Alice Isabel Simpson was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London on 12 July 1895. Francis Freeman, George Cecil Jones, William Forsell Kirby and John Herbert Slater were also initiated on that day though I don’t think Alice Isabel knew any of them. Alice Isabel chose the Latin motto ‘Perseverantia et cura quies’; as this was cumbersome it was usually shortened to Perseverantia. She was initiated into the GD’s 2nd, inner order on 27 May 1899.
Alice Isabel seems to be called Amy by her family and close friends; but I think I’ll stick with Alice Isabel.
Alice Isabel’s daughters Elaine Mary and Alice Beatrice (known as Beatrice) were also initiated into the GD, Elaine in 1897 and Beatrice in 1899. Aleister Crowley met Alice Isabel and Elaine Mary after he was initiated in 1898, and they became acquainted - I won’t say ‘friendly’. After the incidents known to GD-studiers as the battle of Blythe Road, Alice Isabel and Elaine were cast out of the GD in April 1900 by its newly-formed governing committee. Beatrice Simpson was not cast out but her position as a member must have looked pretty untenable after the expulsions. The evidence may have been lost, but I haven’t found any indication that Alice Isabel challenged the ruling; she had other things on her mind at the time.
Many years later, in his Confessions, Aleister Crowley described Alice Isabel thus: “a sixth-rate singer, a first-rate snob, with dewlaps and a paunch; a match-maker, mischief-maker, maudlin and muddle-headed.” He did actually stop short of identifying her by name, but all the same - what spiteful things to say! Fortunately, the evidence suggests that he didn’t say them either to her or about her at the time.
Update September 2014: thanks are due to Clint Warren for this chance to add to Alice Isabel’s biography. Clint has access to Crowley’s original diaries and as a result I’m able to make some corrections to my account of Alice Isabel in 1900 and 1902. As a result of the information Clint has been sending me, I’ve also peered more closely at GD documents at the Freemasons’ Library concerning the events of April 1900.
A LIFE ON THE MOVE - THE HACKSHAWS, THE SUTHERLANDS AND THE HALLS
When John Hall married young widow Lucy Sutherland in the church at Rondebosch, Cape Town in 1848, two people were united who - though British - had spent hardly any of their lives in Britain.
Lucy Campbell Hackshaw had been born in 1817, at sea - which set the tone for a life spent almost continually moving on. She was the eldest child of Harry Hackshaw and his wife Harriet Marion (née Mackay), and I presume the couple were in transit between their house in London and the Hackshaw plantations on the island of St Vincent, West Indies when the birth occurred. In 1836 Lucy married another St Vincent plantation owner, her first cousin Duncan Forbes Sutherland (born 1801). The marriage seems to have been childless, and didn’t last very long either: Duncan died in 1844. I don’t know how Lucy spent the next four years - perhaps she continued to live in the West Indies - but I think it’s likely that she had known John Hall for quite some time when they married. In the course of his working life John had been stationed in the West Indies in the 1820s and again from 1841 to 1844; so he could have known her as a child, and/or when she was married for the first time. I think Lucy Sutherland travelled to the Cape Colony in South Africa to marry him; though she could have moved there before he did.
John Hall was born on the hills of Westmorland in 1795, the son of a farmer (also called John) and his wife Isabella née Fothergill. The younger John studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’s Hospital in London. However there was not enough money in the family to fund his undertaking a degree-course in medicine, so John Hall joined the army medical corps, in time to be involved in patching up the wounded of Waterloo in 1815. Thereafter he had a fairly typical army career of being continually moved about: after his first spell in the West Indies, he was stationed in Ireland from 1832-35; and at Gibraltar 1836-37; before returning for his second spell in the West Indies where and when he might have met Duncan and Lucy Sutherland. He then took a year, finally to put some letters after his name, graduating MD from St Andrew’s University in 1845. He was sent to the Cape Colony in 1846, where he went on campaign with the governor Sir Harry Smith, who became a loyal friend and was one of the witnesses when John Hall married Lucy. She was 30 on the day of their marriage; he was 52 and hadn’t been married before. John and Lucy remained in Cape Town until 1851 and - I think - their daughter Lucia Georgina was born there. Then man, wife and child moved on again, to Bombay where John had been appointed Principal Medical Officer. Alice Isabel was born in December 1852, probably in Bombay. She was christened several months later at Mahabaleshwar, a hill station which was the official residence of the governor of Bombay and his staff during the hot season.
1854 coloured Alice Isabel’s life by turning out to be the defining year in John Hall’s career: at the outbreak of the Crimean War he was ordered to Turkey as Chief Inspector of Hospitals. The story of the hospitals in the Crimea, the involvement of Florence Nightingale and the reports in the Times are well-known so I won’t repeat them. I’ll just say that as the most senior British medical officer in the Crimea, John Hall came to stand in the eyes of the British public as a symbol of all that was wrong with medical care there. As is so often the case, it was not any one person’s fault that so many men died in such squalor without actually seeing any fighting. As the introduction to a memoir of John Hall’s career wrote, serving a government that went to war unprepared was a theme that ran through John Hall’s working life. However, the public wanted one person to blame for what happened in the Crimea and that person was John Hall. John Hall did remain in post until 1856 but didn’t work for the army medical corps after that, as far as I can see. He was given a knighthood on his retirement, but that was pretty poor compensation for being hung out to dry like he had been.
I don’t know where Lucy and her two daughters lived during the years of the Crimean War - I can’t believe that they spent them in Turkey - and immediately after the war there are three years completely unnacounted for. I pick up the trail again in 1859 when the family were together again, living in England for what turned out to be the only time, with John Hall on leave or possibly suspended from work. The Halls had hired a house in Dawlish, on England’s south coast. However, while they were there, John Hall had a stroke which was probably brought on by the trauma of the past few years. He was due to retire shortly in any case and had been intending to return to India and spend his retirement writing a memoir-cum-apologia, putting his case against the one made so public by Florence Nightingale and her supporters. However, the stroke partly paralysed him. He didn’t return to India; and he never wrote his memoir. He wouldn’t remain in England though: as much (I imagine) for financial reasons as because of his bitterness about the way he’d been hounded. Instead, he and his family set out on their travels again, through Europe.
As he was a retired officer, John Hall was obliged to live by the War Office rule that he should not stay in any one country longer than two years. His biography doesn’t give dates but I’ve pieced together the following itinerary from it. From Dawlish and when John Hall was able to travel, the Halls went to Paris. Later in her life, Alice Isabel was known for her fluency in foreign languages and Paris is probably where she learned her French. In 1862 the Halls went to Stuttgart where Alice Isabel at least (I’m not so sure about her sister) learned German and music (especially singing). When the two years were up (1864?), they moved to somewhere by Lake Geneva and at this time they may also have spent a few months in the Tyrol. The next move came within the two year allotment, however, and was probably dictated by Lucia Georgina’s health. She had always been a delicate child, apparently, but by 1865 (she was about 15) was definitely ill not just delicate. In search of a warm, dry climate for her, the Halls went south to Sicily in 1865, renting a villa on Mt Etna. An outbreak of cholera on the island caused them to retreat to Bellagio on Lake Como, where in the early autumn John Hall suffered a series of heart attacks. They moved once more, to Pisa, in October 1865, perhaps in search of better medical treatment. John Hall died in Pisa on 17 January 1866 and Lucia Georgina died only three months later.
I don’t know where mother and daughter spent the next few years, except to say that they don’t appear on the 1861 census in the UK. I imagine they continued to live abroad, because it was in Munich that Alice Isabel Hall married Rev William Simpson in 1873.
Just as Lucy Hackshaw had married two men a generation older than herself, so did Alice Isabel marry a man over 20 years her senior. William Simpson was born in Dublin, probably in 1829, the son of solicitor Robert Simpson. He attended Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 1851, and then went to Durham University to study theology in preparation for a career in the Church of England. He was ordained as a priest by the bishop of Norwich, Samuel Hinds, who was probably a friend of the Simpson family - he’d been in Ireland from 1831 to 1833 as chaplain to the archbishop of Dublin, and had returned in 1843 as prebendary of St Patrick’s cathedral, a post he’d held until appointed to the bishopric in 1849. It’s just possible that bishop Hinds knew the Hackshaws and the Sutherlands as well as the Simpsons: he had grown up in Barbados where his family owned plantations (and the slaves that went with them, of course - all the families who owned plantations owned slaves until the law freed them). Bishop Hinds was in the anglo-catholic wing of the Church of England and it’s clear from his later career that Rev William Simpson shared his high-church preferences.
Bishop Hinds found William Simpson two jobs as a curate in Norfolk immediately after he became a priest: at Wymondham 1851-54 and at Quiddenham from 1854. No more permanent posting as a vicar or rector was forthcoming, however, and in 1857 William Simpson applied to work as a chaplain in India. I think his first Indian appointment was delayed by the Mutiny/First War of Indepence, but in 1858 he began work at St George’s church in the British cantonments in Agra at the very good salary of £500 per year. While living in Agra, he must surely have known the family of John Clement Lacy, a convert to Christianity from Hinduism who worked as a pharmacist and doctor in the town; John Clement’s son John Valentine was a member of the Golden Dawn. No one stayed anywhere for long in India, however, and William Simpson was soon transferred to Kasauli, a hill station near Simla. After a period of leave at the end of the 1860s he was promoted, and transferred again to Mathura (between Delhi and Agra) where Hindu celebrations of the life of Krishna no doubt offended the British residents - the god was alleged to have been born in the town. William Simpson worked in Mathura from 1868 to 1871 and then had another period of leave. It was during this second spell of two years out of India that he and Alice Isabel were married.
However she had spent the last few years, on Alice Isabel’s marriage she began another six years of being moved on. When she and William Simpson returned to India after William’s leave was over, he was sent to work in Bihar at Bankipore, now a suburb of Patna but in the 19th-century the more important settlement of the two, a centre of British administration and also of an indigo-growing district. They were only stationed there for a few months, however, before William Simpson was moved to Dagshai, a hill station between Simla and Kalka, founded by the East India Company in 1847 as a TB sanatorium. Their two daughters were both born during this posting and baptised at Kasauli, Elaine Mary in April 1875 (although she had been born in February) and Alice Beatrice (known as Beatrice) in August 1877. Both Alice Isabel’s daughters have names with romantic/poetic connections: Elaine (a very unusual name for the 19th century) must be named for the young woman who dies of unrequited love in Tennyson’s Lancelot and Elaine; and Beatrice for the woman (a real woman, who also died very young) who inspired the poem and appeared to Dante in his Inferno.
Around the time of Beatrice’s birth William Simpson was moved back down onto the north Indian plains, to Roorkee on the Ganges canal, where the Bengal engineers’ corps had its headquarters and two artillery units were also stationed. This was William Simpson’s last real posting in India; in 1877 he was not 50 yet but was possibly in poor health - as many were after service in India. In 1879 he spent a few months working in Allahabad, capital of the United Provinces, but this was clearly a temporary job, as that year he retired, on a full pension. He, Alice Isabel and their daughters left India but I’m not sure where they went immediately afterwards. They are not on the 1881 census. Perhaps they were in Ireland, where William Simpson had relations that Alice Isabel had probably never met; or perhaps they were living somewhere in Europe, where Alice Isabel had spent so much of her life so far. I can only tie them down to the UK in August 1886, when Alice Isabel’s son William Arthur John Simpson (known as Arthur) was born in Scotland, where Lucy Hall had lots of relations.
In 1888 William Simpson came out of retirement to take the job of vicar of St John the Evangelist Baillieston, in the east end of Glasgow, a parish with a high-church tradition. On the day of the 1891 census the Simpsons were living at a house transcribed for Ancestry as ‘mansion house’ but more likely to be ‘the manse house’ - the Scottish equivalent of the English vicarage or rectory. Alice Isabel was running her household with a cook, a nurse for 4-year-old Arthur, and a housemaid.
It’s very likely that Alice Isabel and her husband had decided he should take another Church of England appointment in order to fund their children’s education. As the Simpsons didn’t have a moneyed background, Arthur in particular was going to have to make his own way in life. Many middle-class families lavished what money they had on the education of their sons but skimped on the daughters, comforting themselves with the thought that they would marry. Alice Isabel and her husband would have none of that unrealistic attitude; and when it came to Beatrice, that turned out to be a very wise stand to have taken, because Beatrice - the more independent of the daughters - also chose to make her own way in life. Perhaps Alice Isabel would have liked a wider, more systematic education than she had received. For whatever reason, she and Rev William bought some of the best education that was then available for young women. In one of her books, Beatrice says that she had attended “Cheltenham College”, by which she must mean Cheltenham Ladies’ College. It would be ridiculous and un-motherly for Alice Isabel to favour Beatrice over Elaine in the matter of schooling; so although I have only got evidence for Beatrice, I’m assuming that Elaine was also sent to the College. Cheltenham Ladies’ College was founded in 1853 but rose to national if not international prominence after the appointment of Dorothea Beale, the feminist and skilful campaigner for women’s education, as its Principal, in 1858.
On the day of the 1891 census it’s likely that Elaine and Beatrice were still at school, but they were home for the holidays. Lucy Hall was by this time living in Glasgow too, presumably to be near her daughter and grand-children; she was a boarder in the household of George and Margaret Dick in Kelvinside. A professional lady’s companion, Mary Buck, was also boarding there and may have been employed by Lucy Hall to keep her company, though the census data isn’t clear on that point.
On the evidence of Crockford’s I believe that William Simpson died in 1894 or 1895. I can’t find a death registration for him; and the census official in 1901 complicated matters by listing Alice Isabel as a married woman rather than a widowed one. But the circumstantial evidence of the years after 1894 suggests William Simpson died around then: because Lucy Hall and Alice Isabel went on the move again, to London. The choice of London might have been because they would be near Lucy’s closest surviving relative, her brother Robert Hackshaw who lived in Croydon with his family. But the main reason was more likely to have been the need to meet the right people and get Alice Isabel’s daughters suitably married. Lucy and Alice Isabel were both living on the income from investments held in trust funds and by 1895 they had pooled these resources to set up home together in the house where Aleister Crowley visited them, at 15 Randolph Road in the area to the west of Edgware Road. Several other GD members lived in the district because although it was very convenient for central London, rents there were reasonable.
Alice Isabel was initiated into the GD only a few months after the family moved to London. I don’t know who it was that recommended her as a likely candidate, but I think it’s safe to say that between them, Lucy Hall and Alice Isabel could muster a wide circle of acquaintances. The habit in both India and South Africa of keeping open house for British travellers; Lucy’s large number of Scottish relations; Alice Isabel’s musical contacts; her husband’s Irish relations and his friends amongst Church of England clergy; friends that Lucy and Alice Isabel had made when living in Europe - the point of GD contact could have come from any of them. On the day of the 1901 census, for example, Lucy and Alice Isabel had both Arthur and Beatrice still living at home; and between them they were entertaining three visitors: Emma Bonsom, who had been born in Ireland and was perhaps a relation of William Simpson; Emma’s daughter Daphne Bonsom who had been born in the Cape Colony; and a woman called Margaret whose surname I’m not certain of - it might be Wheat or White - the only person in the household other than the servants who had been born in England. Alice Isabel was running the household with the help of a cook, and a general servant so it’s not surprising that she took from July 1895 to May 1899 to do the study necessary to gain initiation into the GD’s inner, 2nd Order - where you could (finally) start to do some practical magic rather than just read about it. Despite her busy life she was still keen enough to find time to do the study though; and despite what Crowley said of her, she also had the application and gained enough understanding of subjects like the Kabbalah, tarot and astrology to pass the tests in them set by senior members of the GD. The kind of reading and study matter she brought home with her from GD meetings and rituals obviously inspired Elaine to want to join as well. Elaine was initiated in January 1897 and - not having her mother’s household duties to do - made it into the 2nd Order before her, being initiated in March 1899. Even Beatrice got hooked and was initiated into the GD in September 1899; though circumstances meant that she never got the chance to follow up her initiation - circumstances involving Aleister Crowley as I’m sure most readers of this biography will be aware.
One reference to Alice Isabel in the GD archives, and the writings of Aleister Crowley, are the only sources for Crowley’s relationship with Alice Isabel Simpson; and Crowley’s writings have to be treated with care. The best known of those is the Confessions, part of which (events to 1904) was originally published as The Spirit of Solitude in 1929. The Confessions are meant to be eye-catching and in them Crowley says a great deal that doesn’t reflect what he wrote at the time in his diaries: extracts from the diaries in emails sent me by Clint Warren make that very clear. Some of the diaries can be seen at the website www.lashtal.com/wiki/Aleister_Crowley_Timeline. Lashtal looks to be based on his notes and magical/appointment diaries and so has information written at the time that Crowley was a GD member; but it’s a magick/Crowley website and a lot of what Crowley wrote about his period in the GD has been edited out.
Crowley does not explain when and how he became acquainted with Alice Isabel and her daughters. My guess is that they didn’t know him at all before he was initiated into the GD
in November 1898; and Clint Warren - with better knowledge than I have of Crowley’s contemporary acquaintances - is inclined to agree. It’s clear from the writings I’ve mentioned above, that Crowley did not think any of the Simpsons could help him get what he wanted from the GD: initiation as quickly as possible into its 2nd Order. With that purpose in mind, he focused his time and effort on George Cecil Jones and Allan Bennett to the exclusion of all other GD members. However, he did call on the Simpsons, something he couldn’t have done without an invitation, though the invitation may have come from Elaine rather than Alice Isabel. He may have become sufficiently friendly to be invited to musical evenings in the house - though when he calls Alice Isabel a sixth-rate singer he may just be making it up, he may never have heard her sing.
In The Confessions, Crowley excuses his nasty summing-up of Alice Isabel by saying that she had “put it all round London and New York that I had entered her daughter’s room at night in my Body of Light”. In The Spirit of Solitude the fact that there were rumours is mentioned twice - once when Crowley mentions them running through the GD in London in the early part of 1900; and once when dealing with later events. Only the second mention accuses Alice Isabel of starting them. If he accused her of starting them in 1900, he doesn’t say so; and Crowley’s and Alice Isabel’s actions in 1902 suggest that he didn’t.
If there were rumours along those lines, they would only have had an real impact in magical circles: Crowley accuses Alice Isabel of suggesting that he was going into Elaine’s room as an astral traveller; not that he was going into Elaine’s room in person. Crowley says he was offended by the rumours - which is rich, coming from him. In The Spirit of Solitude, however, he seems to be offended more on Elaine Simpson’s account than his own. He makes a good point, too: “Even had the tale been true” he says, “the woman (that’s Alice Isabel) must have been as witless as she was worthless to splash her own daughter with such ditch-water”. I must say, I find it increasingly difficult to imagine Alice Isabel rumour-mongering on the subject of her daughter’s relationship with a young man; it would have been so counter-productive. If the relationship between her daughter and Crowley had gone beyond what was acceptable to contemporary mores, surely she would have wanted the fact kept very very quiet? It seems she did ask Crowley and Elaine whether the rumours were true: more the action of someone who had heard rumours, than someone who had started them. Both Crowley and Elaine denied the rumours,of course, leaving Alice Isabel in a difficult position with regard to any continuing relationship between them.
It’s more difficult to sort out the business of the rumours because they are tangled up in Crowley’s mind (and consequently in his writings) with the struggle to take possession of the GD’s 2nd Order rooms at 36 Blythe Road; with Crowley acting for Samuel Liddell Mathers, against senior GD members in London who were trying to act independently of Mathers. There are also some slight inconsistencies between Crowley’s two accounts of Alice Isabel’s part in what happened, but both agree that it wasn’t an active one, she didn’t go beyond offering Crowley an initial moral support, which she later withdrew. On Sunday 8 April 1900 Crowley visited her and Elaine before leaving for Paris, where he intended to be initiated into the 2nd Order by Mathers, having been refused initiation by senior members in London. Both Alice Isabel and Elaine pledged their support for the plan he outlined to them that day, in which he to would take possession of the 2nd Order rooms as Mathers’ agent and make all the 2nd Order members swear personal allegiance to Mathers.
Having obtained the initiation and Mathers’ approval for what he was going to do, Crowley returned to London on Friday 13 April. On Monday 16 April he called at the Simpsons’ house to put them in the picture. This, I think, was a difficult and important meeting for Alice Isabel. She began to have seriously cold feet about the plan as described to her this time, perhaps because it had expanded since she’d last heard it. It now included some changes to the rituals, that hadn’t been mooted before. And it also demanded that all GD members in London be required to meet Crowley in person and swear their allegiance to Mathers; the original plan was to have involved only the 2nd Order members. Whether Crowley told Alice Isabel that these allegiance-swearing interviews were going to take place in her house, isn’t clear. Elaine certainly knew they were; but may not have made it plain to her mother. One way or another, though, Alice Isabel got alarmed, and either at this meeting or one shortly afterwards, Crowley reacted by treating her as hostile. When Crowley wrote his account of 1900 many years later, he implied that he put Alice Isabel through all the questions and demands for loyalty (though not the revised rituals) that he was intending to make all the GD members submit to; though this seems to have been an exaggeration. In any case, Crowley seems to have been satisfied enough with any replies that Alice Isabel may have made, so she must have convinced him of her continuing loyalty to Mathers as the GD’s only leader.
According to The Confessions, it was Alice Isabel who told Crowley the reason why the London 2nd Order members had voted to refuse to initiate him; which was, that the 2nd Order suspected him of using the sex act to gain magical power - a well-known magical technique but a deeply controversial subject within the GD. Can this be true? - in 1900, a young man and an older woman who are not related - not even all that well-acquainted - discussing the use of sex as an aid to magical ritual? I suppose it can, though I have my doubts; though if this was what was being said about Crowley within the GD, it would certainly give Alice Isabel good cause for being very anxious about how friendly Elaine and Crowley were becoming. However, it may not have been true: in the (much earlier) The Spirit of Solitude Crowley gives a completely different reason for the refusal, a much more mundane one: jealousy of Crowley’s quick progress from initiate to the GD, to initiate of the 2nd Order. He doesn’t say whether it was Alice Isabel or someone else entirely who told him this reason.
Perhaps originally Crowley had been thinking that Alice Isabel would go with him to take possession of the 2nd Order rooms. Once she had started to doubt what he was going to do, he changed his mind; she may also have refused to take any further part in the proceedings. One way or the other, Alice Isabel did not go with Crowley and Elaine on Tuesday 17 April or on Thursday 19 April, when the struggle for 36 Blythe Road took place. If Alice Isabel tried to prevent Elaine from going, she did not succeed, and Crowley probably never knew about the attempt.
Alice Isabel’s original pledge of support, and the intended use of her home to bring the GD members to heel; was enough to condemn her in the eyes of the ruling committee set up by those in the GD who were trying to break free of Mathers. On 19 April, its members voted to eject her from the GD along with Elaine, and Crowley, and Edward Berridge who had agreed to lend Elaine his keys to the 2nd Order rooms. There’s no evidence that Alice Isabel made any attempt to challenge the decision. It seems, too, that she didn’t blame Crowley for her expulsion - at least, not enough to cut off all acquaintance with him. When visiting Paris in 1902, she and Crowley met one afternoon at the rooms he was renting. Crowley had only recently returned to Europe after two years abroad, so there must have been at least one exchange of letters between them during that time. Their acquaintance did gradually decline, however. In The Spirit of Solitude and The Confessions there’s an coda to it that Alice Isabel can hardly have intended: Crowley thanks Alice Isabel (rather grudgingly) for putting the idea of having an astral relationship with her daughter into his head.
Alice Isabel let the GD go in April 1900 - she had other things she needed to focus on. If she was worried about the relationship between her daughter and Aleister Crowley, she would soon be able to pass responsibility for curtailing it to someone else. She had found an eligible husband for Elaine and as a result, she had a wedding to organise.
AFTER THE GOLDEN DAWN
The eligible husband was Paul Harry Witkowski, German-born but based in Hong Kong where he worked for Arnhold Karberg. Arnhold Karberg was a business with a large property portfolio which also acted as agent in the Far East for a number of European and American shipping and insurance companies. It had branches in China, London and New York as well as Hong Kong, and in Hong Kong had a guaranteed seat on the board of directors of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Witkowski was sufficiently senior in the partnership to occupy that seat on HSBC’s board from 1899 to 1901 while an even more senior employee was on leave in Europe. He had every prospect of becoming a partner in the firm himself: eligible indeed.
Seeing Witkowski was working in Hong Kong not the firm’s London office, it’s a puzzle how he and Elaine met. Perhaps the Simpsons had known his family for many years, since John and Lucy Hall had lived in Germany in the 1860s.
Did Alice Isabel breathe a big sigh of relief on 12 June 1900 when Elaine Simpson and Paul Witkowski were married at St Saviour’s Paddington? They left for Hong Kong shortly afterwards and the following year Alice Isabel visited them there. I don’t know the date of the visit for certain but I’d put my money on June 1901. At the end of that month, Elaine gave birth to her first child - Alice Isabel’s first grandchild - and it would be a heartless or penniless mother who would not be with her daughter at such a time, taking charge of the household and giving the new mother every support. I suppose Alice Isabel never knew that Elaine and and Crowley had got back in touch only a few months after Elaine had got married; and that they spent a traumatic few days together in Shanghai in 1906, during which they came very close to committing adultery. If she had known, I’m sure she would have been very worried indeed, but it was no longer her problem to solve: her son-in-law would have to deal with it.
Crowley doesn’t mention either Beatrice Simpson or Arthur in his account of his short-lived acquaintance with Alice Isabel. Arthur must have been at school at the time and perhaps their paths never crossed; and Beatrice doesn’t seem to have made any impression on him. Thinking of Elaine as safely married, however, Alice Isabel could turn her attention to the futures of these two younger children.
I’m inclined to think that Alice Isabel might have wished Beatrice well when she decided she wanted to be an actress: the sources I’ve found (which admittedly are rather limited) show Beatrice as the only one of Alice Isabel’s children to inherit her artistic and creative skills; though none of her children seem to have had her musical talents. I’m sure Alice Isabel went to see Beatrice make her professional acting debut, at the Princess’s Theatre in June 1899 in a play called One of the Best, playing the kind of ingenue role that was usually given to young actresses just starting out. Over the next few years Beatrice had similar small parts in other London productions; and then she got a break which must have caused Alice Isabel as much anxiety as pride - she was offered work in New York. One website I came across said that during the run of There’s Many A Slip, at the Garrick Theatre New York in the autumn of 1902, Beatrice got engaged to one of her fellow actors, James Erskine. Such an engagement was the sort a young woman might well enter into when her mother was an ocean’s distance away: James Erskine was an earl, the first member of the British aristocracy to become a professional actor; but his other attributes were the sort to give a careful mother nightmares - he’d been declared bankrupt and was divorced with two children. However, nothing came of the engagement, if it ever existed, and Alice Isabel could breathe again. Beatrice never did marry.
Of course, Beatrice had to take the opportunity offered her, to work in America. She left England in the summer of 1902. Although she often came back to Britain on visits - in 1912 for example and again in 1925 - she never really lived in the UK again. Also in 1902, Alice Isabel and Lucy Hall left Randolph Road and it was probably at this point that they moved into the flat at 14 Cadogan Court, a typical late-19th century block on Draycott Avenue in the maze of streets between Fulham Road and King’s Road. Lucy finally died there, on 21 April 1907. Arthur had joined the Royal Artillery as a lieutenant in 1906, so with Lucy’s death Alice Isabel felt able to go travelling again - she went to the USA in July 1907, probably to visit Beatrice but perhaps to see other friends as well. While she was away, her son-in-law, Paul Witkowski, died in Germany. In the early months of 1908, Elaine was in England dealing with her husband’s estate; but by 1911 she had got married again, to another German, a Herr Wölker, and was living in Hamburg. Whether Elaine made Alice Isabel a grandparent again, with either of her husbands, I don’t know; her only grandchild (I don’t know its gender) may have been Elaine’s child born in 1901.
Arthur was still in England on the day of the 1911 census. He and a fellow officer were staying in a lodging house at 93 Jermyn Street, perhaps taking some leave as Arthur’s current posting was with the Royal Artillery at Leeds. Alice Isabel was back in England, but had moved out of London. She was living at 41 Egerton Road, Bexhill, in Sussex, putting the finishing touches to the project originally conceived by her father in the 1850s: the biography The Life and Letters of Sir John Hall. Not feeling up to researching, editing and writing it herself, she had consulted Sir George Birdwood of the India Office, a historian himself, member of an old East India Company family and briefly a colleague of Sir John Hall in the Bombay Medical Service. Birdwood had recommended the young and relatively unknown Indian author Sid Mahan Mitra for the task; and Mitra was staying with Alice Isabel on census day, still working on the papers that Alice Isabel had inherited from her parents. It was on the strength of this book that both Alice Isabel and Elaine as well were elected members of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1911; Alice Isabel remained a member until 1925.
The evidence of the Royal Asiatic Society membership lists is that Alice Isabel didn’t live in England between 1912 and the early 1930s. At the very least, she spent most of each year abroad perhaps returning, like many did, for the ‘social season’ in the spring. I’m sure she was in England in May 1912 when Beatrice gave what can probably be described as an early performance-poetry recital at the Crosby Hall in Chelsea. But I haven’t found any information as to where she was spending most of her time.
Early in 1914, Arthur had made the decision to apply for an army secondment, probably in order to speed up his progress towards promotion. He’d been sent to West Africa, arriving there in May 1914, so that none of Alice Isabel’s children were in England when the first World War broke out. The years of the first World War must have been very difficult for all the Simpsons, with Elaine married to a German (he was a government official too) and living with him in a country that had suddenly become an enemy; and Arthur fighting for the British. Visiting Elaine would have been out of the question, I imagine; and even exchanging letters might have been difficult. Arthur got his promotion to captain in October, and remained on the Gold Coast until April 1915. Then he came back to fight in Europe and for Alice Isabel a period began of dreading the man with the telegram. Arthur fought in Belgium and France from August 1915 to sometime during 1917; but from May 1917 he was a working as gunnery instructor and was probably not on the front-line. In November 1917 he was sent to Italy. While he was there he was promoted to acting lieutenant-colonel and was wounded twice, but not severely - he was able to continue his army career. Elaine also survived the war and Alice Isabel could relax, at least on that point.
I think Alice Isabel continued to live mostly abroad in the 1920s; perhaps there was a catching-up of lost time with Elaine. She joined the Ladies’ Army and Navy Club in 1924; members could stay at the club’s premises in Burlington Gardens W1 when they were in London. I don’t know exactly when she decided to move back to England again, but at least in the early 1930s she had one child living here: by 1930 Arthur had been posted to the School of Artillery on Salisbury Plain. Beatrice had moved further away than ever, though, from New York to California.
By 1935 Alice Isabel was living in Kensington, at 22 Courtfield Gardens off Cromwell Road. She died on 16 January 1935 at one of two hospitals which both had the address 28 Marloes Road: St Mary Abbot’s hospital for the acutely ill; and the Kensington Institution for the chronically ill. Just as she had chosent to join a women’s club, Alice Isabel appointed a woman solicitor to be the executor of her Will: Irene Stoney, who probably worked for Chatterton and Co of 231 the Strand.
ALICE ISABEL’S CHILDREN AFTER HER DEATH
Elaine was still alive at the end of the 1920s when she got back in touch with Aleister Crowley after many years. I haven’t been able to find out when or where she died. Beatrice died in California in 1956. If I have identified the right person, Arthur retired from the army and went to South Africa, dying in Durban in 1960; the very little evidence I came across suggested that, like Beatrice, he never married. If Alice Isabel has any descendants, they are most likely to be German.
BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.
Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden. Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01. As far as I know, the records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have not survived either.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
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.
SOURCES FOR ALICE ISABEL SIMPSON née HALL
I couldn’t find any information on the death of Lucy’s father Harry Hackshaw. I think he must have died in the West Indies. After Lucy’s mother Harriet Marion Hackshaw died in 1877 (in England) her nearest living relation was her brother Robert James Hackshaw. He had been living in England at least since the 1870s and in 1872 had married Elizabeth Rowe, a member of another family that had owned land on St Vincent. In 1881 they and their children were living in Camberwell. Robert was employed as a bailiff at the county court in Shoreditch. Elizabeth Hackshaw died in 1890 and 1892, Robert had married Louisa Campbell Popplewell. He and Louisa were living in Croydon in 1901.
LUCY’S FIRST HUSBAND: DUNCAN FORBES SUTHERLAND
Timesonline: Times 10 October 1836 p4 marriage notice for Duncan Forbes Sutherland and Lucy Campbell Hackshaw. The wedding took place in London.
At website //svgancestry.com/index.php/sutherland-of-st-vincent there is an account of the Sutherlands of St Vincent posted 2006 by Joan Leggett who is a descendant of the family. It also covers their relations, the MacKay family. Joan Leggett gives the year of Duncan Forbes Sutherland’s death. There’s a list of subscribers to a book by Charles Shephard An Historical Account of the Island of St Vincent, published 1831. In the list are H Hackshaw of Gloucester Place Portman Square and several Sutherlands including Duncan Forbes of St Vincent. Finally, Joan Leggett posts a list of officers who served in the St Vincent Militia between 1787 and 1828: both Harry Hackshaw and Duncan Forbes Sutherland are on the list as serving during the 1820s.
The Sutherland family estates in St Vincent had to be sold in the 1860s to pay debts: see Times 30 November 1863 p4d. So it’s likely that Lucy Sutherland was a rather impoverished widow.
More information on the Sutherland family can be found at
Www.kittybrewster.com/ancestry/sutherland.htm including the fact that Duncan Forbes Sutherland and Lucy had no children.
SECOND HUSBAND: SIR JOHN HALL
He’s in ODNB and on wikipedia but I got most of my information from Life and Letters of Sir John Hall MD KCB FRCS whose author is S M Mitra but it was Alice Isabel Simpson who commissioned him and provided the letters and other documents he used. London, New York, Bombay, Calcutta: Longmans Green and Company 1911. Introduction by Rear-Admiral Sir R Massie Blomfield KCMG. Amongst the sources used were John Hall’s books of copies of the letters he sent as part of his medical-military duties, which he had kept to use for his memoir-cum-apologia. The book covering 1843 to 1866 was sold at Bonhams on 26 June 2007. See www.bonhams.com/auctions/15231/lot/26,. Unfortunately the website doesn’t give details of who bought the book. The earlier book, covering 1827-43, is now in the Wellcome Library.
For Rondesbosch, where John Hall and Lucy were married, see wikipedia. It’s most likely they were married at St Paul’s church, which seems to have been the first English church built in the district: see www.stpaulsrondebosch.co.za building began 1832.
The Life and Letters of Sir John Hall was also my source for Alice Isabel’s youth and education and the different places she lived until her marriage. And for Lucy Hall’s death; the announcement in the Daily Telegraph 24 April 1907 is reproduced in the book. At the end of the book there are a couple of pages on Alice Isabel and her child; and some photographs - facing p543 one of “Lieutenant W A Simpson”; facing p298 of Alice and her grandchild, taken in Hong Kong in 1901. On p544 is all the information I’ve been able to find about Elaine’s second marriage; and mention of Beatrice’s volume of poems Songs of the Elements.
Baptism of John Hall: familysearch England-ODM GS film number 0924749 IT 4.
Not even familysearch had any record of the marriage of John Hall to Lucy Campbell Sutherland. I also couldn’t find any record of the birth of their daughter Lucia Georgina, which I deduce took place in South Africa.
ALICE ISABEL HALL
Birth and baptism of Alice Isabel Hall: www.familysearch.org, parish records of the Presidency of Bombay.
Via www.familysearch.org Great Britain-EASy and VR, GS film number 1929839: marriage of Alice Hall to William Simpson.
REV WILLIAM SIMPSON:
Alumni Dublinensis 1593-1860 editors George D Burtchaeli and Thomas U Sadleir 1935, p753. Thacker’s Bengal Directory 1864 p82.
Thacker’s Bengal Directory 1867 p173.
Thacker’s Bengal Directory 1875 p1544.
Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1891 p1190.
ST JOHN’S BAILLIESTON
Scottish Episcopal Clergy 1689-2000 by David M Bertie published Edinburgh: T and T Clark 2000. P598.
Irish Identities in Victorian Britain editors Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley published London: Routledge 2011: p144.
Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1900 Volume 2 p1241 still has an entry for Rev William Simpson, which I found a bit strange: as incumbent of St John’s Baillieston from 1888-95.
Births of Elaine Mary Simpson and Alice Beatrice Simpson: see familysearch.
The Gates of Light by Beatrice Irwin (Alice Beatrice Simpson). London: Rider and Co. Undated but British Library catalogue gives the publication date as 1930. P154 but it’s just a very brief biographical paragraph and it doesn’t mention Elaine.
RANDOLPH ROAD wrongly said by Crowley to be Randolph Place:
Kelly’s London Directory 1894 p608 street directory does not list anyone called Hall or Simpson in Randolph Road.
Kelly’s London Directory 1899 p680 street directory has Lady Hall - that is, Lucy - as householder at 15 Randolph Road.
THE SIMPSONS AND ALEISTER CROWLEY
The proposed use of Lady Hall’s house by Crowley as Mathers’ envoy in 1900: Freemason’s Library GD collection GD 2/4/3/30.
Part of The Confessions (covering events as far as 1904) was published in two volumes as The Spirit of Solitude: an Autohagiography subsequently re-Antichristened The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. London: Mandrake Press Museum St 1929. It contains more about his travels and his climbing expeditions than appears in the later editions. The coverage of Crowley’s time in the GD, and the people that he met there, is in more or less the same words as the better-known edition edited by Symonds and Grant; although what went on at Blythe Road is not mentioned at all. However, there are one or two differences as regards Alice Isabel; and some information on Elaine which was cut from later versions. Symonds and Grant also cut passages in which Crowley spells out in so many words his contempt for all women. He sees all women as having no morals and no intellectual ability of any kind, and being bound up in their reproductive capacity to the exclusion of all else.
The later, better known version does include information on Crowley’s life after 1904:
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant London: Cape 1969. A version of this edition is also on the web at
Www.hermetic.com/crowley/confessions. I think people need to remember that when he was writing The Confessions Crowley had long ago run through the money he inherited and was now living on his reputation.
Website www.lashtal.com/wiki/Aleister_Crowley_Timeline is run by the Aleister Crowley Society. The section of this website which covers 1898-1900 is based on Crowley’s own Abra-Melin Notebook.
For more scholarly and detached accounts of Crowley and the Simpson family, I recommend Howe or Kaczynski:
The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923 by Ellic Howe. Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd 1972. There’s a good chapter on the battle of 36 Blythe Road and what followed, based on Crowley’s Abra-Melin Notebook and an account of the battle written for the GD’s ruling committee by GD member Edmund Hunter; with long quotes from both.
Perdurabo: the Life of Aleister Crowley by Richard Kaczynski. 2nd edition Berkeley California: North Atlantic Books 2010: pp77-79, p92. On p65 however, Kaczynski wrongly identifies Alice Isabel’s father as Sir John Hall 1824-1907, prime minister of New Zealand 1879-82. There are a lot of men called John Hall at any one time!
AFTER THE GOLDEN DAWN
Birth of Elaine’s first child in late June 1901: Crowley’s diaries for June 1901; details sent to me 28 August 2014 by Crowley researcher Clint Warren.
Alice Isabel calling on Crowley in Paris January 1902: letter from Crowley to Gerald Kelly, undated but written around 15 January 1902 and seen by Clint Warren. Details sent to me 8 September 2014 by Clint Warren.
Kelly’s London Directory 1902 p697 street directory Lady Hall is still at 15 Randolph Road but by Kelly’s London Directory 1903 p698 15 Randolph Road’s resident is Miss Rebecca Pepper, dressmaker.
Deaths of Lucy Campbell Hall and Paul Harry Witkowski: probate registry records.
At familysearch passenger arrival lists Ellis Island: Alice Isabel Simpson arrived 21 July 1907 on the Cedric from Liverpool.
ALICE ISABEL AND ELAINE IN THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland published by the Society which was then at 22 Albemarle Street London. Issues from January 1911 to 1927.
ALICE ISABEL SIMPSON’S DEATH
Probate registry records.
28 MARLOES ROAD
See English Heritage’s buildings’ website www.british-history.ac.uk, an article there taken from the Survey of London volume 42 published 1896 chapter XXII. And Lost Hospitals of London, at website ezitis.myzen.co.uk/stmaryabbots.html.
London Gazette 21 February 1936 p1201 notices issued under the Trustee Act 1925 S27.
FOR ALICE ISABEL’S DAUGHTERS see their biographies. Arthur Simpson never joined the GD or its daughter orders.
BEATRICE’S POETRY PERFORMANCE IN LONDON
The New Science of Color originally published 1915; this information from a modern reprint by Nabu Public Domain Reprints 2014: p124-128.
And BEATRICE IN LONDON 1925
The Gates of Light by Beatrice Irwin. London: Rider and Co 1930 p155.
ALICE’S SON WILLIAM ARTHUR JOHN SIMPSON
BEWARE a man with exactly the same name 1877-1964, police chief in Suffolk MBE 1920, died 1964. I think I have got the correct man, in the Probate Registry records for 1960.
Monthly Army List January 1914 column 533 and column 611.
Monthly Army List Oct 1914 column 533 and p2516.
Debretts 1920 p1799 as MC and DSO, 1918.
The VC and DSO: A Complete List volume 3 p68. Published 1924, compilers O Moore Creagh and Edith M Humphris.
Monthly Army List October 1930 column 250c.
Army List 1930: half-yearly list ending December 1930 p322 a good listing of his career so far.
At www.shelaghspencer.com is a list of British Settlers in Natal 1824-1957 compiled by Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer; I couldn’t see from the website what her sources were but in any case, William Arthur John Simpson was not in her list.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
15 September 2014
Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: