PRIEST VERSUS PROPHET
AS this is a history, not of a life only, but of a work, and is both biographical and autobiographical, the record does not terminate with the life of its chief subject. From the funeral I returned to the flat in Kensington, with the intention of making it my home until such time as a purchaser was found for the lease and furniture, supposing that I lived so long. For of this I had serious cause to doubt, so low had I been brought by the prolonged period of intense anxiety and unceasing service rendered under conditions the reverse of hygienic, the effect of which was manifested in repeated alarming failures of the heart’s action. And besides the physical condition, the tension on the spiritual bond between us was so extreme as to require all my force of will to avoid being drawn over to the side where now my colleague was. Of my duty to resist the traction thus set up I had no manner of doubt. Our work was far from accomplished, and it was made clear to me that the chief reason for her removal was that it might be accomplished. For, whereas this was impossible so long as she continued to linger on in weakness and suffering, to the entire engrossment of my thought and care, time and strength, her departure would set both of us free to continue our collaboration. This was a possibility of which I had no manner of doubt, provided only my own condition were such as to render me sensitive to her action. And for this it was necessary for my system to recover its lost health and tone. To have allowed myself to pass over in order to rejoin her would, I felt, have been to subject us both to the bitterness of regret on the score of work left unaccomplished; whereas by remaining here and continuing our collaboration, instead of bitterness we should have supreme satisfaction, the tie between us being of the spirit, and needing not the bodily presence.
Nevertheless, despite my firm faith in the perfection of the arrangements on the other side, I found it almost impossible to imagine her as no longer needing the services I had for so many years been accustomed to render her.
The letters of condolence which now poured in upon me helped me much, especially by their unreserving recognition of her and her work. It is because they are tributory to her that I reproduce the following selection from them. The first is from Lady Caithness: –
“PALAIS TIRANTY, NICE, February 25, 1888.
“DEAREST FRIEND, – Your sad news reached me this morning, and has naturally affected me very much; though I knew how very, very ill she was, yet I always fancied she would recover. I thought she was an instrument in the hands of those who would be powerful to protect her for their work. I fancy that they must be as deeply grieved as we are that she should be called away from earth just when she seems, to us at least, to be the most wanted. Of course we are but short-sighted mortals; and, after all, her withdrawal may ultimately prove to be for the advantage of the great cause in which she was the foremost worker. And I shall not be at all surprised to hear before long that you will feel her presence, and that she will be able to accomplish much more through you than she could have done henceforward with you. Perhaps she had to go first that she might thus work through you, instead of having to seek for another; and to this hope I now cling. But, my poor friend, my heart bleeds for you in your loneliness. What will you ever do without her glorious companionship, to which you have now been accustomed so many, many years? And at Atcham! In that lonely little study, without her bright presence, what will you do? Oh! It is too sad to think of you thus all alone, and with no sympathetic nature with whom to share your thought; and then to see that sad grave! Still, perhaps, she can come sooner to you there than anywhere else; for you will be surrounded by her aura and influence. Every book on the shelves will seem to you part of herself. I am so glad I have been at Atcham, and can see you there, but always with her! Poor Mrs. Kingsford! And Edith too! (...) My poor, darling, sweet, lovely friend, it seems impossible I shall never see her again, or receive her beautiful letters. I shall always keep her portrait before me. I thought as long as I kept the little one where she is in the same frame with you, and the Holy Spirit in the shape of a Dove between you, that she would live on; but there it is before me, and you are alone! I am going to write to the Mount-Temples to tell them the sad news. Let me hear from you as often as you can. And oh! Pray remember that I feel deeply for you, and sympathise most affectionately in your grief. – Your affectionate old friend,
I had written at the same time to Lady Mount-Temple, who wrote in return as follows: –
“CIRNIEZ, February 25, 1888.
“DEAR MR. MAITLAND, – What a blow! I thought she would be restored to us. What will you do? Can you live without her? Where is she? Is she near you? I have told Broadlands to send a wreath. Will you lay it over her beautiful body, with love in every leaf? I long to pour it out warm and living from my heart over her, noble, lovely creature, the friend of God, woman, and the lowest creatures! What a dreadful loss to poor Earth! Dear Mr. Maitland, tell me some time that you are not in despair. Tell me if I can do anything for you. Count me your friend to the end of the chapter, – and beyond, I hope. – Yours ever, and hers,
From Lady Wilde came a card inscribed, “With deep grief for the loss of one of the noblest and most gifted of English-women.”
Lady Wilde subsequently wrote to me of her: –
“Reading her writings, I at once appreciate the deep thought, vivid imagination, and great learning displayed in them. Truly she was a great light in the world, gifted beyond her sex, with strange insight for the deep and mystic things of the spirit. Much of her nature is now a revelation to me. I wish I had known her better while she was present here. She was but half-understood by all of us. Her queenly social graces were so striking that we rested there in admiration, while the inspired prophet-nature within her was not recognised as it merited, nor her ceaseless efforts in all she wrote to lift the Human to the Divine.”
Baron Spedalieri wrote as follows: –
“MARSEILLES, February 25, 1888.
“MY DEAR, VERY DEAR, SlR AND DESOLATE FRIEND, – On the Sight of your heartrending letter l was seized with a trembling, and my eyes – filled with tears – prevented me at first from perusing it. Though prepared for such a fatal event, the shock was none the less tremendous, and words fail me to give expression to my sad anguish. I am writing having our dear departed one’s last post-card before me, and bitterly crying.
“But, however great is my grief, it is increased by the thought of yours. I can imagine how comfortless it must be, the severance of a spiritual tie being not comparable to that of a material one. It is the parting of a soul in two, one of which is gone far off. I, who am aware of all the circumstances of your life and work with our for ever lamented friend – I only may estimate your bereavement. But I am aware at the same time that you may have a fount of consolation which you may get at; and l don’t despair of a future, if not a happy but a resigned one. You have yet a great and double mission to fulfil. Be then of good cheer, as much as it is now permitted. If the thought of a friend’s friendship, more than ever devoted and affectionate, may concur to assuage your immense sorrow, remember that you will have him in your true friend,
The Rev. John Manners sent me the following: –
“CLAKEMONT, BROCKLEY, February 27, 1888.
“MY DEAR MAITLAND, – Now that dear Mrs. Kingsford has been called to leave the frail tabernacle – the so-called earthly – or covering of the essential and celestial, which she had and has, she will be the better qualified to fulfil her high mission in, through, and by Christ Jesus the Lord, in pure love and wisdom. I ever did and do feel the deepest regard and love for her and yourself and work. – Believe me ever yours affectionately,
Mr. Edmund J. Baillie wrote: –
“WOODBINE, UPTON PARK, CHESTER, February 25, 1888.
“DEAR MR. MAITLAND, – I cannot tell you with what sorrow I learned the death of Mrs. Kingsford, for whom I entertained something more than a profound admiration.
“l was hoping her life might be spared to us yet a while, especially as the loss will be so keenly felt just now at this time; but the purposes of the Eternal are wisely ordered on the lines of Love, and ‘What l do thou knowest not now’ is the fitting admonition from the Silence until the waiting heart hears the whisper from the Morning-land.
“In my searching for light I have always been helped by the writings of the pure soul so recently released, and l feel saddened by the thought that I cannot again receive from her lips those words of counsel which always carried force and prompted the heart unfettered to take divine wings and fly for a while to a haven of rest, where in quiet the breath of peace came, and with it the strength and solace of a new life, to the full enjoyment of which she has now entered. – Believe me, my dear Mr. Maitland, ever gratefully and faithfully,
“EDMUND J. BAILLIE.”
The following is from Mrs. Elma Stuart, whose name will be familiar to many as that of the particular friend of “George Eliot”: –
“MONTREUX, February 25, 1888.
“MY POOR DEAR FRIEND, – Ah! What can I say to you? There is no comfort for you in such a loss – such a terrible loss; desolation indeed – you may well call it that – for you for ever. Even for me – and l was only a very recent friend; but I tenderly love her, and with my whole heart and soul admired her – even for me there is a blank that can never be filled. The world will not now know its loss, but it is very great. She was a Power for good in it. Ah! Who is left like her at all? And what is in her place? Ah me! But it is you – you l think most of, and oh! I am so sorry for you. My heart goes out to you in tenderest sympathy, as if I were indeed your mother, and you were indeed my son. Ah, how we will speak of her in the years to be, the years that are left us! You will feel as if she were ever near you. I cannot feel so. Even now I can hardly realise it, hardly believe it. It seems so dreadful. We are all
bereaved – all robbed of something that made life better and higher, more worth living, more lovely – but you most of all. Try and rest now, dear; try and sleep. You must sorely, sorely need it. I know the thousand things you have to do and think of – (and how more than kind and sweet and good it was of you to write to me in them all – how kind you have always been to me!) – but rest you must have; do take it; for Her dear sake, rest now and sleep. You have work to do for Her – for us all. Your strength has been terribly tried, and how you must need rest – sleep and forgetfulness for a while! Let me hope that I shall always keep the great and precious privilege of your friendship, which, believe me – pray believe me – I know well how to be grateful for and to keenly appreciate. – Dear friend, in spirit I wring your hand in unspeakable sympathy, and am your very anxious, affectionate friend,
The following letters appeared in Light of March 10: –
“To the Editor of Light.
“SIR, – Will you allow me to add a word of regret to your own editorial respecting the removal from amongst us of Dr. Anna Kingsford? We believe that she is only removed in bodily presence; nevertheless we cannot but feel the blank.
“She was surely one of the most gifted women of our day and generation. Her spiritual insight, her acute reasoning faculty, her knowledge in deep occult subjects, were most notably married to a very remarkable gift of luminous exposition, beautiful expression, and a vivid poetic imagination. None who were privileged to hear her essays read at her own house, and at the rooms of the Royal Asiatic Society, in connection with the Hermetic Society, of which she was President, can easily forget them; their impression and influence are ineffaceable. Her services in the cause of the poor animals subjected by modern science to the hideous and diabolical practice of vivisection are also to be remembered with heartfelt gratitude. She, ‘being dead, yet speaketh.’ – Yours faithfully,
“ANERLEY PARK, March 5, 1888.”
“SIR, – The readers of Light must feel great regret at the sad intelligence they learned in your last issue of the death of Dr. Anna Kingsford.
“We have for so many years been accustomed to her able pen as a contributor to Light that it will only be by degrees that we shall understand the magnitude of our loss.
“Truly she was a peerless and a matchless woman, and there is no one to take her place.
“She was really the greatest opponent to vivisection, and the most powerful writer against it, of any in England. It remains to be seen whether her mantle will fall on any other prophet of humanity; because, unless it does in a full degree, the promoters of vivisection will surely now have their day.
“Those of us who know Dr. Anna Kingsford’s share in that unequalled and most remarkable work The Perfect Way, must feel
that such a work was a gift worthy of a lifetime, and that it is really a book for and of the future. The doctrines therein unfolded are, for the present, too pure and high (exquisitely simple withal) for the general mind to grasp.
“Confused metaphysics are the order of the day, and works in which true order is their quintessence are not yet truly ‘understanded of the people.’
“There are many most interesting notices of this most gifted woman’s life in the journals of the day, but we, as readers of Light, are most nearly concerned with the loftiest side of her character, her so-called mysticism, a gift which is bewildering to some of her memorialists, but not to us, and we know that in losing Anna Kingsford we have lost one of the most excellent seeresses of modern times.
“I saw her, to my great sorrow, after her death, and I would like to mention something that struck me, namely, that her beautiful face looked to me so very, very dead, if I can so describe it. There was an absence of that peaceful look of sleep one sees so often, as if the soul still lingered near, and the senses were still tinged with a feeling of a happy dream. There was nothing of this sort here; her face looked to me as if her noble spirit had taken its flight so completely and so absolutely away from its encumbrance that there was not the faintest trace that it ever had been on earth at all. Her soul, so long trained to supersensual things, would, straight like an arrow, find its way, with no lingering on the frontiers. But I must not detain you; other pens will doubtless have something to say on this subject. – Faithfully yours,
“ISABEL DE STEIGER.
The following is the obituary notice in Light of March 10, 1888: –
THE LATE DR. ANNA KINGSFORD
“We are assured that our insertion of the following tribute to this lamented and highly gifted lady will gratify a public extending to the farthest quarters of the globe, to whom she was in the fullest sense of the terms at once Apostle and Prophet. Her labours on behalf of the principles of mercy and justice, especially in their application to the animals, are too well known to require more than a brief allusion here. For her, not only the happiness of the animal world, but the character of the mankind of the future, was involved in the question. Science, morality, and religion were equally at stake. Hence her assertion, enforced with the impassioned eloquence and logical reasoning for which she was remarkable, that that which is morally 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.
“The keynote to her teaching was the word Purity. She held that man, like everything else, is only at his best when pure. And her insistence upon a vegetable diet – which she justified upon grounds at once physiological, chemical, hygienic, economical, moral, and
spiritual, – was based upon the necessity to his perfection of a purity of blood and tissue attainable only upon a regimen drawn direct from the fruits of the earth and excluding the products of the slaughter of innocent creatures. In thus teaching she had the strongest personal motives. She ascribed her own delicacy of constitution to the violation of the law of purity by her ancestors; and her knowledge of the cruelties perpetrated in the world, especially those enacted in the name of science, robbed life of all joyousness for her, and made the earth a hell from which she was eager to escape. Her scorn and contempt for a society which, by tolerating vivisection, consented to accept for itself benefits obtained at such terrible cost of suffering to others, were beyond all expression.
“But Mrs. Kingsford felt herself called to a loftier task than that of enforcing any particular application of her views. Recognising a defective system of thought as the source of the evils she deplored, and the insufficiency of any reform which stopped short at institutions and left men themselves no better, and finding the Churches, one and all, failing to provide an adequate remedy, she set herself to meet the want as only it could be met, namely, by interpreting to men their own nature, potentialities, and destiny. Hence her devotion to occult science and the studies and experiences represented especially in The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ, – a work which has found recognition among students of divine things in all countries, irrespective of religion or race, as the fullest exposition concerning God, nature, and man ever vouchsafed to this planet, and her share in which has gained for her the reputation of being a seer and prophet of unsurpassed lucidity and inspiration. For this book, – with its ‘marvellous appendices,’ as they have been styled by a critic of high attainments, – was largely the result of illuminations and inspirations received by her chiefly in sleep, and constituting – as appeared on subsequent investigation – nothing less than a re-delivery, from the sources whence it originally came, of that divine Gnosis, variously called Hermetic and Kabalistic, which underlay and controlled all the world’s great religions and Bibles, and by the aid of which alone these can be interpreted. And this was given to her, not in suggestions and ideas only, but in language clear, precise, and exquisite, wholly beyond her own power of composition, and accompanied by dramatic experiences of the most striking kind. It was this faculty, possessed from childhood, – when it found expression in a number of tales and poems of a highly mystical character, – of withdrawal into the inmost and highest regions of the consciousness attaining to full intuition, and being taught directly of the Spirit, – a faculty due doubtless to the strength and purity of her own spirit, – that chiefly differentiated Anna Kingsford from the rest of her kind, and made of her for her intimates – to whom alone she disclosed her secret – a person apart and worthy of especial veneration. Taught from transcendental sources to regard herself as an appointed instrument in the Divine hands for the overthrow of the world’s materialistic system, she recognised the wisdom of the Providence which required of her an especial education, first in the tenets of the Christian Church, both Catholic and Reformed, and next in the philosophy and science of the world’s most materialistic school, the University of Paris.
“Only they who know what it is to be hypersensitive to their spiritual surroundings can imagine the keen agony to her of the associations to which she was there of necessity exposed. That which sustained and carried her through her university course – a course which she achieved with high distinction – 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 mission ever entrusted.
“Tall, slender, and graceful of form; of striking beauty of face and delicacy of complexion, intelligence of expression and vivacity of manner; with a noble brow, grey, deep-set eyes, a profusion of golden-auburn hair, a full, generous mouth, a rich musical voice, admirable elocution, and a persuasive eloquence; alike artist, poet, orator, and philosopher, – Anna Kingsford was as a diamond with many facets, and the admiration and affection with which she inspired her friends, masculine and feminine alike, was of the most fervent kind. Her maiden name – in which her early writings were published, the first when in her fourteenth year – was Bonus, that of a great Italian family of the earlier Middle Ages, notable for the variety and excellence of their gifts and achievements, and from which her descent is believed to be traceable. She has left a husband and daughter. Her remains are interred in the churchyard of Atcham, near Shrewsbury, the parish of which her husband is vicar.
“Although formally received into the Church of Rome in 1870 by Cardinal Manning, Mrs. Kingsford was but nominally a Catholic, for she retained to the last complete independence of thought and action, declining any direction, although the prospect was more than once held before her of being made the head of a new order in the event of her submission. She was, however, too well aware that such compliance meant either total suppression or the restriction of her sphere of action and influence to a section and a denomination; whereas she regarded her mission as a universal one, consisting in the interpretation to the world of the truth contained in the doctrines of religion. ‘For the Church,’ she maintained, ‘has all the truth, but the priests have materialised it, thus making themselves and their people idolaters, – idolatry being the materialisation of things spiritual.’
“The early withdrawal of one thus gifted and thus commissioned will to most seem a mystery hard to be solved. But it may well be that as much as was required of her has been accomplished, and that, being dead, she may yet speak still more effectually through those who remain and who enjoyed her confidence, as well as through her writings, of which some yet remain to be published, and by the example of her life.”
The following extract from an obituary written by Mrs. Fenwick Miller in the Pictorial World [and also in the Lady’s Pictorial, March 3, 1888] has its value both as a testimony to her many-sidedness and as exhibiting her from the standpoint of one so wholly out of sympathy with the serious side of her nature as to be altogether unable to recognise the significance of her spiritual work: –
“Mrs. Kingsford, M.D., whose name is so familiar to subscribers to this paper, passed away from life on the 22nd of February, after an illness of more than a year’s duration.
“In some respects, Mrs. Kingsford was the most remarkable woman I have known. I have never known a woman so exquisitely beautiful as she who cultivated her brain so assiduously. I have never known a woman so courted and flattered by men so loyal to the interests of women. I have never known a woman in whom the dual nature that is more or less perceptible in every human creature was so strongly marked – so sensuous, so feminine on the one hand; so spirituelle, so imaginative, on the other hand.
“It was in the season of 1873 that I was introduced to Mrs. Kingsford by Mrs. George Sims, the mother of the well-known author. I was then only eighteen, and Mrs. Kingsford was twenty-six. I find recorded in my Diary (for I had leisure to keep Diaries then) that I on that occasion thought Mrs. Kingsford ‘the most faultlessly beautiful woman I ever beheld; her hair is like the sunlight, her features are exquisite, and her complexion – I can use no other term but faultless – not a spot, not a flaw, not a shade!’ Thus I fell in love with her face on the spot. Of her opinions and character I already knew some favourable facts. She had just had a brief experience of editing and owning a weekly paper devoted to what both she and I considered the best interests of our own sex. She had shown both judgment and courage as an editor, as well as a singular fairness to people of opposite views from her own. On the occasion of our first meeting, Miss Downing (then a well-known speaker on the woman’s suffrage platform; dead now some years) objected to the idea that women must not eat heartily; that women themselves, as she regretfully remarked, thought it unladylike to eat two eggs for breakfast. ‘No one, man or woman, ought to eat two eggs for breakfast,’ replied Mrs. Kingsford. Hereupon I told her that I had clearly perceived her vegetarian views in her paper, and that I had therefore much admired her for printing a vehement attack on the practice from the pen of Miss Jex-Blake, M.D. ‘I am glad you appreciated it,’ said Mrs. Kingsford, ‘for to print it was the hardest struggle I ever had in my life.’ It was certainly very broad-minded and generous.
“Miss Frances Power Cobbe, Madame Bodichon, Mrs. Henry Kingsley, and many other notable ladies contributed to Mrs. Kingsford paper; but it did not pay, and after losing a good deal of money over it she gave it up. In the next year, 1874, she began the study of medicine. I also was at that time a medical student, though I had already come to contemplate the probability that I should, for a variety of reasons, resign medical work for literature. Mrs. Kingsford was very desirous that l should accompany her to Paris to study – our acquaintance having by this time much developed. I had been down to Hinton Hall, Shropshire, her home then, and had seen Mr. Kingsford and her little girl; and we had talked miles of ideas in her pretty little boudoir, where a statue of the Virgin, reverenced with cups of roses and a tinted lamp, stood in one corner, giving it the air of an oratory. Mrs. Kingsford, though her husband was a Church of England clergyman, had herself joined the Catholic Church. I never heard from her one word
that reminded me of this fact; and indeed, it is only as I recall her room – with its writing-table under the window that looked on to the Welsh hills, and its abundance of easy-chairs, and its ranks of books of all kinds – that I remember where the Madonna’s image stood, and then recall that Mrs. Kingsford was understood to be a Catholic. (1)
“I saw her for the last time in November. She was terribly ill, but her gay spirits and her beauty of face were almost unimpaired. ‘I think my face eats on its own account,’ she said: ‘it absorbs the cold cream I give it. My arms are thin enough!’ She knew, reasonably speaking, how very ill she was, and that her recovery was impossible. ‘But I cannot feel as if I am going to die,’ she declared; ‘life, all that makes me, my intellect, my feelings, are so keen – as acute as they ever were; how can I believe that it is all over with me?’ She said it cheerfully – nay, stoically – but it was a painful moment. With the extraordinary hopefulness characteristic of consumption, she then began to talk about beginning some new literary work ‘at Christmas.’ She asked me to find her a lady to read the Greek and Latin poets with her, ‘for I may as well make use of my involuntary leisure,’ she added. She looked so young and pretty as she lay on her couch, in a black satin tea-gown, and with a large red fan in her hand; her intellect was so active, her wish to live so apparent, and yet her acceptance of her danger so heroic – ah, what a tragedy is human life with death at the end of it!
“Her mysticism about religious matters was to me simply unintelligible. This developed greatly of late years. She founded a society (‘The Hermetic’) for studying the soul and occult ‘science’; was once President of the Theosophical Society; and believed that she had supernatural revelations, the substance of which is set forth in her book, The Finding of Christ. If, on the one hand, she thus soared into the empyrean far beyond my vision, on the other hand she descended, to my thinking, to depths of practicality in her counsels about putting on rouge, dyeing the hair, and various other matters, in which she equally surprised me. Yet I am sure she meant what she wrote in these columns: ‘A true woman thinks first of her heart, secondly of her mind, and last of her personal appearance.’
“Mrs. Kingsford was a great lover of animals. She wore feathers in place of fur, silk gloves in all weathers, and some vegetable material for her shoes, so as not to destroy animal life for her adornment. She was a tower of strength to the anti-vivisection cause, in an effort to serve which, indeed, she lost her life. I will conclude this brief and imperfect sketch by telling this story in her own words, in a letter written to me last April: –
“‘One horribly wet day, November 17 last, I took into my head to visit M. Pasteur’s laboratory. I waded across Paris in the sleet and mud, and stood,
a long time in wet boots and clothes, and got back at last after about five hours, soaked to the skin. Result, severe neuralgia and inflammation of the lungs. Inflammation did not dry up, as it should, but got “cheesy,” and, after I had been in bed a month, I began to spit blood. I had a cough that was almost incessant, and, after many doctors had debated over me, I was informed that my left lung was tuberculous, and my best chance was the Riviera. Husband came over, and we started. (...) My doctor (Lutaud, editor of the Medical Journal, and Pasteur’s great antagonist) came to see me there. He chaffed me about Pasteur being the death of me after all; but I don’t think he would have done that if he thought I should really die. Of course I am a complete invalid. (...) People live years with only one lung, and do lots of work. But to think that, as Lutaud says, Pasteur should have cost me all this! And the earthquake missed him! Have you seen Lutaud’s book about Pasteur? I take it for granted you agree with L. and me. (...) Goodbye! Pray let me hear about you everywhere. Women have no worker so good and thorough as you are. I think, of all your Lady’s Pictorial papers, I like best those in which you showed by the example of Mendelssohn’s sister and Herschel’s what women might be if they were not everlastingly suppressed and bullied into silence. When idiots like ––– tell us women have never been great – that they have been tried and found wanting, and so forth – these little biographies are a pathetically eloquent reply. My heart aches when I read these things, and feel all the pangs of disappointed hope and ambition that women must have suffered. (...) Yours always affectionately,
The obituary notice in Lucifer of March 1888 was preceded by a letter to me from Madame Blavatsky, in which she says: –
“I have written for this Lucifer a little obituary of her whom I now know and appreciate ten times more than I did during her life. I did the best I could, letting rather my heart speak, and leaving the brain suggestions to those who say that which they do not feel. I do not like that notice of her in the Pictorial World; it is too flippant in my estimation. The one in Light is very good.”
“THE LATE MRS. ANNA KINGSFORD, M.D.
“We have this month to record, with the deepest regret, the passing away from this physical world of one who more than any other has been instrumental in demonstrating to her fellow-creatures the great fact of the conscious existence – hence of the immortality. – of the inner Ego.
“We speak of the death of Mrs. Anna Kingsford, M.D., which occurred on Tuesday, February 22, after a somewhat painful and prolonged illness. Few women have worked harder than she has, or in more noble causes; none with more success in the cause of Humanitarianism. Hers was a short but a most useful life. Her intellectual fight with the vivisectionists of Europe, at a time when the educated and scientific world was more strongly fixed in the grasp
of materialism than at any other period in the history of civilisation, alone proclaims her as one of those who, regardless of conventional thought, have placed themselves at the very focus of the controversy, prepared to dare and brave all the consequences of their temerity. Pity and justice to animals were among Mrs. Kingsford’s favourite texts when dealing with this part of her life’s work; and by reason of her general culture, her special training in the science of medicine, and her magnificent intellectual power, she was enabled to influence and work in the way she desired upon a very large proportion of those people who listened to her words or read her writings. Few women wrote more graphically, more takingly, or possessed a more fascinating style.
“Mrs. Kingsford’s field of activity, however, was not limited to the purely physical, mundane plane of life. She was a Theosophist, and a true one at heart; a leader of spiritual and philosophical thought, gifted with most exceptional psychic attributes. In connection with Mr. Edward Maitland, her truest friend – one whose incessant watchful care has undeniably prolonged her delicate, ever-threatened life for several years, and who received her last breath – she wrote several books dealing with metaphysical and mystical subjects. The first and most important was The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ, which gives the esoteric meaning of Christianity. It sweeps away many of the difficulties that thoughtful readers of the Bible must contend with in their endeavours to either understand or accept literally the story of Jesus Christ as it is presented in the Gospels.
“She was for some time President of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, and after resigning that office she founded ‘The Hermetic Society’ for the special study of Christian Mysticism. She herself, though her religious ideas differed widely on some points from Eastern philosophy, remained a faithful member of the Theosophical Society, and a loyal friend to its leaders. [Both she and Mr. Maitland resigned from the London Lodge, but not from the parent Society.] (1) She was one the aspirations of whose whole life were ever turned towards the eternal and the true. A mystic by nature – the most ardent one to those who knew her well – she was still a very remarkable woman even in the opinion of the materialists and the unbelievers. For, besides her remarkably fine and intellectual face, there was that in her which arrested the attention of the most unobserving, and foreign to any metaphysical speculation. For, as Mrs. Fenwick Miller writes, though Mrs. Kingsford’s mysticism was ‘simply unintelligible’ to her, yet we find this did not prevent the writer from perceiving the truth. As she describes her late friend ‘I have never known a woman so exquisitely beautiful as she who cultivated her brain so assiduously. I have never known a woman in whom the dual nature that is more or less perceptible in every human creature was so strongly marked – so sensuous, so feminine on the one hand; so spiritual, so imaginative, on the other hand.’
“The spiritual and psychic nature had always the upper hand over the sensuous and feminine, and the circle of her mystically inclined friends will miss her greatly, for such women as she are not numerous
in the same century. The world in general has lost in Mrs. Kingsford one who can be very ill spared in this era of materialism. The whole of her adult life was passed in working unselfishly for others, for the elevation of the spiritual side of humanity. We can, however, in regretting her death, take comfort in the thought that good work cannot be lost or die, though the worker is no longer among us to watch for the fruit. And Anna Kingsford’s work will still be bearing fruit even when her memory has been obliterated with the generations of those who knew her well, and new generations will have approached the psychic mysteries still nearer.
“*** The boasts made by the Roman Catholic Weekly Register, to the effect that Mrs. Kingsford died in the bosom of the Church, having abjured her views, psychism, theosophy, and even her Perfect Way and writings in general, have been vigorously refuted in the same paper by her husband, Rev. A. Kingsford, and Mr. Maitland. We are sorry to hear that her last days were embittered by the mental agony inflicted upon her by an unscrupulous nun, who, as Mr. Maitland declared to us, ‘was smuggled in as a nurse,’ and who did nothing but bother her patient, ‘importune her,’ and ‘pray.’ That Mrs. Kingsford was entirely against the theology of the Church of Rome, though believing in Catholic doctrines, may be proved by one of her last letters to us, on ‘poor, slandered St. Satan,’ in connection with certain attacks on the name of our journal, Lucifer. We have preserved this and several other letters, as they were all written between September 1887 and January 1888. They thus remain eloquent witnesses against the pretensions of the Weekly Register, for they prove that Mrs. Kingsford neither abjured her views, nor ‘died in fidelity to the Catholic Church’!”
The Vegetarian Messenger contained the following tribute to her: –
“ANNA (NINON) KINGSFORD
“Born 16th September 1846. Died 22nd February 1888.
“No more her soft and silvery voice is heard
In pleadings for the tortured and the weak;
No more her friendly aid the friendless seek,
Or know her kindly hand and kindly word.
No more, no more! Is all then passed away?
Knowledge and genius swallowed in the tomb!
Is virtue silenced in that dark and gloom,
Not pierced by one bright consoling ray?
Grieve not that she has passed – the bright and brave;
Star-like her soul shines o’er this earthly ball;
From her fair life sweet influences fall
On many lives, and wandering feet recall –
Recall from sin and error. Thus to save
Dooms death to die, and conquers o’er the grave.
“WILLIAM E.A. AXON.”
Another magazine devoted to the same cause thus concluded its obituary notice of her: –
“‘HER WORKS WILL LIVE AFTER HER,
AND HER PRINCIPLES WILL NEVER DIE.’”
“IN MEMORY OF MRS. ANNA KINGSFORD,
“Who departed this life 22nd February 1888.
“Well done, well done, thy war is o’er,
Thy earthly work is done;
And thou hast gained the shining shore,
And thou hast found thy home.
Thy feet were weary with the way,
But thou didst bravely climb,
Up from the shadows cold and grey,
Which wrap the clods of time.
Thy cross, thy earthly heavy cross,
Thou bearedst up in pain;
And every evil was thy foe,
And every good thine aim.
Love was the spirit bright and fair
Whose voice did guide thee right;
Peace was thy gentle sceptre rare,
And truth thy banner white.
To help the helpless thou didst strive,
Thou didst defend the weak;
And thou didst speak with burning words,
For those who could not speak.
No more earth’s storms and billows rise
To strike thy shrinking bark;
No more shall horrors pain thine eyes,
Nor agony thine heart.
Thou, with thy beauty and thy grace,
Thy gifts and talents bright,
Hast left behind a vacant place,
And yet a trail of light.
Thy works shall live, thy words shall burn,
Thy star shall ever shine;
Death cannot chill thy loving heart,
Nor quench the light divine.”
And the following was in Thalysia, a German magazine published at Nordhausen: –
“NACHRUF AN ANNA KINGSFORD
VON DR. ADERHOLDT
Des Himmels Huld verlieh Dir reiche Gaben,
Der Jugendschönheit holde Zauberblüthe,
Den Geist, der durch die Nacht hin Funken sprühte,
Aufsteigend über Raum und Zeit erhaben.
Und alle Wesen, die da Leben haben,
Umfasste liebend Deine Herzensgüte,
Und heil’ge Sehnsucht Dir im Busen glühte
Nach neuer Welt, wo Mensch und Their sich laben.
Ach! weil Dein Eifer Licht und Leben bot,
Hatt’ Dich zum Opfer längst erseh’n der Tod,
Und frühe sankst Du, allzufrüh zur Ruh!
Doch wer, Du Heilige, gewirkt wie Du
In edlem Kampf und siegesfrohem Streben,
Der lebt’ ein reiches, unvergess’nes Leben.”
The following reminiscence by the late well-known journalist Mr. W.T. Stead is of interest. He says: – (1)
“I remember Anna Kingsford. Who that ever met her can forget that marvellous embodiment of a burning flame in the form of a woman, divinely tall and not less divinely fair! I think it is just about ten years since I first met her. It was at the office of the Pall Mall Gazette, which I was editing in those days. She did not always relish the headings I put to her articles. (2) She was as innocent as the author of The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich of the necessity for labelling the goods in your shop-window in such a way as to attract attention, but we were always on good terms, being united by the strong tie of common antipathies. I saw her once at her own place, when, I remember, she wore a bright red flower – I thought it was a great gladiolus, but it may have been a cactus, which lay athwart her breast like a sword of flame. Her movements had somewhat of the grace and majesty that we associate with the Greek gods; and as for her speech – well, I have talked to many of the men and women who have in this generation had the greatest repute as conversationalists, but I never in my life met Anna Kingsford’s equal. From her silver tongue as in a stream, ‘strong without wrath, without o’erflowing full,’ her sentences flowed in one unending flood. She talked literature. Had an endless phonograph been fitted up before her so as to be constantly in action, the cylinders might have been carried to the printer, and the copy set up without transcription or alteration. Never was she at a loss for a word, never did she tangle her sentences or halt for an illustration. It was almost appalling after a time. It appeared impossible for her to run dry, for you seemed to feel that copious as was her speech it was but as a rivulet carrying off the overflow of an ocean that lay behind.”
If sympathetic recognition could suffice as a restorative to me in my depressed condition of health, it was assuredly accorded in a measure rare both in kind and in degree; and doubtless it served me somewhat. But more was done to this end by the active part which I found myself called on to take in defence of our work itself. To touch this with hostile hands was to me an offence of far greater magnitude than would have been any assault on ourselves personally. That work represented the very life-blood of our souls shed for the world’s redemption in the pages of The Perfect Way. And it was The Perfect Way which I now found myself called on to rescue from an insidious and monstrous allegation of retractation in respect of it, brought by the emissaries of Sacerdotalism against my venerated colleague.
The conflict grew out of the following paragraph which appeared in a Catholic paper, The Weekly Register, February 25, 1888: –
“Only a mile from the Oratory – in Kensington – has passed away this week another Catholic – one of singularly various mind and fame. In her way, too, Dr. Anna Kingsford was an apostle, though her message was not widely accepted, and was perhaps often misunderstood. In the bloom of life, full of personal attractiveness, and in the vigour of a most original intellect, she has been snatched away by rapid consumption, leaving her work, as it seems to human eyes, half done. If many women are intelligent, few, in the still prevailing conditions of education, are intellectual; but to Mrs. Kingsford belonged eminently the graver quality. Her literary work was chiefly conspicuous in her controversy with the disciples of M. Pasteur – a controversy of which the last word has yet to be spoken – and in the testimony she bore in the Nineteenth Century and elsewhere against vivisection. Mrs. Kingsford had taken her degree in Paris, and she made her protest with a vibrating note of experience not easily forgotten. She was not, however, an emotional writer, and she dealt with scientific matter by scientific method. To this order of her powers belonged The Perfect Way in Diet, an essay on vegetarianism. She wrote invariably excellent English, vivid and direct. Though her beauty and grace made her many friends, she was almost a stranger, if we mistake not, in the Catholic world, and will be therefore more lamented by the mixed group of the Hermetic Society, of which she was President, than by her fellow-believers. A convert and the wife of an Anglican clergyman, who is left to mourn her – a woman, too, whose nearest friends were outside of her own Church, Mrs. Kingsford has upon our readers a special claim to remembrance in their prayers. Her hope was to go to Lourdes before she died, but her sudden and cruel disease was too imperative and too quick.”
The succeeding number, March 3, 1888, contained the following article: –
“MRS. KINGSFORD’S RELIGION
“In recording last week the death of Mrs. Kingsford, M.D., a distinguished writer on dietetic, social, and philosophical subjects, we printed the following words: –
“‘A convert and the wife of an Anglican clergyman, who is left to mourn her – a woman, too, whose nearest friends were outside of her own Church, Mrs. Kingsford has upon our readers a special claim to remembrance in their prayers. Her hope was to go to Lourdes before she died, but her sudden and cruel disease was too imperative and too quick.’
“On the Monday morning following the publication of this paragraph we received this letter: –
“‘Mr. Kingsford to the Editor of the “Register.”
“‘15 WYNNSTAY GARDENS, KENSINGTON, W.
“‘February 25, 1888.
“‘SIR, – I beg to thank you for your kind notice of my wife’s death contained in your paper. I must, at the same time, ask you to contradict the statement that she was a member of the Roman Catholic Church; neither had she the slightest idea of going to Lourdes. I must request you to publish thus. – I am, Sir, yours truly,
“‘ALGERNON G. KINGSFORD.’
“This letter was read by us with feelings of wonderment; for it so happened that the editor of this paper had been personally acquainted with Mrs. Kingsford, and had frequently conversed with her as a Catholic to a Catholic – on the understanding that she had been received into the Church by the Benedictine Fathers at Ramsgate so long ago as 1870. Moreover, Mr. Maitland – the old friend under whose fatherly and most tender care Mrs. Kingsford was in London, while her husband remained at his vicarage near Shrewsbury, visiting his wife as often as he could – had applied to Mrs. Meynell – a neighbour in Kensington – to obtain for Mrs. Kingsford, at her own request, a nursing sister. This, happily, had been done, and between the dying woman and the devoted sister of Bon Secours from Bayswater there sprang up during that last month of the life of one of them a friendship to be tenderly remembered by the other as long as she lives. The sister makes the following report: –
‘‘‘Mrs. Kingsford talked to the sister about religion and expressed a great desire to see a priest and to receive the sacraments. She seemed troubled about a book she had published in conjunction with Mr. Maitland. She said there were things in it she wanted to expunge; that Mr. Maitland wrote most of it; but there were eighteen pages of hers and some passages; that it would cost £50 to cancel these, but she would pay it and have it done. She said, “Sister, don’t you know some kind fatherly priest who would be good to me?” The sister replied that the priest of the parish, Mgr. Moore, was all that could be desired; and, at Mrs. Kingsford’s request, she
sent for Mgr. Moore. Mrs. Kingsford began to prepare herself for her confession. Mgr. Moore came on the following day. When he arrived, Mr. Maitland, in whose charge Mrs. Kingsford was, made some difficulty, on the score of the patient’s illness, about her seeing him; but Mrs. Kingsford, on being appealed to, insisted upon seeing Mgr. Moore. She made her confession, and received all the last sacraments most devoutly, and after this seemed to give herself up entirely to prayer and to preparing for death. She used to beg the sister to say the Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Contrition, which she would follow most devoutly. She also asked for a statue of Our Lady, and for a rosary, which the Rev. Mother sent to her. The sister feared at times that her patient would overtire herself with so many prayers, and used gently to protest, but nothing would deter her from making a Novena to Our Lady and to St. Mary Magdalen. She began a Novena to St. Joseph, too, four days before she died.
“‘Often she would say to the sister, “Sister, bear witness that I died a Catholic.” She also expressed a strong wish to be buried according to Catholic rites in the churchyard at Atcham, her body having first been taken to the Pro-Cathedral and a Requiem sung. She also said she wanted something put on her grave to show she was a Catholic. She received Holy Viaticum three times. Mrs. Kingsford at first used to speak of going to Lourdes, but later she would say, “We shan’t go to Lourdes, Sister; I’m dying.” She took Lourdes water every day, and she several times told the sister how it comforted her to have her, and how terrible it would have been to die with only Protestants around her. She received the Brown Scapular the week before her death. When she really was dying she could not be in bed, but rested in a chair, and on the table near her she had a picture of the Assumption some one had sent her at Christmas, and in her agony once she said, “Mother, help me!” She also made after the sister the Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Contrition, as well as the Profession of Faith, and held the Crucifix in her hands, kissing it from time to time. She passed away quite calmly, her last action being to turn her head, and look, with a look so pathetic, the sister says she will never forget it, at the little picture of the Assumption.’
“Monsignor Moore, to whom also we communicated the contents of Mr. Kingsford’s letter, has written the following: –
“‘Mgr. Moore to the Editor of the “Weekly Register.”
“‘PRO-CATHEDRAL, KENSINGTON, W.
“‘February 29, 1888.
“‘MY DEAR SIR, – I am astonished at Mr. Kingsford’s letter, in which he informs you that his wife was not a Catholic. I can only state that I visited her, by request, three times during her last illness, and administered to her the last rites of the Catholic Church, and was quite satisfied as to her good dispositions. – I remain, yours very truly,
“‘C. HARTINGTON MOORE.’
“We have only to add that Mrs. Kingsford’s wishes as expressed above, have not been complied with; that her body was not taken
to the Pro-Cathedral before it was removed to Atcham; and that Canon Allen, of Shrewsbury, to whom Monsignor Moore wrote to state what Mrs. Kingsford’s wishes were, was informed by Mrs. Kingsford’s representatives that her funeral was to take place according to the rites of the Church of England.”
The same issue contained also the following article as a leader: –
“When we pleaded last week for the aid of readers to make the records of our dead complete, we did not dream how much force would be added to our remarks by the events following on the death of Mrs. Kingsford. We were prepared, indeed, to find that we alone among our Catholic contemporaries had chronicled the early ending of a life which had done so much, and which seemed, nevertheless, to leave so much undone. For, though Mrs. Kingsford had reached middle age, she did not seem to have attained maturity. Her abundant thoughts and intuitions needed a longer life for their due arrangement. Much of a mystic, and something of a visionary, she was nevertheless keenly practical and essentially scientific. If she had been more commonplace she would have been more comfortable. But there was nothing of affectation in the habits by which, for instance, she lived in modern London on the fare of St. John the Baptist in the wilderness – isolated in her abstemiousness, but in her outward manner a veritable cosmopolitan. Her active mind had early ranged through the nebulous regions of religious speculation, and she was still in the early twenties when she found refuge, from the vagaries of spiritualism and the deadness of infidelity, in the Catholic Church.
“To those who assert by rote that the Catholic Church is the grave of individuality and the opiate of spiritual and mental energy, Mrs. Kingsford’s case may be offered. We said she would have been more comfortable if she had been more commonplace, and the remark applies to her spiritual as well as to her mental history. To many her mysticism would have been a perplexity; and those who heard her lecture before the Theosophical Society may, at first sound, have doubted whether the speaker was more at home as a dogmatic Christian or as a Buddhist philosopher. She herself may have had some scruples; for she resigned the presidency of the Society; and, just as she had been admitted into membership of the Catholic Church, so, despite eccentricities which never reached the point of errors, she steadfastly remained in it, never doing or saying what a prudent director prohibited, though probably sometimes doing what he refused to approve. Yet we would say nothing to leave on the minds of readers any impression that Mrs. Kingsford did not live for nearly twenty years a consistently loyal and faithful daughter of the Church. That she certainly so died we have had the happiness to make clear in another column.
“It would have been more agreeable to us, on many accounts, to have left untouched the curious episode created by the letter of Mr. Kingsford. On receiving it, our first thoughts were to write privately to him, telling him that he wrote under a strange misapprehension,
and begging him, by withdrawing the letter, to relieve us from the necessity of impeaching its accuracy. But, on second thoughts, we decided that, in justice to many converts, surrounded at death by Protestant relatives, we ought to place the whole of the facts, as they occurred, before our readers. By a series of happy accidents the chain of evidence is complete; and we have been able to fulfil Mrs. Kingsford’s last wishes, that her friends should know she died in the religion she had professed. The letter of Mr. Kingsford will teach us, therefore, to receive with caution the statements made by Protestant relatives as to the infidelities of Catholics wholly cut off – as Mrs. Kingsford herself very nearly was, and easily might have been – from co-religionists. The possible difficulty placed in the way of a priest’s access to a deathbed will also be brought home to isolated Catholics residing in a Protestant household – who will take precautions accordingly; while the wishes of Catholics for Catholic funeral rites must – it would appear – be expressed in so plain and public a manner as to leave no doubt that they will not, as in this case, be either misinterpreted or ignored.”
From the same, March 10, 1888: –
“Last week, as our readers will remember, it was our duty and pleasure to lay before them certain statements in direct contradiction to the assertion that Mrs. Kingsford did not die a Catholic. These statements were made by Monsignor Moore, of the Pro-Cathedral, Kensington, who gave her the last sacraments before she died, and by the sister who nursed her during the last month of her life. Mrs. Kingsford, it will be remembered, repeatedly begged the sister to bear witness after her death to her fidelity to the Catholic Church. This she has done, without one word of partizanship or of display, and we know that her testimony is true. Nevertheless, we think it right to publish two Communications addressed to us by the Rev. Algernon Kingsford, and by Mr. Edward Maitland. We forbear comments on these letters further than to say that in some respects they answer each other; that in other respects the statements made in them are in direct conflict with the statements of other witnesses, and there is no human means of explaining the discrepancy; that in certain points, where we have been able to test the accuracy of Mr. Kingsford’s information from outside evidence, we have found it wanting; as, for instance, when he says that Mrs. Kingsford had not been to mass or to a director for years, and when he implies that a nun was smuggled in, in some underhand manner; the fact being, as a letter now before us shows, that Mr. Maitland applied, ‘at the request of Mrs. Kingsford,’ to a Catholic friend to find ‘a nursing sister.’ These things must be left to the judgment of our readers, who will, moreover, resent with us the imputations levelled against this devoted sister under some vulgar illusion that Catholics delight in pretending to effect conversions. On behalf of this sister we repel the insinuation that she teased her patient with prayers, or plied her with priests and pious objects – the facts being exactly contrary, and the sister trying to moderate her patient’s devotion, when she feared Mrs. Kingsford’s strength was being overtaxed. That a change, and a great change, came over Mrs. Kingsford during those
last weeks of her life we never doubted, and the letters of Mr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland confirm. It is possible, too, and even probable, that in her state of weakness it was painful to her to explain or to discuss this change with those whom she knew would grieve over it; and who did, indeed, resent it so greatly that they now attribute it to a sort of intimidation from the sister – an intimidation so great that it forced Mrs. Kingsford to set aside the wishes of those nearest to her over and over again – in some instances against their remonstrances! In this way it is possible to account for some of the strange discrepancies between the statement as to Mrs. Kingsford’s frame of mind. We are not quite sure whether Mr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland are quite competent to decide what Catholics really do believe; and, in regard to such matters as that of Mrs. Kingsford’s preference for cremation, we can only suggest that her written request for that mode of disposing of her remains may have been made before cremation was condemned by the Holy Father; and, at any rate, she had entirely conformed to Catholic practice when she spoke to Monsignor Moore and to the sister of her burial with Catholic rites, in the churchyard of Atcham.”
“‘Mr. Kingsford to the Editor of the “Register.”
“‘15 WYNNSTAY GARDENS, KENSINGTON.
“‘You must be aware that this correspondence is most painful to me under the circumstances, but I feel obliged to write and correct the statements made by you in your article. The case stands thus. You say Mrs. Kingsford died a Roman Catholic, and I say she did nothing of the sort. You have thought it necessary to publish all the details of a death-chamber. Whether this was good taste or not I leave others to judge. You say, “On receiving my letter your first thoughts were to write privately to me, telling me that I wrote under a strange misapprehension, and begging me to withdraw the letter, and suggesting that my letter was untrue.” [Mr. Kingsford does not quote accurately; we did not use the word untrue, or any equivalent to it. – ed.] Perhaps it would have been better if you had acted on your first thought, as it might have saved me the pain of answering your remarks publicly, and the publicity given to my wife’s last moments, which should have been held sacred; but as to withdrawing the letter, I could not have done so, as that letter contained the truth, which I can prove. I consider, in the first place, your remarks are most insulting and most uncalled for, when you say, “The letter of Mr. Kingsford will teach us, therefore, to receive with caution the statements made by Protestant relatives as to the infidelities of Catholics, wholly cut off – as Mrs. Kingsford very nearly was, and easily might have been – from her co-religionists.” Now, Sir, the facts which I will state, and which I can prove, will speak, to unbiassed minds, for themselves. Mrs. Kingsford wanted a nurse, and some friend told Mr. Maitland of one who was highly recommended, but as far as I can ascertain, nothing was ever said about her being a nun. I may here mention that this nun was introduced into my house without my knowledge. On my arrival in London some few days after the nun had been here, I was utterly astonished to find her. I immediately asked my wife for an explanation. She said she was
horrified on finding a religieuse had been sent to her, but that she was too ill to send her away, and was glad to have anyone. As matters turned out, my wife was justified in her dread, as the nun did nothing hardly but pray and importune my wife. My wife then asked me to get another. Her words were, “I wish you would get me another nurse, as the sister does nothing but pray. She so bothered me about a priest that I did anything for peace and quietness. I was at the time suffering agonies; it was not my wish for him to come, neither did I believe he could do any good; I was terribly upset and weak at the time he came.” These words, or words to the same effect, my wife repeated to two others who are prepared to vouch for their truth; one of whom was her own doctor. The same evening I went to a friend, to whom I told all the circumstances of the case, and settled to get another nurse the next morning. However, when the next morning came my wife was very ill indeed, and said she would rather keep the sister for the present, as she did not feel strong enough to direct another how to attend to her; I agreed to this, as I understood the sister would not worry my wife any more. The sister remained to the end, but, I regret to say, did not stop her importunities. Again you say, “The possible difficulties placed in the way of a priest’s access to a deathbed will also be brought home to isolated Catholics residing in a Protestant household.” I beg to state that, if there were any difficulties, they arose from the unwillingness of my wife to have a priest; for, until the nun came and made her last days miserable, she loathed the idea of a priest, and constantly said to me, “Whatever you do, don’t let a priest come near me.” Some years ago, when about taking a house in London, she said, “My only objection to it is, it is so near Farm Street, and I am so afraid of the Jesuits coming to me; I so detest them and their doctrines that I do not wish to have anything to do with them.” Shortly before the nun came she was advised by a near relative to send for a priest, but she utterly declined, and said she was not a Roman Catholic and did not want a priest, as she did not believe in them; she has left a written statement, giving her reasons for declining, signed by herself.
“‘Now, Sir, you state that my wife wished to be buried with the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, and you imply that because she had not left a written statement her wishes were not carried out – another gratuitous insult and a cruel statement to make. My wife did leave a written statement, and that was to the effect that she should be cremated. Now I believe I am right in saying that no Roman Catholic would wish to be cremated; and I believe I am right in saying that cremation is condemned by the Pope. However, the very last time I was with my wife, very shortly before her death, she informed me that she had changed her mind, partly out of consideration for my feelings, and said she wished to be buried, at Atcham, with the service of the Church of England, and that Hymn 401 should be sung, and that her brother Edward, who is a clergyman of the Church of England, should perform the service. This was the last request she ever made to me personally before her death, and I promised her that her wishes should be carried out. This happened after she had seen the priest, and does not look as if she died a Roman Catholic. I may say that this request was not made
to me only, but to two others. After her death I had a most kind letter from Canon Allen, stating that he had heard from Mgr. Moore, and offering to take the service. I immediately wrote to him, saying he was mistaken in thinking my wife was a member of his Church, and telling him of her wishes. In reply he wrote – and I quote his own words – “That she had not been for many years a Catholic I was well aware, and I confess Mgr. Moore’s news was a surprise to me.” There is one statement more of yours, namely, “She herself may have had some scruples, for she resigned the presidency of the Society; and, just as she had been admitted into membership of the Catholic Church, so, despite eccentricities which never reached the point of errors, she steadfastly remained in it” (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church), “never doing or saying what a prudent director prohibited, though sometimes doing what he refused to approve” – another false statement, and which I cannot see how you can reconcile with the statement of Canon Allen. Besides, she never had a director, and never consulted any Roman Catholic priests for years; also, she never attended mass or confessed for years, but she did attend the Church of England services when at home and when her health allowed, and took the greatest interest in my church and the services. So much for your article! Now for the statement of the nun, which is untrue in many respects. It should begin – “I talked to Mrs. Kingsford about religion; I worried her to see a priest and to receive the sacrament. I offered to go for the priest, I persuaded her to have an image, and l asked her to let me get her a rosary.” The sister says she feared at times that her patient would overtire herself; she ought to have said – “I fear I constantly during the night overtired her by my hourly prayers. Although she asked me to desist. It was I who dressed up the poor dying woman with all sorts of things” – when she was too weak and ill and wandering to take any notice. As regards the story about the book, The Perfect Way, it must be a pure invention of the nun’s imagination, as my wife wrote quite half the book and generally supervised the whole, and when asked to retract the book, utterly declined to do so; and in this way died contumacious. The nun states that my wife asked her to get a priest. My wife told me and two others, one of whom was her doctor, that the sister worried her so to have one, as l previously stated. You must allow me to believe my dying wife’s statement rather than that of a nun, whose sole object seemed to be to make my wife’s end wretched – although, perhaps, with the best intentions. I have been compelled to make this letter a long one owing to its being a statement of facts, which statement I declare to be true, and most of which can be proved by independent witnesses.’
“‘Mr. Maitland to the Editor of the “Register.”
“‘The statements contained in your last issue respecting this highly gifted and lamented lady are for the most part perversions of truth – I do not say wilful, but – grotesque to monstrosity, and so injurious both to the dead and to the living as to demand instant and positive contradiction. That they came before you so attested as
to leave no room for doubt of their trustworthiness l fully allow; and I am deeply sensible of your high appreciation of and regard for their subject, and your kindly reference to myself in my relations to her. As I can further assure you that, although not of your communion, I am no anti-Catholic, I hope to be regarded as writing in no spirit of hostility, but solely in the interests of truth and justice. My recitation of the facts, moreover, will show that the statements impugned by me could not be true. With the statements that Mrs. Kingsford was many years ago – in 1870 – formally received into the Catholic Church, and in her last illness was nursed by a sister and received the last rites from a priest, I have no fault to find, as they are in themselves perfectly correct. But the value attached to them is wrong, and all the others are either absolutely untrue, or are such distortions of the truth as to make them falsehoods. Thus, to deal with them in detail, it is not true that Mrs. Kingsford was “cut off wholly or very nearly from her co-religionists by reason of her living in a Protestant household,” or that a difficulty was thrown in the way of her seeing a priest. For she had always been entirely free, both to visit, and to receive whom she would, and she largely exercised that freedom. And when, during her last illness, a relative urged upon her the propriety of seeing a priest, and she conferred with me on the subject – I being in sole charge of her at the time – not only did I raise no difficulty, but I had actually taken my hat to go and inquire of a Catholic friend the address of a priest likely to be acceptable to her in the event of her deciding to see one, when she stopped me, saying positively that she would not have one at all, and giving me her reasons, from which she never swerved. These were – 1) Her conviction that the condition of the soul is alone of consequence, and that no extraneous observance can affect that; 2) that a priest would feel bound to take objection, both to her writings and to her intention of being cremated, in neither of which respects would she suffer interference; and 3) that if once a priest obtained entrance, she might have endless trouble in avoiding dictation as to her future life and work; and that the direction she was already under – alluding to her spiritual illuminations – infinitely transcended that of any priest whatever. From these views, I repeat, she never for a moment swerved; and until the engagement of the sister, her nurse, no question arose about a priest, and no desire was expressed by her for any support or consolation beyond that which she received from interior sources; and this, she used to assure me, was so full and glorious as to make her bitterly regret her inability through weakness either to write or dictate them. Yet, on the second night of the sister’s presence, she was induced to allow a priest to be summoned, and without my knowledge, a suspension of the confidence that had hitherto subsisted between us that caused me exquisite pain. And alike in regard to this and the subsequent visits of the priest, l was assured by Mrs. Kingsford – although I made no objection, and therefore needed no excuse – that she had consented solely in order to escape the worry and fatigue of the sister’s importunities, and on her promise that it should be the last time. Similarly with regard to the sister’s own religious ministrations, Mrs. Kingsford complained to me repeatedly with tears that her nights were so broken and disturbed, and herself so neglected by reason of the
sister’s incessant repetition of prayers and insistence on observances, all of which she characterised as frivolous and puerile in the extreme, as to seriously impair her chances of recovery, and altogether make impossible her own communion with the Divine. And her only reason for not consenting to the change I pressed upon her was her inability through increasing weakness to break in another nurse to her ways, and the possibility of another failure. And so it came that, to avoid exhaustion by argument, and for the sake of peace, she gave in on one point after another, and suffered herself to be surrounded and decorated with pictures and images and scapulars, all the time feeling their utter triviality, and marvelling at the completeness with which the conventual system had suppressed the intelligence of her attendant, and the abjectness of her submission to the priests. And more than once she said to me, that she was glad to have had the experience, as she would be able, in case of her recovery, to expose and denounce a system so fatal at once to the minds and souls of its victims. My own remonstrances to the sister, representing her conduct as most cruel and a dereliction of her duty, inasmuch as it was to the body and not the soul of her patient that she was engaged to attend, were entirely unheeded, and very likely unheard, being received with averted face and a muttered accompaniment of what I took to be a string of exorcisms, indulged in to prevent her hearing me; and I was told by Mrs. Kingsford that nothing was more likely, since they were forbidden to listen to anything unauthorised by their spiritual superiors, and she remarked, with a smile, that St. Peter had never been cured of his practice of cutting off people’s ears. The impossibility of the sister’s story about the picture of the Assumption becomes obvious when it is considered that Mrs. Kingsford, while she had learned to regard the Church as containing the whole truth, had learned also to regard that truth as purely spiritual, and consequently as devoid of any relation to persons, events, or things physical and historical – the ascription to Christian doctrine of such relation constituting idolatry, and idolatry being defined for her as consisting in the materialisation of things spiritual. Thus the Assumption possessed in her view no personal or historical significance whatever. It was simply a symbol – and one which she dearly loved – of the soul, purified from taint of materiality, and rising into final union with the Divine Spirit. It was thus an eternal and universal verity, denoting the potentiality of every soul, and being this, could not have evoked the ejaculation described by the sister, unless, indeed, the sufferer’s mind was wandering and her words were unconscious and meaningless. This illustration of Mrs. Kingsford’s doctrine will suffice to make it clear that between the letter of Mr. Kingsford denying that his wife was a member of the Roman Catholic Church and that of Monsignor Moore asserting that she was a Catholic there is no real discrepancy, and the two letters do not traverse each other. Mrs. Kingsford was a Catholic in that she held Catholic doctrine; and she was not a member of the Roman Catholic Church in that she held Catholic doctrine in a sense not recognised by that Church, and refused submission to it. The sister’s statement about our joint book, The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ, is, perhaps, the most ingenious of all the perversions of fact made in this relation. But I
do not assert that the falsehood was intentional. In it I can see a way in which the impression may have arisen. The book in question was largely the result of illuminations and inspirations received by Mrs. Kingsford chiefly in sleep; for Mrs. Kingsford was from childhood a seer of marvellous lucidity, and she grew up to be more than this. You yourself have described her as an apostle. She was more even than this. She was a prophet also; for she was in the habit of receiving from divine sources knowledges concerning divine things, transcending any she could have devised of herself, or acquired otherwise, and these couched in language which for its perfection was far beyond her own power or that of any person living to have written; the purport of them all being the interpretation of religious doctrine and the revelation of the nature of existence. It was my discovery in her of this faculty, now some fourteen years ago, that led to my literary association with her, and during the whole of that period my chief function in regard to her was the surrounding of her with conditions such as best to promote its highest development and application, the main pursuit of my own life previously having been the search for the spiritual reality behind the phenomenal form, with a view to the solution of the great problem of existence. The Perfect Way was the result of our combined faculties, and is the triumph of a thought absolutely free. It has found recognition from the most advanced students of “Divine Science,” in all countries and of all creeds, as the fullest exposition of that science ever known, and as destined largely to control the faith and practice of the future. And so far from being troubled about it, Mrs. Kingsford gloried in it, considering it the supreme privilege of her life to have been a sharer in its production, and she was only apprehensive lest it might, through her death and mine, fall into the hands of those who might suppress it. Now for the sister’s strange perversion. While reading the book for the last time, but a few weeks before her death, Mrs. Kingsford found a passage, written jointly by us, which she saw to be capable of improvement, chiefly by means of amplification and extension; and she made some notes and suggestions to this end, advising that in order to obtain the space requisite for the new matter – the book being stereotyped – several pages – about eighteen – be omitted. Not that she regarded their contents in any way as erroneous, but she considered the proposed new matter as of superior value. This I undertook to have done, and it so happens that, while the part to be omitted does not at all conflict with current Catholic ideas, the new portion substituted by her for it will so conflict. Such exactly are the facts of Mrs. Kingsford’s alleged retractation of The Perfect Way. When I have added that, on her decided refusal to submit in the matter, and to allow the sister to importune her further respecting it, the sister, to use Mrs. Kingsford’ expression to me, “sat and sulked through the night like a person conscious of being baffled in a mission,” and was with difficulty induced to attend to her wants when called upon, I shall have said enough to dispose of what you designate a “series of happy accidents which complete the chain of evidence” proving Mrs. Kingsford to have died a member of the Catholic Church. In reply to your remarks concerning her connection with the Theosophical Society, I have to say that it was no scruple of conscience such as you suggest
that led her to quit it. (1) She and I had entered it by express invitation of the Society itself, which was then but a group of persons of culture engaged in studying Oriental occultism, in order to share our mutual knowledges; and we quitted it because of the importation from India of an element strongly anti-Christian and antagonistic to us. It remains only for me to confirm what I understand from Mr. Kingsford he is writing to you, by stating that on the second and last days before her death, in answer to my questions, Mrs. Kingsford said that she desired to be buried in Atcham Churchyard, and described the spot – a spot overlooking the Severn and overlooked by the windows of my room in the vicarage, and by which we were wont to stroll gathering herbs for her “rudimentary sister,” as she considered her pet guinea-pig, and watching the reddening of the stream in the sunset; that her brother, an Anglican clergyman, should officiate; and that she desired no requiem or other Catholic observance which had been pressed upon her by the sister. And she said further, that as she had renounced her intention of being cremated, not in deference to the Pope, whom she considered to have made a great mistake in forbidding the practice, but on account of the inconveniences it might entail on her husband as a clergyman, she wished to have special precautions taken, as by a post-mortem examination, to secure her from being buried alive, through a trance being mistaken for death. And she renewed her promise to return, if permitted, in her spiritual body, to assist me in completing the work inaugurated in The Perfect Way, so soon as the rest which would probably be necessary for her after so much of toil and suffering should be accomplished – an event well known to us both by manifold indubitable experiences to be possible. I wish before concluding to emphatically disclaim any feeling against individuals. My objections are to the system represented by the sister, and not herself, as she is but what it has made her. And this was Mrs. Kingsford’s expressed sentiment also. And if I seem to have been unnecessarily lengthy in my remarks, I trust that the importance and interest of the theme, alike to the dead and to the living, will be my sufficient justification and procure them a place in your pages.’”
To this the Editor rejoined: –
“We have received a number of Communications about Mrs. Kingsford – some from persons to whom she had been at pains to justify her orthodoxy, others from those who had seen her at mass, and others from friends to whom in conversation she often spoke of her director and confessor. We mention these statements as directly contradicting some assertions made last week; but we need not continue further the fruitless task of sifting testimony so conflicting. Only one thing demands to be added: that the absolute untruthfulness of the version given by Mr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland of what passed during Mrs. Kingsford’s last illness is reiterated by both the sister and by Monsignor Moore, who was communicated with before his second visit to the sick-room by Mrs. Kingsford herself, in probably the last letter she ever wrote.”
The following was my reply to this tissue of falsehoods, but it was refused insertion in a paragraph of such a nature as to aggravate the grievance of which I complained: –
“To the Editor of the ‘Weekly Register.’
“SIR, – You leave me no choice but to address you again, the question being one of veracity. I admit that Mrs. Kingsford was accustomed to ‘justify her orthodoxy.’ But how? Why, by insisting that her esoteric views were the real doctrine of the Church, although unauthorised by its official representatives. I admit that she occasionally – though very rarely, and not at all recently – went to mass. But I used to accompany her. What does that prove more than that we both liked the music? I challenge your informants to name her alleged director at any period during the term to which this discussion refers. For her to have put any human being in such a relation to herself would have been a direct and fatal violation of one of the fundamental conditions of her spiritual initiation, which was that she should ‘call no man king or master upon earth.’ And as to her letter to Mgr. Moore in reference to his second visit – a letter which was written in my presence, and taken by me to his house – so far from its being a letter of invitation, its purport was to decline his offer to send a substitute – he being ill – and to say that she would await his recovery, the invitation to him to come again having been extorted from her by the sister in breach of her promise that she would be satisfied with a single visit. If the priest says that he has any other letter from Mrs. Kingsford in reference to that visit, or indeed to any other visit, I call upon him to prove it. And, in fact, he owes this to you for having induced you to write as you have done in the paragraph to which I am replying. For the letter I have described most certainly does not bear out the construction he wishes to have put upon it, and I do not see that any other would. Of course, the priest and sister ‘reiterate the absolute untruthfulness of Mr. Kingsford’s and my version.’ Being what they are, they are not free to do otherwise; and so far from accounting it a sin for them to lie where the interests – real or supposed – of their Church are involved, they account it a merit; whereas we, on the contrary, do not tolerate such ‘pious frauds,’ or hold that ‘the end justifies the means,’ no matter what the interests at stake.
“Against the letters received by you I, too, have letters – some of them from Catholics – complimenting me on the accuracy and clearness of my definition of Mrs. Kingsford’s religious position, and referring to letters written to them by me during the progress of her illness, when there was no anticipation of the difficulty which has since arisen, as entirely bearing out what I have since stated about the sister’s behaviour.”
The plea on which this letter was refused insertion was my impeachment of the veracity of the priest and sister. But it can scarcely be supposed that that plea would have been set up if the priest had been able to vindicate his truthfulness by
producing the letter he pretended to have received from Mrs. Kingsford.
The Tablet of March 3, 1888, contained the following: –
“We regret to have to announce the death of Dr. Anna Kingsford. Dr. Kingsford died on Wednesday, last week, of tubercular consumption, at Kensington. To Catholics Mrs. Kingsford was best known for her earnest papers contributed to these columns against vivisection, and especially against M. Pasteur’s new method of dealing with hydrophobia. To the wider world she is known as the author of incomparably the best work ever published upon Vegetarianism. Her Perfect Way in Diet had a great success at the time of its publication, and still commands a sale in France and Germany. In 1867 she was married to the Rev. Algernon G. Kingsford, Vicar of Atcham. Three years later she was received into the Catholic Church. Her life was one of busy activity to the last, and a stream of pamphlets on many of the scientific questions of the hour came from her pen. She died a good Catholic, and received all the last blessings of the Church from the hands of Mgr. Moore. During her illness she was buoyed up by all the dreadful hopefulness which is so characteristic of the disease, and several times expressed her intention of going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. At times she seemed troubled by the thought of certain passages she had written in a work undertaken in connection with the Theosophical Society, and at last she sent orders to the publishers to have them cancelled. During her last illness she repeatedly asked the nun who attended her to bear witness that she died a Catholic. Every humane cause and philanthropical society in Dr. Anna Kingsford loses a friend. She was only forty-two years of age. R.I.P.”
To this I replied on the 10th: –
“I write on behalf of both Mr. Kingsford and myself (I having been for many years in literary collaboration with Mrs. Kingsford) to give the most emphatic contradiction to certain statements respecting her contained in your last issue as unjust to the dead and injurious to the living. Although received some eighteen years ago into the Catholic Church, and continuing to the last a Catholic in doctrine, Mrs. Kingsford had long since ceased to hold that doctrine in the authorised sense, or to be in any recognised manner a member of the (visible) Catholic Church. And her admission of a priest in her closing days was strongly against her own wishes, and was acceded to solely in order to obtain relief from the importunities of the sister, her nurse, who, she assured me repeatedly, with tears, would not cease worrying her until she had consented. She had no intention whatever of making a pilgrimage to Lourdes, but disclaimed any faith – so far as she herself was concerned – in the efficacy of such a step. She had, however, sometimes expressed a desire to visit that place as a matter of curiosity. She was in nowise troubled by anything she had written, whether in connection with the
Theosophical Society or any other. The book referred to – The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ – was not written in connection with that society, but in complete independence of it and prior to her knowledge of its existence. And so far from her retracting anything in it as contrary to authorised teaching, she gloried in it to the last, and was desirous only of leaving it in the highest state of perfection. And to this end she left with me some suggestions for the rewriting of one single passage which she saw to be capable of improvement, the effect of the change proposed being to widen still further the interval between the teaching of the book and that authorised by the Church. The key to her career is to be found in the fact that Mrs. Kingsford was endowed in the highest degree with the faculties of the seer and the prophet, and, in virtue of her illuminations and inspirations, knew not only that which the Church teaches, but that also which the Church ought to teach – the spiritual meanings concealed beneath its external forms. And it is this last which she has – in collaboration with me – set forth in The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ. So far, moreover, from the pious aspiration, R.I.P., affixed to your notice of her being consonant to her wishes, it should read, not Requiescat, but Operet, since her most earnest desire was to continue that which we both regarded as her chief work in life, her work of interpretation. And only a day or two before her death – so far from retracting what she had written – she renewed her promise to me to return, if permitted, in spirit, when sufficiently rested, to continue our collaboration, a thing which we both knew from manifold incontestable experiences to be perfectly possible.”
“Our reply to this extraordinary letter shall be very brief. Mrs. Kingsford was received into the Church in 1870, and continued a Catholic till the end. She was frequently at this office, and always spoke of herself as a Catholic, and in no equivocal sense. The testimony of her many Catholic friends is to the same effect, and she was often at Farm Street and the Oratory. At the beginning of her fatal illness she sent to a Catholic friend asking her to procure a nun to act as a nurse. The services of a sister belonging to the Order of the Bon Secours was accordingly obtained. Mrs. Kingsford at once begged her to send for a priest – someone who would be kind to her. The sister is explicit in saying that this was an entirely spontaneous request upon the part of the dying woman. Mgr. Moore was sent for, and saw Mrs. Kingsford on three different occasions. On the first he heard her confession, and administered the Last Sacraments; on two other occasions he gave her Holy Communion. Mrs. Kingsford asked Mgr. Moore to have a Requiem Mass for the repose of her soul sung in the Pro-Cathedral, and said she feared there might be an attempt to bury her as a Protestant, and so besought him to go to Atcham to perform the Catholic service over the grave. She also expressed a wish to be buried in the church-yard at Atcham, adding, ‘You know that is consecrated ground.’ Mgr. Moore explained to her that, though the churchyard was an old one, it had been desecrated, but promised to write to Canon Allen and arrange that some consecrated earth should be placed in the grave. All through her illness Mrs. Kingsford seemed afraid that when she was dead her friends would pretend she was not a Catholic,
and many times over prayed the nun who nursed her to witness for her that she died a true child of the Church. Mr. Edward Maitland, better than any man, knows whether, when Mgr. Moore came at Mrs. Kingsford’s request, an attempt was made to dissuade him from entering the house, and whether, when he had insisted upon entering, an attempt was still made to dissuade the sick woman from seeing him. To accuse Mrs. Kingsford of conduct which would amount to consistent and conscious hypocrisy carried on for years in the face of her Catholic friends is to wrong the dead. To tell us that it was fear of a nun – with Mr. Edward Maitland in the house – which led Mrs. Kingsford at last to send for a priest, and three times to go to confession to him, is to trifle with our common sense. Mrs. Kingsford’s prayer for Catholic burial has been disregarded; we cannot say whether her wishes about her book will be fulfilled.”
In answer to this, I wrote in the Tablet of March 17, 1888: –
“SIR, – Your comments on my letter are, both in tone and in substance, such as to make imperative a rejoinder from me. My contention is – and I speak with full knowledge and without prejudice or reservation – that Mrs. Kingsford, although formerly a member of the Roman Catholic Church, had of late years withdrawn from such membership, and remained but nominally a Catholic, holding Catholic doctrine in an unauthorised sense, and declining the offices of the Church and the direction of a priest, and this not on account of any opposition – for none was offered – but purely of her own accord and of conviction. That she paid occasional visits to your office and spoke of herself as a Catholic no more prove her to have been one in your sense of the term than her visits to the office of the National Reformer and her speaking of herself as a Free-thinker prove her to have been one in Mr. Bradlaugh’s sense of the term. She was at once Catholic and Free-thinker, because hers was an intelligent faith and compatible with – nay, due to – perfect freedom of thought. And it so happened that the object of her connection with the Tablet and the National Reformer was one and the same. For it was the vindication of the cause at once of religion, science, and humanity, against a practice which was, I hold, rightly regarded by her as a denial of and outrage to all three – the practice, namely, of vivisection, which was upheld in both papers – in Mr. Bradlaugh’s by avowed atheists, and in yours by a Rev. Father.
“So far from any opposition being made to Mrs. Kingsford’s seeing a priest in her last illness, I had myself only a few months previously offered to ascertain the name of one whom she could summon without delay should she at any time feel disposed to see one – a relative having urged it upon her; and I had actually set off on the quest, when she recalled me, saying that she had only hesitated through her wish to avoid giving pain to her relative, but was now quite decided against seeing one, and gave reasons altogether incompatible with her being what you represent her. That she swerved from this position afterwards was in no wise of her own accord, but was due entirely to the pressure put upon her by the sister engaged to nurse her. And so far from her having ‘sent for a nun,’ as you
allege, she was greatly dismayed to find that a nun had come. For she was under the impression that there were institutions of women who, though nursing for religious motives, were not under religious vows, and would, therefore, refrain from molesting their patients with their religious observances. For myself, I did not share her dismay, as I regarded the objections I had been accustomed to hear as largely, if not wholly, founded in prejudice; while I was free from prejudice, and I accordingly received the sister in the most cordial manner, and all the time she was in the house did my utmost to promote her comfort.
“To come to the head and front of your offending against myself and the facts. You say: ‘Mr. Edward Maitland, better than any man, knows whether, when Mgr. Moore came at Mrs. Kingsford’s request, an attempt was made to dissuade him from entering the house, and whether, when he had insisted on entering, an attempt was made to dissuade the sick woman from seeing him.’ Now this is a striking instance of how near the truth the words of any statement may be, and how far from the truth its meaning. For ‘Mr. Edward Maitland’ – speaking with full recollection and absolute exactitude – ‘knows better than any man,’ and declares positively that no such attempts were made, but that the attempts made had quite another ground and object. For they were made simply and solely to prevent ‘the sick woman’ from having a priest thrust upon her unawares and against her own wish. And I defy any candid person to suppose otherwise when I have recounted the facts. Up to the previous midnight, when I yielded my place in the sick-room to the sister for the night, the confidence between Mrs. Kingsford and myself was full and unbroken as ever, and no hint was given me of her intention or wish to see a priest, although, as l have already said, she was well aware that I should make no objection, and therefore had no motive for secrecy. Yet the very next morning, on going to the house-door, I found there a priest demanding admission. Of course I could not suppose that he had come at Mrs. Kingsford’s invitation, and took it for granted either that he had come of his own accord, or that the sister had summoned him on her own responsibility, when attending mass that morning, in neither of which cases should I have been justified in admitting him to the sick-room – a view of my duty in which I give him credit for acquiescing when he shall have read this statement of the facts. By no possibility could it have occurred to me that, within a few hours of my leaving Mrs. Kingsford, the sister – on only the second night of her being in the house – should have so worked upon her patient as to induce her to send at once for a priest and to withhold the fact from me. Yet that is what, on repairing to the sick-room, I found, to my unspeakable distress, had happened – distress, observe, not because Mrs. Kingsford had sent for a priest – to that I was absolutely indifferent – but because of the withdrawal from me of her confidence involved in her acting thus clandestinely. After discussing this point, l proceeded to ascertain her real wishes in the matter, when she assured me that she had no wish whatever to see a priest, but had consented solely for the sake of peace and quietness, the sister never ceasing to importune her, and promising not to worry her any more if she would let her fetch him that once. Of course I felt that under
such circumstances she was not bound to see the priest, although he was in the house, and I undertook to make suitable apology to him as summoned under a misapprehension. But she replied that it would be rude to send him away, and she would be sure to have to undergo all the worry over again with the sister. And so it came that the priest was admitted, not once, but thrice, and each time Mrs. Kingsford assured me, owing to the same cause, the sister’s importunities, her inability to withstand which, and also to face a change of nurses – so rapid was the decline of her vitality – convinced me, on recalling all the particulars, that the influence of the sister’s presence was no less detrimental to her health than distressing to her mind. It was as a glamour which she was powerless to resist; so that it is anything but ‘trifling with common sense’ to believe that her alleged wish to have a Catholic funeral was but an adroit perversion of the silence in which she took refuge when it was pressed upon her, or, at least, of her failure to give an emphatic refusal. Her chief wish had long been to be cremated, her ‘hatred of interment being much greater than her love for the Church,’ as she expressed herself; and I understood from her that she had told the sister that she considered the Pope to have made a great mistake in forbidding the practice. That she gave up this intention was due entirely to the inconvenience it might entail on her husband as a clergyman of the Establishment; and it was on receiving at the last the strongest assurances that every precaution should be taken to prevent her from being buried in a trance that she finally gave it up. That she was buried with Anglican rites by her brother, an Anglican clergyman, in the cemetery attached to her husband’s church, was owing to her own instructions, given to her husband at their last interview, when she selected the hymns to be sung, which instructions she renewed to me distinctly and positively the day before her death. And on my asking whether she would like to have a Requiem first, either at the Pro-Cathedral or at Shrewsbury – a thing, I told her, easily arranged – she unhesitatingly declined, saying she did not want it, and would not have thought of it but for the sister urging it upon her.
“The assertion that ‘Mrs. Kingsford’s prayer for Catholic burial has been disregarded’ is utterly false, and your concluding remark about her alleged recantation of The Perfect Way, reiterated in the face of my positive statement in contradiction, is a most egregious and unwarrantable piece of discourtesy, and shows a total misconception on your part of the class and character of the persons with whom you have to deal in this matter. Mrs. Kingsford’s wishes about her book will ‘most assuredly be fulfilled.’ For I regard it as a sacred duty to carry them out. But that duty would most certainly not be accomplished, but the reverse, were I to take as my rule the version, or rather perversion, of those wishes so hardly maintained by you. Mrs. Kingsford retract her part in The Perfect Way! For those who are cognisant of the genesis and significance of that book, it would be no whit more preposterous to talk of the prophets and apostles as possibly retracting their part in the Bible.
“There is an hypothesis by which these amazing discrepancies of statement can to some extent be explained without serious impeachment of the veracity of the sister. It is that, being extraordinarily
amenable to the magnetism of those about her, Mrs. Kingsford may occasionally, in her state of weakness, have been influenced by the sister’s evidently strong will-power to give utterance, mechanical and unconscious, as by a process of reflection, to sentiments answering to those in the sister’s mind. But this, if it occurred, would not constitute her a Catholic in the sense claimed. And how readily she returned to her normal healthy condition of mind when the pressure was removed and her own luminous soul was set free to utter itself was shown by several instances, of which I will recount one.
“On going to her one day, just after the sister had withdrawn, I found her in great indignation at what she spoke of as both an outrage and a blasphemy, which consisted in the sister having calmly assured her that I ‘could not possibly be saved because I had not the love of God, since only Catholics could have that.’ Truly a cheerful style of conversation with which to treat a dying woman, and in regard to her dearest friend, too! That was the ‘outrage.’ But it is with Mrs. Kingsford’s other comment that we are chiefly concerned; and this was, that ‘such a conception of the Divine character is in the highest degree blasphemous, and that the God of those who hold it is no father and lover of souls, but only a magnified priest, who damns all who are not of his own persuasion.’
“I trust I have said enough to show that Mrs. Kingsford’s Catholicism was certainly not of the kind entitled to be labelled ‘Roman,’ yet not enough to bring down upon her the curse by bell, book, and candle, which the sister intimated to her she would be in danger of incurring unless she made submission about The Perfect Way. – I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
The following is the editorial rejoinder: –
“We publish elsewhere another long letter from Mr. Edward Maitland. This unhappy controversy has been none of our seeking, and we will keep our reply within the narrowest possible limits. If it be indeed true that Mrs. Kingsford was in such awe of the man who was watching by her deathbed that, to use his own words, when she wanted to send for a priest she did so ‘clandestinely’ and then, rather than dispute with him, was driven, in her weakness, to the poor subterfuge of pretending that she had been coerced, it will but add a new bitterness to the sorrow and unavailing pity with which her friends have heard of her death. For the statement that the nun, one of the most gentle of her sex, ever used pressure or persuasion we must put aside as a baseless fabrication. We have these undisputed facts. Three times over Mrs. Kingsford sent for Mgr. Moore; and it may be news to Mr. Maitland to hear that on the second of these occasions she wrote to him with her own hand. She went to Confession three times, and received Holy Communion, and begged for prayers, for solemn Requiem, and for Catholic burial. Mr. Maitland tells us that the first time she received Mgr. Moore it was out of politeness. Was it politeness that made her write to him, and twice send for him ‘clandestinely’? Does Mr. Maitland really understand what it is he suggests when he says that Mrs. Kingsford, knowing she was on the threshold of the grave, was
only deceiving the priest, was trifling with the Sacraments, and receiving the Holy Communion out of politeness? But Mr. Maitland says Mrs. Kingsford was so susceptible to the personal magnetism of others that perhaps, without her will, she may have said things others were wishing her to say. Was it magnetism that three times made her go to Confession to Mgr. Moore?
“But it surely is idle work, this talk of personal magnetism – this use of phrases which explain nothing. The sister assures us that her chief difficulty all through Mrs. Kingsford’s illness was to moderate the fervour of her devotions, which threatened to be too much for her failing strength, and it is not disputed that she repeatedly sent for Mgr. Moore and received the Sacraments. Her statements to Mr. Maitland are only explicable on the supposition that, knowing the cold and hard disapproval with which he would judge what she had done, she temporised, and, rather than dispute with him, pretended she had been persecuted. This explanation fits well with what Mr. Maitland calls her ‘clandestine’ conduct towards him, her repeated cry to the sister to witness for her after her death that she died a true child of the Church, and her evident fear of Protestant burial. Mr. Maitland thinks it deeply discourteous on our part to repeat the statement that Mrs. Kingsford wished to cancel certain passages of The Perfect Way. In justice to Mrs. Kingsford and to the sister who nursed her, we repeat it now. We can assure Mr. Maitland that the nun is quite innocent of any knowledge of ‘Theosophy,’ and had never even heard of The Perfect Way until Mrs. Kingsford expressed her regret for passages in it, and wished to cancel some eighteen pages of it. The words concerning Mr. Maitland’s personal prospects of salvation which are put into the mouth of the nun we dismiss as too ignorantly silly to need denial. In conclusion, we have only to say that w e are sorry if any words of ours have given pain to Mr. Maitland, and we have no wish to impeach his veracity. What we have written we have written in justice to the dead and the living.”
My reply to this rejoinder convicted the priest absolutely of having deliberately falsified the purport of her letter to him, as well also as the editors of unscrupulously adopting as their own the allegations of the priest and the nun, as if they themselves had personal knowledge of the circumstances. And it was therefore refused admission. The following extracts from Light (1) will conclude my citations from the press on the matter. That I have reported the facts at such length is because I regard the exposé as an important feature of our commission to “lay bare the secrets of the world’s sacrificial system”: –
“The Tablet and the Weekly Register contain some correspondence and editorial comments which l should describe as funny were it not for the repulsive and even ghoulish efforts made by the
respective editors to claim Dr. Anna Kingsford as one who had died in the odour of their sanctity. The official comments, ignoring the life-work of the departed lady, and ignorant entirely of her chief publication, as well as of the opinions she held and never disguised, are remarkable only for a deliberate putting aside of facts and a determination to square with preconceived notions what inconveniently took place. That anyone with an ordinary regard for truth can seriously assert that Dr. Anna Kingsford died an orthodox Catholic, troubled in conscience on account of The Perfect Way, is not credible. She was a Mystic, and her acceptance of Catholic teaching was mystical. She was weak and ailing in her closing days of earth-life, and she was pestered into accepting the ministration of a priest by a sister whose zeal was a long way ahead of her discretion. The strange belief, honestly held, I doubt not, that a departing soul not blessed by the ministrations of the Church is lost for ever is responsible for this most indecent intrusion on the closing hours of a perfectly consistent life, and for this palpable perversion of fact.
“It would not concern me in the least whether Dr. Anna Kingsford died a Buddhist, a Mohammedan, or a Catholic. But I am concerned to protest against the indecent stuff published with regard to her by the Catholic journals that I have mentioned. Their intrusion on the very deathbed, their twisting and distorting of plain facts in order to claim the soul of this poor lady, are as repulsive an exhibition as I remember to have seen. Both Mr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland are very outspoken in their chastisement of the misstatements made, and their words are in no whit too severe. Though I have always deprecated, and though I do still very strongly deprecate, any prejudice against any person by reason of theological belief, I am unable to refrain from saying that the conduct of these persons, the priest, the nun, the editors, and all concerned with them, is calculated to make one wish that their bigotry and intolerance could be sharply punished. There is an ingenuity, a malign ingenuity, of misrepresentation in such comments as this in the Weekly Register: ‘A change, and a good change, came over Mrs. Kingsford during the last weeks of her life. (...) It is even probable that in her state of weakness it was painful for her to discuss this change with those whom she knew would grieve over it.’ The accuracy of statement is on a par with the accuracy of the grammar. Sorry stuff and sad reading!
“Is it really an unthinkable proposition that men should come to realise that belief is a very small factor in the soul’s progress? Cannot people see that this unseemly shuffling over a dying woman in order to label her with a certain ticket, indicative of a belief, or of a profession of belief, expressed perhaps when the faculties are failing, is an insult to the common sense of any thinking man? Put it precisely. A. B. lives his life on earth, makes himself what he is, carries his responsibilities such as he has made them, and then, as the eye grows dim and the faculties fade, there comes one who says to him, ‘Believe this, subscribe to this, profess this, and you are saved.’ Does any thinking person accept that? Does any reasonable being view with anything but disgust the attempt to twist a fading life into the contradiction of itself?
“March 24, 1888.”
Meanwhile the effect of the excitement of the conflict on myself was in the highest degree beneficial; for it served at once to withhold me from complete engrossment by grief for my loss, and to brace me to fresh endeavour by disclosing to me the danger which threatened our work and my colleague’s reputation, and rendered necessary my continuance in life and health, both for its sake and for hers.
I had also the support derived from my absolute conviction that the time was not far distant when our work would be recognised at its full value by the intelligent and candid of all creeds and communions, to the utter downfall of the system which had shown itself so hostile to it; and I at once made it my determination to devote the rest of my life to the hastening of that time, both for the world’s sake and for my own; in order that I might yet see the triumph of the truth for which we had toiled and suffered, and the discomfiture of its enemies and ours.
How far my anticipations have been justified will appear from the following recital, which at the date of this writing – February 1895 – I am enabled to make.
In the third annual report of “The Esoteric Christian Union” – a society formed under my presidency (1) for the express purpose of propagating the “New Gospel of Interpretation,” of which we had been the recipients, is the following statement: –
“The two terms whereby the spiritual movement of the age is generally designated are ‘the revival of mysticism’ and ‘the restoration of the esoteric philosophy.’ In an article in the Fortnightly Review of January 1894, this movement was declared by a Catholic writer of repute to be proceeding, not only in the Protestant communions, but in the Roman Church, especially among the clergy and in the monasteries, ‘at a rate so rapid as to be revolutionary’; and in the course of that winter the Pope notified his recognition and sanction of it by issuing an encyclical letter calling on his clergy to restudy the Scriptures by the light of the ancient esoteric philosophy, specifying the Fathers and Doctors of the Church as the sources of information. But, as allowed by the late Cardinal Newman in his Apologia, while the patristic writings affirm positively the presence in the Christian symbology of a system of thought recognisable by the mind, and differing widely from the orthodox presentation of Christianity, and give of it glimpses and suggestions described by Dr. Newman as ‘magnificent in themselves and making
music to his inward ear, showing that nature is an allegory, Scripture a parable, and the dogmas, rituals, and appointments of the Church but symbols of the heavenly truths which fill eternity,’ – he did not for a moment imply that such interpretations are to be found in the Fathers, but only enough to give hope of a new and fuller revelation to come of the truths still under the veil of the letter. And he subsequently expressed his conviction that the only hope for religion lay in such a new revelation.
“The value and relevance of this recital to the present purpose consist in the fact – freely admitted by those who are in a position to speak from personal knowledge – that the writings to which this significant movement in the Church owes its impulsion and sustenance are no other than those which are recognised by this Society as the ‘New Gospel of Interpretation,’ (1) and which constitute, therefore, the fulfilment of Dr. Newman’s anticipation of a new revelation in the eyes of trained ecclesiastics of his own faith. Not that this conviction is confined to any particular communion. For, from members of numerous communions and creeds, cleric and lay, at home and abroad, Christian and other, of various races, nationalities, and tongues, whom the glad tidings of the New Interpretation have reached, there constantly come expressions of joy
and thankfulness unbounded, the burden of which is, ‘At last! At last! The seals are broken and the books are open; the veil has been taken away and the long-lost key of knowledge restored, solving all the mysteries of religion by giving of them a scientific statement recognisable by the understanding, and satisfying absolutely man’s highest aspirations, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. Now at length we can behold God and God’s truth, no longer darkly, but face to face.’”
Such is the recognition which our work has found in their own communion within six years of the time when priest and nun lied freely, and subservient editors backed them up, in order to make it appear that its chief instrument had recanted her part in it! And how little their action was endorsed by Catholics themselves in the meantime may be gathered from the following letter, written by a well-known member of that communion, which appeared in the Echo, September 14, 1891: –
“SIR, – I am much struck by the closing words of the article by ‘Urbanus’ in your columns of to-day, when he says that ‘Mrs. Besant had never penetrated as far into Christianity as she has into Esoteric Buddhism.’ This is the true explanation of the influences which lead people away from Christianity. Millions of so-called Christians have never penetrated beyond the outer courts of that Divine philosophy (‘penetrated’ is just the word to explain the whole matter). Probably Mrs. Besant had been nurtured on ‘Dearly beloved brethren,’ and the routine services of the Church of England, or the cant phrases and formulae of some other religious sect; she had never penetrated beyond these outer courts, or she would have found as much to occupy her mind and employ her mental powers as did the most learned, the most beautiful, and most spiritually minded woman whom I ever met – the late Dr. Anna Kingsford. This lady found in Esoteric Christianity employment for the most beautiful and devout mind which l ever knew to be enshrined in the form of a woman, and she has given us in that profound work of hers, The Perfect Way, a system of Christian philosophy noble enough and large enough for the highest intellect. If inquiring minds would go to work with Christianity with the patience, the study, and the mental concentration required for that of Esoteric Buddhism, they would find in the despised and neglected religion of Jesus and Paul quite enough to occupy all the intellect they possess. – Yours, etc.,
“EDWARD BERDOE, M.R.C.S.
“LONDON, September 11, 1891.”
By way of compensation for the suppression of my last letters to the Catholic papers named, and with a view still further to discredit the system it was our appointed mission to destroy,
I contributed the following paragraph to Light of March 31, 1888: –
“MRS. KINGSFORD’S ‘RECANTATION’
“FROM A CORRESPONDENT.
“With reference to the pretended retractation of her writings by Mrs. Kingsford, it is interesting and instructive to recall the like attempt made in the case of the late Abbé Constant (‘Eliphas Levi’). Out of an amiable regard for the feelings of a lady friend, he consented, when near his end, to receive a priest. But although he never recanted a jot of his opinions or writings, it was none the less asserted that he had done so. The attempt in Mrs. Kingsford’s case is a peculiarly heartless and nefarious one. For it implies 1) either that she had become mentally imbecile, since her teaching consisted of truths which are as necessary and self-evident to the spiritual perception as are those of mathematics and geometry to the intellectual perception, and therefore of truths which could not possibly be renounced by her while of sane mind; or 2) that she was consciously faithless to the Divine voice and vision so abundantly vouchsafed to her; in which case the assertion of her recantation is an attack upon her character. As also is the statement that she had declared herself to have written only eighteen pages of The Perfect Way. For this is to charge her with direct and gross falsehood, and one readily confuted by the production of the MSS., all of which are in existence.
“But such is only too apt to be the way of priesthoods. The salvation of the individual is made the pretext for advancing the interests of the order regardless of truth and justice. The ignorance, too, of those who have thus rushed in where angels and archangels were wont to tread with respect is, in this case, singularly conspicuous. For, by insisting on the impropriety of the teaching concerned, they both virtually deny that there is a substratum of spiritual meaning to the historical presentations of Christian doctrine, and they also, by this denial, condemn the greatest luminaries of their own Church, not to mention the recognised scientific champion of Catholic orthodoxy of the present day, Professor St. George Mivart. For what The Perfect Way really does is to expound the ‘intellectual concepts’ claimed by him in his recent articles in the Nineteenth Century to be implicit in the Church dogmas, but which concepts he either cannot or dare not formulate. And so we have the world-old tragedy re-enacted, of which the earliest Biblical instance is the slaughter of Abel by Cain. The priest, as the minister of Sense, is ever at deadly enmity with the prophet as the minister of the Intuition. But withheld, nowadays, from shedding his blood, he insinuates himself into his death-chamber, in order to come forth and declare that he has retracted his message!”
The “eighteen pages” were thus arrived at. The contemplated emendations would extend over that space; and the sister overheard the number mentioned between us in our
conversations on the subject, and made it the foundation for her statement that Mrs. Kingsford had written only eighteen pages of the book, and recanted the whole of these. A comparison between the second and third editions, Lecture VIII, pars. 27-41, at once both makes this clear, and shows how little of anything approaching “recantation” was involved in the proposed changes.
(373:1) Edward Maitland says that in 1874, when his collaboration with Anna Kingsford commenced, she was “already practically detached” from the Roman Catholic Church – “not indeed by formally quitting it, but by holding aloof from its ministrations and discipline, and observing perfect freedom in thought, speech, and action” (Letter dated August 10, 1891, to The Evening News and Post. The letter is reprinted in Light, 1891, p. 416). – S.H.H.
(375:1) See p. 221 ante.
(376:1) The reader will remember that I had applied for, and, as I supposed, engaged, a “nursing sister,” not a proselytising one. – E.M.
(378:1) The Review of Reviews, January 15, 1896, p. 75.
(378:2) See pp. 205 and 208 ante.
(390:1) See p. 221 ante.
(398:1) Light, 1888, p. 133; see also further letters on the same subject, pp. 151, 164, and 187.
(400:1) The Society was formed at Edward Maitland’s chambers (Nº. 1 Thurloe Square Studios) on Advent Sunday, November 29, 1891 (see p. 429 post). – S.H.H.
(401:1) The books here referred to as being recognised by the Esoteric Christian Union as appertaining to the New Gospel of Interpretation were The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, which was published in 1882 (Fourth Edition, 1909); Clothed with the Sun, being the Book of the Illuminations of Anna Kingsford, which was published in 1889 (Second Edition, 1906); The Bible’s Own Account of Itself, by Edward Maitland, which was published in 1891 (Second Edition, 1905); The New Gospel of Interpretation, being an Abstract of the Doctrine and Statement of the Objects of the Esoteric Christian Union, by Edward Maitland, which was published in 1892; A Message to Earth, which was published anonymously in 1892; and The Story of the New Gospel of Interpretation, by Edward Maitland, which was published in 1893 (Third and Enlarged Edition, 1905, under the title of The Story of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland and of the New Gospel of Interpretation). In 1894 the present book was not published; had it been, it would undoubtedly have been classed with the above-mentioned books. These books, Edward Maitland says, “represent the prophesied restoration of the ancient Esoteric doctrine which, by interpreting the mysteries of religion, should reconcile faith and reason, religion and science, and accomplish the downfall of that sacerdotal system which – ‘making the word of God of none effect by its traditions’ – has hitherto usurped the name and perverted the truth of Christianity. Their standpoint is that Christian doctrines, when rightly understood, are necessary and self-evident truths, recognisable as founded in and representing the actual nature of existence, incapable of being conceived of as otherwise, and constituting a system of thought at once scientific, philosophic, and religious, absolutely inexpugnable and satisfactory to man’s highest aspirations, intellectual, moral, and spiritual.” There was also the book, Dreams and Dream-Stories, by Anna Kingsford, which was published in 1888 (Third Edition, 1908), containing teaching identical in source and character with the foregoing books, but mingled with some writings of a lighter order. – S.H.H.
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