Copied from on the author's website. Biography of Anna Kingsford. Disappearance there was noted May 2013

Anna Kingsford Biography

Alan Pert. 2004

Kingsford [née Bonus], Anna [Annie] (1846-1888), physician, author, vegetarian, women's activist and mystic was born at 5pm on 16 September 1846 at Maryland Point, Stratford, Essex, England. Her father, John Bonus (1795-1865) was a wealthy shipbroker of Italian descent. Elizabeth Ann Schroder(1805-1888), her mother, was of Irish and German ancestry. Annie had seven brothers and one sister. Her most notable brothers were John (1828-1909) a Doctor of Philosophy and Literature, Edward (1834-1908) rector of Hulcott , Bucks, and Major General Joseph Bonus (1836-1926). Her sister Emma Louisa (b.1841) married Edward Gilliat , a clergyman, author, and schoolmaster at Harrow School. As a child Anna loved to play in their large garden and leave notes in flowers for the fairies. She had the run of her father's library, and often created plays for her dolls from the stories she read. She was a precocious child. Her novel Beatrice: a Tale of the Early Christians (1863) was written when she was thirteen. Some of her poems were published in River Reeds (1866). In her mid teens she attended a finishing school at Brighton , then joined her family in St Leonards on Sea, having moved there from Blackheath. Her father died in 1865, leaving his considerable fortune to his family. Anna received a trust fund returning £800-£900 per year.

To avoid the wealthy suitors her family pressed upon her, Anna eloped Algernon Godfrey Kingsford, son of the Rev. Godfrey Kingsford (1819-1852) chaplain of Gibraltar. On the last day of 1867 she married Algernon on the condition that she be free to follow her own career. The couple moved to Lichfield, Staffordshire, where Algernon studied at the Lichfield Theological College to enter the Anglican ministry. Annie's only child, Eadith, was born on 24 September 1868 at St Leonards. Annie continued to write short stories, and her pamphlet, An Essay on the Admission of Women to the Parliamentary Franchise (1868) gained some attention. She was much interested in women's rights, particularly in the fields of property rights, the franchise, and education. She advocated equal education for girls and boys, and also the training and acceptance of women doctors. In 1869 Algernon Kingsford became curate of Atcham, Shropshire. Annie became a vegetarian in 1870, following the example of her brother John. In the same year Annie joined the Catholic Church to avoid the duties of a clergyman's wife. She did things her way, and wrote her husband's sermons for him. To promote her ideas and escape the foliage which gave her asthma, she bought The Lady's Own Paper in London in 1872. She was editor, but due to a lack of business skill the paper lost money and she closed it after a few issues. This venture made her known in London and introduced her to a variety of like-minded progressive women. On meeting Annie, Florence Miller wrote she was '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!' Anna became renowned not only for her beauty, but for her intelligence, and was called 'that clever woman.'

In 1873 the Rev. Algernon Kingsford became rector (third portion) at Pontesbury, Shropshire, then vicar of Atcham in 1882. Although women were not allowed to qualify as doctors in Britain at the time, Annie decided on this career. It would give her authority in her fight against vivisection, and she believed women would get better understanding and treatment from women doctors. She used various first names, but settled on Anna once she took up medicine. In 1874 she enrolled in the prestigious Paris Medical School, but was also allowed to do some of her study in London. Her husband or Edward Maitland (1824-1897) would accompany her. Maitland was a novelist and journalist who, as a young man, sought gold with little success in California and New South WalesAustralia. Anna, who refused to vivisect during her course, qualified as a physician in 1880. Her dissertation, on vegetarianism, was published as The Perfect Way in Diet (1881).

During her medical studies, Anna began to have a series of mystical illuminations which Maitland helped her write down and organise. In London in 1881 she gave 'The Perfect Way' lectures, based on her mystical insights. The lectures were published in 1882 as The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ. It is a seminal mystical work which explains the deeper Mysteries of religion. The book gained her prominence in Theosophical and spiritual circles, and she accepted an offer by Charles C. Massey to be president of the British Theosophical Society in 1883. She changed its name to the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Controversy ensured with the arrival from India of the Theosophist Alfred Percy Sinnett. He had ambitions to be head of the Lodge, and Anna disagreed with his reliance on teachings from alleged secret Tibetan masters, as set out in his Esoteric Buddhism (1883). Anna wished to teach the Western Mystery Tradition, including esoteric Christianity. Things came to a head in April 1884 with the arrival from India of the founders of Theosophy, Madame Helena Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Olcott. Anna was offered her own Hermetic Lodge which held its first meeting on 9 April 1884, attended by, amongst others, Lady Wilde and her sons Oscar and William. But its existence was short lived, being opposed by Sinnett and his faction (*). Anna and Maitland then formed the Hermetic Society in May 1884. A series of lectures were given each summer, but could not continue in 1887 due to Anna's ill health. Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers, who lectured at the Hermetic Society and was influenced by Anna, went on to co-found the legendary magical society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888.

Anna was also busy with her other interests. She conducted a medical practice in London. She campaigned strongly for vegetarianism and against vivisection with lecture tours, pamphlets, articles and letters. She lectured in SwitzerlandEngland and Scotland. From 1884 to 1886 she wrote a weekly letter on health for the Lady's Pictorial, some being published as Health, Beauty and the Toilet (1886). She had an active social life, visiting her family and many friends. A close friend was the mystic and Theosophist Lady Marie Caithness who lived in Paris. Other friends were Lady Isabel Burton, wife of the famous explorer; journalist Florence Fenwick Miller; novelist Mrs Mary Molesworth; poet Alice Meynell; and mystic Lady Georgina Mount-Temple. This busy schedule took its toll on Anna's health. On 17 November 1886 she paid a visit to Louis Pasteur's laboratory in Paris to gain information for her campaign against his mistreatment of animals. She was caught in a downpour which activated her latent hereditary consumption. Trips to the Riveria and Italy did not improve her condition. On 15 July 1887 she took up residence in her last home, 15 Wynnstay GardensLondon. She died there on 22 February 1888 in the presence of her husband and Maitland. Although a supporter of cremation, to save her husband any inconvenience, she elected to be buried at Atcham, where her funeral took place on 29 February 1888. Maitland, after writing her biography, Anna Kingsford: Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work (1896), burnt all her letters, manuscripts and papers. She had left them to him in her will with the stipulation they pass to her husband on Maitland's decease. Maitland edited her Dreams and Dream Stories (1888) and her mystical illuminations Clothed With the Sun (1889). Other posthumous works were Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism (1912) and The Credo of Christendom and Other Lectures on Esoteric Christianity (1916).


(*) The editor has information that suggests the reason the Hermetic Lodge didn't work was that its members wanted to also be able to study under Sinnett. As the rule is that people can only be members of one lodge at a time, eventually it was concluded that it would be better if the Hermetic Lodge seperated from the Theosophical Society so that its members would be free to join Sinnett's lodge and be members of the group led by Kingsford. - Editor Eclectic Theosophical History.

See also: Red Cactus: The Life of Anna Kingsford, biography by Alan Pert