Saturday, 19 May 2018

RAOUL LOVEDAY: THE CEFALU POET


 
ADONIS
THE CEFALU POET
By
Barry Van-Asten
 
'Tis magick, magick, that has ravished me.*
 
 
 
Raoul Loveday

 
 
 
 
‘Loveday, when he was a scholar of St John’s College, Oxford, was a stocky, untidy, carelessly dressed young man. Beneath his short hair, which was cut en brosse, he had a merry rather than a good-looking face, with bright blue eyes of incredible innocence.
He was a good soccer player and a spectacular climber. After the college gates were closed at midnight, he regularly climbed in and out. His feat of climbing the Martyrs’ Memorial and cementing an enamel chamber-pot to the top won him a romantic fame throughout the university.’

[The Magic of my Youth. The Adonis of Cefalu. Arthur Calder-Marshall. 1950. p. 110.]
 
Frederick Charles Loveday was born in Rangoon on 3rd July 1900 and he was christened sixteen days later. He was one of three children [Frederick had two sisters named Nellie and May] to George Loveday (born 1859) a Royal Navy Petty Officer and Amelia Ann Lewendon (born 21st January 1859) in Newington, Surrey. George and Ann were married on 1st October 1882 at St Saviour’s Church, Denmark Park, Middlesex.
As a child in Rangoon, young ‘Raoul’ caught malaria and when the family moved to England; they lived at 112 Barry Road, East Dulwich, South London.
On 2nd August 1918 eighteen year old ‘Raoul’ enlisted in the Officers Training Corps at London’s Inns of Court, a volunteer battalion and part of London’s Territorial Force in Berkhamsted, Berkshire, from September 1914-June 1919.
Following this he became an undergraduate of St John’s College, Oxford where he studied History and enjoyed writing poetry and playing football. It was here that his interest in the occult began. He was also a member of the Hypocrites Club, a philosophical discussion group at Oxford University and Raoul became the club’s secretary. On one occasion while Raoul was out of college after hours he tried to climb back in but slipped and impaled his thigh on an iron gate railing. He left Oxford in 1922, graduating with a 1st Class Degree in History.
In Oxford Raoul was living at 2 London Place, St Clemente and in 1922 he married Betty May; they had met at Soho's 'Harlequin Club' some weeks previous to their marriage.
 
Betty May

Betty May was born Betty Marlow Golding in 1895 in London’s Limehouse and she was the daughter of George Golding and Emily Finney. Betty became an artist’s model and she had been living in Paris and was frequently using drugs, mostly cocaine. Her first husband, Miles L Atkinson (they married at St Marylebone, London in the summer of 1914) was a drug addict and after he died Betty married George D K Waldron at St Martin’s in London during the autumn of 1916. George divorced Betty because of her drug use.
Betty and Raoul were married at the Registry Office in Oxford in September 1922 and a photo of the couple was taken in St John’s College gardens. In October 1922 the young couple were living in Fitzroy Street.
At Oxford, Raoul had been studying The Equinox from 1920 until he graduated in 1922, the same year that Raoul met Betty Bickers, the wife of Sheridan Bickers who contributed to The Equinox. It was through Bickers that Roaul met Aleister Crowley as he was staying with Bickers at her home 31 Wellington Square, London. Raoul called on Crowley alone and did not return home to Beak Street, Soho and to his wife Betty, in fact he spent three days with Crowley, taking ether. Betty had already met Crowley in 1914 at the Cafe Royal and was decidedly unimpressed with the magician. It wasn’t long after the great meeting of Raoul and Crowley that the younger man lost all ambition in having an academic career and his mind became obsessed with Crowley and the study of magick. Seeing the huge potential Raoul had for magick, Crowley invited him (and Betty) to the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu.
A magician named Robinson Smith, a retired concert agent whom Crowley met at Austin Harrison's house at Seaford, paid the Loveday's fare to Cefalu. After Raoul and Betty visited Nina Hamnett (1890-1956) in Paris, they travelled to the Abbey, arriving on Sunday 26th November 1922. The next day, Monday 27th November, Crowley assisted Raoul and Betty as they climbed the Great Rock of Cefalu. 
For the next few weeks Raoul studied his magical work performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual daily and some visionary work which he showed great progress in. At the Abbey, Raoul acted as the High Priest during ritual work.
Raoul became a Probationer of Crowley’s Magical Order the AAand he took the magical name Frater Aud (Magic Light) at the winter Solstice [Friday 22nd December]. Betty didn’t enjoy life at the Abbey, finding it dirty and she could not get on with Crowley or Ninette Shumway.
 
One day, Betty and Raoul went for a long walk to visit a nearby monastery and after Crowley told them not to drink the water but Raoul with great thirst drank from a spring. During the beginning of February, Raoul was struck by malaria and was very weak. 'On Saturday morning, 10th February, the Virgin Guardian of the Sangraal [the Scarlet Woman, Leah Hirsig] returned from shopping in the town and found Crowley, Betty, Ninette, Jane, and Raoul assembled in the courtyard. A violent quarrel between Betty and Ninette was in progress. Crowley took Betty's side. Jane listened in silence. Raoul was too ill to say anything. Finally, the row, which had risen out of Betty's calling Ninette a slut, simmered down, and everyone fell in with the Beast's call for greater discipline in the Abbey.' [The Great Beast. John Symonds]
The next day, the evening of Sunday 11th February, Betty left the Abbey and asked Raoul to send her passport the following day. Raoul wrote a letter to Betty to persuade her to return:
 
 
 
 

'My most dear Betty,

 
 
Let us try to get all this silly business finished. We managed to get on well enough till a few days ago. If you will come back to the Abbey and get yourself under control, and do as I tell you, you will find that things will be all right. Certainly no one wants you to stay away. I won't go to the hospital because the nuns there are mere ornaments and in any case I am not in a fit stste to be moved. Moreover, I don't want to go - and I won't. Write me a note saying if you will come back. If you won't you had better send for your bag. There is no one here to take it. But be a good girl and come.
 
Always yours,
 
Raoul.'
 
[The Great Beast. John Symonds]
 
Jane [Wolfe] called on Betty at the Hotel in Cefalu the next day, Monday 12th February, and a little later Leah Hirsig turned up with Raoul's letter and so Betty returned to the Abbey that day to be with her husband, Raoul.
On Tuesday 13th February Crowley recorded in his diary that he felt 'a current of Magical Force - heavy, black and silent - threatening the Abbey.' [The Great Beast. John Symonds] But the next day [Wednesday] Raoul became much worse and Dr Maggio was called for and he diagnosed acute enteritis. Crowley sent a telegram to Raoul's parents explaining his condition. Raoul Loveday, ‘Frater Aud’ died of enteritis on Friday 16th February 1923 at 4 p.m. at the Abbey of Thelema. He was swiftly placed into a coffin, about an hour after his death and that night the coffin was placed in an outhouse while Crowley kept vigil over it all night, uttering prayers for the young Thelemite. He was buried the next day [Saturday 17th February] outside the Catholic cemetery in non consecrated ground. Crowley led the proceedings for Raoul’s ‘Greater Feast’ with Betty, Jane [Wolfe], Ninette [Shumway], Leah and Leah's son Howard in attendance. Raoul was and the first Thelemite to die in the Aeon of Horus. His parents later had his body exhumed and brought back to England for re-burial.
On Sunday 22nd April 1923 following the arrival of Norman Mudd that day came two Oxford undergraduates named John Pinney, of Christ Church and Claud Bosanquet of New College. They came to investigate the Abbey following the death of their friend and fellow student Raoul Loveday, whom they believed may have died under suspicious circumstances. They stayed for three nights and had a delightful time climbing with Crowley and found no truth in the claims of wickedness at the Abbey. On Wednesday 25th February 1925 the front page of the Sunday Express had the headline: 'New Sinister Revelations of Aleister Crowley' and Betty May was laying the blame for Raoul's death at Crowley's door!
In 1929 Betty May published her autobiography ‘Tiger-Woman: My Story’. Sometime in the nineteen-thirties Betty married again and was Betty May Sedgwick living in Hampstead and in the nineteen-fifties there was a fifth and final marriage to a gentleman named Bailey.
 
 


 
Having read so much about the poet and disciple of Aleister Crowley, Raoul Loveday (1900-1923) and found much of it inaccurate or incomplete I decided to research the Loveday family and to create an embryonic tree perhaps for future research and reference. The first port of call was to the census!
 
In the 1911 census the Loveday family are living in Camberwell, East Dulwich. The head of the household is George Loveday, aged 50, born 1859 in Lambeth, London, a ‘Naval Pensioner’. His wife, Amelia Loveday nee Lewendon, is also 50 years old, born 1859 in Newington, London (although she is entered as ‘Southwark’ on the census). Daughters Nellie, aged 15, born 1895 in ‘Portsmouth’, ‘an apprentice’, and May, aged 14, born 1896 in ‘Portsmouth’ and is a ‘pupil attending school’. Then we find young Frederick Charles Loveday, aged 10, born in Rangoon, Burma, also a ‘pupil attending school’. The Lovedays have two boarders staying with them: Alice Hardy aged 40, a widow born in Mogi Japan listed as a ‘visitor’, and Cecil H Hardy aged 17, born in Ivybridge, Devonshire, who is a ‘boy clerk’.
 
 
 
We can assume that the Lovedays were not in England for the 1901 census and so we turn to the Lewendon family:
 
 
 
 
In the 1861 census we find the family living at Forty Acres, Kingston, Surrey. Charles Lewendon, the head of the household is 33 years old, born 1828 at Whitechurch, Oxfordshire and he is a bricklayer by profession. His wife Sarah is 30 years old, born in 1831 in Kingston, Surrey. They have three daughters: Elizabeth aged 9, born in 1852 in Kingston, Surrey and she is a ‘scholar’; Emma aged 7 born in 1854 in ‘London’ and Amelia aged 4, born in 1857 in ‘London’.
In the 1871 census they are still living in Kingston, Surrey, Charles is 37, still a bricklayer and he is born in ‘Hill Bolton, Oxfordshire’ – the census is not reliable for accuracy of birth details! His wife Sarah is 37, Amelia Ann is a scholar born 1859, and there is also Rose Lewendon, 10 years old, Alice aged 6, Charles aged 3 and Alfred aged 1, all born in Kingston, Surrey.
Ten years later in the 1881 census the family have moved to Ulverscroft Road in Camberwell, London. Charles, the head of the family is 46 and a bricklayer, his wife Sarah is also 46 and a laundress; the children all born in Kingston, Surrey, are: Elizabeth aged 26 born in 1855 is a ‘Cook (domestic)’, Amelia is 21and a ‘Barmaid (Inn Servant)’, Alice is 16 and a ‘Nursemaid (domestic)’, Charles is 13, Alfred is 11, George is 8 and Clara is 4. Also living at the address is Charles Lewendon’s father (Amelia’s Grandfather and Raoul’s Great Grandfather) George Lewendon, a widower aged 60, born in 1821 in Oxford and a bricklayer by profession.
 
 
A SONG OF TOWN
 
 
Sing now of London
At fall of dusk;
A summer dragonfly
Crept from the husk.
Dragonfly, on whose wing
Run golden wires;
So, down a street pavement,
Lamps throw their fires.
Dragonfly, whose wing is pricked
By many a spark;
Electric eyes of taxis
Bright through the dark.
Dragonfly, whose life is
Cold and brief as dew,
Drone now for London dusk,
Soon dead too.
 
[Raoul Loveday. St John’s. Oxford Poetry. 1922. P. 26.]
 
 
 
*from an essay by Raoul Loveday entitled 'Ravishment' quoting Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
 

 
 

Saturday, 12 May 2018

THE KENSINGTON SET

THE KENSINGTON SET
By
BARRY VAN-ASTEN

 

The refined and perfectly attired frame of Mr. Thrimsoe Mapplejack stood near a side cabinet thumbing a book of sonnets, the soft petals of his buttercups and daisies fluttering gently in the cool air upon his lapel. He turned, and his red lips seemed to gape in prayer before bursting an imaginary bubble and closing again, like a goldfish. Next to Thrimsoe stood the charming and equally well-dressed young friend, Dungphump Squabcheck, of Polish extraction, who delighted in nothing better than existing for the benefit of others!
‘Thrimmy dearest, are you going to hog that book all night? I can’t believe I find myself resentful of a book!’ Dungphump said.
‘I find solace in beautiful things!’ exclaimed Thrimsoe.
‘Then for God’s sake find some solace in me won’t you, after all we have a reputation to live down to!’ and here Dungphump extracted the book of sonnets from Thrimsoe’s hand and laid it upon the cabinet.
‘Intellect without emotion, my dear friend,’ whispered Thrimsoe, ‘is such a vulgar thing and man without the capacity to show compassion to others is decidedly ugly – you are an exceedingly ugly man Dungy dear!’
Just then the two friends who stood by the window like the well-worn and crumbling edifices of Comedy and Tragedy were interrupted by the arrival of another guest.
Slowly entering the room as if behind an imaginary coffin came the brooding yet sensitive poet, Stratford Baggins, his thumbs interlocked behind his back and his brow furrowed as if in deep contemplation of higher things; the poet swept in, dressed in sombre black.
‘Had a bereavement Baggins?’ enquired Thrimsoe.
‘Yes’ interrupted Dungphump, before the dark vision of the newcomer could speak, ‘his last book of poems, sunk without trace and all hands lost!’
‘You may laugh’ the poet growled, ‘but Lytton says they are most exquisite!’
‘Ah, dear Lytton! High praise indeed’ continued Dungphump, ‘from a man who wears the same suit for every season and every occasion!’ The poet ignored the remark, turning to the other guests and saying ‘I have come straight from the Police Station!’ Stratford said looking grave, ‘Percival was picked up by the police last night!’
‘Good Lord!’ said an astonished Sir Mummery, ‘what heaven’s for?’
‘Exposing himself!’ the poet chimed.
‘I exposed myself once’ said the charming and most elegant Thrimsoe, ‘to that fiend George Bernard Shaw! The influence has done irrevocable damage!’
‘I’m sure it hasn’t Thrimmy dear!’ said the beautiful Lasinta, ‘at least not enough to make you disagreeable in polite society!’
‘You only see him at his best my dear! You get the proud shopkeeper displaying his best goods in the window! I get the ruthless and apathetic store assistant in the dingy back room with the damaged goods!’ And here, as if in some sort of grand theatrical gesture, Dungphump ripped the clover and dandelions from his buttonhole and trampled them into the carpet! Just then, and not a moment too soon, entered the Reverend Aloysius Splotkin, his aura of artificial holiness seeming to break up the little dispute before escalating into broken crockery!
‘Ah Reverend dear, do have a cup of tea!’ said the lovely Lasinta.
‘Have you heard the one about the poet and the preacher?’ said Dungphump.
‘Not now Dungy!’ Thrimsoe said, touching his arm lightly. ‘You know’ Thrimsoe continued, ‘I would take tea myself, but my Doctor has strictly forbidden on all accounts to my eternal chagrin for me to lift anything heavier than a sugar cube!’
‘You are an old sausage!’ said Augers Mandible, the young and vibrant man about town who was hosting the social gathering.
‘Yes, isn’t he a perfect swine!’ glared Dungphump! The good Reverend sensing something not quite right in the air retired from the jesting with his tea and sat with Lady Matilda Poodlepomp, who hated these sorts of things but just had to come for appearances sake.

In another corner of the room two men seemed to be in scintillating conversation and not wishing to seem a poor host Augers went and joined Sir Mummery Teasbottom who was in discussion with Feniwith Suppringhurst, an heir to a fortune and betrothed to Thelmara Sprungewunckle who hovered from one chair to another like a flitting butterfly in search of something delightful to boast about.
‘The Domaine de Chavalier nineteen-twenty has an excellent nose!’ argued Feniwith.
‘I concede your point on that one but there is nothing that can touch the Chateau Margaux eighteen-seventy for body!’ said Sir Mummery.
‘No no, surely the Haut-Brion eighteen-seventy-four far exceeds the de Chavalier and the Margaux!’ chimed Augers.
‘Slops sir!’ said Feniwith haughtily, ‘if we are getting to the nitty-gritty and serious for a moment then there is nothing to compare with a Lafite eighteen-sixty-five or even the Martell nineteen-six!’ and Sir Mummery and Augers both looked at Feniwith and sighed in agreement, ‘arhhh!’
At that moment Thelmara glided towards them and overhearing most of the conversation said aloud for everyone to hear ‘there is nothing so exceedingly common and pretentious than a wine bore!’
‘I beg to differ madam’, said Thrimsoe, ‘for the one thing greater than a wine bore is a cricket bore; please excuse me Reverend as I know you are an enthusiast of the game!’
‘Surely’, returned the spotless Reverend, ‘golf is a greater bore, it has ruined many a good marriage I am told!’
‘You are all wrong!’ shouted Stratford, ‘for God preserve us from the amateur politician!’ and he slumped as if in some mystical reverie and returned to his scotch and soda.
‘All politicians are amateurs Stratford old boy, high on the accumulation of sensual and financial satisfaction and low on morals; that is why they are so easily corruptible!’ Thrimsoe added with intense satisfaction.

‘I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure, madam!’ said the Reverend to Thelmara.
‘Ah Reverend’ interjected Feniwith, ‘may I introduce my fiancé, Thelmara Sprungewunckle!’
‘Charmed!’ the Reverend said before adding, ‘I don’t believe I know the name Sprungewunckle; are your people of new or old money?’
‘My father is big in the textile industry!’ Thelmara said snootily.
‘Ah, it is good to see that cotton is still king!’ and the good Reverend nodded as if in some holy agreement with the Lord.
‘Oh no’, Thelmara said hastily, ‘they are developing new fabrics now!’
‘Yes that’s right!’ chipped in Feniwith, ‘it’s all about the synthetic now Reverend – artificial silk I believe!’
‘Imagine liquid stronger than steel!’ Thelmara trotted out.
‘Oh dear me!’ the Reverend uttered under his breath.
‘Cotton is dead!’ shouted Stratford Baggins, ‘long live the synthetic!’ and he concluded with glee
‘man has now superseded God! Not only can we duplicate nature we can improve upon it too! Bow down to your new God Reverend – Science!’
Reverend Splotkin pretended not to hear the loud bohemian and shook his head in despair.
Meanwhile, Lady Thrillpenny Teasbottom, Sir Mummery’s wife, was having a little tete a tete upon the delicate art of conversation and good table-talk in general with Dungphump.
‘All etiquette is a façade Lady Thrillpenny’ said Dungphump, ‘it is merely the gloss upon conventionality. Conversation must flow freely and naturally and not feel forced; keep small talk light and airy and avoid gossip. Now I have been observing you your Ladyship and I have noticed that you lack a certain quality, namely anecdotes!’
‘I had them removed as a child Mr. Mapplejack!’ said Lady Teasbottom without the slightest hint of humour or irony.
‘Now that is funny! Oh my word, may I call you Thrillpenny and you simply must call me Dungy! They all do you know! That is funny indeed!’ expressed Dungphump, laughing extraordinarily heartily.
‘Is it really? I don’t see why, it was quite unintentional!’ answered Lady Teasbottom.
‘A play on words madam, a “malapropism” – confusing “anecdotes” with “adenoids”, Oh most amusing!’ and Dungphump clasped his hands together and rubbed them with glee.
‘And that is funny is it? Asked her Ladyship.
‘Oh certainly, now you take my Aunt Lavinia, she had a lovely old Chippendale table and one day the vicar came by and commented upon that table and she told him that she had been copulated countless times upon that table!’ And Dungphump looked at her Ladyship’s stony face as she stood there like a statue. ‘I don’t get it!’ she said finally.
‘She had mixed up’ Dungphump explained, ‘the words “congratulated” with “copulated” don’t you see?’ and so exhausted and bemused Dungphump took himself away towards the vicar and Lady Poodlepomp.
‘A man who neglects his marital duties’ the good man of the cloth was saying to Lady Poodlepomp, ‘for the lure of the flesh and the grape, has left not only the Lord’s work unfinished but himself undone and exposed himself to wagging tongues in the process!’
‘Oh very good vicar, I quite agree!’ said the slightly tipsy Dungphump, adding that ‘the average man strives towards mediocrity while the genius insists on perfection!’
‘That’s why he’s a perfect fool!’ Thrimsoe quipped behind Dungphump’s back.
‘I must remember that Mr. Squabcheck! It will add some spice to the Women’s Guild! A dull lot of cackling hens they are!’ said Lady Poodlepomp.
‘Aphorisms madam, must never be repeated as they are never quite as funny the second time around! Like sex with the lights on, if you will pardon the vernacular vicar, when the mystery has been revealed, there is always an anti-climax to the climax!’ Squabcheck said, peering at the vicar for a response.
‘A man who neglects his moral integrity for one of superficial sensations is at the mercy of Satan’s hand and sure to relinquish his soul to the Lord of Darkness!’ The vicar delighted in saying, while finishing his tea.
‘I quite agree vicar!’ spluttered Lady Poodlepomp, after her third gin and tonic, ‘for a man who does not delight in the erotic sensuality of chocolate is a man unsatisfied, unfulfilled, without appetite and without ambition!’
‘I don’t see where chocolate comes into the good Lord’s plan for mankind but it is an interesting concept nonetheless!’ the vicar continued. Just then the charming conviviality was broken:
‘I hath dwelt amongst ungodly things!’ shouted Stratford.
‘Of course you have Stratford darling! Of course you have!’ said the sweet Lasinta.
‘Poor boy! On the threshold of becoming an absolute bore so he is!’ said Sir Mummery to Augers Mandible.
‘Have you ever read any of his work? They tell me he is very good!’ Mummery asked.
‘I wouldn’t rate it myself! All flowery flannel with a little decadent swill thrown in!’ beamed Augers. The enraged poet, overhearing, glanced at Augers with the utmost contempt and staggering towards the door bumped into the vicar, saying to his reverence before he left, ‘of course you know vicar, there is not the slightest evidence to prove the existence of Christ – you may as well believe in the fairies for all the good that vicarin’ stuff does you!’ and so he breezed out of the apartment, just as easily as he had drifted in!
‘Take no notice of Mr. Baggins vicar’, said Lasinta, ‘he is at a crises in his literary career and a slave to the powder of the Gods!’
‘He’s quite wrong you know!’ the somewhat astonished Reverend said, ‘in fact there’s no evidence to the contrary either – that is why we have faith! Oh dear, I do wish I’d said that a minute ago!’
‘Never mind Reverend’ gasped Thrimsoe, ‘the Church is always behind the times when it comes to current affairs!’

Thelmara and Feniwith took themselves to the balcony and spooned while Sir Mummery flirted with Lasinta Joachim whom it was widely known was romantically entangled with Augers, much to the annoyance of Lady Teasbottom. ‘In my experience my dear’ said Sir Mummery, taking Lasinta’s arm, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and the way to a woman’s is through her purse!’
‘How very perceptive of you Sir Mummery! It seems we are much of the same opinion!’
‘My dear Lasinta, how divine you are; your beauty is beyond all the riches in the world!’ Sir Mummery said caressing Lasinta’s hands.
‘You are kind Mummers!’ and Lasinta noticed Sir Mummery admiring her earrings, ‘do you like them? A present from Augers but I’m not sure if they suit me!’
‘I assure you madam, with or without earrings; the result would be just as perfectly fatal!’
As the honourable Sir Mummery and Lasinta were exchanging pleasantries, Sir Mummery’s wife, Lady Teasbottom sauntered over having overheard the conversation and said with an air of confidence – ‘How like a man to denigrate love down to pounds, shillings and pence!’ The air remained icy for some time!
The Reverend, having done his bit for the church and not wishing to outstay his welcome suddenly excused himself and left.
‘May I be the first to congratulate you Mister Suppringhurst on your approaching nuptuals!’ said Thrimsoe Mapplejack extending the soft hand of friendship towards him, having completely ignored the young man all afternoon.
‘Thank you sir!’ returned the young gentleman.
‘Love is a delicate blossom’ Thrimsoe continued, ‘easily blown asunder… Like that difficult first kiss… Take my advice and go straight for the main course and the pudding and leave the starters well and truly in the kitchen!’
‘In my experience’, added Dungphump who had crept up behind the two gentlemen, ‘the quickest way to pleasure a woman is to open a joint bank account!’
‘Ah getting to know Mappi and Squabi are we Feniwith? Good man!’ Augers said.
‘Ah Augers, dear’, squealed Dungphump, ‘splendid party! Won’t you take a turn at the piano and give us something jolly?’ he said slapping Augers on the back.
‘I’m afraid I’m not in the mood and quite unable to conjure “jolly” at the drop of a hat!’ answered Augers.
‘Something wrong old boy?’ asked Thrimsoe.
‘Great Aunt Maud died recently leaving an absolute obscene fortune!’
‘How delightful!’ Thrimsoe muttered.
‘Yes, but she kept all her shares and jewellery in a safety-deposit box, the combination of which was engraved upon her dentures for safe-keeping, only now they can’t be found!’
‘How perfectly ugly eccentricity is!’ said Thrimsoe, grimacing.
‘Too bad old boy, all that money just sitting there and the old dame still clinging to it by the skin of her teeth, if you pardon the pun?’ said Dungphump.
‘I have it!’ said Thrimsoe, ‘we’ll have a séance!’
‘Yes, let’s raise the spirit of Great Aunt Maud’s teeth and find out where they are hiding straight from the horses mouth!’ Dungphump sang with glee.
‘Sounds absolutely beastly! I wouldn’t know what to do and besides we shouldn’t meddle in the occult!’ Augers sniffed.
‘It’s not meddling if you know what you’re doing! Lady poodlepomp has the gift!’ Thrimsoe spluttered, sweeping his hand towards the good Lady who was enjoying yet another gin and tonic.
‘What gift?’ bemused Augers.
‘Second sight!’ Dungphump whispered.
‘She’s a medium!’ announced Thrimsoe.
I say everybody; gather round, we’re going to have a séance!’ Dungphump shouted.
‘Oh what fun!’ cried Lasinta.
‘I say do you think that’s wise?’ said a cautious Sir Mummery.
‘Will there be a manifestation?’ enquired Thelmara.
‘Very probably!’ Thrimsoe said with absolute confidence.
‘Of course not it’s all nonsense!’ said the voice of sanity in the form of Feniwith.
‘I say Dungy, be a decent fellow and draw the curtains old boy and I shall fetch some candles!’ and Augers went out of the room to find the candles.
‘But it’s the middle of the afternoon!’ bemused Thelmara.
‘I’m sure the ghosts won’t mind, after all, they haven’t a lot of use for time being as they don’t have to get up in the morning or go to work or to bed at night!’ Thrimsoe chuckled.
‘How do you know?’ asked Feniwith.
‘C’mon, let’s all sit round the table.’ Augers said when he returned with the candles.
‘Who are we conjuring?’ Asked Lady Poodlepomp after she had been persuaded to desist from the gin and tonic and pass through the veil into the next world.
‘Great Aunt Maud’s teeth!’ said Augers, adding ‘purely for sentimental reasons of course’ not wishing everyone to know the real reason, and everybody laughed, except of course Lady Teasbottom who found the whole affair somewhat un-amusing.

Lady Poodlepomp sat at the table and next to her on her right sat Augers and Lasinta, Dungphump and Thrimsoe, Lady Thrillpenny and Sir Mummery, Thelmara and Feniwith, and they all held hands as the medium sat perfectly silent.
‘The vibrations are strong!’ groaned Lady Poodlepomp, ‘an image is appearing in my third eye! Yes, I can see it now – Great Aunt Maud’s teeth!’
‘Where? Where?’ shouted Augers.
‘It’s very dark! It’s very cold!’ Poodlepomp continued, ‘yes, I see it now – they were placed in the coffin under Great Aunt Maud!’
‘What!’ exploded Augers.

After the séance had ended and the party began to fall as flat as the Champaign before dwindling away, Augers took Dungphump aside:
‘Well that settles it then!’ Augers said, not wanting to be overheard.
‘Settles what old boy?’ said Dungphump. And Augers leaned in closer to Dungphump, his face distorted by the sinister shadows thrown by the candle and he said in menacing tones – ‘tonight, we resurrect Great Aunt Maud!’

The next morning Sir Mummery was sitting down to his breakfast, reading the Times over a hard-boiled egg which he simply must have each morning or he is no good to man, woman or beast. ‘Good lord!’ he said, almost choking on a slice of toast, ‘have a listen to this old girl!’ he said to his wife and then began to read a small column in the Times – ‘Undignified behaviour. Last night three gentlemen were arrested at a Kensington churchyard on a charge of disturbing the remains with the intention of disinterring the body of Lady Maud Trottworthy who was laid to rest two weeks ago. The three men apprehended were: Mr. Augers Mandible, twenty-seven of Kensington, Mr. Dungphump Squabcheck, thirty-one also of Kensington and Mr. Stratford Baggins, thirty-six of Victoria. They will be held in custody until sentencing next Thursday. ‘Well I never!’ gasped Sir Mummery, and Lady Teasbottom laughed and laughed and laughed!

PERCY LANCELOT OSBORN


HEARTSEASE AND ORCHID

THE LOST POET:
PERCY LANCELOT OSBORN

BY
BARRY VAN-ASTEN

 

Percy Lancelot Osborn is a poet of the 1890’s who published many of his poems in The Spirit Lamp, the Oxford undergraduate periodical which appeared between May 1892 and June 1893 (15 issues) edited by J S Phillimore and Sandys Wason, and later for the last six issues, by Lord Alfred Douglas. Some of his translations also appeared in The Fortnightly Review. Information concerning Percy Lancelot Osborn (‘P. L. O.’ as he appears in the pages of The Spirit Lamp) is scarce and I felt the compulsion to do a little research into this little known minor poet of the Decadent period in English poetry.


HEARTSEASE AND ORCHID

 
Heartsease it was from his dear hand I took,
A dainty flower that loves the garden air,
Breathing the freshness of his boyhood fair.
So it was treasured in a garden brook.

There came another with a far off look,
His hand an orchid gave; ‘twas strange and rare,
And caught my senses in a beauteous snare,
Till sunlight for the furnace I forsook.

My heart grew drowsy with a sweet disease;
And fluttered in a cage of fantasy;
And I remembered how his face was pale,
Yet by its very paleness more did please;
Now hath the orchid grown a part of me,
But still the heartsease tells its olden tale.

(Sonnet. December 1892. Published in The Spirit Lamp. vol III, number II. p. 43. February 17 1893.)

 
HARMONY OF EVENING

From French of Baudelaire, “Harmonie du Soir,” p. 155, ed. Levy.

 
Now trembles on its stem each flower I know,
And like a censer breathes its incense rare,
Music and perfume fill the evening air…
O dreary valse; O dreamy vertigo!

Flowers from their censers breathe an incense rare;
The viol quivers like a heart in woe –
O dreary valse! O dreamy vertigo!
Sad is the sky; but, like God’s altar, fair.

The viol quivers like a heart in woe,
A heart that hates the night in blank despair;
The sky is sad; but, like God’s altar, fair;
Drowned as in curdling blood the sun sinks low.

The tender heart that shrinks from blank despair
Culls remnants of bright days of long ago;
Tho’ sinks the Sun in blood, my heart’s a-glow;
For thoughts of thee shine like a monstrance there.

(Fleurs du Mal.)

(The Spirit Lamp. vol IV, number II. p. 69. June 6 1893.)

 
Percy Lancelot Osborn was born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1870. His father was Edward Haydon Osborn (son of Edward and Mary Osborn) born 1832 at Lutton Valence in Kent and Christened on 17th May 1832 at Headcorn, Kent (he died in 1908 in Paddington, London). Edward was educated at Oxford University and in 1861 the family were living at Upper Gower Street, London; Edward is 27 years old and his occupation is listed as 'B A Oxford'; he is living at the address with his mother Mary who is head of the household, his sister Emily M Osborn aged 30, his brother William aged 23 and his sister Florence aged 12. Edward Haydon Osborn married Augusta Keturah Richardson (born in 1843 in Chelsea, London and dying in Paddington, London in 1905) on 12th April 1866 at Old Church, St. Pancras. They had the following children: Edward Bolland Osborn born St Pancras, Middlesex, 1867, William Evelyn Osborn born St Pancras, Middlesex, 1868, married in 1896 and died in Chelsea, London in 1906, Percy Lancelot Osborn born  Blackburn, Lancashire, 1870, H A Mary Osborn born Rochdale, Lancashire, 1875 and Harry Lonsdale Osborn born Rochdale, Lancashire, 1878 and dying in Salford in 1893.

 
MELEAGER

The Garland of Boyhood’s Flowers
(from the Greek Anthology)

 
Eros for Cypris wove a garland rare,
And gathered all the flowers of boyhood fair,
And joined a wreath that should all hearts ensnare.

For Diodore he plucked the lily bright,
For Asclepiades a violet white,
And culled a thornless rose for Heraclite.

Dion he gave the blossom of the vine,
And set there with for thee, sweet Theromine,
A crocus golden as those locks of thine!

Thyme for Oudiades; an olive spray
For curly-haired Musicus, and the bay,
Virtue’s fair evergreen that blooms alway.

O happy Tyre, all other isles above,
Where lies the sacred incense-breathing grove,
Garden of beauteous boys beloved of Love!

(The Spirit Lamp. vol I, number V. p. 65. June 3 1892.)

 
HYLAS

This ever is my fear, lest love-beguiled
Some nymph should steal the Hylas whom I love,
And I should seek him thro’ the woodland wild,
And all in vain the wanton theft reprove;
When I have seen him in the glassy stream
Bend on the image of his countenance,
And e’en as one led captive by a dream,
Watch languidly the ripples in their dance,
Then have I caught him back, as tho’ me-thought
Some nymph should woo him in his own despite,
For they but err, who deem the legends nought,
Of Hylas stolen by the watersprite;
And how a book betrayed the young Narcisse,
Whose very beauty kept him poor in bliss.*

(*. V, 14 of Ovid, in which Narcissus says “Inopem me copia fecit”.)

(Sonnet.The Spirit Lamp. vol III, number II. p. 43. February 17 1893.)

 
In the 1871 census the family are living in Blackburn, Lancashire and Percy's father Edward Haydon is listed as occupation: 'Inspector of Factories'. The family have two servants: Charlotte Ballinger, aged 23 from Whitechapel, Middlesex, and Susannah Woods, 33 from Bolton-Le-Sands, Lancashire. Ten years later in the 1881 census they are in Castleton, Rochdale, Lancashire living in Garden Street. There are two additions to the family, namely Mary and Harry Lonsdale Osborn. Edward Haydon still works as an 'H. M. Inspector of Factories' and the family has no servants.
Percy attended Magdalen College, Oxford, matriculating on 14th October 1889 when he was 19 years old, coming from Manchester Grammar School. He attained his Honours in Classical Mods in 1891.

 

CORYDON

Now Corydon is gone, that Loves lament,
And with the Loves lament a troop of boys,
For cruel laws have slain Love’s sweet content,
And cruel men have mocked at gentle joys.
The Rose is sighing in the garden-close,
While morning weeps her pearly tears of dew;
But a white rosebud comforteth the rose,
“Love will return, and joy has reign renew.” –
Shall love return? Nay love hath never gone;
Love lives, tho’ he be reft of all that’s dear.
Weep, weep, Alexis for the Corydon,
But love him more, because he is not here;
What day hath taken, night shall give back to thee,
And dreams tell o’er thy lost felicity.

(Sonnet. May 1892. The Spirit Lamp. vol III, number II. p. 44. February 17 1893.)

In the 1891 census the Osborn's are living in Hare Street, Castleton, Lancashire and Percy who is 20 years old lists his occupation as 'Student'. Also at the address is his father Edward Haydon as head of the household aged 59, 'H M Inspector of Factories 1st Class'; his mother Augusta aged 43, his brother William Evelyn, aged 23 an 'Artist Painter' and his sister Harriette A M Osborn aged 16. 
 

CAPRICE (Par P. L. O.)

LA CIGARETTE

O Cigarette a douce odeur,
Les tourbillons de ta vapeur
Ressemblant a la vie humaine,
Qui n’est  que vaporense et vaine.

Comme dans l’air la vapeur fuit,
L’ame qui meurt s’evanouit
Dieu s’ecrie! Ah, si l’on regrette
Roulons une autre cigarette!

(The Spirit Lamp. vol II, number IV. p. 113. December 6 1892.)

 
Percy published two books: ‘Rose Leaves from Philostratus and Other Poems’ (1901) which are his translations from the Greek poet of the Roman Imperial period, Philostratus, and ‘The Poems of Sappho: Poems, Epigrams and Fragments. Translations and Adaptations.’ Translated by Percy Lancelot Osborn. (1909)

 
THE FULL MOON

Stars above their faces in awe are hiding,
While the Moon, with beauty the world adorning,
At the full, with silvery beams delightful,
Shines from Olympus.

(The Poems of Sappho. Percy Osborn. 1909.)

 
In the 1911 census Percy, aged 40, single and living on 'Private Means' is living at 23 Kilburn Priory, Hampstead, London, at the home of Henry George Strugnell aged 49 (born 1862, Box, Wiltshire) a 'Cab Driver'. Henry's wife (they were married in 1887 at St George's Hanover Square, London) Josephine Francois Strugnell nee Clement, aged 50 is a 'French Resident'. Their daughter Florence Eugenie Marie Strugnell, aged 23 (born 1888 in Hammersmith, Middlesex) is listed under occupation as 'Book Keeper Provision'. Also boarding at the address are: Zillah Barker, aged 43 (born 1868 of Hammersmith, Middlesex), single female living on 'Private Means'; Joseph Wecks, 30 (born 1881, Copthorne, Sussex) a single 'Butcher Worker', and Edith Borritt, aged 30 (born 1881, Hornsey, Middlesex) who is a single 'Shop Assistant'.
 
ECHELLE D’EROS
(D’apres Lucien “Amours”.)

Le premier pas de ton echelle,
Aphrodite unisexuelle
C’est regarder le doux enfant,
Et de sa voix ouir le chant.

Le second pas est quand tu serres
Avec des oeillades l’egeres
Ses mains au contour veloute,
Don’t charme l’electricite.

Puis, le prochain, c’est la caresse,
Quand ton bras amoureux le presse,
Pendaut que Presque sans dessein
Tu Frottes doucement son sein!

Le dernier pas de l’amourette,
N’est-ce-pas l’union complete;
L’extase des corps et des coeurs,
Et je ne sais quelles laugueurs.

(Chants et Poesies de P. L. O.)

(The Spirit Lamp. vol IV, number II. p. 70. June 6 1893.)

In the 1901 census taken on 31st March, Percy, aged 30 is in Hanworth, Norfolk. He is listed as a boarder at the home of the Reverend Richard H O Banker (Church of England) aged 41, born in Purton, Buckinghamshire. Also at the address is Richard's wife Maud M A Banker, 37 from Wotton, Herefordshire; Conrad D R O Banker, aged 17 born Cleredon, Somersetshire and the two servants: Kate Brown, 26 from Horton, Northamptonshire and Elizabeth C Armstrong, 23 from Goldington, Bedfordshire. Percy's occupation is listed as 'Tutor' so it is probably safe to suggest he is tutoring the Reverend Banker's son, Conrad.
His father Edward now aged 69, mother Augusta, 54 and sister A H Mary aged 24 are living at 152 Elgin Avenue, Paddington, London where they remain for some time (they are still there in 1909). Edward is described as being a 'Home Office Inspector of Factories' and they have one servant named C L Ballinger, aged 54 (born 1847 in Stratford, Essex), she is described as a 'Housekeeper Domestic'.

 

CRUEL LAUGHTER

 
For ever laughing, but for ever dumb,
You answer nothing, tho’ I coax and flatter;
I ask again; the smiling dimples come;
I weep; you laugh. – Is this a laughing matter?

(The Spirit Lamp. vol I, number VI. p. 79. June 10 1892.)

 

SUICIDE TRIOMPHANT

 
Je suis le Dieu de suicide,
Mon corps est froid, mon Coeur est vide.

Mon temple est un tombeau beant,
Ma ‘providence’ est le neant.

Venez, venez, gens miserables!
Les dieux etablis sont des fables!

Je suis l’ami du rejete,
L’ami de toute infirmite.

Je donne la ‘mort immortelle’,
L’oblivion perpetuelle.

Venez; le chemin est etroit,
Venez, venez, c’est votre droit.

Je suis le Dieu de suicide
Mon corps est froid, mon Coeur est vide.

(Chansonettes “Mandites,”)

(The Spirit Lamp. vol III, number I. p. 15. February 3 1893.)

In 1939 Percy is living in Willesden, Middlesex, at the home of Henry Victor Bush (born 1892), his wife Mary Bush (born 1894) and their daughter Vera J Bush (born 1925).

Percy’s brother, Edward Bolland also went to Magdalen College, Oxford, matriculating on 6th February 1885 aged 18, coming from Rossall School. Exhibitioner in 1885, BA in 1890, Hons – 2 Mathematical Mods 1886 and 3 Mathematics in 1888. Edward also had work published in The Spirit Lamp: ‘Mirandus: A Platonic Idyll’ (vol III, number I.  p.10-15. February 3 1893.) and ‘A Legend of the Atlantic’ (vol III, number I. p. 16. February 3 1893.)

He later published several volumes:

 

‘Greater Canada: The Past, Present and Future of the Canadian North-West’. (1900)

‘The Muse in Arms’. (1917) an anthology of British War Poetry.

‘The Maid with Wings: And Other Fantasies, Grave to Gray’ (1917)

‘The New Elizabethans, a first selection of the Lives of Young Men who have fallen in the Great War’. (1919)

‘Literature and Life: Things seen, heard and read’. (1921)

‘Our Debt to Greece and Rome’. (1924)

‘The Heritage of Greece and the Legacy of Rome’. (1925)

‘Anthology of Sporting Verse’. (1930)

 

Edward Bolland Osborn became the Literary Editor of the Morning Post and he died in 1938. It is not altogether known when Percy died but there is some evidence to suggest he may have lived until the beginning of 1951 where there is a death recorded for Percy L Osborn, died in St Pancras, London aged 80.