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Update on Pamela Colman-Smith

Posted on Apr 18, 2017 by in Article, People | 13 comments

Researching an enigma is fascinating, for not only do I have to read about her, I also have to read very much around Pamela Colman-Smith. Yet along the way, I am enjoying a range of experience from discussions with academics to people on Twitter sharing photos like this one. Thanks so much, Darren Jones.  Darren said:

I bought a copy of The Russian Ballet from a charity book organisation. They described it as being an ex-library book which was puzzling as it was published in 1913. When I received it I found out that it had been a will bequest by a lady called Claudia Ayton – Lee to a private reference library run by the Old Vic theatre in 1955. And there it has been until sold it to me. On the title page was this picture.
I’d never seen this picture before and nor had most other people!
By a strange twist of fate, I also bumped into Tony Edwards, who was once Miss Smith’s errand boy. Tony and I were discussing her size. A lady walked across Nanny Moore’s Bridge in Bude and he said: “See that lady there? She was her colouring and her kind of height and size”. Brilliant. Best visual descriptor ever. The poor lady must have been bemused that we were staring at her, but all the reading in the world could not equate to that.

13 Comments

  1. I think this is the best image of PCS I’ve seen; how wonderful that you were able to discover it. Did Tony Edwards tell you anything else about her?. I know there’s a story that she tried to pay the local greengrocer with a painting. I wonder if there are any old village photographs and also does anyone know anything about her companion, Nora Lake? The only references I have found regarding Nora Lake are by Stuart Kaplan. There is so much about Pixie pre WW1 and then so little afterwards.
    Can’t help but think the male figure looks like Irving in stage costume. It is so clear to see here how she used these figures to illustrate her stories.

    • Yes, Tony told me quite a bit which I will be using in my book about her. I heard a little about Nora Lake, who I believe had a son and was a spiritualist. Any info gratefully received. Thanks, Dawn

      • When will your book be out? I will definitely buy a copy. All I know about Nora Lake is via Kaplan who visited Bude and bought up everything he could pertaining to PCS as I’m sure you know. There is a letter to ‘Miss Smith’ from Nora’s sister thanking her for her kindness to Nora after her ‘fright’ (wonder what that was?) Off the top of my head the letter was dated either sometime during WW2 or shortly after. Nora’s sister also sent sleeping tablets for Nora. From what I’ve read about her from contemporary account, PCS was extremely clairvoyant, so the fact that Nora was a spiritualist is not altogether surprising. You wonder how that sat with PCS’s Catholicism although I suspect she was a mystic catholic and as much into mystery and ritual as she ever was when she joined The Golden Dawn.
        Regarding her size and shape, she was always described as ’round’ and ‘soft’ and rather ageless as a young woman. Her passport describes her as being 5ft 4ins, but she may well have shrunk a little in height. Did she dye her hair I wonder? it was unusual to do so at the time but she may have with her artistic and theatrical background.
        Hurry up with that book!
        Regards, Lyn

        • I am hoping to finish it this year for publication next. Thanks for your interest. I have been in contact with Mr Kaplan but never met him. Yes, I’d begun to conclude that PCS enjoyed the ritual of both organisations. Tony, I think, mentioned she was grey haired when he knew her, so I’d guess she didn’t dye her hair. It is her Cornwall years I am especially interested in. Of course, these are the years with least available information. I wonder if Nora’s fright was the death of her husband?
          Best wishes, Dawn

          • I wonder, it’s just the choice of the word ‘fright’. Was it wartime related, some sort of near miss? Was it related to something on the supernatural side- did her husband have someone else? Something shocked the woman that is certain and it could indeed be her husband’s death as you say.

          • Hard to know as so little is known about Nora Lake. I’d love to know more.

  2. I am also looking forward to your book 📚-) . Has there been any news on where she might be buried yet ?

  3. Yes – St Michaels and All Angels. Apparently she was buried there on 25th September 1951. See the post from the Rider-Waite tarot. There is a video of the graveyard.

  4. I really look forward to seeing and hearing more about this book! The more I learn about PCS, the more I want to know 🙂

    • She seems to have that effect on people!

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