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Farr, Florence (1860-1917)

Farr, Florence (1860-1917)

Florence Farr, actress, author, and leading member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD), was born on July 7, 1860, at Bickley, Kent, England. Her father, a physician specializing in hygiene, had worked closely with Florence Nightingale, and named his youngest daughter after her. In her 13th year she was sent to Cheltenham Ladies' College in Gloucestershire. In 1877 she entered Queen's College, the first institution of higher learning for women in England. She left in 1880 without completing her course of study. She would try teaching, but soon left it for an acting career. In 1884 she married actor Edward Emery, though they would be separated in 1889 and finally divorced in 1895.

Farr was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1890. She progressed quickly and two years later was named Praemonstrator. She demonstrated her accomplishments in her first books, A Short Enquiry into the Hermetic Art (1894) and Egyptian Magic (1896). Within the order she met Annie Horniman, a well-todo member who financed her movement into producing dramas. During 1894 she produced a series of successful plays in London including one by George Bernard Shaw, with whom she was having an affair. In 1899, she was the general manager for the production of The Countess Cathleen, a drama written by fellow order member William Butler Yeats.

In 1896 she began the Sphere group, a magical working group that included the Inner Order adepts. The following year Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers, the international leader of the order, named her the order's "Chief in Anglia." Among her duties that year would be the initiation of a young magician named Aleister Crowley. However, her leadership also meant that she would be in the center of the storm that hit the order in 1900 when many of the British members protested the autocratic authority that Mathers was attempting to exercise from his office in Paris. The controversy led to Mathers' expulsion and to the emergence of Farr as the Moderator of the Isis-Urania Temple in London. A short time later, however, a second controversy arose as members began to question the activity of Farr's Sphere group.

Farr tired of the constant bickering and in 1902 resigned from the HOGD and continued her involvement in occult matters through the Theosophical Society. However, for the next decade she would concentrate her time on her career in the theater. She also authored a number of books and articles.

In 1912 Farr retired from the stage and accepted the invitation to move to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as the principal of the first girls' school to operate among the minority Hindu Tamil population. She worked at the school until weakened by the breast cancer from which she died in April 29, 1917.

Sources:

Farr, Florence. The Dancing Faun. London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894.

. Egyptian Magic: Occult Mysteries in Ancient Egypt by S. S.S.D.D. 1896. Reprint, Wellingborough, UK: Aquarian Press, 1982.

. Modern Woman: Her Intentions. London: Frank Palmer, 1910.

. The Music of Speech. London: Elkin Mathews, 1909.

. The Way of Wisdom: Being an Investigation of the Meanings of the Letters of the Hebrew Alphabet Considered as a Remnant of Chaldean Wisdom. London: J. M. Watkins, 1900.

Greer, Mary K. Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priest-esses. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Books, 1995.

King, Francis. Ritual Magic in England. London: Neville Spearman, 1970.

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