Sunday, May 27, 2012
Although H. P. Blavatsky has received numerous biographical studies (mostly critical), none of the other leading Theosophists of her time have been so covered. The sole exception is Annie Besant, but mainly for her involvement in the Indian Freedom Movement. The President-Founder, Col. Olcott, is the subject of two books. W. Q. Judge still awaits a book length study. Over the past decade Kim Farnell produced two monographs, one on Walter Gorn Old, and one on Mabel Collins.
So we are encouraged to see publication of a book length biographical study on Laura Holloway-Langford (1843-1930), Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Late Victorian Spirituality, as part of Indiana University Press’s series Religion in North America. The writer is Diane Sasson, a professor at Vanderbilt University, who fortuitously received the remaining books and other papers of LCH while on a research trip. (Our pre-publication notice of the book can be seen here.)
Laura Holloway-Langford’s transit through the Theosophical Society was brief, coming from Brooklyn, New York, to meet Olcott and Blavatsky in London during their visit of 1884. She co-wrote, Man: Fragments of Forgotten History (1885), an attempt at elucidating Theosophical principles with Mohin Chatterji, who had come from India with Olcott and Blavatsky. Yet these events form the major part of Sasson’s book. Blavatsky is depicted as a “puppet-master, manipulating the strings from behind the stage” (p. 76), but aside from simplifications like this Sasson tells her story well. She laments the loss of the manuscript of Holloway-Langford’s reminiscences of this period written in the 1920s. “If this manuscript is indeed extant, it has not been made public so that it can be inspected by scholars,” noting it has been cited by Daniel Caldwell in his online “Mrs. Holloway and the Mahatmas,” which reprints the Mahatma Letters received by Holloway. Perhaps this has prodded Mr. Caldwell to finally release the manuscript, for he announces it will be available through lulu.com for $39.95.