Thérèse Charlotte Simpson was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Amon-Ra temple in Edinburgh, on 23 March 1896. She chose the Latin motto ‘Aliis nutrior’. Two other people were initiated on the same evening - Emily Robertson and William McNair Wallace - and even if none of the three of them had met before the ritual, Mrs Robertson and Mr McNair will have known Thérèse by repute.
This is one of my short biographies. I didn’t know anything more about Thérèse Simpson than anyone could come across using Ancestry, until I found www.kosmoid.net, web pages about Henry and Marjory Simpson, Thérèse’s parents. It’s based on original documents: drawings and photographs, extracts from letters, reminiscences from 19th century family members. A big big thank you to its compilers, for pointing out to me that Thérèse Simpson and her family were very well-known in 19th century Edinburgh. That being so, there must be a whole lot more information on them. In Edinburgh. I’d need to be on the spot to look at them, and I’ve had to admit that life’s too short!
Here’s what I have found on THÉRÈSE CHARLOTTE SIMPSON without having spent several months in Edinburgh reading the newspapers and going through local archives.
A word before we start: even Thérèse’s childhood appearances in the census have the two French accents on her forename - her parents were very insistent on them!
IN THE GD
The records of the Amon-Ra temple have been lost, so it’s not possible for me to say how keen a member of the GD Thérèse was, or how far she progressed as a magician. I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Thérèse wasn’t initiated into the GD’s inner, 2nd Order. She may even have given the GD up as a bad job quite soon after she was initiated, and not because she found that the western esoteric tradition didn’t interest her as much as theosophy. All the GD’s temples had their share of internal disputes, but letters sent by GD member William Sutherland Hunter suggest that Amon-Ra was particularly bedevilled that way. Hunter’s friend Edward Macbean resigned from Amon-Ra early in 1898, probably for that very reason; and Hunter himself seems to have stopped going to the rituals later that year. Perhaps Thérèse felt the same.
Between 1900 and 1903 the GD in London split into two factions. After 1903 each faction set up its own daughter order - Stella Matutina and the Independent and Rectified Rite. Although Thérèse was living near London by then, there’s no evidence that she joined either of them.
For the strife in Amon-Ra:
Gerald Yorke Collection held at the Warburg Institute: letters to and from Frederick Leigh Gardner, reference number NS73. Letters to Gardner from W S Hunter: 1 June 1897 and 17 January 1898. Hunter tried his best to keep out of all the arguments, but told Gardner that the in-fighting had left him feeling that none of the temple’s members could be trusted.
Lists of members of the two daughter orders do exist and are published in R A Gilbert: see the main Sources section below.
ANY OTHER ESOTERIC INTERESTS?
Yes. Like so many people who were initiated into the GD, Thérèse was a member of the Theosophical Society. Thérèse had joined the TS in 1889, when it was only really active in London. Her becoming a member so early suggests that she was going to some at least of its London meetings. If she was doing so, she will have met not only Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, but also several people who joined the GD later; as well as William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers, who founded it. In the early 1890s, there were enough people Edinburgh with an interest in theosophy to set up two TS lodges there, and a library. Andrew Petrie Cattanach, ran the library. In 1893 he helped to found the TS’s Scottish Lodge, which Thérèse was a member of until she went to live in England. Cattanach worked for Cowan and Co - see below for Thérèse’s family connection with the firm. He was initiated into the GD in 1893.
Andrew Cattanach might have been the one who recommended Thérèse as a suitable candidate for initiation into the GD. However, in Bradford, Liverpool and Edinburgh nearly everybody who was in the TS was initiated into the GD as well; so sooner or later, someone Thérèse knew in the TS would have put her name forward.
Thérèse continued to be a TS member through a series of upheavals that nearly destroyed it in the 1890s and 1900s; and through her move to England, some time after 1901. However, in 1907 Annie Besant was elected the TS’s president for life. She brought back Charles Webster Leadbeater, whose relationships with some of the TS’s adolescent members had forced his resignation from the TS several years before. Thérèse was amongst many hundreds of TS members who resigned over Leadbeater’s re-instatement, sending in her resignation letter in November 1907. After that, if she maintained her interest in theosophy, it was in private.
Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p130 Thérèse Simpson. Application 27 September 1889. “Resigned 14.11.1907". While I was going through the registers I couldn’t help noticing how many members resigned in 1907, or never paid their annual subscription after that year.
Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume VII September 1890 to February 1891. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 7 Duke Street Adelphi. Volume VII issue 15 December 1890 p344 announcing the TS’s library in Edinburgh, run by A P Cattanach at 67 Brunswick Street. Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Volume XI September 1892- February 1893. Published London: Theosophical Publishing Society of 7 Duke Street Adelphi. Volume XI number 64 issued 15 December 1892 p342-43 a report on the Scottish Lodge giving Mr Cattanach of 67 Brunswick Street Edinburgh as its contact.
There ought to be obituaries of Thérèse in the Edinburgh newspapers, even though she died in England. I hope the Scots had not forgotten her.
Again, many thanks to the compilers of the kosmoid web pages, which show very clearly that Thérèse’s family were at the forefront of Edinburgh’s musical life for a large part of the 19th century. Her parents, Henry and Marjory, were both talented musicians - both of them played the piano and at the kosmoid website there’s a picture of Marjory playing her guitar. I’m not quite sure I’ve got the right person but I think it’s Marjory’s sister Lucy, who married Thomas Constable, that is mentioned as a talented pianist in one of the sources below this section. Thérèse’s sister Elizabeth married James Montgomerie Bell, who was later a founder of the Edinburgh Bach Choir.
Not to diminish any of that, but the Simpsons and their relations by marriage were accomplished and keen amateurs, not professionals. Thérèse and her brothers James and Frederick James did all earn money by teaching music. However, only Thérèse and Frederick James ventured any further into the world of the professional musician. Thérèse sang in public; though I would doubt very much whether she took payment for her appearances. And Frederick James, the best educated (musically speaking) of all Henry and Marjory’s children, published some songs.
There are other reasons for being fascinated by Thérèse’s family background.
HER FATHER HENRY SIMPSON
The kosmoid website says that Henry Simpson was a son of Dr Robert Simpson who worked and lived in Russia. I am a little worried about this information as Henry’s marriage registration says his father’s name was Alexander Simpson. However, Henry was born in Russia, so he probably is related to the Dr Robert Simpson who arrived in Russia in 1774 to take up a position as medical officer to the Russian Imperial Navy. Dr Robert rose through the medical ranks and was appointed chief surgeon of the naval hospital at the navy’s main base in Cronstadt (or Kronstadt) in 1792. He later left the imperial navy and went into private practice in St Petersburg. Henry Simpson was born in St Petersburg in 1805.
Henry Simpson made what in 19th century terms would have been described as a very good marriage, with the daughter of a wealthy Scottish industrialist.
Marjory Cowan was a member of the paper-making family of Edinburgh and Valleyfield Mill at Penicuik. Her grandfather, Charles Cowan, was the first family member to hold the lease of the Valleyfield Mill. Her father, Alexander Cowan, and her brothers, made the firm one of the world’s biggest paper-makers and distributors; as Alexander Cowan and Sons, and later as Cowan and Co. Alexander Cowan was married twice. Marjory was one of his 11 children, though only 8 survived to adulthood. He moved his family to Edinburgh in 1811 and into Moray House Canongate around 1830. The family was prominent in those circles in Edinburgh where society, business and politics met. Marjory’s brothers Charles and James were both MP’s for Edinburgh at different times; James also served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh; John was made a baronet. Marjory’s sister Lucia Ann married Thomas Constable, son of the Edinburgh publisher Archibald Constable.
Henry Simpson married Marjory Cowan in May 1833. I couldn’t find any information about whether Henry Simpson was working for Alexander Cowan and Co before his marriage; but he did work for it after he married Marjory.
Russian connections of Henry Simpson’s family:
At www.electricscotland.com there’s what seems to be a whole book on the importance of the Scots in Russian history. I couldn’t see the title, author or page numbers. Information on Robert Simpson - though without any mention of an Alexander Simpson - is in its Chapter 9: Scottish Families Living in Russia. It’s surprising how many there were, especially in the navy.
The Cowan family of Penicuik and Edinburgh:
See wikipedia for several of its members.
Website scottishprintarchive.org, the web pages of the Scottish Printing Archival Trust.
At www.scotlandswar.ed.ac.uk, information on the Cowan connection with Penicuik.
Henry and Marjory:
The website on them and their family is at www.kosmoid.net
Date and place of their marriage from Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 1067747.
HENRY AND MARJORY and THEIR FAMILY
Henry’s work for Alexander Cowan and Co had sent him to Liverpool by 1838. Thérèse Charlotte Simpson, known to her family as Rézie, was born in the parish of St George Everton at the beginning of that year. On census day 1841, the Simpsons were living at Green Bank in Birkenhead, where their son Alexander had been born a few days before. With them on that day were Elizabeth (aged 5), Thérèse, Frances (aged 2); and the four family servants. By 1845, when Thérèse’s next sister, Harriet, was born, Henry and Marjory were back in Edinburgh. Sister Marjorie was born in Scotland as well, in 1847, but the Simpsons then spent several years in Cronstadt, where Joseph and William were born (1850 and 1853). I’m sure Henry and Marjory made full use of the opportunity it gave them to visit imperial St Petersburg.
When Henry and Marjory returned to Scotland they set up home in Portobello, on the North Sea coast. Frederick James, their last child, was born in Portobello in 1857. By the day of the 1861 census they had moved into Selville House, where the family lived until the mid-1880s. Census day 1861 was the last census day all the children were at home - Elizabeth, Thérèse, Frances, Harriet, Marjorie, Joseph, William and Frederick. The Simpsons were employing a cook-cum-housekeeper, a housemaid and a nursery maid - quite a modest staff for so big and (presumably) so wealthy a household. Thérèse was 23, and was perhaps already singing solos.
I haven’t come across any details of what ordinary education Thérèse might have had. On the census days of 1841 and 1861 there was no governess living in Henry and Marjory Simpson’s household. Census days are just snapshots of people’s lives, but perhaps the Simpson daughters - like the Simpson sons - never had a governess but attended a school in Edinburgh. Living for several years in Russia might have been quite an education in itself.
Thanks to the kosmoid website, I have found out about Thérèse’s musical education. Her parents thought her sufficiently talented, and sufficiently willing to do the necessary work, to pay for her to have some specialist teaching.
Thérèse was a soprano. I’ve already suggested that she probably did not take money for her singing; it would not have been seemly for a woman of her social class even if she had needed the money. However, she did sing solos at public concerts; and probably also at soirées in Edinburgh and elsewhere, though evidence for this kind of private musical evening is harder to find.
The kosmoid website lists three named teachers and one unnamed one who taught Thérèse at different times.
“Miss Yaniewiscz” (as she’s spelled on the kosmoid website), more usually spelled Janiewicz.
This was Felicia Janiewicz, daughter of Feliks Janiewicz (1762-1848) the violinist and musical impresario. Feliks began his career in the orchestra of the king of Poland; he spent time in Vienna, Italy and Paris before the wars in Europe drove him to settle in the UK. After some years in Liverpool he and his family moved to Edinburgh in 1815. Felicia was the eldest of his three children, a pianist, singer and teacher of singing in Edinburgh. Her scrapbooks still survive and it would be good to know if Thérèse Simpson appears in them at all.
Thérèse’s second teacher, A W Smith, was more difficult to find out about. Such evidence as I did come across suggested that eventually he went to the USA. However, he was living in Edinburgh in 1861 when he helped to found the Edinburgh Glee Union; and was still a professor of singing in 1885, giving lessons at 4 West Castle Road Merchiston - though by that time Thérèse was giving lessons herself.
When exactly Thérèse had lessons with Miss Janiewicz and Mr Smith I haven’t been able to discover. However, the 1850s and 1860s seem likely, when Thérèse was in her twenties and thirties. The kosmoid website doesn’t give a name to the teacher Thérèse went to Paris to have lessons with in 1875. And perhaps that’s a good thing from the point of view of the teacher’s reputation, because the lessons Thérèse had with whoever it was, put her singing career in jeopardy. Fortunately, her voice recovered after she had had some sessions with the teacher and composer Franz Bosen.
I haven’t found much evidence for Thérèse Simpson’s concert appearances. I’m sure I’d uncover a lot more if I could spend some time looking at the Edinburgh newspapers. I also discovered that there was at least one other ‘Miss Simpson’ singing in public in the UK in the second half of the 19th century - a woman from Lancaster. So I’m not sure if it was Thérèse who was the “Miss Simpson” who took part in a singing competition at the Crystal Palace in 1872; or if it was Thérèse who was the “Miss Simpson” whose libretto was mentioned in a magazine in 1894. The Miss Simpson of 1872 did not win the competition; on the other hand, the reporter in The Musical Standard thought the judges had made a serious mistake, in choosing Anna Williams instead - the limitations of Miss William’s voice were exposed only a day or two later, in the gala concert at the end of the competition!
I feel more confident about it being Thérèse who sang the solo soprano part in a performance of Mendelssohn’s setting of the 42nd Psalm, at the Music Hall in Edinburgh in May 1875. I also think it was Thérèse who sang the solo O Peaceful Night at a concert at the same venue in 1891 in which the Western Choral Society sang Cowen’s cantata St John’s Eve. And I sincerely hope it was Thérèse who was both solo vocalist and conductor when an amateur women’s choir gave a concert at the Queen Street Hall in Edinburgh in May 1883 to raise money for the Edinburgh Suffrage Society. If Thérèse was a believer in votes for women, she was one of the few GD members who showed any obvious interest in the social and political issues of their day. Good for her and I’d like to think that some of the other women GD members in Edinburgh were in the choir that evening.
By 1881 if not earlier, Thérèse was giving singing lessons; and I presume she was being paid for this, because she described it as her source of income to the census official that year. She was being interviewed for the census at Selville House, where she and her brother James - also a music teacher - were at home, with just two servants as their parents were away. On census day 1891 Thérèse told that year’s census official that she was a school teacher and I take that to mean that she was not just teaching music. In the past ten years there had been many changes to her family and financial situation. Her father had died, the house at Portobello had been given up, and Thérèse’s career as a singer was probably in decline, as she was now over 50. She was living in Haddington, apparently on her own, but in some comfort as she was employing two servants. On census day she had a visitor, Elizabeth Martin from Glasgow, who perhaps was a singing pupil.
Sources for Thérèse’s singing teachers:
Oxford Dictionary of Music online p431 entry for Feliks Janiewicz though it doesn’t mention his children.
At pwm.com.pl/en, a dictionary of Polish musicians, there’s an entry in English for Feliks Janiewicz which you can access directly if you search with that spelling of his name. I think the information at this website is what was used by the Oxford Dictionary; though it has more details including brief entries on Feliks’ children.
The British Library catalogue lists a few works by Feliks Janiewicz: songs, chamber works; and some orchestral pieces including a couple arranged more recently by Panufnik. The catalogue doesn’t have contain works by any of his children.
Felicia Janiewicz’s scrapbook is mentioned at tub.archiveshub.ac.uk: GB 73 AAD/2003/14/8 covering the 1820s to 1862. It’s in the V&A archives, in the papers of her nephew, the architect Charles Harrison Townsend. Townsend designed the Horniman Museum in south London, for the father of GD member Annie Horniman.
The British Library had only one work written by A W Smith; it was published in 1905 in the USA.
The Musical World 1861 p108 issue of 16 February 1861: report on the first concert of the Edinburgh Glee Union.
Dr Carter Moffat’s Ammoniaphone published 1885 p37 as a Professor of Singing, based in Edinburgh; in a set of small ads.
I saw several references via google to an A W Smithm musician and composer, in the USA; it must be the same man.
The British Library has songs written by Franz Bosen, often to poems translated from German; also opera arias arranged for violin and piano. The earliest of these was published in 1842; most were from the 1850s and 1860s.
At www.concertina.com, an issue of the Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle 39 published 2006. Article by Allan W Atlas: Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers: the Gendered Concertina in Victorian Engl 1835-70: p6 . The concertina had been invented 30 years previously in 1860 and already had a wide repertoire. Bosen as mentioned as one of those composers who had written works for it.
Thérèse’s own career as a singer and teacher of singing: census 1891, 1901.
The British Library catalogue has no works by her.
The Musical Standard issue of 6 July 1872 report on the singing competitions held recently at the Crystal Palace National Meetings.
The Monthly Musical Record 1875 p107 issue of 1 July 1875 concert by the Sacred Harmonic Society at the Music Hall Edinburgh on 29 May .
Musical Times and Singing Class Circular volumes 18-20 1877 p331 concert at the Corn Exchange by the Vocal Union. “Miss Simpson (Edinburgh)” sang the soprano solo role. This was a google snippet; I couldn’t see the date of the concert, or which town it had taken place in.
Everywoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions volume 13 1883 p268 issue of 19 June 1883: concert in Queen Street Hall Edinburgh 26 May .
Musical News volume 1 1891 p202 concert by the Western Choral Society in the Music Hall Edinburgh in which the main work was Cowen’s (sic) cantata St John’s Eve.
A libretto that was possibly by Thérèse: The Musical Herald and Tonic Sol-fa Reporter issues 550-51 1894 p366 issue of 1 December 1894.
Not that I’ve found, either of musical scores or of a book; but I’ve only searched the British Library catalogue. If Thérèse wrote any songs, they are more likely to have been published in Scotland.
Thérèse never married. Her closest relationships were with her musical siblings and their families; particularly the youngest and best musically-educated of them, Frederick James.
The death of Henry Simpson, in December 1885 must have been a terrible blow to such a close-knit family; though I think it was not unexpected. Thérèse’s mother Marjory went to live with Thérèse’s eldest sister Elizabeth, and her husband John Montgomerie Bell. John Bell was a writer to the Signet (a legal position) in Edinburgh. On the day of the 1891 census they were all living at 55a Grange Road in Edinburgh but Marjory Simpson died a few months later.
FREDERICK JAMES SIMPSON
When I say that Thérèse’s youngest brother Frederick was the best educated of her family, musically speaking, I mean that unlike his older siblings, he studied music at Oxford University, at the National Training College which became the Royal College of Music; and in Germany. He was 19 years younger than Thérèse and a man - opportunities were available to him that had not been to her or even to his older brothers. However, educational opportunities aren’t everything. Frederick doesn’t seem to have worked as a musician; at least, I think I would have found evidence if he’d been a soloist though not necessarily if he’d played in an orchestra. The British Library has only 12 works composed by him, mostly songs. It doesn’t have a score of a symphony he wrote - the Robert the Bruce Symphony - which incorporated the tune of Scots Wha Hae. The symphony was given its first performance in England in 1889; but has never been played regularly since.
In 1901 and again in 1911 Frederick is described in the census as a music teacher. He must have been taking private pupils - like Thérèse was - because as as far as I can see, he was never employed by any of the music colleges. Shortly after he left Oxford University the job of professor of music at Edinburgh University became vacant. Frederick applied for it, but didn’t get it. I get the sense of a man who promised much but delivered rather less.
In 1901 Thérèse and Frederick were both teaching music. Thérèse had moved from Haddington back into Edinburgh and was living at 1a Hill Place. She was on her own there - no servants and no live-in pupils. Frederick had settled in England and was living at Little Baddow, now a suburb of Chelmsford. He was employing a housekeeper to look after four young lodgers. Later that year, he married Georgina Chapman Hopwood. By 1907, Thérèse - now nearly 70 - had gone to live with Frederick, Georgina and their two children, at a house called Holville, at Hayes End in Middlesex. She wasn’t at home on the day of the 1911 census; perhaps she was visiting relations in Scotland.
Thérèse continued to live with Frederick, Georgina, Henry and Lucy - it made sense to pool their financial resources. At some point - perhaps when World War 1 broke out - they all moved to the village of Wheatacre near Lowestoft in Norfolk. Thérèse died in 1923 and her death was registered in the Loddon registration district, which contains Wheatacre. Frederick died at The Old Rectory Wheatacre in 1942.
Sources: census 1901, 1911.
Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p130 entry for Thérèse Simpson: Holville, Hayes End, Middlesex was the last address she gave to the TS administrators. It’s also the address Frederick James Simpson was living at on the day of the 1911 census.
There’s no probate registry entry for Thérèse Simpson.
For Frederick James Simpson:
British Library catalogue. The 12 works are mostly songs with one or two pieces for orchestra. The earliest is 1888; after 1906 there’s a gap until a last item dated 1918; there’s nothing by him after that.
A Short Historical Account of the Degrees in Music at Oxford and Cambridge compiled by Charles Francis Abdy Williams. Novello Ewer and Co 1893. On p116 Frederick James Simpson as a graduate of New College; I couldn’t see the date of his graduation but the man at the top of the page graduated in 1891.
Edinburgh University Calendar 1892 p568 reporting the names of the applicants for the chair of Music.
Icons of the Middle Ages: Rulers, Writers, Rebels and Saints editor Lister M Matheson. Greenwood Press 2011. Snippet seen via google so no page numbers. Some details of Frederick’s career; and a reference to his Robert the Bruce symphony.
Probate Registry 1942.
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
28 March 2016
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