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Anna Kingsford was born in England in 1846. She was the youngest of 12 children, the father being John Bonus a wealthy shipowner.Anna had poems published from the age of nine and a novel at sixteen.To bypass family opposition,she eloped with Algernon Kingsford, a theology student, in 1867. They married on Anna's condition that she be free to follow her own career.When Algernon became a vicar, she sometimes wrote sermons for him. Anna wrote articles and stories promoting the rights of women. Her interest in health matters led her in 1874 to study medicine in Paris, as women at the time were barred from qualifying as doctors in England. After graduating as a doctor of medicine in 1880 she set up practice in London. Anna deeply studied spiritual matters, and in 1882 published 'The Perfect Way,' an erudite study of mysticism and esoteric Christianity. As a result she was invited to become president of the British Theosophical Society in 1883. Due to disagreements with H.P.Blavatsky and Alfred Sinnett over the alleged theosophical hidden masters, Anna quit as president and formed the Hermetic Society with her co-worker Edward Maitland. Anna was a passionate opponent of vivisection and a supporter of vegetarianism. She lectured and wrote ardently for these causes.She was afflicted by TB in 1887 and died early in 1888 at the age of 41.Aleister Crowley wrote that she did more for religion than anyone else in centuries. Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged her influence in his autobiography. Pert is the first to show that Edward Maitland's biography of Anna (1896)contains serious misinformation about her. The worst charge Maitland made was that Anna killed two French vivisectors by black magic. Pert exposes this and other false claims made against Anna. Before Maitland died he burnt Anna's letters, diaries and papers which she had left to him in her will. Despite this catastrophic loss, Pert has done a commendable job in assembling the available information in a readable style.
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According to the back cover of the book, this is an 'accurate biography of the amazing Englishwoman, Anna Kingsford (1846-1888), She accomplished much of lasting value in her life, tragically cut short of consumption.'
Hmm. This is less 'an accurate biography' of Anna Kingsford than it is an uncritical hagiography. This is a pity, for while I have no interest in hermetic philosophy and mysticism, I like to read about interesting women regardless of their fields of achievement.
No doubt, this book will be of interest to those interested in Ms Kingsford's mystical works and those who choose to honour her for 'her promotion of vegetarianism and animal welfare, and her courage in exposing cant and hypocrisy in a repressive age'. It may also be of interest to those seeking examples of published hyperbole.
In summary, I finished it because I started it. I cannot recommend it.
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