Yearning for the new age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Victorian Spirituality

Mrs. Holloway  (1843-1930) is a character from early theosophical history who is all but forgotten by theosophists and non theosophists alike. Still, as can be learned from this new biography, she seemed on just way to theosophical fame at one point. She received quite a few Mahatma letters, was comfortable around Blavatsky, very close to Judge and yet is best remembered as one of Sinnett’s mediums.

In short: she catapulted herself into theosophical circles and ended up right in the middle of a mess.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, a theosophical history lesson is in order.

When Mrs Holloway came to London, the SPR investigation of Blavatsky was on its way. Sinnett was back from India and stirring up trouble in the London lodge. Judge went on to India, burned the occult cabinet and went home to the US. Laura Holloway was commissioned to write a book with Mohini Chatterji (Man).

The book flopped, Mrs Holloway was accused of improprieties with men and went back to the US with her hopes dashed.

That’s as much as theosophical history could have good you without the help of this new book, for anyone who bothered to check. But who was Mrs Holloway? Was she as superficial as commonly portrayed? Come to think of it, she was a woman acting independently inn a world where women still had very few rights.

She was in fact the author of a best seller about women of the White House. She was one of the first women to work in the hussle of the news room. She was married, but claimed to be a widow. She had lost her parents and had supported herself and her siblings through her writing.

She became active in supporting other women not so much to vote, but to become economically independent.

She was strong willed and perhaps, as her biographer thinks, somewhat egotistical. However the main feeling I for from reading this book is that she was brave.

Some notes

  1. This book is an unusually fair representation of early theosophical history by an author with no theosophical ties and plenty of academic ones. The book is valuable not merely as a biography of a main character of theosophical history, but also for it’s look at early feminists and for the many interesting references.
  2. As Blavatsky News notes: in the book Sasson deplores the fact that the extant Blavatsky biography by Mrs. Holloway was never published. Since then Daniel Caldwell has made it available as Mrs. Holloway and the Mahatmas.