Skip to main content
Select Source:

Sharp, William (1856-1905)

Sharp, William (1856-1905)

Scottish poet, biographer, and editor, who also achieved fame under the name of "Fiona MacLeod"not so much a literary pseudonym as virtually a psychic secondary personality. Sharp was born in Paisley, Scotland, on September 12, 1856, and spent his childhood in the Scottish Highlands. He ran away from home three times, on one occasion spending a whole summer in a gypsy encampment. He studied for two years as a student at Glasgow University before becoming an attorney's clerk.

He suffered from ill health and his family sent him on a Pacific cruise. Afterward he settled in London as a bank clerk, eventually becoming acquainted with literary circles that included B. G. Rossetti and Walter Pater.

Pater encouraged his literary work, which first appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette. Then in 1885 Sharp became the art critic for the Glasgow Herald. In the same year he married his first cousin Elizabeth Amelia Sharp, who became companion and co-worker as well as wife. They worked jointly on the anthology Lyra Celtica (1896). Sharp abandoned banking for a journalistic career, becoming editor of The Pagan Review in 1892. He traveled throughout Europe and even visited the United States, where he met Walt Whitman.

Sharp's enthusiasm for the Celtic literary revival brought him into contact with William Butler Yeats and the Isis Urania Temple of the famous Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn magical society. Here he was initiated into the Neophyte grade. This occult connection may have been a stimulus to the development of his anima personality of "Fiona MacLeod." Sharp and "Fiona" remained distinctly different identities in literary style and outlook, even corresponding with friends as separate personalities for many years.

Sharp himself kept up a correspondence with Yeats and George W. Russell on occult and mystical experiments, while also writing to them on literary, poetical, and Celtic matters as "Fiona MacLeod."

The identical nature of the two personalities remained a closely guarded secret among Sharp, his wife, and one or two personal friends until after Sharp's death. The "Fiona" letters were in the handwriting of Sharp's sister, but their style and personality were those of a distinct individual. "Fiona's" letters, poems, and books were quite feminine in outlook, quite unlike the masculine lifestyle and writings of the bearded Sharp.

The "Fiona" works played a leading part in the Scottish Celtic literary revival and were the product of automatic writing by Sharp, who virtually acknowledged "Fiona" as a separate personality. She was said to be a distant cousin and even had a biography in the prestigious British biographical annual Who's Who.

Sharp died December 12, 1905, after catching a cold during a visit to a friend in Sicily. His widow died a few years later, leaving two large packets of materials "to be destroyed unexamined." It is believed that these may have contained Golden Dawn documents.


MacLeod, Fiona. The Divine Adventure. Portland, Maine: T. B. Mosher, 1903.

. The Dominion of Dreams. New York: F. A. Stokes, 1900.

. Green Fire. N.p., 1896.

. The Immortal Hour. Portland, Maine: T. B. Mosher, 1907.

. The Mountain Lovers. N.p., 1895.

. Pharais. Chicago: Stone & KImball, 1895.

. The Sin-Eater. New York: Duffield, 1910.

. The Washer of the Ford. New York: Stone & Kimball, 1896.

. Winged Destiny. New York: Dufdfield, 1910.

Sharp, William. Earth's Voices. N.p., 1884.

. Flower o' the Vine. N.p., 1894.

. Human Inheritance. N.p., 1882.

. Life of D. G. Rossetts. N.p., 1882.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sharp, William (1856-1905)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . 23 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Sharp, William (1856-1905)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . (November 23, 2017).

"Sharp, William (1856-1905)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved November 23, 2017 from

Sharp, William

William Sharp, pseud. Fiona Macleod (fē´nə məkloud´, fēō´nə), 1855–1905, Scottish poet and man of letters. Under his own name he wrote literary biographies; poems, including the volume Earth's Voices (1884); and novels, notably Silence Farm (1899). With his wife he compiled the anthology Lyra Celtica (1896). Under the name Fiona Macleod, supposedly a talented Celtic lady, Sharp wrote his best novels and poems, including Pharais (1894), The Mountain Lovers (1895), and The Washer of the Ford (1896), as well as two plays, The House of Usna (1903) and The Immortal Hour (1908). Delicate and romantic, these works treat life in Scotland, evoking a haunting, almost supernatural atmosphere.

See biography by F. Alaya (1970).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sharp, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 23 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Sharp, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (November 23, 2017).

"Sharp, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 23, 2017 from