Book of the Dead and the different versions of it.
MWB’s argument throughout the series was that the chapters of the Book of the Dead that he had chosen were evidence of an ancient Egyptian Mystery tradition, with later commentaries that (either by accident or deliberately) had obscured their original meanings. In his view, very little of the Book of the Dead was actually to do with funeral rites. Some chapters were initiation rituals; others were to help the successful initiates go further, to aid their meditations on the themes of death and rebirth. In this, he was going against other contemporary work on the Book of the Dead, a fact he was very well aware of. He was trying to defend his corner as well as he could. He argued that the Mystery tradition could also be found in the Chaldaean Oracles, Gnostic texts and the Kabbala. How far he was influenced in his views by discussions with A E Waite is difficult to tell - he may have had ‘ancient Mystery tradition handed down in secret’ idea in his mind for a long time. A E Waite also believed it but the two men were looking at different traditions (and consequently different eras) for their evidence: Waite wanted to find such a thing in relatively recent Christianity; MWB, of course, went and looked in Egypt.
With his general introduction to the series out of the way, MWB moved on to this first three-part article, laying it out in a way that he continued to use in the rest of the series: he explained how he had translated certain hieroglyphs or sets of hieroglyphs and why; he would discuss which sources he had used; and he would then give the translation of the chapter or chapters that were the subject of the article, with notes, particularly on the more obscure symbolism.
2 DECEMBER 1902
At A E Waite’s suggestion, The Secret Council of Rites was founded (with a Constitution drawn up in May 1903). A E Waite, Robert Palmer-Thomas and MWB were its members and they agreed to work together collecting examples of rituals from freemasonry and quasi-freemasonry groups; in the hope of finding a line of descent for them from the Middle Ages.
Comment by Sally Davis: the sources for this are books by and about A E Waite and MWB’s part in the collecting of rituals is rather hard to ascertain. I don’t think the other two worked as hard at it as Waite; nor were the other two initiated into nearly so many orders of freemasons and quasi-freemasons. MWB kept his eyes firmly on The Book of the Dead.
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint. 1987: p201 about the sources - A E Waite’s diaries for the period October 1902 to October 1903 are extant. And p116 on the Council of Rites. The 3 men I’ve named were probably its only members.
LAST MONTHS OF GD
Shadows of Life and Thought: A Retrospective Review in the Form of Memoirs by Arthur Edward Waite. London: Selwyn and Blount of Paternoster House EC 1938: p227 when A E Waite is discussing the period in which John William Brodie-Innes, Robert William Felkin and MWB were the 3 GD Chiefs; and p222 where Waite describes MWB as having “general charge” of the GD (by which I suppose he means daily charge, as the other 2 had jobs to do).
The next of MWB’s articles on the Book of the Dead was published, a translation of its chapter 17: An Ancient Cantata, the Triumph of Man Made Perfect.
Sources: Theosophical Review volume 32 March-August 1903. Volume 32 number 189 issue of May 1903 pp258-70.
Comment by Sally Davis: MWB believed that chapter 17 was one of the few parts of The Book of the Dead that was a genuine funeral rite. But he told his readers that the ancient Egyptians thought of death very differently from modern Christians - death to them was not a putting out to sea on an uncertain voyage; but a coming home to a safe harbour. For his translation, MWB removed 70 of the 290 lines that appeared in Wallis Budge’s translation, on the grounds that they were commentary not the original text. The chapter emerged from the cutting process as a song of triumph to be sung (MWB reckoned) by two soloists and a chorus; the triumph being a spiritual one. In the course of his explanations of what was going on in the cantata, MWB wrote that the ancient Egyptians “believed that the Gods were liable to be compelled by the powers of magic” - shedding some light on why a modern man might join the Order of the Golden Dawn.
The book by Wallis Budge that MWB used as his starting point is: The Book of the Dead. The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day... by E A Wallis Budge. London: Kegan Paul and Co 1898. See wikipedia for work of Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge 1857-1934 Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities British Museum 1894-1924 and a representative of the more orthodox school of translation of hieroglyphs that MWB disagreed with.
BY MARCH 1903
After a couple of years helping to keep the GD afloat, MWB believed that it needed a good shake-up to bring back some vitality.
Source: A E Waite, diary entry for 12 March 1903 quoted in A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint 1987: p116.
Comment on the source by Sally Davis: not sure I’d trust Waite’s word on any of this. It’s so easy, long after the original events, to give them a coherence and a plan that they didn’t really have at the time.
GD met to decide its future after a year being run by three chiefs. A E Waite got together a voting block with the intention of returning the GD to the state that it was in, in 1890. MWB was one of three men elected to run the GD for the next year; but disagreements about what kind of Order the GD should now be, were so deep that the Order never recovered. MWB became a senior member of one of the two daughter orders that emerged from the wreckage.
The source for A E Waite’s part in it is not a particularly reliable one: diary entries of A E Waite (who benefited very much from the chaotic results of the meeting) in A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint 1987: p116-120. However, other sources do agree that the meeting of the May 1903 was the last one of the GD in its original form.
Comment by Sally Davis: A E Waite was aware that his proposals would never get the support of the other two chiefs, John William Brodie-Innes and Robert William Felkin. Waite had organised a group of long-serving members to vote with him, and with their help he did get some of his proposals through; but it was against the wishes of a great many of the other members and at the end of the meeting the GD was in complete disarray. In the uncertainty that followed, Waite was able to do what he’d probably always intended - set up a new Order with himself in charge. His voting block became the first members of the Independent and Rectified Rite; including MWB.
Source for the break-away group that became the Independent and Rectified Rite: RAG The Golden Dawn Companion p169.
24 JULY 1903
Waite’s voting block issued a Manifesto of Independence (independence from the GD, that is).
Source: RAG The Golden Dawn Companion p169.
7 NOVEMBER 1903
The Independent and Rectified Rite was formally inaugurated. In theory it was run by three chiefs - MWB, Rev Alexander Ayton, and A W Waite; but it was Waite’s baby and what he said, went. For its first two years, the IRR’s meetings were held at the Mark Masons’ Hall in Great Queen Street.
RAG The Golden Dawn Companion p169.
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint 1987: p118-122 and based on Waite’s diaries and other contemporary sources.
Death of MWB and Ada Mary’s step-mother Mary Elizabeth Blackden née Cotter.
Source: death registration at freebmd.
MAY and JUNE 1904
Somehow MWB had managed to keep working through all the uproar within the GD, and the next, two-part, article on the Book of the Dead was published: An Invocation and Vision of Horus from the Book of Transformations.
Sources: Theosophical Review volume 34 March-August 1904. Volume 34 number 210 issue of May 1904: pp260-66. MWB’s article: An Invocation and Vision of Horus from the Book of Transformations. Part 1. Theosophical Review volume 34 March-August 1904. Volume 34 number 211 issue of June 1904: pp313-19. An Invocation and Vision of Horus from the Book of Transformations. Part 2.
Comment by Sally Davis: the Book of Transformations was the 78th chapter of the Book of the Dead whose title MWB translated as Chapter of Making Transformation as a Divine Hawk. MWB saw the chapter as a series of meditational aids, with the meditator lying in a specially-prepared room whose decoration (specified quite minutely) was meant to represent the cosmos. Part two of the article was MWB’s translation of the Invocation.
MWB moved into 16 Allison Road Acton where the Independent and Rectified Rite held its meetings until 1909. Although his sister Ada Mary had been keeping house for him in 1901, she had had to return to Tunbridge Wells after her step-mother’s death to look after their father, Marcus Seton Blackden, and their two much younger step-siblings.
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint 1987: p118-122 and based on Waite’s diaries.
MWB’s latest article on the Book of the Dead was published: The Garden of Rest, Chapter 110 of the Book of the Dead.
Source: Theosophical Review volume 36 March-August 1905. Volume 36 number 214 issue of June 1905: pp313-25. MWB’s article: The Garden of Rest. Chapter 110 of the Book of the Dead.
Comment by Sally Davis: in which MWB disagreed with the orthodox view of the time - that there was somehow not enough religion in the Book of the Dead - saying that the spirituality was there, but you had to know how to read it; of course implying that orthodox translators couldn’t do that bit. In his article that MWB argued that the Garden of Rest wasn’t a physical place (it has no entrances) it was a place that the initiate could enter in his mind, not with his body.
JUNE and JULY 1907
MWB’s latest article, on Chapter 64 of the Book of the Dead was published, in two parts.
Sources: Theosophical Review volume 40 March-August 1907. Volume 40 number 238 issue of June 1907: pp 297-306. London: Theosophical Publishing Society of 161 New Bond St. Chicago: Theosophical Book Concern 26 van Buren Street. Benares: Theosophical Publishing Society. Madras: office of The Theosophist Adyar. MWB’s article appears in volume 40 number 238 pp297-306; and in volume 40 number 239 pp393-401.
Comment by Sally Davis: if he had not been from the start (the earlier articles don’t actually say), by this time MWB was working on the Book of the Dead from original papyri, as well as from Wallis Budge’s translations. At the start of this 1907 set of two articles MWB took his argument about the Mysteries being passed down through history one step further, saying that in his view there was only one Mystery (not several) and that in printed books, errors had been introduced deliberately to prevent it becoming more widely known; the error-free information was passed down in manuscripts only. In taking this view he was following the opinion of William Wynn Westcott - he quoted at length from Westcott’s edition of the Sepher Yetzirah. MWB was also heavily influenced by Waite: the article mentioned Waite’s The Real History of the Rosicrucians and his A Book of Mystery and Vision.
As well as studying manuscripts of the Book of the Dead Chapter 64 in the British Museum’s selection MWB had been travelling in Europe so as to compare them with manuscripts in Basel, in Turin; and in Paris at the Louvre and the Bibliothčque Nationale. He may have dropped in to see Samuel Liddell Mathers while he was in Paris though I don’t think he will have had a pleasant welcome there.
Introducing his translation of The Book of the Dead Chapter 64, MWB seems (for once) to have agreed with contemporary scholars, that it was the oldest part of the Book, and consequently the most ravaged by later copying errors. His comparisons of the versions of it now available in Europe had led him to conclude that there were two versions of chapter 64; always differing in the same ways in different manuscripts. He’d taken a common-sense approach to translating the chapter, choosing whichever of the manuscripts had the “clearest rendering” of the hieroglyphs.
Chapter 64 as MWB translated it was instructions for someone preparing to undergo a particular initiation involving passage through a gate into a chamber where the usual mystical (not actual) death and rebirth would take place; particular phrases in the chapter were meant as hints for the guided visualisation of the gate and the chamber, and the final “Coming-Forth into the Day”.
Part 2 of the article was a discussion of the meaning of the pentagram in the Book of the Dead - MWB sees it as symbolising the tomb of Osiris - and his translation of Chapter 64.
Works by Waite mentioned by MWB in his 1907 articles:
The Real History of the Rosicrucians by A E Waite. London: George Redway 1887. If MWB wanted to keep ‘in’ with the members of the SRIA it was best not to go on about this book and its author too much. Westcott had taken the lead in demanding from Waite an apology for gross breach of copyright after Waite had quoted the SRIA’s regulations without permission. Transactions of the SRIA Metropolitan College issue of 1887 pp8-9.
A Book of Mystery and Vision by A E Waite. London: Philip Wellby 1902.
An article by MWB was published in Occult Review volume 5 number 6 pp305-17: The Wisdom of the Mysteries in Egypt.
Source: Occult Review volume 5 number 6 June 1907 pp305-17 including pp315-316 the translation of Chapter 62, clumsily entitled “Chapter of Repelling the Dismemberment which is carried out in the divine underworld” - see the fourth, separate file in MWB’s biography for the full translation. Published London: William Rider and Son. Editor Ralph Shirley.
Comment by Sally Davis: though published in a different magazine, this article stuck to the formula MWB had adopted for the Theosophical Review: introduction; translation; discussion of difficult points in the translation. In the first few pages, MWB considered ancient Egyptian religion as the source material for both Judaism and Christianity; and wondered - in that case - why it was so little studied. One answer to this puzzle was the difficulties of making a good translation of such manuscripts as survived, littered as they were with copying errors, and full as they were of concealed meanings. MWB was sure that a definitive translation of the Book of the Dead papyri could only be achieved by those who studied the Mysteries - people like himself, in fact, who “learn, not in order to know, but in order to be”. He then gave his translation, and in the last few pages explained why he had chosen to interpret some important hieroglyphs in a manner very different from the more orthodox academic translations, resulting (he argued) in a spell that could be easily understood by any mystic.
APRIL and MAY 1908
MWB’s articles in Theosophical Review came to an end with the translations of two more chapters from The Book of the Dead: number 65, A Chapter of Coming Forth into Day Victorious over the Opposer; and Chapter 15, the Hymn to Osiris.
Sources: Theosophical Review volume 42 March-August 1908. Volume 42 number 248 issue of April 1908: pp105-113. Publication details as for 1907. MWB’s article: Some Fragments of the Book of the Dead. Part 1 - The Chapter of Coming Forth by Day. Theosophical Review volume 42 March-August 1908. Volume 42 number 249 issue of May 1908: pp233-40. MWB’s article: Some Fragments of the Book of the Dead. Part 2 - The Hymn to Osiris.
Comment by Sally Davis: in these two lst articles, MWB tidied up his work on The Book of the Dead. He now saw the whole work as a set of texts that even in ancient Egyptian times had lost their original purpose as aids to the initiates of a Mystery tradition. With their meaning no longer understood, the texts had then been made unintelligible by the addition of ill-informed commentary and explanation; and by the adding in of spells and supposedly magical formulae designed to make money for temples by giving the living a chance to buy happiness for their dead relations. In his work on them MWB had been attempting to strip away all the later verbiage and get back - as far as was possible - to the original texts. He thought that, stripped back to basics in this way, the chapters of the Book of the Dead could still be used as they had been originally.
The action in Chapter 65 follows on from Chapter 64 the subject of MWB’s articles of 1907. The initiate, now in the chamber, is given instructions on how to get to the other side of a veil that he or she can see there.
5 NOVEMBER 1908
The Times announced the engagement of MWB to his first cousin Hilda Alethea Franklyn, the daughter of MWB’s mother’s brother. He was 44; she was 23.
Times Thursday 5 November 1908 p11: court circular.
14 JANUARY 1909
Extracts from a work by MWB were read at a SRIA meeting though apparently MWB wasn’t at the meeting himself.
Transactions of Societas Rosicruciana Metropolitan College 1909 p2 meeting of 14 January 1909. Comment by Sally Davis: in MWB’s absence, A J Cadbury read the extract from what was called MWB’s “Egyptian Ritual of the Dead”. The work was probably an early version of, or an extract from The Ritual of the Mystery of the Judgement of the Soul (see 1914 below). MWB might have had two reasons for wanting the SRIA members to find out about what he was doing. Firstly, he was looking for a publisher. And secondly, he was working on a version of a ritual not just as an interesting piece of translation, but in the hope that it would be used - that people would speak the words in it; and he might have wanted some feedback on how the text sounded when spoken. It’s a pity he wasn’t able to be there to speak it himself. I think he was busy:
3 FEBRUARY 1909
MWB and Hilda Franklyn were married at St Paul’s Knightsbridge. After a reception at 11 Lowndes Square (which I think was Hilda’s parents’ house) MWB and his bride went to the south of France for their honeymoon.
Sources: marriage registration at freebmd.
Times 5 February 1909 p11 court circular.
A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry 1937 edition p176.
MWB and Hilda set up home at Langley Lodge at Fawley, near Southampton. For nearly five years, MWB seems to have dropped right out of the Independent and Rectified Rite, not going to any rituals and losing contact with its members. MWB’s marriage was thus a big break with the past; and it seems as good a place as any to mention two features MWB’s later life that I haven’t been able to tie down very well. The first was that MWB was a keen yachtsman and wanted to live nearer the sea; the second was that MWB became a journalist.
Sources for Langley Lodge:
History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Hampshire issue of 1878 p243 was the earliest mention of the house that I could find on the web.
Lawrence of Arabia by David Murphy. Oxford: Osprey 2011 p7 for the house’s connection with T E Lawrence.
Source for the yachting and the journalism:
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint. 1987. On p201 Gilbert discussed the sources he used, which included appointments diaries covering 1909-42 (1911 and 1914 were missing). The reference to MWB dropping out of the Independent and Rectified Rite is p197 footnote. The reference to the yachting and the journalism is p122 though no date is given for either of them and I haven’t been able to find any other references to MWB in connection with either yachting or work as a journalist.
Another source for the yachting but only from 1929:
Armorial Families 1929 p163 entry for the Blackden family in which MWB is described as a member of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club.
15 JANUARY 1910
MWB and Hilda’s only child was born: Olive Hermione Blackden (always called Hermione).
Sources: birth registration of a female child with the surname Blackden, registered New Forest district January-March 1910; freebmd.
Times Tuesday 18 January 1910 p1 births announcements, though the child’s name is not given.
CENSUS DAY 1911
MWB, Hilda and Hermione were living at Langley Lodge. The Lodge was a substantial residence (it had 18 habitable rooms) and stood in its own grounds. The Blackdens employed a German cook, a housemaid and a children’s nurse.
Source: census form completed by MWB.
Publication of MWB’s The Ritual of the Mystery of the Judgement of the Soul, a culmination of his work on The Book of the Dead.
Source: The Ritual of the Mystery of the Judgement of the Soul. Undated. Printed for Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia in London by Bernard Quaritch of 11 Grafton Street. MWB as translator and editor, with a note on the illustration by William Wynn Westcott as the SRIA’s Supreme Magus. MWB had used three different papyri in the British Museum collections to put together a text in which a would-be initiate has to answer for his or her sins in life; and - if he or she is judged sufficiently sin-free - is guided by Thoth to the throne of Osiris.
Comment by Sally Davis: the small book is the only work by MWB that is in the British Library. It was his last work on the Mysteries of ancient Egypt. He didn’t publish anything more, either as article or as book.
MWB was appealed to by a number of members of the Independent and Rectified Rite, to settle a dispute they had with A E Waite.
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Pubg Group Ltd und its ‘Crucible’ imprint. 1987. Sources used by Gilbert: p201. What happened in 1914: p122.
Comment by Sally Davis: the question of the forged documents used to found the GD had raised its ugly head again and caused strife. It’s clear from what happened in the Independent and Rectified Rite that not even everybody who had been in GD in 1900 had been informed that they were forgeries when Samuel Liddell Mathers had admitted they were. A E Waite had been amongst those who had not been told they were fakes, although by 1914 he had worked out that they must have been. The trouble was that when he told the other members of the Independent and Rectified Rite, they didn’t believe him. They appealed to MWB to give his opinion and MWB strongly defended the documents’ authenticity. Waite was furious. The two men had a row and didn’t speak for over a decade. And unable to control the order’s members any more, Waite disbanded the Independent and Rectified Rite altogether and blamed MWB for it.
16 JUNE 1916
Marcus Seton Blackden, father of MWB and Ada Mary, died at the age of 89. The Blackden estate on Fore Street, City of London, had been run for many years by a family trust (with family members as trustees) and so didn’t figure in the Will. Marcus Seton Blackden still had plenty of movable goods to leave his five children though - paintings (including family portraits) jewellery, china, glassware and furniture to the value of Ł35862/0/8 . MWB and Seton were the Will’s executors. All three sons became trustees of the family’s City property.
A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry edition of 1937 p176.
Extract from the Will of Marcus Seton Blackden; sent to me by MWB’s great-grand-daughter.
Comment by Sally Davis: with Marcus Seton Blackden so old, it’s likely that MWB at least was already one of the family property’s trustees.
MWB took over the management of the Blackden Estate on Fore Street.
Source: deeds, Wills and trust documents now held by descendants of the Blackdens; details sent to me by MWB’s great-grand-daughter.
Comment by Sally Davis: this handing over of the day-to-day business of the Blackden family’s City property was really just a recognition of the situation that had prevailed since 1916; because Leonard, an army officer, was stationed in the West Indies, and the third brother, Seton, was so much younger than the other two - 26 to MWB’s 52 - it had been up to MWB to make the decisions.
11 OCTOBER 1919
Death of MWB’s father-in-law Hollond Franklyn. MWB was one of the Will’s executors, this time together with Hilda’s mother Lottie and Hilda’s brother Alwyne.
Sources: probate registration.
Comment by Sally Davis: all the Blackdens and their relations were wealthy: Hollond Franklyn left Ł53220/7/5's worth of movable goods; though probably not any land as Longcroft Hall in Yoxall, Staffordshire, where he and his family had lived since the 1890s, is likely to have been rented rather than owned by him. I haven’t seen the Will but I would suppose that everything was left to Hollond Franklyn’s wife and two children, increasing MWB’s wealth but adding to the time he must have been spending on estate administration and leases.
After ten years of estrangement, MWB and A E Waite were reconciled. They remained friends until MWB’s death.
A E Waite: Magician of Many Parts R A Gilbert. Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd under its ‘Crucible’ imprint. 1987: footnote p197.
Comment by Sally Davis: Waite went to visit MWB and Hilda at Langley Lodge as part of the efforts they were making to patch up their differences. The two men held a little ceremony in which - alas! they burned MWB’s copies of GD rituals and other GD papers. What an act of vandalism!
MWB was still a member of SRIA although no longer an active one.
Transactions of Societas Rosicruciana Metropolitan College 1925 p57 show he was still a member.
As trustees of the Blackden Estate, MWB and his brothers Leonard and Seton decided to sell the land in the City of London.
Sources: deeds, Wills and trust documents now held by descendants of the Blackdens; details sent to me by MWB’s great-grand-daughter. Also Times Friday 3 August 1934 p6 Estate Market column.
Comment by Sally Davis: Blackdens and relations of Blackdens had done very well out of the 1000-feet of Fore Street that their ancestor had leased from the Corporation of London in the mid-18th century. This decision to give the land up seems rather odd to me; maybe their lease was going to run out soon. The Corporation was likely to demand far more income if it was renewed. And perhaps the family had spent all the income they had received in living well; and had not put any of it back into keeping the properties up to date, so that now, putting in modern facilities and refurbishing the buildings would involve serious investment.
?LATE 1920s, though possibly as late as EARLY 1930s
MWB refused to allow his daughter Hermione to study art in Paris.
Sources: information from Hermione’s grand-daughter; sent by email 1 December 2014 with photos of two works that Hermione painted later in life.
Comment by Sally Davis: the reputation that Paris had in the 1920s might have given any careful father pause, but MWB’s great-grand-daughter says of MWB’s refusal, that “he questioned her artistry, he so precise and she more abstract”. I think you can take that interesting comment on two levels, both of which show the wideness of the gap between a father born in the 1860s and a daughter born in 1910. Firstly: as a comment on Hermione’s preferred style of drawing and painting, it illustrates rather nicely how even in Britain, art had changed between the late 1880s when MWB did his training and the late 1920s when Europe had moved through post-Impressionism, fauvism, cubism and expressionism to dadaism. I can almost hear MWB saying what he thought of those! British art had stood aloof from much of this turbulent and almost continual change. Though it had made changes of its own, particularly in subject-matter; I have to say, from my researches into the GD’s other artists, that even in the late 1880s the Royal Academy’s emphasis on the classical and its view of what was the proper subject-matter for ‘great art’ was seen as behind the times. Secondly: I talk about this more in my biography of MWB’s sister Ada Mary Blackden, but I detect a very conservative attitude in the Blackden family and its cousins towards the proper roles for women; and even (now I think about it) for men. I think MWB may even have admitted to the disparagement of women’s creativity that Virginia Woolf puts into the mouth of Mr Tansley in To The Lighthouse as: “women can’t paint, women can’t write”.
Source for the quote:
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. First published in 1927, right about the time MWB and Hermione may have been falling out over Hermione’s wish to be a trained painter. In my Penguin Popular Classics edition I’ve quoted from p75 when artist Lily Briscoe has just found her painting “bad, it was bad, it was infinitely bad”. Every artist should be their own critic; but to have a man peer over your shoulder and condemn your painting - any painting - just because a woman had painted it, is a different matter.
I seem to have lost the source I had for the assertion that Charles Williams lampooned as Sir Giles Tumulty, one of the villains in his novel War in Heaven. So you need to take this item with a pinch of salt.
The novel in question was: War in Heaven by Charles Williams, published Faber and Faber 1930 and you can read the full text and get a good feel for Tumulty and his crass, arrogant behaviour
That Charles Williams knew A E Waite: Charles Williams: An exploration of his life and work by Alice Mary Hadfield. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press 1983: p6, p10. Charles Williams was a member of Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross from 1917 and a friendship of sorts continued between them until 1931.
Comment by Sally Davis. Clearly, MWB could have met Charles Williams once he and A E Waite were friendly again. I sincerely hope my source (whatever it was) for the Tumulty connection was wrong: Tumulty was an objectionable man.
21 SEPTEMBER 1934
MWB died, aged 70. He left movable goods worth Ł26380/2/6 and some land that was not held in trust for the family - perhaps the land at Langley Lodge.
Sources: probate registry; Times Monday 24 September 1934 p1 death announcements.
AFTER MWB’S DEATH
Hermione Blackden married James Plomer in St John, New Brunswick Canada. James Plomer joined the Canadian navy and retired in the late 1950s with the rank of admiral. The marriage didn’t last, and they had separated by 1942.
Source for the marriage: Times Saturday 7 December 1935 p1 marriage announcements. Source for its failure: MWB’s great-grand-daughter, by email 6 July 2015.
James Plomer was a brother of the author, poet, editor and librettist William Plomer (1903-73), friend of Leonard and Virginia Woolf whose Hogarth Press published several of his works; and later of Ian Fleming, who dedicated Goldfinger to him. See wikipedia for more information.
GRADUALLY BETWEEN 1919 AND THE LATE 1940s
MWB’s family moved to Canada, where their descendents still live.
Source: MWB’s great-grand-daughter by email 6 July 2015 though further information including exact dates was lost in a fire a few years ago.
Comment by Sally Davis: the process began with Hilda’s mother and brother: they may have emigrated as early as the 1920s and it seems likely that Hermione was visiting them when she married James Plomer. Information at familysearch shows Hilda crossing the Atlantic several times during the 1930s and 1940s but in the end she too, settled down in Canada. Originally settling in New Brunswick, they all ended up in British Columbia.
Hermione and James’ only child, Deirdre Plomer, was born. As a child she lived mostly with Hilda Blackden.
Source: MWB’s great-grand-daughter by email 6 July 2015.
Hermione married Douglas Dixie, a British civil servant who worked in Sierra Leone and later in the Bahamas. Although she never did do a proper, full-time art training, Hermione did paint, and some of her works are still owned by her descendents.
Source, for the marriage: MWB’s great-grand-daughter by email 6 July 2015. And for the paintings although without a precise date for them: information from MWB’s great-grand-daughter; sent by email 1 December 2014 with photos of two works that Hermione painted during her time in Sierra Leone. The paintings show the influence of expressionism and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
MWB’s sister Ada Mary Blackden died - the last surviving member of the 1890s GD as far as I know.
Source for her death: Probate Registry.
MWB’s widow Hilda Blackden died, in British Columbia. She was 102!
Source: MWB’s great-grand-daughter by email 6 July 2015.
Hermione Dixie died, in Victoria British Columbia. She had called her house there Langley Lodge, in memory of her parents’ home at Fawley.
Source: MWB’s great-grand-daughter by email 6 July 2015.
Comment by Sally Davis: Langley Lodge Victoria still exists, I saw several references to it on the web; it’s a care home now.
Some at least of MWB’s abilities and interests have gone down the generations in his descendents. Deirdre Plomer worked as a designer and her son is a photographer. However, MWB’s interest in alternative ways of understanding the cosmos skipped a couple of generations, before coming out again in his great-grand-daughter Nadine. Times have moved on since MWB’s time, though and the knowledge and understanding of cultures that looked primitive to people of MWB’s time is now valued: Nadine trained with a shaman in the western USA, which I don’t think MWB would ever have considered doing even if such training had been available to him. Nadine describes herself now as a “botanical muse”, making beauty and health products from plants - perhaps the oldest form of alchemy and again, a type of occult knowledge that MWB wasn’t all that interested in, his was a very cerebral approach. It’s also fitting - at least it seems so to me - that Nadine’s partner is a yoga practitioner. See their website at livinglibations.com.
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. I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.
For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923. Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972. Foreword by Gerald Yorke. Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist. He has no axe to grind.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
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.
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.
Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.
Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources. I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
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