Second Sagittarius Decanate: Henry Liddell

From The Last Eighteen Decanates Analyzed:

SAGITTARIUS—2nd Decanate. The Eagle—AQUILA—symbol of transmuted sex, and the power of the higher mind to make lofty flights through the rare atmosphere of the spiritual world, pictures among the constellations the Aries decanate of Sagittarius.

The migratory instincts of Sagittarius are given a trend toward pioneering. Consequently, we find people born here to be unusually successful in searching out new fields of endeavor, physical, mental, and spiritual. They are usually restless. Their minds are constantly alert for new facts. And in order that they shall not become discontented it is very essential that they have at all times some definite work to accomplish, and that this work is of a nature to be well worth their best efforts. Confinement and restrictions are most depressing to these people, and if forced to be idle or to follow some uncongenial occupation they become rebellious and hypercritical. They require some task of importance to call out their wonderful executive ability.

Alfred de Musset, whose searching mind grasped the merits of both the classic and the romantic schools and welded them into a system of his own, becoming famous as a poet, playwright, and novelist, was born when the Sun was here. Alice Le Plongeon, author, and co-worker with her husband in his explorations among the ruins of Yucatan, was born with her Mentality under this decanate. And Dr. Sven Hedin, the great geographical explorer, had this section of the zodiac on his Ascendant. It is the decanate of EXPLORATION.

From Letters to the Sage:

Henry Liddell 

            In the short autobiographies that he sent out for publication in various books in the early 1900s, Henry Liddell claimed to have been born to a Henry George Liddell and Barbara W. Greetham in England on December 3, 1843 and educated at a “Burdis Academy, King Edward VI Grammar School, Newcastle-on-Tyne.” Unfortunately, none of this can be verified by external records, nor can his claims of having authored several books in the 1870s. However, records from the 1870s do exist that support his claims of having lived in Japan and of having been a member of that country’s Asiatic Society. In the early 1880s, when records of his American activities first appear, he was working as a book agent and writer of articles concerning Chinese and Japanese society. In 1887, Liddell married Eva L. Barnes in Boston and soon moved to New York City and claimed to have become a physician. Liddell was made a member of both the Theosophical Society and the H.B. of L. in 1886,[1] and an 1887 advertisement has him inquiring about books written by Britten and Randolph, but there is no trace of his esoteric interests after the latter year, and no trace of Liddell himself after 1910.

            Liddell’s letters to Johnson—replete with suggested Californian and Coloradan subscribers to the Platonist—are significant primarily because they reflect the Western US concentration of the American esotericist community and its early connection with mind cure/New Thought.[2] Furthermore, they reveal the importance of that western community for creating a cross-country network with which traveling esotericists could connect to reaffirm their affiliation with the growing American esotericist network. Finally, Liddell’s mention of Alexander Russell Webb is the only known preserved reference to Webb in a TS-authored letter in the 1880s.[3]

A. Roman, Agent, Publisher and Bookseller

San Francisco

August 3, 1884

Dear Sir,

            I beg to thank you for your kindness in forwarding me copies of your excellent brochure, “The Platonist,” which I have perused with great pleasure.

            I am a litterateur, and generally on the move. For this reason, I cannot well subscribe to The Platonist at present, but I am thinking of settling down for awhile, either here or in New Orleans; when I shall certainly do myself the pleasure of subscribing.

            I enclose you a list of names of persons to whom it may be worth your while to forward sample copies of your publication. My experience as a journalist tells me that it is not of much use sending a copy of one’s paper without an accompanying note. If you have time, or the necessary help, to enable you to do so, you might possibly increase your subscription list by sending copies.

            I have resided in China and Japan for some years, and may be able to send you an article or two on certain forms of philosophy, &c., in vogue in those countries, and adjoining territory, that may prove interesting; if they are not out of your line.

            I should feel under a further obligation to you if you would send me what information you have with respect to the Theosophical Society, and the American Akademe. I am a student of the occult sciences, and desire to ally myself with those bodies; particularly the first-named. Is there any branch of the Theosophical Society in San Francisco or Oakland?

            With best wishes, I am, Sincerely yours Henry Liddell

Prof. H.C. Gibson, Jones St., San Fran., Cal.

Hon. T.H. Rearden, San Francisco, Cal.

W.A. Lawson, Editor Bee, Sacramento, Cal.

Marysville, Yuba Co., Cal.

Judge Craddock,

Hon. Phil. N. Keyser,

Hon. E.A. Davis,

Jno. H. Jewett, Esq., Banker,

Chas. H. Brooks, Rideout’s Bank,

Dr David Powell,

Dr C.E. Stone,

Rev. E.M. Mott, (Episcopal)

Rev. Bishop O’Connell (R.C.)

Rev. Bishop Manogue (R.C.)

Rev. Father Coleman, Smartsville, Cal.

Rev. Father Hines, Chico,    ––“––

Rev. Father Graves, Sacramento, ––“––

(Please do not mention my name. I will send you a list of names for China and Japan, if you desire it.)

A. Roman, Agent, Publisher and Bookseller

San Francisco

September 13, 1884

Dear Sir,

            Your esteemed favor of the 11th ult. Reached me only two days ago, owing to your having omitted to address me “c./o. A. Roman”, the building 120 Sutter St., being a very large one, with a number of tenants. Please note this.

            I am exceedingly obliged for your kind offer to have me proposed a member of the American Akademe, and gladly avail myself of it. The copy of bye-laws you enclosed does not mention the amount of the initiation fee, but whatever it is I will forward it on hearing from the secretary. My full name and address is:

            Henry Liddell,

            (Profession) Litterateur

            (Member of the Asiatic Socty. Of Japan)

            c./o. A. Roman,

            120 Sutter St.,

            San Francisco, Cal.

            I have not yet had an opportunity of calling on Dr Docking of Oakland,[4](whose name you kindly sent me), with reference to the Theosophical Society, but will do so. I hope to be in St. Louis about Novr., on my way to New Orleans, where I shall do myself the pleasure of calling on you at Osceola.

            I enclose you a short list of names of persons in China and Japan likely to appreciate the Platonist;[5] will send you a further list later on. Also an article or two that may prove of interest to your readers. Being on the point of leaving the city for the South, I have not much leisure for outside affairs.

            I have seen something of both Chinese and Japanese (alleged) magicians, but am not in a position to say just how much chicanery there is in their exhibitions.

            Sincerely yours Henry Liddell

San Francisco

October 4, 1884

Dear Sir,

            Your esteemed favor of 23rd ult. came duly to hand, and contents have been noted. I gladly accept you kind offer to have me proposed as a member of the Pioneer Theosophical Society of St. Louis. This is an opportunity I may not otherwise have. It is not quite certain that I shall be in St. Louis as early as November, but I presume the will not matter greatly, so long as I am now posed and accepted. Very many thanks for your kind offer.

            I shall take with me into the country the sample copies of the Platonist you kindly sent, and “talk up” the journal wherever favorable opportunity occurs.

            Faithfully yours

            Henry Liddell

Col. Hollister, Santa Barbara, Cal.

Hon. J. Fernato, Santa Barbara, Cal.

Pioneer Club. Santa Barbara Cal

Dr Shaw Santa Barbara Cal

San Francisco, Cal

Pacific Club

Union Club

Loring Club

Bohemian Club

A. Roman, Agent, Publisher and Bookseller

San Francisco

November 19, 1884

Dear Sir,

            I beg to enclose you a postal note for $2, for a year’s subscription to The Platonist ending with Decr. (next month), as you have been good enough to forward the copies monthly for some time past. In the beginning of the coming month, I am to start for British Columbia, and as I shall be away from civilization for some time, and out of reach of the mails, I will not trouble you to continue providing the Platonist, after that time. I have lost no opportunity of putting in a good word for your excellent journal, and trust it may have had effect. Business on this coast is frightfully dull, and money very scarce. We have had a good harvest, but wheat is so low that farmers are obliged to hold on to their crops, and there is thus no coin in circulation.

            I regret to say that my plans for a visit to St. Louis during the present month will have to be foregone, as business interests require my presence north, this winter. Under the circumstances, therefore, I shall not need to trouble you to have me proposed for membership in the Pioneer Theosophical Lodge of St. Louis, as you kindly offered to do. Should the proposition have already been made, it will not matter I suppose; I shall certainly be able to visit your state next Spring. Theosophy is beginning to excite a great deal of interest in San Francisco.

            I received, a few days ago, my certificate of membership of the American Akademe. Many thanks to you for this.

            Believe me, Fraternally Yours

            Henry Liddell    


January 14, 1886

Dear Sir,

            I beg to thank you for copies of The Platonist for months of Augt. and Septr. last, forwarded on from San Francisco, and to hand only yesterday. I have been continually on the move since last April, having traveled from San Francisco to British Columbia, and thence through Washington Territory, to Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. I shall remain in Denver only about two weeks longer, and then go on south via St. Louis, probably as far as the City of Mexico. Should I come anywhere within a hundred miles of Osceola, will do myself the pleasure of calling on you. I hope the St. Louis branch of the Theosophical Society is still in existence, that I may avail myself of your kind introduction, and become a member thereof. As soon as I can get back to San Francisco, I mean to have a complete set of the Platonist; am glad to note that you have reprinted those nos that were out of print.

            I do what I can to push your admirable publication, wherever I go; but, as you know, the number of persons who appreciate such a journal is but small. Am pleased to see you intend publishing a translation of Eliphas Levy’s “Dogme”; I know it; it is a valuable work. Have you seen the Chevalier De Mousseaux’s[6] two famous books, “La Magie de la XIXme Siecle”, and (exact title forgotten— “de la Haute Magie”)? As soon as I get settled, I intend sending you an article on Chinese and Japanese Magic.

            I am trying to get up a class of 20 or more persons here, for a course of lectures on Occultism. Should I succeed, will not neglect the opportunity to recommend the Platonist. The people of Denver are at present greatly exercised over Mind Reading and mind cure. A man named J. Randall Brown[7] gave an entertainment in the Grand Opera House here a week ago, and took in $2,000. A professor Sherman[8] came from Boston lately, to instruct a class of 40 persons in “mind cure”, at $100 a head, and departed inside of two weeks with $4,000 in his gripsack. I have a young, Englishman with me who can do all the feats performed by the first-named.

            Below, you will find names of a few persons interested in Occultism; you might, if you wish, send them sample copies of the Platonist—with best wishes,

            Believe me to remain, faithfully yours

            Henry Liddell

(Don’t mention my name.)

Thos. Fell, Esq., Victoria, British Columbia.

Prof. J.E. Clayton, Territorial Geologist, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Prof. Aughey,        ­­–––“––––––––“––––––“––  Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Rev. Dr Rafter,   Cheyenne, Wyo.

T.W. Peters, Esq. Cheyenne, Wyo.

Rev. T.J. Van Hess, Denver, Colo.

Rev. C.J. Adams, So. 13th St., Denver, Colo.

Mrs Prentice,[9] Curtis Street, Denver, Colo.

Mrs Hall, Metaphysician, Denver, Colo. (address so.)

Mrs Mason, –––“––––––––“––––––“–– (address so.)

Dr Russell,  –––“––––––––“––––––“––

Prof. J. LeConte, Berkeley University Oakland, Calif. “Overland Monthly Maga. San Francisco, Cal.

St. Louis

November 4, 1886

Dear Sir,

            Your favor of yesterday’s date is to hand. Mr Page returned from Cincinnati yesterday, and I found him every whit as good a man as you represented him to be. Mr Webb I have not yet met. Shall perhaps see him (and Mr Kelsoe) tomorrow. From a hint dropped by Mr Page, I should judge the St. L. branch of the T. Soc. will soon cease to be. They meet on a week from next Sunday. Should have met tonight. As soon as I get settled somewhere, would like to have what other MSS. in connection with the H.B. of L. you can spare.

            As to the books I have to dispose of: “Albertus Magnus”,[10] “The 6th and 7th Books of Moses”,[11] and “Formulas for White and Black Magic,”[12] are all in German. I do not think you would care for Albertus Magnus, but the other two are well worth going to the expense of translating. “The 6th and 7th Books of Moses” contains over 100 diagrams, and figures, and has a lengthy introduction culled from Ennemoser, on the “Magic of the Israelites.” I have also a copy of Dr C.N. Roback’s “Mysteries of Astrology and Founders of Magic”,[13] containing the formula for the Elixir of Youth, from “Hermippus Redivivus”. Price $5 (out of print, and scarce.) “Tractatus De Fasciuatione”, by Johanne Christians Frommann, Korimbergae, MDCLXXV, is a volume of 1067 pp., quarto, rebound in cloth, with a plate and several small cuts. It is a thoroughly exhaustive work on white and black magic, in every conceivable phase, and judging from the references made to it by other writers of mediaeval times (on occultism) seems to be a sort of test-book of magic. What it has not got to say about magic is not worth learning, I should judge. I fear you would not care to say the price for it; I want $25 for it. I shall take it to Cincinnati, and think Dr Buck will take it; or Robb. Clarke and Co. For the Aldus Manutius, 1589, “De Naturae, De-Monum”, I ask $15. It is worth it. It is small but good. I have a great many other books, but you would probably not care for them.

            Yours Henry Liddell

P.S.—I think I shall leave for Cincinnati next week.

[1] However, he was not officially entered as a member of the TS until June 30, 1887, at which point he was staying in Denver; see the Theosophical Society General Register Vol. I,

[2] See the introduction to this volume.

[3] That is, besides Webb’s own 1887 letter to Josephine Cables, which was published in Cables’ Occult Word journal; see Alex. R. Webb, “A Letter from a Friend,” Occult Word 3, nos. 3&4 (1887): 13.

[4] For more on Docking, see the introduction to his letters.

[5] We have not included these names.

[6] Roger Gougenot des Mousseaux (1805-1876), a French Mason and esotericist.

[7] A popular mind cure stage performer.

[8] Another popular mind curer from the period.

[9] Alice L. Prentice, TS membership, entered August 29, 1886, Theosophical Society General Register Vol. I, 94, She, along with another H.B. of L. member, Ernest Sasserville, was one of the founding members of Denver’s TS lodge in 1894; see “Theosophy in Denver,” Daily News (Denver), May 19, 1894, 2.

[10] Liddell is referring to a German edition of Albertus Magnus: Being the Approved, Verified, Sympathetic and Natural Egyptian Secrets: White and Black Art for Man and Beast, which was falsely attributed to the thirteenth-century Dominican philosopher, Albertus Magnus.

[11] Another book spuriously attributed to Albertus Magnus. Liddell is referring to Johann Scheible’s 1880 German edition published in New York.

[12] It is unclear as to which Albertus Magnus-attributed book Liddell is referring.

[13] Published in Boston in 1854