Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Esoteric in Britain, 1921

Aldous Leonard Huxley, 27, Surrey-born author, issued his satire Crome Yellow about a country house party with various eccentric characters, including the hostess Mrs Wimbush, who has an earnest interest in exotic forms of spirituality, and a young man, Mr Scogan, who is a sardonic pessimist.

Rosita Forbes, 31, originally Joan Rosita Torr, from Lincolnshire, published The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara, an account of her expedition in disguise as an Arab woman to an oasis in the Libyan Desert then closed to Westerners.

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, 32, composer, wrote ‘A Vision of Night’, a symphonic poem for orchestra, and several songs with ghostly or fantastic themes, including ‘The Mad Prince’ and ‘Five Eyes’, both with words by Walter de la Mare.

Ulric Evan Daubeny, 33, antiquarian, published Ancient Cotswold Churches with pen-and-ink drawings by Cecily Daubeny and his own photographs. He was the author of The Elemental, Tales of the Supernatural and Inexplicable.

Edith Louisa Sitwell, 34, poet, published in The New Age, June 30, 1921, edited by A R Orage, a spectral poem, ‘The Punch and Judy Show’: ‘And all the green blood in my veins/Seems jerked up on the trees’ tall cranes,/ Mimics each puppet’s leap and cry,/ Shrills to the Void, hung up on high . . .’

Charles Vince, 34, essayist and Royal National Lifeboat Institution official, issued Wayfarers in Arcady, a book of neo-pagan vignettes about country walks and visionary landscape.

Austin Osman Spare, 35, London visionary and artist, issued The Focus of Life: The Mutterings of AOS, a grimoire of his personal occult beliefs and magical artwork.

Margaret Gabrielle Vere Long, 36, from Hayling Island, issued under the name Marjorie Bowen a fantasy novel, The Haunted Vintage, a story of ‘old gods, old fiends, and creatures neither ghost nor fairy’, set in a ruined monastery.

Victor Benjamin Neuburg, 38, poet and poetry editor from Islington, published Swift Wings: Songs in Sussex from his own Vine Press, Steyning,a volume of pagan poetry.

Arthur Sarsfield Ward, a 38 year old from Birmingham who wrote as ‘Sax Rohmer’, published Bat-Wing, recounting the adventures of Paul Harley, occult detective and consultant to the Home Office about the shadier aspects of the London underworld.

Cecil Hepworth, 47, London-born film director, issued The Tinted Venus, a silent film fantasy about the statue of a goddess that comes alive, based on a story by F.Anstey, with script by Blanche McIntosh. 

James Lewis Thomas Chalmers Spence, a 47 year old Scot from the county of Angus, author, journalist and folklorist, issued An Introduction to Mythology and The Mythologies of Ancient Mexico and Peru.

John Davys Beresford, 48, the son of a clergyman, from Castor near Peterborough, issue a volume of prose vignettes, Signs & Wonders, from the Golden Cockerel Press, brief fantasies, including a vision of the end of the world.

Walter John de la Mare, 48, a former oil company clerk from Kent who had been awarded a government pension in recognition of his poetry, published The Veil and Other Poems, many of them evoking dream-like, faery or supernatural worlds, and a novel, The Memoirs of a Midget, with an otherworldly dimension.

Ralph Vaughan Williams, 49, composer and folk-song collector from Gloucestershire, completed his A Pastoral Symphony, haunted by the war-torn landscape of France, with spectral elements evident in the mournful horns and wordless vocals.

Pamela Adelaide Genevieve Wyndham, 50, of Salisbury, Wiltshire, issued The Earthen Vessel, A Volume Dealing with Spirit-Communication Received in the Form of Book-Tests, with a preface by Sir Oliver Lodge, an account of messages from her deceased son "Bim" through a spirit, Feda, controlling a medium, Mrs Leonard. 

John Edward Mercer, 55, issued the singularly well-informed Alchemy, Its Science and Romance from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Margaret Alice Murray, 58, anthropologist and historian, born in Calcutta, published The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, the book that first argued for a widespread, persecuted witchcraft religion in medieval times. 

Marc Aurel Stein, 59,  Hungarian-born archaeologist, naturalised as British, published an album of The Thousand Buddhas, Ancient Buddhist Paintings from the Cave Temples of Tun-Huang on the Western Frontier of China with his own notes and an introduction by Laurence Binyon.

Algernon Henry Blackwood, 62, collaborating with a friend, Wilfred Wilson, published The Wolves of God and Other Fey Stories, a collection of fifteen tales of the supernatural and visionary.

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, M. D. LL.D., 62, issued (with Mme Dunglas Home), D D Home, His Life and Mission, a biography of a noted psychic.

Ernest Percival Rhys, 62, who grew up in Carmarthen, poet, memoirist and editor of the Everyman’s Library issued The Haunters and the Haunted, an anthology of ghost stories.

Arthur Edward Waite, 64, an American-born mystic, poet and occult scholar long resident in England, published A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.

Helen Alexandrina Dallas, 65, born in India, psychic researcher and contributor to the spiritualist journal Light, published Communion and Fellowship: A Manual Dedicated to Those Who Have Passed beyond the Veil.

Henry Rider Haggard, 65, author of occult romances, published She and Allan, in which his explorer Allan Quatermain meets the enchantress Ayesha at the ancient city of Kôr.

Marie Corelli, the pen-name of Marie Mackay, 66, novelist and resident of Stratford-upon-Avon, published The Secret Power: a Romance of the Time, a futuristic novel of spaceships and strange rays and forces. Her work was extremely popular in late Victorian times.

Annie Besant, 74, theosophist, social reformer, from Clapham, published Talks With a Class, discussions of the after-life, the secret masters, mystical experiences and higher planes of thought.

Cecily Kent issued Telling Fortunes By Cards and Fortune-Telling By Tea Leaves. She may also be the fortune-teller who issued similar books as ‘Minetta’, but is otherwise so far unidentified.

Ralph Holbrook Keen issued The Little Ape & Others, a book of sardonic prose pieces with Yellow-Bookery decorations by John Austen. Apart from a poem, ‘The Well of Tears’, in The Path,  vol 4, August, 1913, a theosophical journal,  and a satirical verse, ‘Battle’ (‘After certain very modern Poets’), in Coterie, Winter, 1920-21, no's 6 and 7, the Xmas Double Number, little else seems known of him. 

(Mark Valentine)


  1. Mark, Quite a rich year for the occult. I've recently taken to collecting Marjorie Bowen and managed to find copies of "The Haunted Vintage" and "Julia Roseingrave." The latter I've already read in Jessica Amanda Salmonson's anthology of Bowen stories, "Twilight." She's a much underrated writer, though John C. Tibbetts's has recently written an excellent book about her work.
    But let me ask a question: How do you go about compiling one of these lists of occult books for a particular year? I can see checking the biographies and bibliographies of the major figures in the field, but there must be more to it than that. Can you tell us something about your research methods?--md

    1. The Ulric Daubeny book of supernatural tales is worth checking out. I love Bowen!!! One of the best female genre writers ever. I will try to find the Tibbett book.

    2. Thanks, Michael. I find some clues from contemporary literary periodicals of the time, particularly publishers' adverts. I do also check, as you say, what leading figures in the field were up to that year. Mark

    3. I'd like to get a copy of Marjorie Bowen's 'Haunted Vintage', but it's not on offere anywhere at the moment.

    4. Bowen's books aren't easy to find. My copy of "A Haunted Vintage" came from Sweden, partly through the offices of an online friend, the translator-editor-man-of-letters John-Henri Holmberg. In the near future, Hippocampus Press will be bringing out a a two volume collection of Bowen's stories, with one or two novellas and several extracts. It's edited by the same John C. Tibbetts.--md

    5. That Furies of Marjorie Bowen is superb. I since found a copy of the Great Tales of Horror she edited in 1933 where she avoids the standard classics in favour of anonymous grisly fiction and unusual selections by known signatures, and her collection Bagatelle under her George R. Preedy byline. I wouldn't have known about these were it not for Tibbetts's biography. Thanks!

  2. What a wonderful list! Thank you.

    1. Bought a copy of Charles Vince's 'Wayfarers in Arcady' on the strength of your entry. What a beautifully written book! Brief vignettes about walking in the Sussex and Kentish countryside (mainly the Downs and Weald), and similar in some ways to W H Hudson, but somehow more haunting. If anyone else has read it, can you suggest and similar books/writers?

  3. Libro gratis.