Kingsford, Anna (DNB00)


KINGSFORD, Mrs. ANNA (1846–1888), doctor of medicine and religious writer, daughter of John Bonus, was born at Maryland Point, Stratford, Essex, 16 Sept. 1846, and was baptised Annie. She married in 1867 Algernon Godfrey Kingsford, vicar of Atcham, Shropshire. From 1868 to 1872 she wrote stories in the ‘Penny Post,’ signed Ninon Kingsford and Mrs. Algernon Kingsford. In 1870 she was received into the Roman catholic church by Cardinal Manning, and she adopted the christian names Annie Mary Magdalen Maria Johanna. In 1872 she purchased and edited in her own name ‘The Lady's Own Paper,’ in which she strenuously supported the movement against vivisection, but she gave up the paper in 1873, and in 1874 went to Paris to commence medical studies. On 22 July 1880 she received the degree of M.D. from the faculty of Paris. She had then adopted vegetarian principles, and the title of her thesis was ‘De l'alimentation végétale chez l'homme;’ this, translated and enlarged, was published in London, 1881, as ‘The Perfect Way in Diet.’ Mrs. Kingsford soon engaged in the active practice of a London physician, but her attention was largely devoted to mystical subjects. She became president of the Theosophical Society in 1883, and founded in 1884 the Hermetic Society. In 1887 a cold caught while visiting M. Pasteur's laboratory on a snowy day developed into pulmonary consumption. She removed to the Riviera without benefit, and, returning to London, died at Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington, 22 Feb. 1888, being buried in Atcham churchyard. She left a daughter.

In person Mrs. Kingsford was singularly beautiful; as a doctor she was very successful with women; she also was one of the pioneers in the cause of the higher education of women. Much doubt exists as to the faith in which she died. Her aim as a religious teacher was to reconcile Christianity with her own mystical theories, and to bring prominently forward the connection of Christianity with eastern faiths, a connection which had in her opinion been long obscured. The Hermetic Society still exists in this country, and has a certain following in the United States.

Mrs. Kingsford's chief works were:

  1. ‘Beatrice, a Tale of the Early Christians,’ London, 1863, 12mo, remarkable on account of the youthful age of the authoress.
  2. ‘River Reeds,’ a volume of verse, anon., London, 1866.
  3. ‘The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ,’ London, 1882, 4to; revised ed. 1887; 3rd ed. 1890; in this work Mr. Edward Maitland assisted.
  4. ‘The Virgin of the World,’ translated, with a preface, from ‘Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus,’ 1885, 4to.
  5. ‘Astrology theologised,’ 1886, 4to, a reprint, with a preface, of a work of Valentine Weigelius.
  6. ‘Health, Beauty, and the Toilet,’ London, 1886, 8vo (2nd ed. same year), a reprint of letters which appeared, 1884–6, in the ‘Lady's Pictorial.’ These occasioned some adverse criticism, as sanctioning artificial aids to beauty.

Posthumous, and edited by Mr. Edward Maitland, were:

  1. ‘Dreams and Dream Stories,’ 1888, 8vo.
  2. ‘Clothed with the Sun,’ New York, 1889, 4to, a curious collection of what are termed by the editor ‘illuminations.’

[Times, 27 Feb. 1888; Lady's Pictorial, 3 March 1888 (portrait from a photograph and reminiscences by Mrs. Fenwick-Miller); Tablet, 1888 (letters from Mr. Edward Maitland as to whether Mrs. Kingsford died in the catholic faith); Hays's Women of the Day; private information.]

W. A. J. A.