Compiled: April 2023


Riccardo Stephens was initiated into the GD at its Amen-Ra temple in Edinburgh, on 27 July 1896. Three other people were initiated during the same ritual so he would have met them on that evening, if not before: Lily Bothwell Vöge and her German-born husband Anton; and Jessie Ramsay Raeburn. Stephens chose the motto Sic itur ad astra. I daresay he was curious about what the Order was about, but he wasn’t a dedicated occultist and didn’t follow up his initiation beyond the 1=10 stage.

Source: The GD Companion compiled by R A Gilbert from original documents. Wellingborough Northants: The Aquarian Press p86, pp131-32.


Riccardo Stephens was born in 1860 to William Britton Stephens and his wife Mary Anna or Marianne née Reynolds. In the 1890s quite a bit was made in ‘Celtic revival’ circles of his being a Cornishman but only his mother was Cornish, born in St Erth. His Italian forename was in his father’s family, as a nod to their involvement in the firm Ingham Stephens and Co, which imported Marsala and other products from Sicily. Riccardo’s grandfather James Riccardo Stephens was a founder of the firm; his father ran the firm’s London offices and warehouse, though he also had some income from patents and shares.

After working in a bank for some years, Riccardo studied medicine, graduating MB CM from the University of Edinburgh in 1893. For several years he was the Medical Officer at the University Hall settlement which promoted the ideas of Patrick Geddes. During his time there he published poetry and his first novel. Around 1902 he left Edinburgh to go into general practice in Brora in Sutherland; he remained in-post there until 1919 or 1920 while continuing to publish short stories and sketches, and a couple more novels. He died in Salisbury Wiltshire in 1923; as far as I can tell, he never married.

Sources for the profile:

Wikitree entry for James Riccardo Stephens (born 1831 Marsala Sicily, died 1886 Victoria Australia). And information on his business partner Benjamin Ingham (1784-1861) at

Coverage of Ingham Stephens and Co in Raleigh Trevelyan’s Princes under the Volcano: 200 Years of a British Dynasty in Sicily. London: Faber and Faber 2012.

Riccardo’s father William Britton Stephens:

Chronological Index of Patents Applied for and Patents Granted issued Patent Office [1854] p57 Number 922 William Britton Stephen of Mark Lane city of London

Mechanics’ Magazine and Journal of Science volume 61 1854 p214: list originally published in the London Gazette 22 August 1854: Number 922 on the list was William Britton Stephens’ application for “Improvements in lamps”.

Subject-Matter Index of Patents Applied for and Patents Granted issued Patent Office 1860 p11: Number 922 “Regulating supply of oil by air” to oil lamps.

At // website which is A Home for Cornwall’s Archives: a contract about land in Camborne owned by Sir Richard Rawlinson Vyvyan Bart. Lease dated 1861 to William Britton Stephens amongst others.

English Patents and Inventions issued by the Patent Office 1873 p2 patent issued 3 January 1873 to William Britton Stephens of 67 Strand, for improvements to the manufacture of paints, through use of slaked lime or plaster of Paris instead of the usual bases.

The 1873 patent mentioned in Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science volume 28 issue of 15 August 1873 Notes and Queries Section p85.

Capital and Labour volume 3 1876 issue of 2 August 1876 p499: Consolidated Fire Insurance in a list of new companies. William Britton Stephens was one of 7 men who had already bought 200 shares in the company at £5 each.

Wikitree entry for Marianne (sic) Reynolds Stephens 1834-1924; daughter of Joseph James Reynolds and Johanna Phillips. With a list of her children.

Riccardo as a doctor:

Lancet 1893 part 2 of that year, issue of 4 November 1893 p1162 recent graduates University of Edinburgh medical school.

General Medical Council Registers: first registered 15 August 1894. There’s an entry for him in 1895; then he’s not listed again until 1911; one more entry 1915.

Medical Directory Scottish lists entries for Riccardo Stephens: 1895-1923.

Oxford University Extension Gazette volume 3 1893 p162 Riccardo Stephens as master of the revels at the Edinburgh summer meeting, which had lasted one month.

Medical Directory 1895 volume 2 list for Scotland p1368, the first time there was an entry for Stephens.

Pharmaceutical Journal 1895 p149 Riccardo Stephens was secretary of that year’s summer meeting.

The University Extension Movement in Scotland. Robert Mark Wenley. Glasgow: Maclehose and Co 1895 p42.

Stephens’ personal relationship with Patrick Geddes was difficult. One of the things they argued about was whether Stephens could take private patients in addition to his job as Medical Officer: The Worlds of Patrick Geddes: Biologist, Town Planner, Re-Educator, Peace-Warrior by Philip Boardman 1978. London, Henley and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Chapter 5, which covers the years 1888-97, is the only one in which Riccardo Stephens appears: pp134-136.

Medical Directory 1903 list for Scotland p1305 Stephens’ first listing as a GP in Brora.

At //, a reference posted in 2016 said that Stephens had been in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW1; however, his listings in the Medical Directory 1916 and 1917 show him still in practice in Brora.

Medical Directory1919 volume 2 list for Scotland p1452 Stephens is described as “Address uncommunicated”. And on p1477 the list of doctors practising at Brora no longer includes him.


POEMS. There are bound to be more of these.

Stephens is NOT listed in Late Victorian Poetry 1880-99: an Annotated Biobibliography. Edited by Catherine W Reilly. This is probably because he never published a volume of poetry. All I have been able to find are individual poems, in different magazines.

1895 My Sweetheart

The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal volume 1 Spring 1895 p65.

The Evergreen magazine was the brainchild of the group around Patrick Geddes in Edinburgh. It was published quarterly in 1895 and 1896. This information: The Eighteen Nineties: A Review of Art and Ideas at the Close of the Nineteenth Century by Holbrook Jackson. Published London: G Richards 1922: p150.

My Sweetheart was published again in 1895 in The Sin-Eater and Other Tales edited by Elizabeth Amelia Sharp.

My Sweetheart can now be read online at //

1896 Three poems: Witch Margaret; A Ballad; Hell’s Piper

All in Lyra Celtica: An Anthology of Representative Celtic Poetry editor Elizabeth Amelia Sharp. Published The Lawnmarket Edinburgh: P Geddes and Colleagues. A second edition 1924.

Witch Margaret pp321-22; A Ballad pp323-34; Hell’s Piper pp325-28. On p416 in the profile of Arthur Quiller Couch, Stephens’ work was contrasted with Couch’s as “far more distinctively Celtic than Cornish”. Stephens’ own profile on p444 described his poems as having “marked originality” and “all the Celtic fire and fervour” as well as the “sombre gloom” that the editor thought of as typically Cornish. The entry noted that Stephens had not published any volumes of poetry so far. Hell’s Piper and others of his ballads had been inspired by legends connected to Edinburgh Castle.

A Ballad is now online at The full text of Lyra Celtica is now at GD member W B Yeats has three poems in it.

1896 With A Steel Mirror

English Illustrated Magazine volume 15 p309. The volume can now be read at Alas! The mirror of the poem is not for scrying, it’s for looking at the beloved’s face.

1896 The Little General

Chambers’s Journal 5th Series volume 13 January-December 1896 pp603-08.

1897 The Last Post

Pearson’s Magazine volume 4 number 6 December 1897.

It was published again in 1899 in The Idler Magazine volume 15 p323. And mentioned in 1906 in T. P.’s Weekly volume 8 p686.

1898 Ad Finem – A Parable

Cornish Magazine volume 1.

1900 To A Blackbird

The Dome: An Illustrated Magazine and Review of Literature, Music, Architecture and the Graphic Arts. Published London: Sign of the Unicorn, 7 Cecil Court St Martin’s Lane. New Series volume 6 February-April 1900 p84. GD member W B Yeats contributed several articles to volumes 5, 6 and 7.

1912 Two poems: Outposts; Winter

The Living Age volume 273: Outposts p450; Winter p578. There are also references to Stephens in the volume’s introduction, pv and pvii. Both poems had originally been published in the Westminster Gazette. The volume can be read at

Searching with google I saw references to a possible poem by Stephens called Cruel Calumny; but I couldn’t find any details of when and where published.

LONGER WORKS, some of which are not particularly long!

1891 The Musings of a Medical, number 1

Edinburgh: James Thin.

Listed at though without any subsequent numbers. Several libraries in Scotland have copies of this; all crediting Stephens as the author.

It was favourably reviewed in the Edinburgh Medical Journal volume 37 part 1 July-December 1891 p165. The review described it as two “musings”, one “grave, didactic” and one “a bit of fun” based on the experiences of the average medical student in the dissecting room; and imagining the skeletons used in lectures having their own lives. The reviewer noted that the artist’s name was given in the book but not the writer’s; though the reviewer had worked out who the author was. The reviewer summed it up as “an exceedingly clever little bit of work”.

There was a second edition of The Musings… in 1926, perhaps as a memorial issue.

1896 The Cruciform Mark. The Strange Story of Richard Tregenna, bachelor of medicine (Univ. Edin)

London: Chatto and Windus.

Stephens’ first novel, it was supposed to have included a satirical portrait of Patrick Geddes:

The Worlds of Patrick Geddes: Biologist, Town Planner, Re-Educator, Peace-Warrior by Philip Boardman 1978. London, Henley and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul: p134.

Because Stephens had used hypnotism as a plot device, The Cruciform Mark was noticed by magazines that didn’t normally cover fiction.

American Journal of Insanity volume 53 1896 p579 described it as “an ideal one for the physician, as its characters are of especial interest to the psychiatrist”.

The Hospital volume 20 1896 pxciii had a short review mentioning The Cruciform Mark’s “local colouring” as “artistic”. However, the reviewer wasn’t impressed overall, saying that “Dr Stephens is not an experienced or a highly-finished writer as yet”.

British Books volumes 11-12/64-65 1896 p546 described the plot of The Cruciform Mark as able to “very effectually arrest the reader’s attention...and hold him enthralled until” the end; though the denouement was “a little disappointing”.

It’s likely that The Cruciform Mark played a part in Riccardo Stephens being offered initiation into the Order of the Golden Dawn. At least one GD member living in Edinburgh when it was published read it soon after it came out:

Light: Journal of Psychical, Occult and Mystical Research volume 16 January-December 1896. Published for its proprietors (ultimately the London Spiritualist Alliance) at 2 Duke St Adelphi. Though Light did not normally review fiction, Isabel de Steiger managed to sneak a review of The Cruciform Mark into the issue of Sat 16 May 1896 p237 in one of her regular letters to the magazine. She did so on the grounds that the use of hypnotism was a large part of the plot; and for its description of what she said was a “magical ceremony”.

Its occultism was also noticed by W T Stead and mentioned in his occult magazine Borderland 1896 p242.

?1896 ?1898 Conversations with Mrs De La Rue Smythe

Westminster Gazette.

In Literature volume 3 1898 p86 these were described as “a series of articles or conversations” rather than a fiction work. They were linked by the characters: a Dr Tregenna who went to tea with Mrs De La Rue Smythe and encouraged her to give her opinions on topics of the day, including the position of women; the duties of the upper classes, and education of the masses and the place of art in life. In 1898 some at least of them were published in book form.

1897 Your Health and How to Keep It. For Boys and Others

London: National Sunday School Union.

1897 Mr Peters. [A Novel]

London: Bliss, Sands and Co. With illustrations by E M Ashe.

There’s a wiki on Edmund Marion Ashe: 1867-1941, born New York city and always working in the US. Illustration work for Harper’s Magazine and Scribner’s Magazine amongst others. Artist-correspondent at the White House for a number of New York publications, 1896-1909. Watercolours of Gibson girls, c 1900. Posters, World War 1.

1898 The Prince and the Undertaker, and What They Undertook

London: Sands and Co.

This was a novel. Advance notice of it was published in Literature volume 2 1 January 1898 p125 in the same paragraph as that of Mrs De La Rue Smythe. Again, the title was slightly different at this stage – it was going to be The Prince, the Minor Poet, and the Undertaker.

1898 Mrs De La Rue Smythe, etc [Sketches]

London: Bliss, Sands and Co. New York: E P Dutton.

Literature volume 2 1 January 1898 p125 published an advance notice of it, at which point it had a slightly different title - ‘Conversations with Mrs De La Rue Smythe’. See above: some parts of it had already been published in the Westminster Gazette.

British Medical Journal 1898 volume 1 issue of 19 February 1898 pp523-24 also published the advance notice and original title.

The Bookman volumes 11-12 January 1897 p106 noted that when published in the Westminster Gazette the pieces had attracted a lot of attention; the reporter wondered if a long-running series would be commissioned.

However, Literature was less enthusiastic: in volume 3 1898 p86 Mrs De La Rue Smythe was described as “agreeable enough”.

As far as I can see, there was no long-running series.

On the book’s publication The Publisher’s Weekly volume 53 1898 p893 noted that the book had illustrations by W G Burn Murdoch.

There’s a wikipedia page on William Gordon Burn Murdoch (1862-1939), painter and explorer and probably the first person to play the bagpipes on the continent of Antarctica. Stephens had known Burn Murdoch as a fellow student at Edinburgh University and as a fellow organiser of summer meetings at the University Hall settlement.

1898 When a Boy Smokes

London: National Sunday School Union. It had previously been an article in Young England. I found a German edition of it online, as Wenn ein Knabe raucht! Published: Berlin Jugendbund Buchh 1909 and with a 2nd edition 1910.

1898 A Perfect Cure

Chambers’s Journal Christmas issue pp39-48.


The Beauty-Mark of Nurse Jones

Chambers’s Journal Christmas issue pp10-18.

1901 The Wooing of Grey Eyes, and Other Stories

London: John Murray

This got a scathing review in The Athenaeum 1901 p556 where the main story was described as “a piece of melodramatic sensation with no special merit”.


Entry for Medical and Surgical Arts in Nelson’s (Harmsworth’s) Encyclopaedia. London: The Amalgamated Press 1906.

Medical Directory 1910 volume 2 Scotland list p1380 entry for Riccardo Stephens.

1907 The Eddy

Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons.

1909, 1910

The Signet Ring

Chambers’s Journal 6th Series volume 13 December 1909 to November 1910 on pp 353-56, 376-79, 396-400, 427-30, 604-08, 621-24, 727-29, 746-49, 764-68, 777-81 and 794-99.

Author, Playwright and Composer volumes 19-20 1909 p268 described The Signet Ring as “a series of stories” rather than a novel; the work had been commissioned.

Just noting here that Charles E S Chambers, grandson of the founder of W and R Chambers Ltd, which published the journal, was its editor from 1888 to 1910 and may have commissioned all Stephens’ works for the journal. Charles’ sister Violet Tweedale was a member of the GD in the early 1890s. Details of Charles’ tenure at the journal from the website //

Probably a poem originally, set as lyrics:

1910* Scythe Song

*that is, the sheet music was published in 1910 by Boosey and Hawkes. Words set for voice and piano by Hamilton Harty (1879-1941). I haven’t found any information as to when the poem was written; though most of the poems I’ve found in publications are from the 1890s.

See the sheet music at //

Scythe Song has been recorded several times in sets of all Harty’s songs.

Details including the full lyrics at, the Lieder Net archive.

NOT the one on which the famous 1932 film with Boris Karloff was based:

1912 The Mummy

London: Eveleigh Nash. Full text online at

Sydney Morning Herald of 2 November 1912 gave away the plot and described The Mummy as “an unusual type” of novel, in that it “propounds a riddle of remarkable ingenuity” while being “admirably written with a humour and a skill in characterisation as welcome as unexpected”.


29 April 2023

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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: