Thursday, 10 November 2011

HOW SWEET A PASSION

HOW SWEET A PASSION
ALEISTER CROWLEY AND
HERBERT CHARLES JEROME POLLITT
By
Barry Van-Asten

He who seduced me first I could not forget.
I hardly loved him but desired to taste
A new strong sin. My sorrow does not fret
That sore. But thou, whose sudden arms embraced
My shrinking body, and who brought a blush
Into my cheeks, and turned my veins to fire,
Thou, who didst whelm me with the eager rush
Of the enormous floods of thy desire,
Thine are the kisses that devour me yet,
Thine the high heaven whose loss is death to me,
Thine all the barbed arrows of regret,
Thine on whose arms I yearn to be
In my deep heart thy name is writ alone,
Men shall decipher -when they split the stone.

[‘untitled’ 5th poem from Crowley’s unpublished
small red poetry notebook. Approximately 1898.
Gerald Yorke Collection]

It was towards the end of the October [Michaelmas] term of 1897 at Cambridge [1], aged just twenty-three, when Edward ‘Aleister’ Crowley met a remarkable man four years his senior named Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt (b. 20th July 1871-1942) [2]. Born in Kendal, the son of Charles Pollitt (b. 1837), the proprietor of the ‘Westmorland Gazette’ and Jane Hutchinson (b. 1838 and married in Kendal 1864). In the 1881 census the Pollitt’s are living at 7 Kent Terrace in Kendal; Charles is a ‘newspaper proprietor, employing 14 men, 6 boys and 2 girls’. Herbert is a scholar aged nine and also at the address is Herbert’s younger brother Frank Bellingham Pollitt, aged seven (b. 1873 in Kendal and married in 1898 to Josephine Elizabeth Jordan b. 1877). Herbert or Jerome as he preferred to be called went up to Trinity College Cambridge in 1889 and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1892 (and later an M.A. in 1896). Herbert’s mother Jane died in the winter of 1891 aged 55 in Kendal. Unfortunately Jerome did not qualify as a doctor but he turned to his other great love, the stage. Jerome danced in the Cambridge Footlights Dramatic Club as a female impersonator, calling himself Diane de Rougy, after the well known actress Liane de Puugy. After their first meeting at Trinity College, a firm friendship developed between Aleister and Jerome.
Crowley ‘had entered for the Moral Science Tripos [at Trinity] but he found himself repelled by political economy which was one of his subjects. He says nothing of the other subjects of his course, only that for one day of those three years he worked on a Greek play. He spent most of his time reading and writing poetry.’ [The Great Beast. John Symonds. 1951. 1973 revised ed P. 25)]. Crowley would not fall in line with the College’s routines if they were opposed to his own will and natural order; he would not be interferred with: ‘When I discovered that chapel was compulsory I immediately struck back. The junior dean halled me for not attending chapel, which I was certainly not going to do, because it involved early rising’. [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 108]
At Cambridge Crowley enjoyed the freedom he had yearned for in his adolescence – ‘I had the sensation of drawing a long deep breath as one does after swimming under water or [an even better analogy] as one does after bracing oneself against the pain inflicted by a dentist. I could not imagine anything better in life. I found myself suddenly in an entirely new world. I was part of the glories of the past; and I resolved to be one of the glories of the future.’ [Confessions. P. 107]
From the clerk of Trinity College, Cambridge, Jean Overton Fuller received correspondence stating that ‘according to my records, Edward Aleister Crowley matriculated in 1895. He passed the second part of the General Examination in the Michaelmas Term 1896, the first part in Easter Term 1897 and took the Special Examination in Chemistry in the Michaelmas Term, 1897, obtaining a second class. He did not graduate. He was in residence from the Michaelmas Term 1895 until the Easter Term 1898’. [The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg. Jean Overton Fuller. 1965. P. 130]
On Tuesday 12th October 1897 Crowley was twenty-two years old and he developed a minor illness during that October and having thoughts on his own mortality found it difficult to perceive of a career or a future in which his genius and remarkable talents would be remembered and so a darkness within his soul was born.
‘I had been satisfied to escape from religion to the world. I now found that there was no satisfaction here. I was not content to be annihilated. Spiritual facts were the only thing worth while. Brain and body were valueless except as the instruments of the soul’. [Confessions. P. 124-5]
Crowley was experiencing a great spiritual awakening as he underwent what he called the ‘vision of the universal sorrow’, in which he recognised sorrow to be the greater factor in existence, very much in the Buddhist view of the acceptance of sorrow. This melancholy and sorrowful mood following his ‘trance of sorrow’ would continue for the rest of the year as he struggled with his own emotions and convictions as to his belief in God.
On Tuesday 7th December 1897 we find the young poet visiting the home of his friend the Cambridge lecturer and engineer Professor C. G. Lamb [3], where something quite extraordinary took place. He writes about it in his preface to ‘Aceldama’ –

‘It was a windy night, that memorable seventh night of December, when this philosophy was born in me. How the grave old Professor wondered at my ravings! I had called at his house, for he was a valued friend of mine, and I felt strange thoughts and emotions shake within me. Ah! how I raved! I called to him to trample me, he would not. We passed together into the stormy night. I was on horseback, how I galloped round him in my phrenzy, till he became the prey of a real physical fear! How I shrieked out I know not what strange words! And the poor good old man tried all he could to calm me; he thought I was mad! The fool! I was in the death struggle with self: God and Satan fought for my soul those three long hours. God conquered – now I have only one doubt left – which of the twain was God? Howbeit, I aspire!’ [Aceldama.1898. The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley. Vol I. 1905]
Crowley felt a strong friendship towards Professor Lamb and what the nature of the friendship was we do not know but he regarded him highly enough to dedicate his ‘Two Sonnets’ from ‘Mysteries: Lyrical and Dramatic’ to him.
The spiritual void created by his ‘trance of sorrow’ would be filled by his studies in the occult which began to fascinate him at this period when he started to read A. E. Waite’s [1857-1942] ‘Book of Black Magic and of Pacts’ [1898].

As for Pollitt Crowley says ‘I saw him only once or twice that term, but corresponded with him from abroad during the Christmas vacation. The result was the establishment of the first intimate friendship of my life’. [Confessions. P.142]

During the Christmas vacation of 1897, on Thursday 23rd December in Amsterdam Crowley was writing to Pollitt and their relationship began to take on a new dimension. He also had another crisis of faith; he had walked alone all day through the streets of Amsterdam, and upon reaching the docks he watched the ships and held his little ‘silver Christ’ on a crucifix and contemplated his future and his spiritual inclinations; the Plymouth Brethren had so influenced and shaped his early life that there must have been moments of guilt and perhaps feelings of failure as he looked up to his father whom he admired greatly up until his death on Saturday 5th March 1887.

Let me pass out beyond the city gate.
All day I loitered in the little streets
Of black worn houses tottering, like the fate
That hangs above my head even now, and meets
Prayer and defiance as not hearing it.
They lean, these old black streets! a little sky
Peeps through the gap, the rough stone path is lit
Just for a little by the sun, and I
Watch his red face pass over, fade away
To other streets, and other passengers,
See him take pleasure where the heathen pray,
See him relieve the hunter of his furs,
All the wide world awaiting him, all folk
Glad at his coming, only I must weep:
Rise he or sink, my weary eyes invoke
Only the respite of a little sleep;
Sleep, just a little space of sleep, to rest
The fevered head and cool the aching eyes;
Sleep for a space, to fall upon the breast
Of the dear God, that He may sympathise.
Long has the day drawn out; a bitter frost
Sparkles along the streets; the shipping heaves
With the slow murmur of the sea, half lost
In the last rustle of forgotten leaves.
Over the bridges pass the throngs; the sound,
Deep and insistent, penetrates the mist –
I hear it not, I contemplate the wound
Stabbed in the flanks of my dear silver Christ.
He hangs in anguish there; the crown of thorns
Pierces that palest brow; the nails drip blood
There is the wound; no Mary by Him mourns,
There is no John beside the cruel wood;
I am alone to kiss the silver lips;
I rend my clothing for the temple veil;
My heart’s black night must act the sun’s eclipse;
My groans must play the earthquake, till I quail
At my own dark imagining; and now
The wind is bitterer; the air breeds snow;
I put my Christ away; I turn my brow
Towards the south steadfastly; my feet must go
Some journey of despair. I dare not turn
To meet the sun; I will not follow him:
Better to pass where sand and sulphur burn,
And days are hazed with heat, and nights are dim
With some malarial poison. Better lie
Far and forgotten on some desert isle,
Where I may watch the silent ships go by,
And let them share my burden for a while.
Let me pass out beyond the city gate
Where I may wander by the water still,
And see the faint few stars immaculate
Watch their own beauty in its depth, and chill
Their own desire within its icy stream.
Let me move on with vacant eyes, as one
Lost in the labyrinth of some ill dream,
Move and move on, and never see the sun
Lap all the mist with orange and red gold,
Throw some lank windmill into iron shade,
And stir the chill canal with manifold
Rays of clear morning; never grow afraid
When he dips down beyond the far flat land,
Know never more the day and night apart,
Know not where frost has laid his iron hand
Save only that it fastens on my heart;
Save only that it grips with icy fire
These veins no fire of hell could satiate;
Save only that it quenches this desire.
Let me pass out beyond the city gate.

[The Goad. Amsterdam. 23rd December 1897. ‘Songs of the Spirit’]


Some days later, on New Year’s Eve [Friday 31st December 1897] Crowley had returned from Amsterdam and made arrangements to meet Pollitt in Birmingham and they would stay at the Queen’s Hotel. After dinner they retired to their rooms and talked from around 11-12 p.m. Crowley was tired, no doubt from travelling and went to bed and just before midnight, we find Crowley being admitted to the ‘permanent office of the Order of the Temple’ [The Equinox of the Gods. P. 111], in other words, Pollitt seduced him for the first time.

‘...my animal nature stood rebuked and kept silent in the presence of the immanent divinity of the Holy Ghost; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, yet blossoming in my soul as if the entire forces of the universe from all eternity were concentrated and made manifest in a single rose’. [Confessions. P. 124] From Crowley’s poetic language we can see that he looked upon the intimacy as a sort of spiritual awakening and that the ‘trance of sorrow’ was at an end. Crowley had found his silver Christ in the golden-haired, sad eyed face of Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt:

‘Then came the great awakening. Curious to say, it was toward the hour of midnight on the last day of the year when the old slinks away from the new, that he happened to be riding alone, wrapped in the dark cloak of unutterable thoughts. A distant bell chimed the last quarter of the dying year, and the snow which lay fine and crisp on the roadway was being caught up here and there by the puffs of sharp frosty wind that came snake-like through the hedges and the trees, whirling it on spectre-like in the chill and silver moonlight. But dark were his thoughts, for the world had failed him. Freedom had he sought, but not the freedom that he had gained. Blood seemed to ooze from his eyelids and trickle down, drop by drop, upon the white snow, writing on its pure surface the name of Christ. Great bats flitted by him, and vultures whose bald heads were clotted with rotten blood. ‘’Ah! the world, the world... the failure of the world’’. And then an amber light surged round him, the fearful tapestry of torturing thought was rent asunder, the voices of many angels sang to him. ‘’Master! Master!’’ he cried, ‘’I have found Thee... O silver Christ...’’

Then all was Nothingness... nothing... nothing... nothing; and madly his horse carried him into the night.

Thus he set out on his mystic quest towards that goal which he had seen, and which seemed so near, and yet, as we shall learn, proved to be so far away’.

[The Temple of Solomon the king. J.F.C.Fuller. 1909. The Equinox. Vol I. No 2]


It was almost one year previous to this important event that Crowley had his ‘Stockholm Revelation’ at approximately midnight on New Year’s Eve [Thursday 31st December] 1896. in which he ‘was admitted to the Military Order of the Temple’ [The Equinox of the Gods. P.111] and was ‘awakened to the knowledge that I possessed a magical means of becoming conscious of and satisfying a part of my nature which had up to that moment concealed itself from me. It was an experience of horror and pain, combined with a certain ghostly terror, yet at the same time it was the key to the purest and holiest spiritual ecstasy that exists’. [Confessions. P.124]
From this rather ambiguous passage we can gather that Crowley became aware of certain feelings within himself and that an encounter made him fully conscious of his bisexual character and his dual masculine and feminine nature. In fact, Crowley states in his often overlooked masterpiece ‘Not the life and adventures of Sir Roger Bloxam. A Novellisim’, [1916-1917] that he was skating in Sweden and knowing no-one there except the British minister and his wife,he soon began to tire of skating when he had a fall and was assissted to his feet by a Scotsman whom he names as James L. Dickson in the novellisim; this may or may not be his actual name, either way, they became aquainted and talked and ‘that night [Tuesday 29th December 1896] he dined with Sir Roger [Crowley]; the next night [Wednesday 30th December] Sir Roger dined with him; on New Year’s Eve [Thursday 31st December] he dined with Sir Roger again, and almost on the very stroke of the bell of St. Somebody’s Cathedral that rang the Old Year out – I don’t remember my Swedish Saints – he obtained the desired introduction to Porphyria Poppoea [Crowley’s anus, - from Chapter twenty-one, Roger Bloxam.]
I believe the Scottish ‘gentleman’ may have had sadistic tendancies for in the opening of the next chapter we read: ‘Porphyria Poppoea was perhaps a trifle sore at the rudeness of the Scotsman’. This may have awakened Crowley’s leanings towards masochism.
We also find in Crowley’s ‘White Stains’ of 1898 a curious little poem simply titled:

To J.L.D.

At last, so long desired, so long delayed,
The step is taken, and the threshold past;
I am within the palace I have prayed
At last.

Like scudding winds, when skies are overcast,
Came the soft breath of Love, that might not fade.
O Love, whose magic whispers bind me fast,

O Love, who hast the kiss of Love betrayed,
Hide my poor blush beneath thy pinions vast,
Since thou hast come, nor left me more a maid,
At last.

The encounter with James L Dickson [J.L.D.] is obviously an important event both sexually and spiritually in Crowley’s life.
We also read that a few nights later Sir Roger encounters a Swedish soldier whom he calls ‘Count Svendstrom’. The soldier picks Crowley up and at 11 p.m. seduces the young Crowley. On the following day we are told that he meets a number of other soldier officers and after lunch indulges in sexual exploits, taking on the ‘Household Cavalry’. I don’t think this is too far from the truth! [Roger Bloxam. Chapter twenty-two]

What time for language, when our kisses flow
Eloquent, warm, as words are cold and weak?-
Or now – Ah! sweetheart , even were it so
We could not speak!

[At Stockholm. White Stains. 1898]

On his return journey he stops off at Copenhagen in January of 1897 and there writes the poem ‘Astray in her paths’.
It’s strange but Crowley’s description of Pollitt appears rather cold and detached, writing in his Confessions that he was ‘rather plain than otherwise. His face was made tragic by the terrible hunger of the eyes and the bitter sadness of the mouth. He possessed one physical beauty – his hair. This was very plentiful and he wore it rather long. It was what is called a shock. But its colour was pale gold, like spring sunshine, and its texture of the finest gossamer. The relation between us was that ideal intimacy which the Greeks considered the greatest glory of manhood and the most precious prize of life’. [p.142] from reading this we are in no doubt as to the nature of the relationship for Crowley made it quite clear: ‘I lived with Pollitt as his wife for some six months and he made a poet out of me’. [Perdurabo by Richard Kaczynski. P.40] Crowley preferred the passive, feminine role during sexual intimacy. This can be seen in the Paris Working of 1914/15 with his magical assistant Victor Neuburg and he also admired the beautiful, strong woman who could dominate him sexually as he was somewhat drawn to masochistic tendencies.
Pollitt mixed in decadent, artistic circles and introduced Crowley to the works of Whistler and Beardsley. Crowley was probably being polite for the sake of his friendship with Pollitt , taking an interest in his passions and activities. Crowley had other things on his mind, such as his spiritual growth and his enquiring scientific mind would not stand still, and it would be these differences between them that would terminate the relationship.
‘My feelings for him [Pollitt] was an intensely pure flame of admiration mingled with infinite pity for his spiritual disenchantment. It was infinite because it could not even imagine a goal and dwelt wholly amid eternal things’. [Confessions. P.143]
‘To him I was a mind – no more. He never manifested the slightest interest in any of my occupations. He had no sympathy with any of my ambitions, not even my poetry, except in a very peculiar way, which I have never thoroughly understood. He showed an instinctive distrust of my religious aspirations, because he realized that sooner or later they would take me out of his reach. He had himself no hope or fear of anything beyond the material world. But he never tired of the originality of my point of view; of watching the way in which my brain dealt with every subject that came under discussion’. [Confessions. P.143]
It is plain to see that Crowley craved recognition for his achievements, especially from someone he loved and admired, but their paths were taking different courses and it is understandable that Crowley could not be content and contained by mere love alone, he was too immense a mind to subject himself to that sacrifice of the soul, no matter how strong that love, in the end it would be destructive.
‘My friendship with Pollitt in no way interferred with the current of my life. I went on reading, writing, climbing, skating, cycling and intriguing, as if I had never met him’. [Confessions. P.143]

By January 1898 Crowley was moving into new rooms at 14 Trinity Street, Cambridge and Pollitt would often be ‘at home with the poet’. John Symonds gives us a description of Crowley and his elegant rooms at Trinity: ‘he had taken to wearing pure silk shirts and great floppy bow-knotted ties; on his fingers were rings of semi-precious stones. An atmosphere of luxury, studiousness and harsh effort pervaded his rooms at Cambridge. Books covered the walls to the ceiling and filled four revolving walnut bookcases. They were largely on science and philosophy, with a modest collection of Greek and Latin classics, and a sprinkling of French and Russian novels. On one shelf shone the black and gold of The Arabian Nights of Richard Burton; below was the flat canvas and square label of the Kelmscott Chaucer. Valuable first editions of the British poets stood beside extravagantly bound volumes issued by Isidor Liseux. Over the door hung an ice-axe with worn-down spike and ragged shaft, and in the corner was a canvas bag containing a salmon rod. Leaded Staunton chessmen were in their mahogany box upon a card-table scattered with poker chips.’[Confessions. P.15]. We must not forget that Crowley came into his inheritance (of which he was really not prepared for) upon reaching the age of twenty-one [Monday 12th October 1896] and figures often quoted are forty to fifty thousand pounds which was ahuge amount at the time, and it may even have been a larger figure than this!
Crowley yet again tells us of Pollitt, that ‘He was in residence during the Easter term of 1898 and we saw each other almost every day. In the vacation he accompanied me to Wastdale Head and used to walk with me over the fells, though I could never persuade him to do any rock climbing’. [Confessions. P. 148]
Crowley was a natural climber and in the summer vacations of 1896 and 1897 he was climbing in the Alps, (also the summer of 1895 before his matriculation to Trinity College in October was spent climbing in the Alps). [4]
At Wasdale Crowley was reading Karl Von Eckartshousen’s [1752-1813] ‘The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary’ [1896] and the distance between Pollitt and Crowley was widening. [5]
When Crowley went down from Cambridge in the summer of 1898 after choosing not to take his degree, he decided to go to The Bear Hotel in Maidenhead where he would work on his poem ‘Jezebel’. But somehow Pollitt found out where he was staying and went after him. Crowley was not pleased by the interruption and so it would have been inevitable that Pollitt caused a scene. [6] It was here that Crowley ended the friendship with Pollitt, saying ‘I told him frankly and firmly that I had given my life to religion and that he did not fit into the scheme’. [Confessions. P.149] Crowley here is sacrificing the greatest love of his life for spiritual fulfilment, a nobel act and a selfish act –

‘It has been my lifelong regret, for a nobler and purer comradeship never existed on this earth’. [Confessions. P. 149]

Crowley records some of the events of his time with Pollitt in his ‘Roger Bloxam’: ‘Pray, think not so ill of my Porphyria Poppoea; for in all her loves she had one love, and that for all her life. He was a man with golden hair [Pollitt] so fine and pale, yet, glowing, that one thought of sun-rays incarnate in gossamer; and his face was like the harvest moon. He came up to his University every year; and there he met Sir Roger Bloxam [Crowley] at a club called the Knights of the Round Table. I must not tell his name: besides, would it sound sweet in your ears also? When he divined the presence of Porphyria Poppoea, he fell instant in love with her, and dared not speak, because he feared to offend Sir Roger Bloxam! ‘Twas in a week of revelry, and this man played and danced for a dramatic club. Will god not give me a name for him? Some name of angel strength and sweetness? Surely Porphyria yearned for him as Phoedra for Hippolytus – Let that, then, serve! Well, the week parted and we did not see Sir Roger again. But when he left, he left a book, the ‘Legendes des Sexes of Edouard d’ Haraucourt’, the Sieur de Chamblay [7], and in it he wrote five words. These words mean nothing: a chess-player might have used them in the beginning to enumerate his pieces; but when Sir Roger Bloxam read them, Porphyria Poppoea divined that Hippolytus [Pollitt] loved her. She was a nymph of excellent modesty, and impudence unmatched – o paradox sublime of God’s invention! She lusted nobly for all love, and gave herself utterly and shamelessly; yet, despite herself, she acted in true Panic fear at the approach of her God. Thus, urgently desiring Sir Roger to take her to the Lake where Hippolytus had his palace, she forced the good Knight to fly with her to Amsterdam; thence only she dictated letters so fiercely burning that her whole soul was lost in them. Safe, she became bold. Yet, by his letters, mocking and provoking, yet eager as hers, he drew her to him. Oh but she must turn to him Heliotrope! Thus she came back to England. And Sir Roger must perforce meet Hippolytus at the Queen Hotel in Birmingham.’’What a place for a romance! You jest!’’ oh love knows not of time and space – Always the time and place and the loved one all together! Sir Roger registered in the hotel book: at that moment Hippolytus walked in. ‘’Hullo, monkey tricks!’’ cried he; and Porphyria Poppoea’s soul went into shuddering blackness; for in his manner was no hint of all he had written. She was not loved! And after dinner he sat talking in his room with Sir Roger – endlessly! It was the last day of the Old Year – the last hour – Heaven and Hell in her heart. Sir Roger went to bed early, thank the Gods. And she – she could not sleep. But ere the midnight car of Helius crossed the nadir Hippolytus had come into the room where she was, and possessed her’. [Not the life and adventures of Sir Roger Bloxam. Chapter twenty-nine. P. 30-31]

Also during that summer of 1898 Crowley went climbing in Zermat, Switzerland and he met Oscar Eckenstein [1859-1921] the rock climber and mountaineer who was to be a great influence upon Crowley [8] Also during this vacation he met the chemist Julian l. Baker and another chemist named George Cecil Jones [9] Crowley had a slight illness and on returning to London visited his Doctor and took a room at the Hotel Cecil where he wrote poetry and read some literature on the occult. He wrote the poem ‘Jephthah’ and most of the poems from that collection.

Crowley is also thinking of Pollitt in 1898 after his November initiation into the Golden Dawn [10], and he writes these two cruel sonnets: [11]

Sonnets (1)

To the author of the phrase: ‘I am not a
Gentleman and I have no friends’.



I.

Self-damned, the leprous moisture of thy veins
Sickens the sunshine, and thine haggard eyes,
Bleared with their own corrupting infamies,
Glare through the charnel-house of earthly pains.
Horrible as already in hell. There reigns
The terror of the knowledge of the lies
That mock thee, thy death’s double destinies
Clutch at the throat that sobs, and chokes, and strains.
Self-damned on earth, live out thy tortured days,
That men may look upon thy face, and see
How vile a thing of woman born may be.
Then, we are done with thee, go, go thy ways
To other hells, thou damned of God hereafter,
‘Mid men’s contempt and hate and pitiless laughter.

II.

Lust, impotence, and knowledge of thy soul,
And that foreknowledge, fill the fiery lake
Of lava where thy lazar corpse shall break
The burning surface to seek out a goal
More horrible, unspeakable. The scroll
Opens, and coward, liar, monster shake
Those other names of goat and swine and snake
Where with hell’s worms caress thee and control.
Nay, but alone, intolerably alone,
Alone, as here, thy carrion soul shall swelter,
Yearning in vain for sleep, or death, or shelter;
No release possible, no respite known!
Self-damned, without a friend, thy eternal place
Sweats through the painting of thy harlot’s face.

At the hour of the eclipse,
Wednesday, Dec. 28.

1. The virulence of these sonnets is excusable when it is known that their aim was to destroy the influence in Cambridge of a man who headed in that University a movement parallel to that which at Oxford was associated with the name of Oscar Wilde. They had their effect.

The sonnets were included in the first volume of Crowley’s collected works and were probably written just after midnight on the occurrence of the total lunar eclipse which happened between Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th December 1898. The break-up between them which took place a few months previously is still very fresh on Crowley’s mind.

Even two years later, on New Year’s Eve [Sunday 31st December 1899] Crowley is still under the spell of Pollitt and between the hours of 10 and 11 p.m. he does a magical operation ‘to destroy the shell, i.e. to exorcise my Qliphoth [base emotions] about P_______ [Pollitt] and so either to cure or kill, as alive or dead respectively’. [From records kept between November 1898 and New Year’s Day 1899]
In Crowley’s ‘The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz’ [Bagh-I-Muattar] of 1910 in the introductory essay by the Reverend P D Carey [Crowley] the poet cannot help but drift into a lament for the loss of his great love – Pollitt!

‘shall I find you, sweet acolyte of Salmacis or of
Terpsichore, of Bacchus or sabrina? Will it be you on
yonder bank of yellow moss by the sunspangled rivulet
that tumbles noisily from the throne of God? Will it be
you with your fine golden hair like spiders’ webs in the
sun, changed to an aureole, and your seductive face still
as ever the incarnation of one single never-ending scarlet
kiss? Will yours be the long pale hands to mould my
body to your liking; and yours the faithful, the unfailing
member that never said me nay?

Oh come to me there, darling! Lean upon the golden
Rampart, and watch for me to come! Be first to meet me,
Sweetheart! Forgive me for all the wrong I did you here.
I will try and be a good wife to you, darling, if you will
Give me one more chance to hold your love. I had heaven
In your kisses, and I went to seek it in the cloister.

I loved you always; it was but a boy’s folly; forgive me!
I may never cling to you on earth again: pray God that
Heaven may be one long, long life of such bliss as we
Had of one another long ago by yon slow stream on
Whose banks I have wandered (many a time since)
Crying like a lost soul concerning you in the words
Of Milton lamenting his beauteous-buttocked Lycidas
“Oh! Who hath reft my dearest pledge?” Alas! Neither
Fate nor God could I accuse: the dread hollow voice of
My own stricken soul answered me “Thine own folly,
Thou miserable of the fortunate of the sons of men!”
Ah! but I beat my breast – in vain – in vain!

Ay! The joy we had of each other under those
Blue-grey hills! Do you remember the day of the
Storm, when we huddled under the rocks, and lit a
Fire of bracken and pine twigs? How you stripped me
By force – for I was afraid, and jealous, and
Coquettish – and took your pleasure of me, thrice in
The one delirious hour? By the memory of that cave,
I conjure you, be first to meet me in the Elysian fields!’

[An essay by the reverend P.D.Carey (Crowley). The Scented Garden of Abdullah]

In a later poem called ‘The Riddle’ included in Crowley’s ‘The Scented Garden of Abdullah’ (the Bagh-i-Muattar) of 1910, Pollitt’s name is spelt out from the first letter of each line:

‘Habib hath heard; let all Iran
          who spell aright from A to Z
Exalt thy fame and understand
          with whom I made a marriage-bed;
Resort to tool-and-podex play
          till all the world in tears is shed
Before the sword of Azrael,
          the trump of Israfel the dread,
Exalt, exalt our love at last
          among the living and the dead,
Resort to love, and press its purple
          calix with His purple head,
Till fall the pearls with rubies strong,
          the dews upon the dawn that bled.
Crimson, o lover, was our love,
          and crimson streams the sunset past;
Hyacinthine glows the vault of night,
          the Future certain, sure to last.
Accept the gold of noon that pours
          its white-hot flood, its radient blast!
Rampant within thy podex take
          this member, stiffer than a mast.
Lively as love itself, supreme
          in pride stupendous in the vast!
Even the present gold and white,
          the moment ever fleeting fast,
Surrendered never! this delight
          the Venus-throw hath surely cast.
Jehannum shall exclaim ‘Habib!’
          and light inform its murky fire,
Entrancing all the ghouls to love,
          waking the Shaitans to desire!
Rejoicing souls in Paradise
          shall spurn the Hur al Ayn with ire,
Opening their lips in pangs of woe,
          offering their souls in pawn to hire!
Men from the utmost desert lands
          shall spur their steeds through sand and mire,
Even to look upon the face
          immortal from this lewdly lyre.
Perfect, Habib, my magic song;
          perfect our loves for ever are:
Olibanum and ambergris,
          nargis and rose of the ‘attar,
Lily and lilac, thus they rise
          in fragrance to the morning star.
Light springs and libertyb is fair –
          o break the intoxicating jar!
It is enough that thou art Near,
          the shamer of the foolish Far
To glut thy jasmine podex on
          the member of thine El Qahar;
To glut thine almond member in
          the podex of thine El Qahar.’

And in the following poem XLII ‘Bagh-I-Muattar’ Crowley does the same with his own name spelt out at the beginning of each line, but from bottom to top.

We tend to view Crowley like some colossus, confident with an air of mystery surrounding him, but we must remember that Crowley was in his early twenties when he first met Pollitt, and he had not yet made a name for himself in the world and was fresh from the stifled atmosphere of the Plymouth Brethren. He was a young man, naive in many ways but a man of strong passions and deep intellect. He excelled at chess, poetry and mountaineering but found it difficult to apply himself whole-heartedly to a subject, until of course he discovered the occult. In later life he was a man who raged against the church and authority and conducted his own way through life in accordance to his will, but as a young man he was prone to solitude in some romantic sense of isolation with a deep admiration for Shelley

Of man’s delight and man’s desire
In one thing is now weariness –
To feel the fury of the fire,
And writhe within the close caress
Of fierce embrace, and wanton kiss,
And final nuptial done aright,
How sweet a passion, shame, is this,
A strong man’s love is my delight!

[White Stains. 1898]

The late eighteen-nineties are a fascinating period in Crowley’s life and a time of much spiritual growth, yet the one true light in his life at the time was Jerome, of whom he admired with such passion and tenderness that he called their intimacy a ‘marriage’. The loss of this light in his life can be seen as a major factor in all his future relationships, for he was always searching for a man like Pollitt – ‘shortly after his arrival in New York, Crowley recorded in his diary his hope of attracting to himself a man like Jerome Pollitt, the love of his Cambridge youth.’ [Do What Thou Wilt: a life of Aleister Crowley. Laurence Sutin. 2000. P. 245]. Sadly, Crowley would never again find such a being as Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt!


Notes:

1. Crowley’s address at this time [1895-1897] was 16 St John’s Street, Cambridge. Crowley also lived or spent time at the following addresses:

1875. 30 Clarendon Square, Leamington, Warwickshire.
11th June 1881. The Crowley family move to The Grange, Redhill, Surrey.
1883. White Rock School (also known as 'Habershon's Prep School'), 10 Pevensey Road,
St Leonards on Sea.
1885. Ebor School, 51 Bateman Street, Cambridge.
1886. The Crowley family move to Glenburnie House, 27 Hill Lane, Southampton.
1887. Thistle Grove (now Drayton Gardens), Brompton, London.
1889 (approximately). Polworth Road, London, SW16.
1891-92. (Middle Term). Crowley attends Malvern College, Worcester for three terms.
Summer 1892. Sligachan Inn, Skye.
1892. Crowley attends Tonbridge School, Kent, for Lent, Summer and Christmas terms.
Jan-July 1894. Crowley attends Eastbourne College, East Sussex.
Oct 1895. 16 St John's Street, Cambridge, as an undergraduate.
31st December 1897. Queen’s Hotel, Birmingham, Warwickshire.
1897-98. 35 Sidney Street, Cambridge.
Jan 1898. 14 Trinity Street, Cambridge.
May 1898. 37 Trinity Street, Cambridge.
1898. The Bear Hotel, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
1898. Hotel Cecil, The Strand, Piccadilly.
18th November 1898. 6 p.m. Initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as a Neophyte at the Isis-Urania Temple, Mark Mason's Hall, Great Queen's Street, London.
Late 1898. 67 & 69 Chancery Lane, London.
Nov 1899. Boleskine House, Inverness, Scotland.
July 1900. Rented part of a house in Mexico overlooking the Alameda.
1900. Hotel Iturbide, Mexico.
8th March 1902. Hotel de Paris, Benares.
14th March 1904. Rented a ground floor flat of a corner house in Cairo near the Boulak Museum.
17th Sept & 9th Oct 1906. Ashdown Park Hotel, Coulsdon, Surrey.
1907. 21 Warwick Road, Earls Court, London.
24th March 1907. 60 Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, London.
3rd July 1907. Hotel Bristol, Gibraltar.
6th July 1907. Hotel Continental, Tangier.
12th Sept 1907. Hotel Sandwich, Guilford.
Jan 1908. Hotel de Blois, 50 Rue Vavin, Paris, France.
20th Nov 1909. Hotel de L'Oasis, Tablat, Algeria.
21st Nov 1909. Hotel Roussea, Bir-Rabalou (now Bir-Ghabalou) Algeria.
22nd Nov 1909. Hotel Grossat, Aumale (now Sour El Ghozlane) Algeria.
24th Nov 1909. Hotel des Messageries, Sidi-Aissa, Algeria.
1910. 124 Victoria Street, London.
May 1910. Rempstone Manor, Dorset, the home of Commander Guy Marston where Crowley performed the Evocation of Bartzabel, the spirit of Mars, on 9th May.
Summer 1911. Hotel de blois, 50 Rue Vavin, Paris, France.
21st Nov 1911. National Hotel, Zurich, Switzerland.
1911. Palace Hotel, St Moritz, Switzerland.
1911. Vanne Rouge Inn, Montigny, on the bank of the Loing, France.
1912. 33 Avenue Studios, Fulham, London.
Dec 1914. 40, West 36th Street, New York, U.S.A.
23rd June 1916. Four months spent at the home of Evangeline Adams - The Adams Cottage, lake Pasquaney, near Bristol, New Hampshire, U.S.A.
1917. 110 Street, Central Park West, Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.
Oct 1917. Studio on West 9th Street, New York, U.S.A.
1918. 1 University Place, Washington, U.S.A.
Summer 1918. Camp on Esopus Island in the Hudson River, U.S.A.
1918. 63 Washington Square South, New York, U.S.A. [6 months]
Nov 1919. 57 Grand River Avenue, West Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
Dec 1919. At the home of his aunt at 505 Eton Lodge, Outram Road, Croydon. [until Jan 1920]
2nd April 1920. At the Abbey of Thelema, Cefalu, until his expulsion in April 1922.
Feb 1922. Au Cadran Bleu (Inn), Fontainebleu, France.
1922. 31 Wellington Street, Chelsea, London.
11th May 1923. Hotel Eymon, Tunis.
May 1923. Au Souffle du Zephir Hotel, Marsa, Tunisia.
25th July 1923. Tunisia Palace Hotel, Tunisia.
Autumn 1923. Hotel du Djerid, Nefta, Tunisia.
May 1924. Au Cadran Bleu (Inn), Chelles-Sur-Marne, Paris, France.
1926-27. 55 Avenue de Suffren, Paris, France.
June-1st Aug 1930. 89 Park Mansions, Knightsbridge, London.
July 1932. 27 Albermarle Street, Mayfair, London.
26th Sept 1932. 20 Leicester Square, London.
July 1933. 40 Cumberland Terrace, London.
1936-37. Room 6, 56 Welbeck Street, London.
17th July 1937. Crowley stays at the home of Edward Noel FitzGerald at Camber Sands.
Aug 1937. 59 Great Ormond Street, London.
June 1938. 6 Hasker Street, London. [until Feb 1939]
1939. 20 Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, London.
1939. 24 Chester Terrace, London.
Sept 1939. 57 Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey.
1940. The Gardens, Middle Warberry Road, Torquay.
12th Jan 1941. Grand Hotel, Torquay.
March 1941. Barton Brow, Great Hill Road, Torquay.
May 1941. 41 Isaacs Road, Barton, Torquay.
June 1941. Thames Hotel, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
21st Oct 1941. 10 Hanover Square, London.
1941-42. 14 Lassell Gardens, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
7th May 1942. 140 Hamilton House, Piccadilly, London.
1943. 93 Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, London.
April 1944. The Bell Inn, Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire. [until Jan 1945]
Jan 1945. Room 13, Netherwood, The Ridge, Hastings, where he died on 1st Dec 1947.

2. Herbert Charles Pollitt was christened on Wednesday 23rd August 1871 at Saint George’s Church, Kendal, Westmorland.

3. Dr Charles George Lamb M. A. , BSc, A.M.I.E.E., of Clare College, Cambridge, born 1867, died 4th May 1941. Lamb was emeritus reader in electrical engineering in the University of Cambridge. He originally wanted to be a professional musician but the early death of his father made this impracticable. He studied at the University of London, attending courses in zoology but decided to study electrical engineering at the City and Guilds College, where as a student he helped test the first alternating current transformer in Great Britain. After his graduation (and an M.A. degree in physics) he went to Cambridge in 1891 to assist Sir Alfred Ewing in his researches on the magnetic properties of iron. That same year he was appointed University demonstrator in mechanism and applied mechanics, a post he held until he was appointed University Lecturer in electrical engineering in 1903, [from his obituary in ‘Nature’ 147, p702-703. June 7th 1941]. His books include: ‘Examples in Applied Electricity’ 1912; ‘Alternating Currents – a text book for students of engineering’. 1906; ‘Notes on Magnetism for the use of students of elecrical engineering’ 1932. Lamb possibly had some interest in the paranormal because in January 1926 he took part in a seance at the Headquarters of the British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR) with the medium Willy Schneider. The seance was organised by the researcher Dr E. J. Dingwall (1890-1986) and in attendance along with Lamb was a professional magician named Douglas Dexter. The results of the seance are that some supernatural effects did indeed occur. So it is possible that on the night of 7th December 1897 Crowley and Lamb were discussing ‘occult’ matters and ideas on the nature of electricity to which Crowley would have become very animated and possibly even made some magical/mental experiment which caused some sort of trance state.

4. During his 1895 vacation in Switzerland Crowley climbed the Eiger, the Jungfraugoch, Monch, Jungfrau, Wetterlucke, Monchjoch, Beichgrat, Petersgrat and the Tschingelhorn.

5. Crowley stayed at the Wastwater Hotel (now The Wasdale Head Inn) from 14th March - 18th April 1898.

6. After they parted Crowley wrote Pollitt a letter of apology but he did not send it. They spoke on a few occasions until one day Pollitt saw Crowley walking down Bond Street, London. Crowley did not acknowledge Pollitt and swore he did not see him but they would never speak again.

7. Edmond Haroucourt [1856-1941]. French poet, novelist and composer who wrote ‘The Legend of the Sexes – hysterical and profane poems’ published 1882 under the pseudonym ‘Sir Chamblay’.

8. Eckenstein was the leader of the first 1902 attempt to climb K2 by the Northeast Ridge. Aleister Crowley was also a member of the expedition (see The Confessions for an account of the expedition).

9. Julian Levett Baker born Camberwell 1873, died 1958 aged 84, Maidenhead. Baker became a member [neophyte] of the Golden Dawn in 1894 taking the magical motto Frater D.A. he progressed to be an Adeptus Minor on 10th March 1896. George Cecil Jones born Croydon 1873, died 1953 (or 1960). Jones became a member [neophyte] of the Golden Dawn on 12th July 1895 taking the magical motto ‘Volo Noscere’ and he became an Adeptus Minor on 11th January 1897. Both men were an early influence on Crowley’s magical training, especially astral visions, and Jones introduced Crowley to the Golden Dawn.

10. Friday 18th November 1898 (6 p.m.). Crowley became a Neophyte [0=0]at the Isis-Urania Temple, Mark Mason’s Hall, Great Queen’s Street, London, in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, taking the magical name ‘Perdurabo’ (I will endure unto the end). Crowley’s other grades are as follows: December 1898 Zelator [1=10], January 1899 Theoricus [2=9], February 1899 Practicus [3=8], May 1899 in Paris (where he met Mathers for the first time) Philosophus [4=7]; on Monday 15th January 1900 in Paris Crowley was admitted to the second order of the Golden Dawn and on the next day (Tuesday 16th January) he became an Adeptus Minor [5=6] a ‘Lord of the paths in the Portal of the Vault of the Adepts’ taking the magical motto ‘Parzival’. After receiving Liber Al vel Legis (the Book of the Law) in Cairo on April 8th, 9th and 10th 1904 Crowley claimed the grade ofAdeptus Major [6=5] taking the motto ‘Ol Sonuf Vaoresagi’ (from the first call or key of the enochian, meaning ‘I reign over ye’. In 1909 he became an Adeptus Exemptus [7=4], his motto ‘OU MH’; on Friday 3rd December 1909 Magister Templi [8=3], his motto V.V.V.V.V. (Vi Veri Vniversum Vivus Vici – ‘By the force of truth, I, while living, have cinquered the universe’). 12th October (Crowley’s 40th birthday) 1915 Magus [9=2] taking the motto ‘To Mega Therion’ (The Great Beast) and in April/May 1921 aged 45, he became the Ipsissimus [10=1] at the Abbey of Thelema, Cefalu, Sicily.

11. 1898 was also the year Crowley self-published his first major poem ‘Aceldama – a place to bury strangers in’. The ‘philosophical’ poem consists of 32 stanzas and appeared during the last term at Trinity [only 88 copies were printed]. The poem was quickly followed by other publications in 1898: ‘The Tale of Archais’, ‘Songs of the Spirit’, ‘The Poem’, ‘Mysteries: Lyrical and Dramatic’, and ‘Jephthah and Other Mysteries’; these last two were shown to the poet W. B. Yeats in the spring of 1899.

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