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Post-War Works - Part 8: Lily Adams Beck

Lily Adams Beck was a very close friend of Katharine Maltwood's in the days of her Castlewood Studio in London. Their outlook and interests appear to have been very similar. Mrs. Beck, who also went under the pseudonyms E. Barrington and Louis Moresby, had lived for many years in the Orient. She had travelled widely in India, Tibet, China, Burma, Japan and Egypt studying native customs and religions particularly transcendentalism, reincarnation and the Yogi doctrines. She began novel writing in earnest in 1922 and until her death published at least two books each year. As Lily Adams Beck she wrote esoteric novels with themes inspired by Eastern philosophy.45 By writing these in story form she hoped to bring the message of Buddhism to thousands who would otherwise never read it. These mystical novels were completely different from her equally successful historical romances published under the name E. Barrington.

After the First World War Mrs. Beck decided to make her home in Victoria, B.C. Here, served by her oriental attendants, she continued to write, give lectures and travel intermittently until her death in 1931. She formed a circle, a sort of soirée, which met fortnightly at her home on Mountjoy Avenue, Oak Bay. The house was described in Twentieth Century Authors as "a museum of Orientalia set in a secluded and lovely English garden" and in the Canadian Bookman as "part and parcel of Asia, with its gold coloured rooms, its Japanese paintings, its Oriental drapings and inscriptions, its Chinese cups and trinkets" and adds "verily mystery has claimed her for its own."46 A similarity to the Maltwoods' collection of Oriental treasures and museum like homes is suggested. That Mrs. Beck chose to live in Victoria, where the Maltwoods visited her in 1921, and that the character Brynhild Ingmar was depicted as a Canadian are interesting preludes to the Maltwoods' later move to Victoria.

As with Katharine Maltwood the influence of Eastern mysticism had led Mrs. Beck to believe the Western explanation of life and death were inadequate. They had allowed the spread of materialism and appeared incapable of forstalling some unimaginable catastrophe. Only by turning to Eastern thought, especially that concerning the evolutionary life of the soul, could the danger be averted. Mrs. Beck was personally a staunch adherent to Buddhism, a strict vegetarian and severely abstinent in her way of life. One of her publishers described her impatiently as not only esoteric and an ascetic but also a martinet, imposing her habits and beliefs on her immediate circle.47

Katharine Maltwood never clearly stated her religious beliefs but it appears she endorsed the views of Lily Adams Beck. Also like members of the Buddhist Society in England she closely sympathized with the original tenets of Theosophy and the expositions of Madame Blavatsky, believing all faiths originated from an ancient Wisdom-Religion of which the Eastern philosophies were the purest descendents. Being suspicious of the Movement's later psychic digression she never became an active member of the Theosophical Society, although she subscribed to their journals and later had several articles published in them. On the whole it appears she preferred to remain independent in her studies and beliefs in Eastern philosophy and this independence was most probably the result of the momentous significance she attached to her proclaimed discovery of the Glastonbury Zodiac in 1925.



All content on this page is copyright © 30 January, 2006
Rosemary Brown, the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery, and the University of Victoria

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