Saturday, 19 May 2018

RAOUL LOVEDAY: THE CEFALU POET


 


ADONIS


THE CEFALU POET
By
Barry Van-Asten

 
'Tis magick, magick, that has ravished me.*

 
 
 
Raoul Loveday

 

 

 



 



‘Loveday, when he was a scholar of St John’s College, Oxford, was a stocky, untidy, carelessly dressed young man. Beneath his short hair, which was cut en brosse, he had a merry rather than a good-looking face, with bright blue eyes of incredible innocence.
He was a good soccer player and a spectacular climber. After the college gates were closed at midnight, he regularly climbed in and out. His feat of climbing the Martyrs’ Memorial and cementing an enamel chamber-pot to the top won him a romantic fame throughout the university.’

[The Magic of my Youth. The Adonis of Cefalu. Arthur Calder-Marshall. 1950. p. 110.]
 



Frederick Charles Loveday was born in Rangoon on 3rd July 1900 and he was christened sixteen days later. He was one of three children [Frederick had two sisters named Nellie and May] to George Loveday (born 1859) a Royal Navy Petty Officer and Amelia Ann Lewendon (born 21st January 1859) in Newington, Surrey. George and Ann were married on 1st October 1882 at St Saviour’s Church, Denmark Park, Middlesex.
As a child in Rangoon, young ‘Raoul’ caught malaria and when the family moved to England, they lived at 112 Barry Road, East Dulwich, South London.
On 2nd August 1918 eighteen year old ‘Raoul’ enlisted in the Officers Training Corps at London’s Inns of Court, a volunteer battalion and part of London’s Territorial Force in Berkhamsted, Berkshire, from September 1914-June 1919.
Following this he became an undergraduate of St John’s College, Oxford where he studied History and enjoyed writing poetry and playing football. It was here that his interest in the occult began. He was also a member of the Hypocrites Club, a philosophical discussion group at Oxford University and Raoul became the club’s secretary. The club was founded in 1921 and they met at rooms in a house in St Aldates; the club was closed in May 1925. On one occasion while Raoul was out of college after hours he tried to climb back in but slipped and impaled his thigh on an iron gate railing. He left Oxford in 1922, graduating with a 1st Class Degree in History.
In Oxford Raoul was living at 2 London Place, St Clemente and in 1922 he married Betty May; they had met at Soho's 'Harlequin Club' some weeks previous to their marriage.
 
Betty May

Betty May was born Betty Marlow Golding in 1895 in London’s Limehouse and she was the daughter of George Golding and Emily Finney. Betty became an artist’s model and she had been living in Paris and was frequently using drugs, mostly cocaine. Her first husband, Miles L Atkinson (they married at St Marylebone, London in the summer of 1914) was a drug addict and after he died Betty married George D K Waldron at St Martin’s in London during the autumn of 1916. George divorced Betty because of her drug use.
Betty and Raoul were married at the Registry Office in Oxford in September 1922 and a photo of the couple was taken in St John’s College gardens. In October 1922 the young couple were living in Fitzroy Street.
At Oxford, Raoul had been studying The Equinox from 1920 until he graduated in 1922, the same year that Raoul met Betty Bickers, the wife of Sheridan Bickers who contributed to The Equinox. It was through Bickers that Roaul met Aleister Crowley as he was staying with Bickers at her home 31 Wellington Square, London. Raoul called on Crowley alone and did not return home to Beak Street, Soho and to his wife Betty, in fact he spent three days with Crowley, taking ether. Betty had already met Crowley in 1914 at the Cafe Royal and was decidedly unimpressed with the magician. It wasn’t long after the great meeting of Raoul and Crowley that the younger man lost all ambition in having an academic career and his mind became obsessed with Crowley and the study of magick. Seeing the huge potential Raoul had for magick, Crowley invited him (and Betty) to the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu.
In mid October 1922 Crowley departed for Cefalu, stopping off in Rome where he wrote to Raoul: 'I hope you will come p.d.q. and bring Betty. I honestly tell you that the best hope for your married life is to get out of the sordid atmosphere of 'Bohemian London...' By 4th November Crowley was at his Abbey.
A magician named Robinson Smith, a retired concert agent whom Crowley met at Austin Harrison's house at Seaford, paid the Loveday's fare to Cefalu. After Raoul and Betty visited Nina Hamnett (1890-1956) in Paris, they travelled to the Abbey, arriving on Sunday 26th November 1922. The next day, Monday 27th November, Crowley assisted Raoul and Betty as they climbed the Great Rock of Cefalu. 
For the next few weeks Raoul studied his magical work performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual daily and some visionary work which he showed great progress in. At the Abbey, Raoul acted as the High Priest during ritual work.
Raoul became a Probationer of Crowley’s Magical Order the AAand he took the magical name Frater Aud (Magic Light) at the winter Solstice [Friday 22nd December]. Betty didn’t enjoy life at the Abbey, finding it dirty and she could not get on with Crowley or Ninette Shumway.
 

Crowley and Leah with the children at the Abbey
 
 
One day, Betty and Raoul went for a long walk to visit a nearby monastery and after Crowley told them not to drink the water but Raoul with great thirst drank from a spring. During the beginning of February, Raoul was struck by malaria and was very weak. 'On Saturday morning, 10th February, the Virgin Guardian of the Sangraal [the Scarlet Woman, Leah Hirsig] returned from shopping in the town and found Crowley, Betty, Ninette, Jane, and Raoul assembled in the courtyard. A violent quarrel between Betty and Ninette was in progress. Crowley took Betty's side. Jane listened in silence. Raoul was too ill to say anything. Finally, the row, which had risen out of Betty's calling Ninette a slut, simmered down, and everyone fell in with the Beast's call for greater discipline in the Abbey.' [The Great Beast. John Symonds]

The next day, the evening of Sunday 11th February, Betty left the Abbey and asked Raoul to send her passport the following day. Crowley had found her reading a newspaper which was strictly forbidden at the Abbey. Betty went to Palermo. Raoul wrote a letter to Betty to persuade her to return:

 
 
 'My most dear Betty,
 
 

Let us try to get all this silly business finished. We managed to get on well enough till a few days ago. If you will come back to the Abbey and get yourself under control, and do as I tell you, you will find that things will be all right. Certainly no one wants you to stay away. I won't go to the hospital because the nuns there are mere ornaments and in any case I am not in a fit state to be moved. Moreover, I don't want to go - and I won't. Write me a note saying if you will come back. If you won't you had better send for your bag. There is no one here to take it. But be a good girl and come.
 
Always yours,
 
Raoul.'
 
[The Great Beast. John Symonds]

Also on the same day, Sunday 11th February, Raoul wrote a letter to his parents  which Betty posted for him, the letter explained that he had been suffering from malaria for 'about ten days now and it has left me as weak as water. As you see I have had to get Betty to write this letter for me. The doctor here is giving me various things but I do not seem to be making much headway. I trust, however, that by the time you get this letter I shall be quite well. Betty, herself has been unable to keep anything in her stomach for the last week but I think she is just on the turn now. I believe that the air or the water or something here, perhaps the place, does not agree with me.'
 
Jane [Wolfe] called on Betty at the Hotel in Cefalu the next day, Monday 12th February, and a little later at 11 a.m. Leah Hirsig turned up with Raoul's letter and so Betty returned to the Abbey that day  sometime after noon to be with her husband, Raoul.

Jane Wolfe and Leah Hirsig at the Abbey

 
On Tuesday 13th February Crowley recorded in his diary that he felt 'a current of Magical Force - heavy, black and silent - threatening the Abbey.' [The Great Beast. John Symonds] But the next day [Wednesday] Raoul became much worse and Dr Maggio was called for and he diagnosed acute enteritis. Crowley sent a telegram to Raoul's parents explaining his condition. Raoul Loveday, ‘Frater Aud’ died of enteritis on Friday 16th February 1923 at 4 p.m. at the Abbey of Thelema. He was swiftly placed into a coffin, about an hour after his death and that night the coffin was placed in an outhouse while Crowley kept vigil over it all night, uttering prayers for the young Thelemite. He was buried the next day [Saturday 17th February] outside the Catholic cemetery in non consecrated ground. Crowley led the proceedings for Raoul’s ‘Greater Feast’ with Betty, Jane [Wolfe], Ninette [Shumway], Leah and Leah's son Howard in attendance. Raoul was the first Thelemite to die in the Aeon of Horus. His parents later had his body exhumed and brought back to England for re-burial.  Following the funeral, Crowley retired to his bed where he remained for a month suffering sickness and fever.

The hearse which took Raoul to the cemetery.
Inset: Kenneth Anger at the Abbey in 1955
 
 
 
The hearse once more! Picture Post. 1955
 


Betty May left Cefalu on Tuesday 20th February and returned to England. Her fare was paid by the British Consul at Palermo.
On Friday 23rd February Crowley writes a letter to his friend and follower, Frank Bennett - Frater Progradior, saying that he has 'been quite seriously ill for 6 weeks or more, only on one or two days able to leave my bed. My principle assistant here, Frater AUD, a boy of 22, the most brilliantly promising magician I ever even dreamt of, came here on Nov. 26 and died last Friday. It is an absolute knock-down blow. I had built the greatest hopes on him as a helper. He had just come down from Oxford with First Class honours in History, he understood the Law, the principles of Magick and Yoga almost, as it were, by instinct.'
On Sunday 22nd April 1923 following the arrival of Norman Mudd that day came two Oxford undergraduates named John Pinney, of Christ Church and Claud Bosanquet of New College. They came to investigate the Abbey following the death of their friend and fellow student Raoul Loveday, whom they believed may have died under suspicious circumstances. They stayed for three nights and had a delightful time climbing with Crowley and found no truth in the claims of wickedness at the Abbey. On Wednesday 25th February 1925 the front page of the Sunday Express had the headline: 'New Sinister Revelations of Aleister Crowley' and Betty May was laying the blame for Raoul's death at Crowley's door!
In 1929 Betty May published her autobiography ‘Tiger-Woman: My Story’. Sometime in the nineteen-thirties Betty married again and was Betty May Sedgwick living in Hampstead and in the nineteen-fifties there was a fifth and final marriage to a gentleman named Bailey.
 

 




 




Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law
Love is the law, love under will
 

 








Having read so much about the poet and disciple of Aleister Crowley, Raoul Loveday (1900-1923) and found much of it inaccurate or incomplete I decided to research the Loveday family and to create an embryonic tree perhaps for future research and reference. The first port of call was to the census!
 
In the 1911 census the Loveday family are living in Camberwell, East Dulwich. The head of the household is George Loveday, aged 50, born 1859 in Lambeth, London, a ‘Naval Pensioner’. His wife, Amelia Loveday nee Lewendon, is also 50 years old, born 1859 in Newington, London (although she is entered as ‘Southwark’ on the census). Daughters Nellie, aged 15, born 1895 in ‘Portsmouth’, ‘an apprentice’, and May, aged 14, born 1896 in ‘Portsmouth’ and is a ‘pupil attending school’. Then we find young Frederick Charles Loveday, aged 10, born in Rangoon, Burma, also a ‘pupil attending school’. The Lovedays have two boarders staying with them: Alice Hardy aged 40, a widow born in Mogi Japan listed as a ‘visitor’, and Cecil H Hardy aged 17, born in Ivybridge, Devonshire, who is a ‘boy clerk’.
 
 
 
We can assume that the Lovedays were not in England for the 1901 census and so we turn to the Lewendon family:
 
 
 
 
In the 1861 census we find the family living at Forty Acres, Kingston, Surrey. Charles Lewendon, the head of the household is 33 years old, born 1828 at Whitechurch, Oxfordshire and he is a bricklayer by profession. His wife Sarah is 30 years old, born in 1831 in Kingston, Surrey. They have three daughters: Elizabeth aged 9, born in 1852 in Kingston, Surrey and she is a ‘scholar’; Emma aged 7 born in 1854 in ‘London’ and Amelia aged 4, born in 1857 in ‘London’.
In the 1871 census they are still living in Kingston, Surrey, Charles is 37, still a bricklayer and he is born in ‘Hill Bolton, Oxfordshire’ – the census is not reliable for accuracy of birth details! His wife Sarah is 37, Amelia Ann is a scholar born 1859, and there is also Rose Lewendon, 10 years old, Alice aged 6, Charles aged 3 and Alfred aged 1, all born in Kingston, Surrey.
Ten years later in the 1881 census the family have moved to Ulverscroft Road in Camberwell, London. Charles, the head of the family is 46 and a bricklayer, his wife Sarah is also 46 and a laundress; the children all born in Kingston, Surrey, are: Elizabeth aged 26 born in 1855 is a ‘Cook (domestic)’, Amelia is 21and a ‘Barmaid (Inn Servant)’, Alice is 16 and a ‘Nursemaid (domestic)’, Charles is 13, Alfred is 11, George is 8 and Clara is 4. Also living at the address is Charles Lewendon’s father (Amelia’s Grandfather and Raoul’s Great Grandfather) George Lewendon, a widower aged 60, born in 1821 in Oxford and a bricklayer by profession.
 
 


A SONG OF TOWN


 
 
Sing now of London
At fall of dusk;
A summer dragonfly
Crept from the husk.
Dragonfly, on whose wing
Run golden wires;
So, down a street pavement,
Lamps throw their fires.
Dragonfly, whose wing is pricked
By many a spark;
Electric eyes of taxis
Bright through the dark.
Dragonfly, whose life is
Cold and brief as dew,
Drone now for London dusk,
Soon dead too.
 
[Raoul Loveday. St John’s. Oxford Poetry. 1922. P. 26.]
 
 
 
 

THE MARRIAGE OF RAOUL AND BETTY
 
The signatures of Raoul and Betty
on their marriage certificate
 
 
Raoul and Betty were married at the Oxford Registry Office on Sunday 3rd September 1922. Raoul, or Frederick Charles to give his birth name, is 22 years old and he gives his profession as ‘author’; he is living at 50 Walton Crescent, Oxford and his father, George Loveday is described as a ‘civil servant’. Betty May Golding is 25 years old and living at the Golden Cross Hotel, Cornmarket Street, Oxford; her father George Golding (deceased) is stated as an ‘artist’ under father’s profession.
Raoul requested special leave from Oxford University for the weekend which was granted and Betty May says of the momentous day in her autobiography ‘Tiger Woman’ published in 1929:
‘We were married, in Oxford, shortly before the end of the summer term. Once again I stood in front of the registrar (1) – this time, however, in my own shoes. Raoul, less experienced than I, was extremely nervous, and at the crisis of the ceremony dropped the ring, which rolled into a corner of the room. One of the witnesses crawled after it and stood dusting his trousers for the rest of the time. (2) Raoul’s hand trembled as he slipped the ring onto my finger at the second attempt. I left the office feeling slightly uneasy. Had the dropping of the ring anything to do with the Princess Amen Ra? (3) I knew it was an evil omen. Was my marriage again going to be a failure?
On the day of our marriage [Sunday 3rd September 1922] a thing happened which although even at the time it filled me with a certain foreboding, I never imagined would return to me in such circumstances of horror. We were walking through the gardens of St. John’s and someone suggested taking a photograph of us both. We stood beneath one of the trees there and he took a snap. When this photograph was printed there was the ghostly form of a slim young man lying just over my husband’s head. It was as though the form was asleep or dead, and the arms were raised slightly behind the head, while the head drooped gently to one side. At the time I remember we were amused by this “spook” photograph, but I felt an indescribable feeling of anxiety, even though I laughed at it. Later on in my story you will learn how my fears were justified and how amazing a warning this was of what was to come.
That evening a party of us went to one of the dance halls forbidden to undergraduates. It was rather a sordid place, with a bad floor and a worse band, whose chief allurement must have been the fact that it was forbidden. Rather drunken undergraduates were dancing with cheap-scented girls of the town. Some of them greeted Raoul noisily. However, he was not in the slightest degree embarrassed, and treated them with his usual easy insolence of manner.
We stayed there a bit. It was not very amusing, but there did not seem to be anything else to do in Oxford at this time of night. I was dancing with Raoul, I remember, when at about eleven o’clock the alarm went round that the proctors were coming. There was a rush for the door, and I was left alone. Two undergraduates only had not fled, and they were hiding under a seat in the ladies’ cloak-room, protected by the skirts of their partners. The proctors, well up to the trick, and untroubled by modesty, searched that apartment as a matter of course. It was an exciting moment. They were just going when one of the idiotic girls laughed, and the proctors returned and dragged the fugitives ignominiously by the ankles from their concealment.
At last the proctors went away and some of our party returned, but Raoul was not among them.
I was very sick with myself for having suggested coming to the dance. Raoul, with whom I was quite unjustly angry for leaving me, had been against it, because, having got leave to go away for the week-end so as to be able to stay with me on our wedding night, it would have been fatal for him to be discovered in Oxford.
By now the place was closing down. What was I to do? Would Raoul come back for me, or would he expect me to follow him? I was undecided until my hesitation was overcome for me by a certain famous boxer, who had been with us, and now offered to take me back to the hotel where Raoul and I were staying.’
Betty goes on to say that she was about to ring the night bell at the hotel but she decided to go for a walk to the Trout Inn to look at the water meadows and the Thames by moonlight, (4) and also to punish Raoul for abandoning her at the dance hall. She stood leaning over the bridge by the Trout Inn; (5) after a while she crosses the bridge and walked along the river, singing songs in her head. The river bank was sloping and slippery and she fell head-first into the river. Luckily it was quite shallow. Betty returned to the hotel covered in mud: ‘For a moment Raoul could not recognise the miry apparition that met his eyes. Water dripped from me as I stood there. He asked me what on earth had happened and how I had managed to get like this. Had someone thrown me into the river?
“I thought I’d go for a walk,” I explained, “and I fell into the river.”
“Good God,” he asked, “is this what I’ve got to get used to?”
I was not going to be reprimanded at this early stage of our relationship, so I said, “And why did you leave me at the dance hall to find my way home alone?”
“The proctors – “
“I suppose you care more about the proctors than about me.”
But it was not really a very serious sort of quarrel!’
 
The next day, Monday 4th September, Raoul had invited a friend of his to dinner and to meet his new wife, Betty; the un-named friend, (6) a well-known psychic and clairvoyant, in Betty’s autobiography was tall and gaunt and she took an instant dislike to him although he was an entertaining speaker and he and Raoul talked about poetry; Raoul was making a stand for the poets Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) and Lionel Johnson (1867-1902) whom his friend said were ‘sentimental and decadent’. Raoul defensively said that he hated the Georgian poets and declared himself a romantic and when asked which living poets he admires, mentioned the name of some professor and a poet of the occult whom Betty had met in 1914 at the Café Royal – Aleister Crowley.
“What’s he doing now?” the other asked.
“Haven’t you heard?”
“No.”
“He’s started an Abbey in Sicily.”
Then the curious young fellow suggested he knew what Betty was in a previous incarnation. In comparing their notes on the subject Raoul and his friend had reached the same conclusion, that she was a witch-doctor and Raoul was the chieftain of the village who loved her but she refused to yield her love to him; the chieftain, deciding to kill the witch-doctor set her adrift in a boat which capsized in a storm and she drowned.
Betty and Raoul stayed in Oxford for a few days after the Oxford University Commemoration Ball and then went to London, taking a room at the Harlequin Club at 55 Beak Street, off Regent Street, where she had first met Raoul. They were poor and Raoul had accumulated large debts with tailors and booksellers in Oxford. Betty took to being an artist’s model again; earning a pound a day to keep them both while Raoul studied Egyptology at the British Museum or at various libraries.
While dining at the Harlequin, Betty’s friend Betty Bickers came over, Bickers was interested in the occult and when Crowley came up in conversation Raoul said he would like to meet him and Bickers informed him that Crowley was staying at her house. (7) Raoul became infatuated with magick and Crowley and did not return home for two days and nights. ‘On the night of the third day I was awakened by the sound of someone trying to open my bedroom window. It was Raoul. We were on the third floor in one of those tall houses in Beak Street, just off Regent Street, and he had climbed from the street. He was covered with dust and soot, and his breath reeked of ether. I put him to bed, where he lay in a doped sleep until the middle of the following day.’
After the same thing happened again and Raoul was away for three days, Betty attempted to foil Crowley and they left the room in Beak Street and took another, (8) but after a while Crowley turned up at the door wearing his Highland kilt and holding a magical wand.
 
 Notes:
  1. The name of Registrar was J. H. B.Wright.
  2. The two witnesses on the marriage certificate are almost undecipherable but diligent examination seems to yield two names: Jean Pierre Dubont and Susan Billingham, so it would appear that Jean Pierre is the witness who crawls after the ring.
  3. Betty had mocked the mummified Princess by sticking her tongue out at her when Raoul took her to the British Museum. Raoul was shocked. ‘Without a word he rushed me out of the Museum, took me straight back to where I was staying and told me to wait for him there.“But where are you going?” I asked. “Back to the Museum,” he answered, still pale, “to pray that she may take her evil spell from you and place it on me.” [‘Tiger Woman’. The Mystic.]
  4. The moon was three days from full which occurred on Wednesday 6th September 1922.
  5.  The Trout is a 17th Century Inn by the River Thames at Lower Wolvercote, North Oxfordshire, near Godstow Bridge.
  6. Raoul had several friends from oxford such as Allan Porter, Arthur Read, and Bertram Higgins (1901-1974) born in Melbourne who read languages at Oxford; Betty’s friend ‘Dolores’ [Norine Fournier Lattimore (1894-1934)] was an artist’s model at the Harlequin Club and often joined them at social gatherings.
  7. This was at 31 Wellington Square, London, where Crowley was staying with Betty Sheridan-Bickers and teaching her magick and giving lectures on Thelema.
  8. This would have been in October 1922 and it was probably a furnished room in Fitzroy Street. Crowley says in his ‘Confessions’: ‘He and Betty lived in one filthy room in Fitzroy Street, a foul, frowsty, verminous den, stinking of the miasma of that great class who scrape through the years by dint of furtive cunning in dubious avocations. They were living from hand to mouth, with disaster eternally looming ahead, and the whisper of hope more faint and feeble as each effort ended in failure.’ [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Chapter 94.]


 
 
 
*from an essay by Raoul Loveday entitled 'Ravishment' quoting Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
 

 
 

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