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• HART, Samuel Hopgood. Anna Kingsford and Vegetarianism. This article was published in The Vegetarian Messenger & Health Review, April 1931, p. 106.
Information: [The information below was sent by Mr. Brian McAllister, who kindly photocopied and sent this text to the Anna Kingsford Site.]
“This article (Anna Kingsford and Vegetarianism) by Samuel Hopgood Hart was photocopied from Mr. Hart’s own copy in his Newspaper Cuttings Book. As you see Mr. Hart has written in the name of the publication and the date of issue in his own hand. The article was published in The Vegetarian Messenger & Health Review, April 1931, p. 106.”
ANNA KINGSFORD AND VEGETARIANISM
By SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART
ANNA KINGSFORD was born at Maryland Point, Stratford, in Essex, on the 16th September, 1846. It is now over forty-three years since she was with us – she having died on the 22nd February, 1888, at the comparatively early age of forty-one. But, during her short life, what a work she accomplished! The benefits of that work we are to-day reaping, although many know it not.
My object in writing this article is to bring to the notice of the readers of your Magazine some of the facts connected with Anna Kingsford’s life, which to them should be of special interest, and generally to draw attention to her teaching regarding the rights of the Animal Creation and our duties to our lesser brethren. As an Apostle of Humanity, Anna Kingsford stands second to none. Her attitude towards the vegetarian movement in particular is summed up in her own never-to-be forgotten words, as follows. She said:
“I consider the vegetarian movement to be the most important movement of our age. I believe this because I see in it the beginning of true civilisation. My opinion is that up to the present moment we do not know what civilisation means. When we look at the dead bodies of animals, whether entire or cut up, which with sauces and condiments are served at our tables, we do not reflect on the horrible deed that has preceded these dishes: and yet it is something terrible to know that every meal to which we sit down has cost a life. I hold that we owe it to civilisation to elevate the whole of that deeply demoralised and barbarised class of people, butchers, cattle-drovers and all others who are connected with the deplorable business. Thousands of persons are degraded by the slaughterhouse in their neighbourhood, which condemns whole classes to a debasing and inhuman occupation. I await the time when the consummation of the vegetarian movement shall have created perfect men, for I see in this movement the foundations of perfection. When I perceive the possibilities of vegetarianism and the heights to which it can raise us, I feel convinced that it will prove the redeemer of the world.”
What Anna Kingsford did for the vegetarian cause and all that it stands for must never be forgotten by those who are reaping the benefit of her work, and who as valiant knights are continuing her warfare against cruelty and injustice, for “Justice as between men and women, human and animal, were her foremost aims. All injustice was cruelty, and cruelty was, for her, the one unpardonable sin.” Fortunately, her friend and collaborator, the late Edward Maitland, has left for us, in his last and greatest work The Life of Anna Kingsford, which was published some few years after her death, a record of her life and teaching, the value and importance of which cannot be measured. It is the history of a soul, a book which Edward Maitland was assured “would educate the world more than all else, by shewing how the divine life can be led and the faculties opened to divine truth, and that to get that truth, the divine life must be led.” That “the divine life” here referred to is not lived by those who are shedders of blood or eaters of flesh was very clearly and forcibly stated by Anna Kingsford in one of her Perfect Way lectures, in which she said:
“Paradise can never be regained, Regeneration never completed, man never fully redeemed, until the body is brought under the law of Eden, and has cleansed itself thoroughly from the stain of blood. None will ever know the joys of Paradise who cannot live like Paradise-men: none will ever help to restore the golden age to the World who does not first restore it in himself. No man, being a shedder of blood, or an eater of flesh, ever touched the central secret of things or laid hold of the Tree of Life. Hence it is written of the Holy City: ‘Without are dogs.’ For the foot of the carnivorous beast cannot tread the golden floors; the lips polluted with blood may not pronounce the Divine Name.” She was assured that “They are miserably deceived who expect eternal life, and restrain not their hands from blood and death.”
Anna Kingsford (née Bonus) was the youngest of twelve children. She was the daughter of John Bonus, a prosperous merchant and shipowner in the City of London. She inherited a constitution that was fragile from birth, but she was born with a mission. In her childhood, which was one of loneliness and isolation, it was her chief delight to lose herself in the garden where, we are told, “she would associate with the flowers on even terms, holding converse with them as sentient beings, and putting into their petals tiny notes addressed to the fairies with whom her fancy tenanted them, and with whom, in virtue of her own fairy-like form, rich golden hair, and deep-set hazel eyes, by turns eager and dreamy, she might well claim affinity.”
As a girl, Anna Kingsford read widely and turned her attention to writing. Even as a child she had written poetry which had gained admission into various magazines. Her first book was written at the age of thirteen. Her writing, she said came to her ready-made, she had but to write it down. The faculty of seership which had manifested itself at a very early age, brought her into trouble with her parents who reproached her as though accountable for events she had foreseen, and “exhibitions of abnormal faculty entailed references to the family physician, with results at once disagreeable and injurious to her.” When, some years afterwards, she met one in whom she could confide, she told her of the visions she had all her life had, and how the doctors had declared they were due to over-excitement of the brain; and how she had, like many others, suffered much from physicians, and received good from none. “But” she said, “I know it is no fancy. I am sure I see all these things; and it is not caused by illness.”
On the 31st December, 1867, Anna Kingsford was married to her cousin, Algernon Godfrey Kingsford, who, shortly after took orders in the Church of England and subsequently became the Vicar of Atcham, near Shrewsbury; but being out of sympathy with the religious system in which she had been reared “for its hardness, coldness, and meagreness, and its utter unrelatedness to her own spiritual needs, intellectual or emotional,” and having been the recipient of some spiritualistic experiences which prompted her in that direction, she, in 1870, joined the Roman Catholic Church. Edward Maitland says: – “It must be stated, however, in view of her subsequent unfoldments, that no question had as yet arisen for her as between the two presentments of Christianity, the ecclesiastical and the mystical. She accepted the Roman as against the Protestant, the Catholic as against the sectarian, the aesthetic and emotional as against the inartistic and formal; not the ecclesiastical and objective as against the spiritual and subjective. For of the existence of the alternative presentation she had yet to become aware. Meanwhile, she retained complete independence, both in mind and act, declining spiritual direction, and only as the impulse took her did she avail herself of the offices of the Church.” Three years later, in a letter to Edward Maitland, she said: “By adoption and profession I am a member of that most conservative of Churches, the Roman Catholic, but by conviction I am rather a pantheist than anything else, and my mode of life is that of a fruit-eater.” Being full of the idea which possessed her respecting a work in store for her, she on her marriage made it a special condition thereof that it should not fetter her in respect of any career to which she might in after life be prompted – a condition which, it should be noted, was throughout their married life most honourably observed by her husband. Atcham, lying low on the banks of the Severn, and being liable to floods, proved at certain seasons, to be an impossible place of residence for Anna Kingsford, who suffered from asthma. Finding continuous residence at the Vicarage impracticable, and being impelled irresistibly to activities for which a country life afforded no scope, in or about 1872, she became the proprietor of The Lady’s Own Paper, editing it herself and dividing her time between London and her home. By this means she sought to give expression to her ideas. It was in the exercise of her functions as editor of this paper that she became aware of the existence of vivisection, and it was in the columns of her magazine that was sounded the first note of the crusade which has since been waged against the atrocities of the physiological laboratory. From that time the suppression of this “modern Inquisition” became one of the foremost aims of her life. She thus found what proved to be an important part of her mission, and so far as she was concerned the magazine had served its purpose. It had not been a financial success, and she decided to give it up. She had already determined to take up the study of medicine with a direct view to qualify herself for accomplishing the abolition of vivisection “which she regarded with a passionate horror as the foulest of practices, whether as regards its nature or its principles.” The question of food reform was also an object she had in view in coming to a decision regarding her future work. A short time previously, under the tuition of her brother, Dr. John Bonus, she had adopted the Pythagorean regimen of abstinence from flesh-food with such manifest advantage to herself, physically and mentally, as to lead her to see in it the only effectual means to the world’s redemption, whether as regards men themselves or the animals. Man carnivorous and sustaining himself by slaughter and torture, was for her not Man at all in any true sense of the term. She held that “that which is wrong cannot be scientifically right, and that to seek one’s own advantage regardless of the cost to other sentient beings is to renounce humanity itself – inasmuch as it is not the form but the character which really makes the man – and to degrade those who do so to the sub-human and infernal.”
We now find Anna Kingsford seriously working to qualify herself to pass the examinations that lay before her, and which she must pass in order to obtain the medical degree that she sought in aid of her work. It was in the Spring of 1873. She was then living at Hinton Hall, near Pontesbury, in Shropshire, when she received from a lady who lived at a distance, a stranger to her, a letter saying that she – the writer of the letter, who signed her name “Anna Wilkes” – had read with profound interest and admiration a story that had been written by Anna Kingsford and published in The Lady’s Own Paper, and, after reading it, had received from the Holy Spirit a message for her which was to be delivered in person. Would Mrs. Kingsford receive her, and when? After a little hesitation the permission desired was accorded and an appointment made. An account of the meeting has been given by Anna Kingsford as follows: – “At the hour named I met her on the way while she was driving from the station, and was at once struck by her manner and appearance, and subsequently by her conversation, as much as I had been by her previous communication. She was tall, erect, distinguished-looking, with hair of iron-grey and strangely brilliant eyes. She told me that she had received a distinct message from the Holy Spirit, and had been so strongly impressed to come and deliver it to me in person that she could not refrain. Her message was to the effect that for five years to come I was to remain in retirement, continuing the studies in which I was engaged, whatever they might be, and the mode of life on which I had entered, suffering nothing and no one to draw me aside from them, and when these probationary and preparatory five years were passed, the Holy Spirit would drive me forth from my seclusion to teach and to preach, and that a great work would be given me to do.”
In the same year, Anna Kingsford, having read in the Examiner a notice of a tale written by Edward Maitland, which interested her, wrote to him; and after some correspondence he accepted an invitation to the Shropshire parsonage. The visit took place in February, 1874, and proved to be a turning-point in both their lives. There was sympathy between them on the spiritual plane. They saw truth alike. They had been brought together by a power that they both recognised as divine, and for a work, no less divine, that they must accomplish together. They each had a mission, and, as events proved, it was a joint one.
The details of Anna Kingsford’s life as a medical student at the University of Paris, to which she was compelled to go for her degree, are fully recorded in The Life of Anna Kingsford, and, to a less extent, in my Biographical Preface to Anna Kingsford’s and Edward Maitland’s Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism. In a letter, written in 1876, to Edward Maitland recounting some of her hospital experiences, she said: –
“In the hospital yesterday – at the surgical consultation of La Pitié – there was a man with a broken péroné, who fell to my share.”
“Describe to me the accident which caused this,” said I.
“I slipped, my leg slid under me, and I fell.”
“How came you to slip?”
“The floor was swimming in blood, and I slipped on the blood.”
“Blood!” cried I, “What blood?”
“Madam, I am a slaughter-man by trade. I had just been killing, and all the slaughter-house was covered with blood.”
“Oh, then my heart was hardened. I looked in the man’s face. It was of the lowest type, deep beetle-brows, a wide, thick course mouth, a red skin – “savage” was stamped on every fine of it.”
“The World revolts me. My business is not here. All the earth is full of violence and cruel habitations. Elsewhere I shall find peace. (...) What of life remains to me, I will live in doing my utmost against every form of cruelty.”
At the close of her course as a medical student, Anna Kingsford obtained her degree and became entitled to practice as an M.D. of the Faculté de Paris, which, as The Life of Anna Kingsford shews, was a privilege by her obtained only at the utmost cost in toil and suffering both physical and mental. Had it not been that during her student-course she had the benefit of the help and companionship of Edward Maitland, which, at her husband’s request, was from time to time freely and unselfishly given, she could not have stood the strain, endured the hardships and overcome the difficulties which at times seemed insuperable – that beset her path.
On obtaining her medical degree, she, with the help and support of Edward Maitland, soon became recognised as the foremost opponent of her day to Vivisection; and as the chief apostle of a humane, pure and bloodless diet. Everybody should read her and Edward Maitland’s Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism, which is one of the best books on the principles of Vegetarianism that has been written.
Regarding the evil of flesh-eating, in a note to “Asclepios on Initiation” in The Virgin of the World, Anna Kingsford says: –
“The first outcome of the Fall, or Degeneracy, is the shedding of blood and eating of flesh. The license to kill is the signmanual of ‘Paradise Lost.’ And the first step towards ‘Paradise Regained’ is taken when man voluntarily returns to the manner of life indicated by his organism as that alone befitting him, and thus reunites himself to the harmony of nature and the will of God. No man who follows this path and faithfully keeps to it will fail to find at length the Gate of Paradise. Not necessarily in a single life-time, for the process of purification is a long one, and the past experiences of some men may be such as to shut them out for many lives (1) from the attainment of the promised land. But, nevertheless, every step faithfully and firmly trodden brings them nearer to the goal, every year of pure life increasingly strengthens the spirit, purges the mind, liberates the will, and augments their human royalty. On the other hand, it is idle to seek union with God in the Spirit, while the physical and magnetic organism remain insurgent against Nature. Harmony must be established between man and Nature before union can be accomplished between man and God. For Nature is the manifest God; and if man be not in perfect charity with that which is visible, how shall he love that which is invisible? Hermetic doctrine teaches the kinship and solidarity of all beings, redeemed and glorified in man. For man does not stand aloof and apart from other creatures, as though he were a fallen angel dropped from some supernal world upon the earth, but he is the child of earth, the product of evolution, the elder brother of all conscient things; their lord and king, but not their tyrant. It is his part to be to all creatures a Good Destiny; he is the keeper, the redeemer, the regenerator, of the earth. If need be, he may call on his subjects to serve him as their king, but he may never, without forfeiting his kingship, maltreat and afflict them. All the children of God, in every land and age, have abstained from blood, in obedience to an occult law which asserts itself in the breast of all regenerate men.”
In a sermon, written by her for her husband, and having for its text “Open the mouth for the dumb” (Prov. xxxi, 8), regarding the rights of animals in general to humane treatment, she said “There are a great many people who seem to think that man’s duties begin and end with man; and that if they tell the truth habitually, forbear from injuring their neighbours, and eschew theft, dishonesty and the like, nothing else is required of them by God in their relation towards other creatures. But not only every human being, but every living being has its rights; and justice in the highest form should be applied to it in all our actions. I say that a lame or infirm horse has a right to claim that it should not be worked; and just as one man should be protected from ill-treatment by another, so, on the same principle, ought all animals to be protected from ill-treatment.”
Regarding the trials and hardships attending her student course at the University of Paris, above referred to, Edward Maitland says: – “That which sustained and carried her through her university course was the consciousness that her mission was a mission of redemption, and that only to those who have themselves been more or less ‘perfected through suffering’ is such a mission ever entrusted.”
Some of Anna Kingsford’s teaching was derived from Spiritual Illumination and some from dreams. The most important of her illuminations are published in the book: Clothed with the Sun; and of her dreams, in Dreams and Dream Stories. On one occasion, when under illumination, she was told that the salvation of the world is impossible while people nourished themselves on blood. In 1881, she was the recipient of a vision concerning the Three Veils which separate man from God, one of which was “Blood,” and in her vision, she was told that it was given to her to withdraw them; she was exhorted to be “faithful and courageous,” for “the time had come” – and the command given was: “Put away Blood from among you!”
The same year saw the publication of an English edition of the thesis which Anna Kingsford had written in French at the close of her student course in Paris. It was published under the title of The Perfect Way in Diet, a book which, though it has for some years been out of print, was on its publication generally recognised as the best book advocating a pure and bloodless diet that had been written. Extracts from it are contained in Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism above referred to, which has now taken its place.
The latter part of her life was spent in writing and lecturing on behalf of the ideals (including vegetarianism) that her mission, which was ever before her, implied. In 1883, she and Edward Maitland undertook a lecturing tour on behalf of the Vegetarian Society (Manchester) on which they visited many towns sowing the good seed of their teaching – seed which is now producing what is becoming a great harvest. Edward Maitland says: – “The most notable features of this tour were, first, the indescribable enthusiasm everywhere evinced for Anna Kingsford on account of the eloquence and luminousness of her expositions and the charm of her personality: and, secondly, the intensity of her physical sufferings, and the manner in which her spirit rose superior to them and carried her triumphantly through.”
In 1887, ill health compelled Anna Kingsford to give up her press-work, and on the 22nd of February of the following year, in her forty-second year, this “good and faithful servant” of God passed away to continue her work from another sphere. An obituary notice concerning her and her work was published in The Vegetarian Messenger for April, 1888 (p. 96), and in the following August (p. 261) an In Memoriam poem (with portrait) by the late Dr. W.E.A. Axon.
I have endeavoured in this article to state Anna Kingsford’s position as a vegetarian. I will conclude with an extract from a letter which, in 1882, she wrote to Light wherein she said: –
“If we truly and earnestly desire to regain the golden age, and to become citizens of heaven, we must begin by adopting the new life, and by returning to natural and humane modes of sustenance. The eating of blood, and the habit of slaughter, are part of the fall and came with it. We, of the new Life, desire to return to Eden, and, as a first step thither, we abandon that horrible and degrading custom which has so long assimilated our race to that of the lowest types of bestial existence; we reject the offal which delights the wolf and the swine, and turn instead to the pure sun-created fruits and grains, unbloody gifts of fragrant trees and fields, for which alone the anatomy of man is fitted. We cannot err in following the indications – nay, the commands – of nature, for these are the surest words of God.”
(1) Anna Kingsford believed in the doctrine of Reincarnation.