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The Contribution of Samuel Hopgood Hart
to the Cause
of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland
THE FIFTIETH anniversary of the passing of Samuel Hopgood Hart (1865-1958) is a golden moment for acknowledging his immense contribution to a great cause – the promotion of the message of those legendary advocates of spiritual perfection and pure diet, Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. It is, in no small measure, thanks to Hart’s dedication to keeping alive the sacred flame, first kindled by these pioneers of a new spiritual enlightenment, that their priceless legacy has survived up to the present day and is still finding resonance in the hearts and minds of seekers after truth.
Hart’s association with the cause of Kingsford and Maitland, which was to have
such significant and far-reaching consequences, dates from 1894. It was in that
year that the young
“For some considerable time before then, I had felt very dissatisfied with and opposed to much of the teaching of the Church of England – in which Church I had been brought up – dissatisfied with it because it failed to meet my highest aspirations, and opposed to it because I knew that in some respects it was unsound, if not untrue, and I was certain that none of the Nonconformist Churches were any better, and the claims of the Catholic Church I had never seriously considered. What I wanted was a true and satisfactory doctrine, and, I felt that none of the so-called Christian Churches had such to offer: but I in no wise identified the Christianity of the Churches with the teaching of Jesus Christ, and, at the time of which I am writing, I had recently read some theosophical writings that had greatly interested me, particularly a book entitled Esoteric Buddhism, and Mrs. Besant’s little book on Reincarnation, and I felt that, with the theosophists, I was on the track that would ultimately lead me to the goal that I sought. In this state of mind I was contemplating joining the Theosophical Society, but speaking to a friend upon the subject, she advised me, before joining that Society, to see Edward Maitland, of whom, until then, I had not heard. She did not know him personally, but she had heard of him through a friend of hers who knew him, and it was through this friend that I obtained the necessary introduction.
“It was on the evening of April 19, 1894, that I first visited Mr. Maitland. I saw him at his chambers at No.1, Thurloe Square Studios, Thurloe Square, South Kensington, where he then resided.
“I shall never forget this meeting. Mr. Maitland was kindness itself, and he seemed so pleased to be able to help me. He told me of his and Anna Kingsford’s work, and he read or rather recited to me some of her Illuminations – for he knew all her chief Illuminations by heart. In particular, I remember him repeating part of the Illumination “Concerning Inspiration and Prophesying”, and part of the “Hymn to Iacchos”; and he spoke of the mystical sense underlying the account in the Old Testament of the children of Israel in Egypt and their flight therefrom, and, in fact, underlying all sacred scripture. In all that he said, he made no appeal to external authority, but he spoke as one who knew, and I could not doubt that what he said was true, although much of it was then new to me, and I could not fully grasp the meaning of it all. This, I think, struck me more than anything else about Mr. Maitland. There were others who were kind and considerate, and whose sincerity could not be questioned, but Mr. Maitland was all this and more – he had the light. I had found the man who knew the truth, and whose word, without any authority in support of it, was sufficient (to carry conviction with it).
“Mr. Maitland invited me to join the Esoteric Christian Union, which he had founded in 1891, and he referred me to his and his late colleague’s (Anna Kingsford’s) writings, and asked me to come and see him again. From that time Edward Maitland was one of my greatest friends. In the following September, I joined the Esoteric Christian Union, and in that truly divine book, The Perfect Way, I found what I had for so long sought, and what has ever since been my greatest treasure.” (Letter to the Editor of The Occult Review, October 1907.)
The deep friendship that ensued from the meeting recounted above was pivotal to carrying forward the work of Kingsford and Maitland to future generations. For, on the passing of Maitland a few years later in 1897, Hart was already primed to assume the role destiny had decreed for him of ensuring that the message would continue to spread as far and wide as possible. To this end he acquired all the copyrights of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland and took upon himself the mammoth task of reissuing all their significant works. These gradually appeared over the years as follows:
· The Bible’s Own Account of Itself by Edward Maitland in a Second Edition, complete with Appendix, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (Birmingham: The Ruskin Press, 1905).
· The Story of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland and of The New Gospel of Interpretation by Edward Maitland in a Third and Enlarged Edition, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (Birmingham: The Ruskin Press, 1905).
· “Clothed With the Sun” being the Book of the Illuminations of Anna (Bonus) Kingsford, edited by Edward Maitland, in a Second Edition, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (Birmingham: The Ruskin Press, 1906), and a Third Edition, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1937).
· Dreams and Dream-Stories by Anna (Bonus) Kingsford, edited by Edward Maitland, in a Third Edition, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1908).
· The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ by Anna (Bonus) Kingsford and Edward Maitland in a Fourth Edition, with additions, and a Preface by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1909) and a Fifth Edition, with additions, and a Biographical Preface by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1923).
· Anna Kingsford: Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work by Edward Maitland (Two Volumes) in a Third Edition, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1913).
Hart was also responsible for issuing two new works, that brought together in one place an assortment of writings by Kingsford and Maitland, most of which had previously been published separately in a variety of publications. These works were:
· Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism by Anna (Bonus) Kingsford and Edward Maitland, Biographical Preface, and edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1912). (A “New (Second) Edition” of this work was said to have been “in preparation” in 1937 but appears to have fallen through for reasons unknown.)
· The Credo of Christendom and other Addresses and Essays on Esoteric Christianity by Anna (Bonus) Kingsford and some letters by Edward Maitland, Biographical Preface and edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart (London: John M. Watkins, 1916). (In the Biographical Preface to this work, Hart says: “None of Edward Maitland’s Lectures to the Hermetic Society are included in the present volume. I hope, in the near future, to publish these in a companion volume.” [Footnote 3, p. 27.] Also, in nother footnote within the main body of the book, he says: “I hope, shortly, to bring out a volume of Anna Kingsford’s and Edward Maitland’s Addresses and Essays on Vivisection, which will include much material of the greatest value for the anti-vivisection cause.” [Footnote 1, p.157.] However, for whatever reasons, neither of these proposed publications appears to have ever made it into print.)
All of the above-listed ten editions, which were issued over a period of thirty-two years, include prefaces by Hart. These prefaces are highly regarded, and rightly so, because they are well written and show a deep love and understanding of the subject and a scholarly attention to detail. The latter attribute also stands out very strikingly in Hart’s editorship of the actual works of Kingsford and Maitland, providing the reader with a wealth of helpful comments. As regards Hart’s prefaces, it should be noted that his Preface to the Fifth Edition of The Perfect Way is a significantly expanded version of his Preface to the Fourth Edition of that work; and his Preface to the Third Edition of “Clothed With The Sun” is a slightly expanded version of his Preface to the Second Edition of that work.
In addition to these ten editions, which came out in hardback, a number of softback editions, mostly known as Popular Editions, were
also issued by the publishers John M. Watkins (
The other parallel motivational factor in Hart’s life, besides the profound influence that the thinking of Kingsford and Maitland had exercised on him, was undoubtedly his sympathy for the allied causes of vegetarianism and animal welfare. Hart said in a letter to the Editor of The Vegetarian (Issue of 1st June 1895) that he first wanted to become a vegetarian after reading the life and teaching of Gautama Buddha, but it was his association with the cause of Kingsford and Maitland that swung the balance decisively in this direction. This is made clear in an account of the Annual Meeting of the Croydon Vegetarian Society that appeared in The Croydon Advertiser (Issue of 15th January 1927). The author of this account, referring to Hart’s presidential address entitled “Why I became a Vegetarian”, says:
“The President prefaced his remarks by explaining that he had been a vegetarian for twenty-seven years, his conversion to the reformed diet dating back to 1894, when he met the late Edward Maitland. He made his first start as a vegetarian in 1898, and in 1900 had become a thorough vegetarian. But he was there that night to tell them why he had thought it worthwhile to encounter innumerable difficulties in order to become a vegetarian. In The Perfect Way or The Finding of Christ, written by Edward Maitland and Anna Kingsford in 1882, it was stated that there were three veils between God and man, and one was the veil of blood. If they would be as perfect as each should strive to be, if they would live in tune with God, they should put away blood from among them.”
Further clarification on Hart’s sense of gratitude to The Perfect Way for its crucial formative role in his life is to be found in the following extract from a letter of his that was published in The Vegetarian of February 1905:
“...let me urge all the readers of your paper, who would not only read, but understand the Bible, to get The Perfect Way, referred to in Mrs. Hart’s letter of December last. It is one of the Divinest books that has ever been given to the world. It is the key of the Bible and of all the great religions of the world. It is impossible to understand the Christian religion and its scriptures, and its rites and ceremonies, without a knowledge of the principles taught by The Perfect Way. It is the book that made me join the Vegetarians and that has enabled me to understand many things that, before I read it, were unintelligible to me. I can never repay to the writers of that book the debt of gratitude that I owe to them for having written it.”
Hart actively promoted the causes of vegetarianism and the esoteric Christianity
of Kingsford and Maitland over many years through lecturing and contributing
articles and letters to a wide variety of publications. The latter often led to
lively debates in the letter pages of these publications, which gave useful
publicity to these causes. Hart also served, first as President, and then as
Vice-President, of the Croydon
Vegetarian Society, and subsequently as a Vice-President of the
Vegetarian Society, which was then based at Wilmslow,
Among Hart’s numerous articles, lectures and letters on Kingsford and Maitland that appeared in print at one time or another, the following selection will serve to indicate how enduring a theme this was for him:
Ÿ The Late Mr. Edward Maitland (obituary article published in Light, 16th October 1897)
Ÿ The Late Edward Maitland (letter to the Editor of The Occult Review, October 1907)
Ÿ Food and Illumination (article published in The Vegetarian Messenger, September 1920)
Ÿ Edward Maitland and Vegetarianism (lecture delivered at a meeting of the Croydon Vegetarian Society on 10th November 1924 and subsequently published in two parts in The Vegetarian News, February 1925 and March 1925)
Ÿ Anna Kingsford – Her Life and Work (published initially as articles in Light, 13th September, 20th September and 27th September 1930, then in expanded form as a booklet)
Ÿ Anna Kingsford and Vegetarianism (article published in The Vegetarian Messenger, April 1931 – apparently it was to be reprinted as a pamphlet, obtainable from the Vegetarian Society, 39 Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, Manchester)
Ÿ Edward Maitland and Vegetarianism (article published in The Vegetarian Messenger, January 1932)
Ÿ Edward Maitland – His Life and Work (article published in the Quarterly Transactions of the British College of Psychic Science Ltd., Vol. X. No. 4. January 1932)
Food of Perfection (article published in
Ÿ In Memoriam Anna Kingsford (published as a booklet giving the full text, with some additions, of a Lecture read to the Leeds Vegetarian Society on 15th September 1946, to commemorate the Centenary of the birth of Anna Kingsford)
As regards his interest in animal welfare, Hart was instrumental in setting up the Sutton Branch of the National Anti-Vivisection Society in January 1898. He acted as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for the Branch, which by the beginning of 1900 had 149 members. His uncle, Charles Scambler Owden, was also a member of the Sutton Branch Committee. His brothers also seem to have held similar views, providing further evidence that Hart’s family background was helpful and supportive of his sympathies. For instance, James Hopgood Hart, a younger brother, wrote a letter to the Editor of The Vegetarian (Issue of 16th November 1895) decrying the evils of the leather trade, and Philip Ewing Hart, another younger brother, also had a letter published in the same issue of that paper protesting "the amount of unnecessary cruelty that goes on in the public schools of Christian England towards our dumb brothers, the animals and birds, etc.” Later on Hart was to become a friend and supporter of the famous animal rights campaigner, Louise Lind-af-Hageby, who founded the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society in 1903. In a letter to the Editor of the Daily News, published in the issue of 29th April 1913, Hart said that “Miss Lind-af-Hageby has proved herself to be far and away the most efficient fighter against the horrors of the vivisectional laboratory, since the days of the late Dr. Anna Kingsford, and she is a worthy successor to that highly gifted and inspired lady, whose memory still lives in our hearts”.
Eadith Kingsford, the daughter of Anna Kingsford, was very appreciative of Hart’s promotion of the message of her mother and Edward Maitland. In a letter that appeared in Light (Issue of 18th October 1930) she said: “During their earth-lives my mother and Mr. Maitland did not see their books widely acclaimed; on the contrary these were in some quarters mercilessly criticised and condemned.” So for her it was indeed gratifying to see their efforts being recognised at last and “crowned with success”. “This success”, she added, “is largely due to Mr. Hopgood Hart’s admirable editing of those works and his lectures and writings on these subjects.”
Samuel Hopgood Hart’s contribution to our understanding of the cause of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland can never be overestimated and will always stand out as a shining example of dedication and spiritual integrity of the first order. His editorship of the writings of Kingsford and Maitland together with his prefaces to their works and his articles about them and their philosophy deserve due recognition for the labour of love they represent and for the wonderful collective fund of information they have provided and always will provide to those who aspire to tread the higher path of spiritual attainment.
Brian G. McAllister
P.S. Acknowledgement and thanks are due to Fiona M. Bartlett, the great-great-niece of Samuel Hopgood Hart, for very kindly making available Mr. Hart’s Newspaper Cuttings Book, which has proved an invaluable aid in compiling this essay. B.G.M.