Saturday, 2 March 2013

ALEISTER CROWLEY'S CAMBRIDGE

 
ALEISTER CROWLEY'S CAMBRIDGE
by Barry Van-Asten
 

 
'At Cambridge I was surrounded by a more or less happy, healthy, prosperous set of parasites'.
[The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 119]





 
The Spirit of Solitude
Aleister Crowley as an undergraduate
of Trinity College, Cambridge.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
51 Bateman Street
 
 
 Crowley attended 51 Bateman Street from 1885 when he was aged nine until 1888. The school was run by the Rev. Henry d'Arcy Champney [1854-1942] who was born in Yorkshire. He went up to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on 1st October 1874 and attained his B.A. in 1875 and his M.A. in 1881. He was ordained as a Church of England Deacon in 1875 and a Priest at Ely in 1879. He became a Brethren in 1882. He started the school for the sons of Brethren. In 1879 the house was owned by George Procter.
 
 
 
 
 
'Hell on earth!' 
 
 
 
 
In Crowley's 'A Boyhood in Hell' from 'The World's Tragedy' he says that 'the Revd. H. d'Arcy Champney, M.A. of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, had come out of sect.
He had voted at the parliamentary elections by crossing out the names of the candidates and writing, 'I vote for king Jesus.'
He had started a school for the sons of Brethren at 51 Bateman Street, Cambridge. May God bite into the bones of men the pain of that hell on earth (I have prayed often) that by them it may be sowed with salt, accursed for ever! May the maiden that passes it be barren and the  pregnant woman that beholdeth it abort! May the birds of the air refuse to fly over it! May it stand as a curse, as a fear, as an hate, among men! May the wicked dwell therin! May the light of the sun be witheld therefrom and the light of the moon not lighten it! May it become the home of the shells of the dead and may the demons of the pit inhabit it! May it be accursed, accursed - accursed for ever and ever!'
 
 
 

 
 
'My first step must be to get into personal
communication with the devil.' [Confessions. P. 126]


 

 
 
Crowley went up to Cambridge in the Michaelmas Term [Tuesday 1st October] of 1895, just eleven days short of his twentieth birthday and his first residence was 16 St John's Street. He had entered for the Moral Science Tripos thinking it would stand him in good stead and teach him something about the 'nature of things', but he was 'profoundly disgusted to find that political economy was one of the subjects. I attended the first lecture; the professor told us that the subject was a very difficult one because there were no reliable data. It is easy to imagine the effect of such a statement on a boy who had been trained in the exactitude of mathematics and chemistry. I closed my notebook and never attended another lecture.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 108]
 
From his window at 16 St John's Street Crowley liked to look out to the Tower of St John's College and it was here where he would have discovered the poetry of Shelley and read the complete works of such authors as: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Thomas Carlyle (1795-1891), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1832), Henry Fielding (1707-1754) and Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909). 'My three years were determined by the influence of a fourth year man named Adamson, whom I think I met at the chess club. He started to talk to me about English literature. For the first time I heard the name Shelley. Wie gesagt, so gethan. Nothing else seemed to me worth while but a thorough reading of the great minds of the past. I bought all the classical authors. Whenever I found a reference of one to another I hastened to order his works. I spent the whole of my time in reading. It was very rare that I got to bed before daylight. But I had a horror of being thought a ''smug''; and what I was doing was a secret from my nearest friends. Whenever they were about I was playing chess and cards. In the daytime I went canoeing or cycling. I had no occupations which brought me into close touch with any great body of undergraduates. I even gave up the habit of going round to see people, though I was always at home to anyone who chose to call. I was not interested in the average man; I cultivated the freak. It was not that I liked abnormal people, it was simply the scientific attitude that it is from the abnormal that we learn.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 110]
 
 
The man named 'Adamson' was surely Henry Anthony Adamson (1871-1941) whom Crowley would have looked up to. Adamson went up to Trinity College to study mathematics in 1889, receiving his B.A. in 1892 and his M.A. in 1896. In his obituary he was described as a 'powerful mathematician and a brilliant chess problem analyst' by T. R. Dawson in the British Chess Magazine.
 
Crowley liked to see himself as a Romantic hero and tended to think of himself as a separate entity away from humanity, this would of course have been due to his strict and insular up-bringing in the Plymouth Brethren - 'I have always had a passionate yearning for mankind, wholesale and retail, but I cannot endure to have them anywhere around.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 110]
During the vacations at University he liked to wander among the English fells of the Lake District or travel to Northern Europe: Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. During the long vacation of 1897 he went to St Petersburg to learn Russian which would have been an essential language for him were he to go into the profession he was considering - the Diplomatic Service [he became ill in October 1897 and saw the 'futility of all human endevour' - he was experiencing the 'trance of sorrow' and awakening to the spiritual realisation that he was to devote his life to the attainments of magic; he soon set himself upon a course to seek evidence of 'spiritual beings' through direct contact]. In the Easter vacation of 1898 he went to Wastdale Head in Cumbria with his friend and lover Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt (1872-1942). In the Summer vacations of 1896 and 1897 he went climbing in the Alps.
 
During his first year at Trinity Crowley was not best pleased to find that Hall was at eight thirty in the evening - 'I objected to my evenings being cut into by dining so late and soon acquired the habit of having all meals sent in from the kitchen. I was thus almost totally dissociated from the corporate life of the college.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 109]
 
Crowley stayed at 16 St John's Street until 1897.
 
 
 

 
 
'The atmosphere of Cambridge formed an admirable
background for my state of mind.' [Confessions. P. 108]


 
 
 
Crowley began writing poetry around 1885 at the age of ten. The poems he wrote from 1885-1895 he considered his 'juvenilia' and these were later destroyed by him. It was not until he entered the Great Gate of Trinity that he saw himself as crossing a threshold in his poetry and entered his mature period. Today, his poetry is little read and only then by those who have a fascination for the man and the magician; his style is that of the romantic Shelley, the satanic Baudelaire and the earthy 'scandalous' Swinburne.
 
 
While Crowley was an undergraduate he contributed his poems to various periodicals such as ‘The Cambridge Magazine’, ‘The Granta’, ‘Cantab’ and ‘The Silver Crescent’. Some of the poems [of which many were re-published in 1904 in Crowley’s ‘In Residence: The Don’s Guide to Cambridge’ dedicated to his good friend Ivor Gordon Back (1873-1959)] show his early influences and his inventive and intellectual use of rhyming schemes. Some of the poems he contributed are: ‘Ballade of Bad Verses’ [Granta. Vol II, number 233. 30th April 1898], ‘Ballade of Whist’ [Cambridge Magazine. Vol 1, number 3. 11th May 1898], ‘Ballade of New Criticism’ [Cambridge Magazine. Vol 1, number 4. 18th May 1899], ‘Ballade of Ursa and Ursula’ [Cambridge Magazine. Vol 1, number 1. 1899], ‘Ballade of Summer Joys’ [Cambridge Magazine. Vol 1, number 6. 1st June 1899], ‘Ballade of the Mutability of Human Affairs’ [Granta. Vol 11, number 223. 26th February 1898], ‘A Refrain of a Far Country’ [Cambridge Magazine. Vol 1, number 1. 27th April 1899] and ‘A Sonnet of Spring Fashions’ [Granta. Vol 11, number 236. 21st May 1898]. Other works not included in Crowley’s ‘In Residence’ are: ‘The Ballad of Burdens’ [Granta. Vol 13. 3rd February 1899], ‘The Siegfried Finale’ [Cambridge Magazine. Vol 1, number 2. 1899] and ‘An Appeal to the American Republic’ [Cambridge Magazine. 1899].
 
O smug! in your desolate room,
Whatever’s the matter with you?
Your face is a picture of gloom,
Your pulse is a hundred and two,
Your eyelids are glued as with glue,
A towel is tied to your head,
You might be a man with the Flu!
‘’The Trip! and I wish I were dead!’’
 
[Ballade of Tripos Fever]
 
 
Tennis and cricket have come to stay,
Five o’clock is the time to bring
Tea and strawberry ice, and play
Various dulcet jargoning;
Lazy paddle all day to swing,
Lazy pipe to kill ennui’s germ,
Lazy, lazy everything: -
Sing heigh-ho for the glad May Term.
 
O hooray! merry boys, hooray!
Flannels are pleasures that have no sting.
Everyone’s white and cool and gay;
Everyone looks as if a wing
Might any moment sprout and spring,
Turning him into an ‘’alb’inerm’
Angelum’’, like Aladdin’s ring;
Sing heigh-ho for the glad May Term.
 
O the trees are out to-day!
O the buds are blossoming!
O the snow and the wind are away!
O the sun of the late sweet spring!
O the birds that are glad to sing
After the meal on the early worm!
O I am happier now than a king!
Sing heigh-ho for the glad May Term.
 
Envoi
 
Prince, or pauper, be what you may,
Business is quiet, but stocks are firm;
Never believe in the ‘’bears’’ in May!
Sing heigh-ho for the glad May Term.
 
[Ballade of the May Term]
 
 

Wild briar’s a blossom that fades;
The lily as easily dies;
And the love of terrestrial maids
Is tender, too tender to prize.
In a minute it droops and it dies,
And happiness spills at the brink;
Love opens the window and flies: -
But Smith’s is a permanent ink.
 
Prosperity favoureth trades.
An hour, and then troubles arise.
The workers drop axes and spades,
And Brandenburg labour supplies
The goods. It is very unwise
Your money in labour to sink.
It will vanish, the blue in the skies: -
But Smith’s is a permanent ink.
 
And even the woe that invades
Will pass, I make bold to surmise,
Like a man who for salmon trout wades
Till the water comes over his thighs.
He’s wet, but he speedily dries,
More quickly than pessimists think,
His gaff he repeatedly plies: -
But Smith’s is a permanent ink.
 
Envoi
 
Prince, we sell it in various shades,
In azure and purple and pink.
Things change by perceptible grades: -
But Smith’s is a permanent ink.
 
[Ballade of the Mutability of Human Affairs]
 
 
In May one often sees a fool
(A fool one guesses him to be)
Canoeing up to Byron’s Pool,
Or downward toward the salty sea.
One of them necessarily,
Unless one absolutely slacks
(Say under King’s or Trinity)
Upon the backs – upon the backs.
 
The garb this person wears is cool,
As his own self-complacency.
He wears a blazer made of wool
Or flannel (This is poetry,
And tailoring is nought to me)
Whose colours might be filed in stacks;
A straw in speechless harmony!
Upon the backs – upon the backs.
 
He smokes the weed of Istamboul;
He vaguely feels that he is free.
He seems to challenge Nature: ‘’who’ll
Dare to constrain my liberty?’’
He paddles like a honey-bee;
His golden boots are made at Fleck’s;
You often see a man like he
Upon the backs – upon the backs.
 
Envoi
 
Prince, you may storm Sevastopool,
With Maxim’s thwacks and axe attacks;
I ply the deft Canadian tool
Upon the backs – upon the backs.
 
[Ballade of the Backs]
 
 
 
In 1898, his final year at university, Crowley published one-hundred copies of his first collection of poetry:
 
 
ACELDAMA
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
 
 by

 
a gentleman of the University of Cambridge
 
privately printed
1898
 
 
 
Crowley borrowed from Shelley's 'The Necessity of Atheism' published in 1811 by a 'Gentleman of the University of Oxford'. The poem created little success and was read among student circles and even Crowley thought of it as a transitionary poem between his juvenilia and his mature period.
Not long after appeared further publications of his poetry: 'The Tale of Archais' which Crowley considered his first real successful poem; 'Songs of the Spirit', 'Green Alps' which was never published; 'The Poem', 'Jezebel', 'Jephthah' and the extremely pornographic 'White Stains'.


 

 
 
16 St John's Street
 
 
 
 Today 16 St John's Street is a Jewellers and its 18th Century architecture has remained mostly the same. In 1879 it was according to records inhabited by Mrs Harriet Colman, a music seller and in 1883 it is 'Colman & Co'. It has also been used by a firm of tailors and robe makers called 'Maltby'.
 
 'Till the Great Gate of Trinity opened me the way to freedom I had always been obsessed more or less either by physical weakness or the incubus of adolescence. I had never known what it was to be able to work freely and gladly. Now, however, I was able to give myself with absolute concentration to literature and I read everything important in the language with the utmost thoroughness.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 114]
 
WHEAT AND WINE
 
 
Clear, deep, and blue, the sky
Is silvered by the morn,
And where the dewdrop's eye
Catches its brilliancy
Strange lights and hues are born:
I have seen twelve colours hover on a single
spray of thorn.
 
 
There is a great grey tower
Cut clear against the deep;
In the sun's wakening hour
I think it has the power
To touch the soul of sleep
With its tender thought, and bid me to awake
for joy - and weep.
 
 
This night I am earlier.
No drowsy thoughts drew nigh
At eve to make demur
That I be minister
To Cynthia maidenly:
All night I have watched her sail through a
black and silver sky.
 
 
Within my soul there fight
Two full and urgent streams,
Work's woe and dream's delight:
Like snow and sun they smite,
Days battle hard with dreams:
On a world of misty beauty the Aurora
clearly beams.
 
 
So labour fought with pride,
And love with idleness,
My soul was torn and tried
With the impassioned tide
Of storm and deathly stress -
I had never dreamed a lily should arise amid
the press.
 
 
Yet such a flower sprang here
Within this soul of mine,
When foemen bade good cheer
To foemen, grew one clear
Concept, ideal, divine,
Of a god of light and laughter, of a god of
wheat and wine.
 
 
 
Work on, strong mind, devise
The outer life aright!
Dream, subtle soul, and arise
To noblest litanies
That pierce the mask of night -
In a man work lifts his eyelids, but his dreams
lend eyes their light.
 
 
So dreams and days are wed,
And soul and body lie
Ambrosial in Love's bed.
See, heaven with stars is spread -
So glad of life am I
If an angel came to call me I am sure I
would not die.
 
 
[The poem was written during his time at 16 St John's Street and the 'great grey tower' is St John's chapel which Crowley would have seen from his rooms. It was Crowley's 'habit to work from midnight to dawn, when he could no longer be disturbed by visits from friends.' From 'Songs of the Spirit' in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley - volume I]
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 
35 Sidney Street
 
 
 
 This location at 35 Sidney Street is an early 19th Century, three story building with cellars. In 1879 it was the office of 'Lincolne & Lofts' manufacturers of Loft's patent bottle washing & rinsing machine. The shop front belonged to 'Lincolne & Son' grocers, Italian warehousemen, ale and porter merchants, agents for W & A Gilbey, wine and spirit merchants and 'Ridgeways & Co's Teas & Coffees'.
Crowley lived here from 1897 to January 1898.
 
'I found myself, from the very beginning of my university career, urged by circumstances of every sort to indulge my passion in every way but the right one. My ill-health had prevented me from taking part in the ordinary amusements of the public school boy. My skill in avoiding corporal punishment and my lack of opportunity for inflicting it had saved me from developing the sadistic or masochistic sides of my character. But at Cambridge I discovered that I was of an intensely passionate nature, physiologically speaking. My poetic instincts, further, transformed the most sordidn liaisons into romance, so that the impossibility of contracting a suitable and serious relation did not worry me. I found, moreover, that any sort of satisfaction acted as a powerful spiritual stimulus. Every adventure was the direct cause of my writing poetry. In the periods of supression my brain had been completely clogged; I was as incapable of thought of any kind as if I had had the toothache.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 113]
 
 
 

 
 
 
14 Trinity Street
 
 
 
 Once the 'Turk's Head' coffee house, one of the earliest coffee houses in the country, 14 Trinity Street with its 16th Century architectural features was much favoured by undergraduates. It is timber-framed and plastered in two gabled bays with projecting upper floors and projecting gables with finials; bay windows on both upperfloors. The bays are divided by small pendant columns with carved brackets. Most of the external carving has been restored. It has a tiled roof and was Grade II listed in 1950.
The upper floors were once the 'Turk's Head Carvery'. In 1878 this beautiful Tudor building was a Bank 'Foster & Co' which was founded by the Foster brothers, Richard and Ebenezer. The bank later moved to Sidney Street, opposite Petty Cury.
In 1913 it is 'The Cafe' serving 'Luncheons and Teas, cakes & fancies of every description for Afternoon Teas'.
During the nineteen-twenties it was 'Matthew's Cafe'.
There is a blocked doorway on the left of the entrance which still has an original bell marked 'press'.
 
 


 
 
 
 14 Trinity Street around the time when Crowley would have been there.
 
 
 
Crowley moved into rooms at 14 Trinity Street in January 1898 and his lover Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt (1872-1942) whom Crowley met in October 1897 would often visit him at this address. John Symonds gives us a description of Crowley and his elegant rooms at Trinity: 'he had taken to wearing pure silk shirts and great floppy bow-knotted ties; on his fingers werr rings of semi-precious stones. An atmosphere of luxury, studiousness and harsh effort pervaded his rooms at Cambridge. Books covered the walls to the ceiling and filled four revolving walnut bookcases. They were largely on science and philosophy, with a modest collection of Greek and Latin classics, and a sprinkling of French and Russian novels. On one shelf shone the black and gold of The Arabian Nights of Richard Burton; below was the flat canvas and square label of the Kelmscott Chaucer. Valuable first editions of the British poets stood beside extravagantly bound volumes issued by Isidor Liseux. Over the door hung an ice-axe with worn-down spike and ragged shaft, and in the corner was a canvas bag containing a salmon rod. Leaded Staunton chessmen were in their mahogany box upon a card-table scattered with poker chips.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 15].
Some of the books Crowley would have been reading are works by: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), David Hume (1711-1776), Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), Francois Rabelais (1494-1553) and Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Many of these books he would have purchased from Deighton Bell & Co which was located at 13 Trinity Street. It was here where he bought Arthur Edward Waite's 'The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts'. In fact, there were several bookshops on Trinity Street such as: Macmillan's at number 1 Trinity Street, Metcalfe's at number 12 Trinity Street, Rivington's at number 19 and William Tomlin at number 24 Trinity Street.
Crowley came into his inheritance upon reaching the age of twenty-one [Monday 12th October 1896] and figures often quoted are forty to fifty thousand pounds which was a huge amount at the time!
 
 

 
 
 
 
37 Trinity Street
 
 
 
 
 
 Numbers 35, 36 and 37 were built at the same time, dated 1861 on the stairhead gable and 1894 on the central gable. Red brick with stone dressing, three storeys and attics. There is a modern shop front entrance to the chambers above between numbers 36 and 37. There are two windows each and a narrow staircase. The first floor has mullions and transoms and iron grilles to be windows. Six pedimented gable dormers, dated gable over stairhead. Slate mansard roof. In 1878 it was home to Richard Lord Clark, hosier. In 1892 it was a lodging house owned by George Sussum and in 1913 it was 'Robinson's Bicycle Showroom'.
This is probably the last address Crowley stayed at during his time at Cambridge. As to Crowley's examination results we know that he 'passed the second part of the general Examination in the Michaelmas Term 1896, the first part in Easter Term 1897 and took the special Examination in Chemistry in the Michaelmas term, 1897, obtaining a second class. He did not graduate.' [The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg. Jean Overton Fuller. 1965. P. 130]
 
 

 
 
Garret Hostel Bridge
 
 
 
  This modern bridge built in 1960 connects Garret Hostel Lane with the Backs of Cambridge.
 
 
 
BY THE CAM
 
 
Twilight is over, and the noon of night
Draws to its zenith. Here beyond the stream
Dance the wild witches that dispel my dream
Of gardens naked in Diana's sight.
Foul censers, altars desecrated, blight
The corpse-lit river, whose dank vapours teem
Heavy and horrible, a deadly steam
Of murder's black intolerable might.
 
The stagnant pools rejoice; the human feast
Revels at height; the sacrament is come;
God wakes no lightning in the broken East;
His awful thunders listen and are dumb;
Earth gapes not for that sin; the skies renew
At break of day their vestiture of blue.
 
 
[From 'Songs of the Spirit' in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley - volume I]
 
 
 
 
 

 


Garret Hostel Bridge 1890
 
 
The above image shows the original Garret Hostel Bridge built in 1837 and it is a place that the solitary Crowley would have known as he enjoyed walking over the bridge and looking at the Cam while he contemplated poetry and philosophy.
 
 
ON GARRET HOSTEL BRIDGE
 
 
Here in the evening curl white mists and wreathe in their vapour
All the gray spires of stone, all the imobile towers;
Here in the twilight gloom dim trees and sleeping rivers,
Here where the bridge is thrown over the amber stream.
Chill is the ray that steals from the moon to the stream that whispers
Secret tales of its source, songs of its fountain-head.
Here do I stand in the dusk; like spectres mournfully moving
Wisps of the cloud-wreaths form, dissipate into the mist,
Wrap me in shrouds of gray, chill me and make me shiver,
Not with the Night alone, not with the sound of her wing,
Yet with a sense of something vague and unearthly stalking
(Step after step as I move) me, to annul me, quell
Hope and desire and life, bid light die under my eyelids,
Bid the strong heart despair, quench the desire of Heaven.
So I shudder a little; and my heart goes out to the mountain,
Rock upon rock for a crown, snow like an ermine robe;
Thunder and lightning free fashioned for speech and seeing,
Pinnacles royal and steep, queen of the arduous breast!
ye on whose icy bosom, passionate, at the sunrise,
Ye in whose wind-swept hollows, lulled in the moonrise clear,
Often and oft I struggled, a child with an angry mother,
Often and oft I slept, maid in a lover's arms.
Back to ye, back, wild towers, from this flat and desolate fenland,
Back to ye yet will I flee, swallow on wing to the south;
Move in your purple cloud-banks and leap your fast-swelling torrents,
Bathe in the pools below, laugh with the winds above,
Battle and strive and climb in the teeth of the glad wild weather,
Flash on the slopes of ice, dance on the spires of rock,
Run like a glad young panther over the stony high-lands,
Shout with the joy of living, race to the rugged cairn,
Feel the breath of your freedom burn in my veins, and Freedom!
Freedom! echoes adown cliff and precipitous ghyll.
Down by the cold gray lake the sun descends from his hunting,
Shadow and silence steals over the frozen fells.
Oh, to be there, my heart! And the vesper bells awaken;
Colleges call their children; Lakeland fades from the sight.
Only the sad slow Cam like a sire with age grown heavy
Wearily moves to the sea, to quicken to life at last.
Blithelier I depart, to a sea of sunnier kindness;
Hours of waiting are past; I re-quicken to love.
 
 
[From 'Mysteries: Lyrical and Dramatic' in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley - volume I]
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Trinity Gate
 
 
 
 Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546. The King's statue looks down from the Great Gate and his right hand, which once held a sceptre, now holds a chair leg, the result of a student prank long ago!

'I had the sensation of drawing a long deep breath as one does after swimming under water or [an even better analogy] as one does after bracing oneself against the pain inflicted by a dentist. I could not imaging anything better in life. I found myself suddenly in an entirely new world. I was part of the glories of the past; and I resolved to be one of the glories of the future.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 107]
Crowley then goes on to say 'I should like the haunted room over the Great Gate of Trinity to be turned into a vault like that of Christian Rosencreutz to receive my sarcophagus. I must admit that I don't know of much else in England of the works of man which I would not make haste to destroy if the opportunity occurred. But Trinity, except New Court and Whewell's Court, is enough for any poet to live and die for.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 107]
 

 
 

 
 
 
Trinity Great Court and Fountain
 
 
Legend has it that Byron bathed naked in the fountain with his pet bear as students were forbidden to keep dogs!
Although Crowley did not have much contact with the day to day life of the university he was a member of a few clubs associated with colleges such as the debating society known as The Magpie and Stump (Crowley participated in a few discussions of a rather frivolous nature and delighted in making witty quips); the Boat Club, which he found to  be of little use to him, and the Cambridge University Chess Club of which he was President in his second year (1896). In fact, Crowley made an intense study of the game of chess, already being a more than talented amateur and would study for more than two hours a day and spend even more time than that in actual practice. He became a formidable opponent and was on the way to become a leading light in the world of chess - a 'chess master!'

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Clock Tower and the Chapel
(The Clock Tower is 15th Century)
 
 
In bringing to life Crowley's days at Cambridge we cannot completely rely on what he has dictated more than twenty years later under the influence of heroin in his masterpiece of autobiography or 'autohagiography' as he termed it - 'The Confessions of Aleister Crowley' first published by the Mandrake Press in 1929. Crowley, like everyone else would see the actions of his past in a different light and there is a tendency to romanticise the younger image of himself. But it paints the greatest picture of the young poet and we see a man on the threshold of securing his future and the immortality of his name!
 


 
 
 

Tennyson in the Ante-Chapel



IN NEVILLE'S COURT,
TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.


I think the souls of many men are here
Among these cloisters, underneath the spire
That the moon silvers with magnetic fire;
But not a moon-ray is it, that so clear
Shines on the pavement, for a voice of fear
It hath, unless it be the breeze that mocks
My ear, and waves his old majestic locks
About his head. There fell upon my ear:

''O soul contemplative of distant things,
Who hast a poet's heart, even if thy pen
Be dry and barren, who dost hold Love dear,
Speed forth this message on the fiery wings
Of stinging song to all the race of men:
That they have hope; for we are happy here.''


[The voice is that of Lord Tennyson whose rooms were in Neville's court. From 'Songs of the Spirit' in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley - volume I]

 






 


Trinity College Chapel
 
 
 
'Christanity was the official religion with which it was convenient to comply, just as it is convenient to go to a good tailor.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P 108]
 
 
Crowley would not fall in line with College's routines if they were opposed to his own will and natural order; he would not be interfered with: 'When I discovered that chapel was compulsory I immediately struck back. The junior dean halled me for not attending chapel, which I was certainly not going to do, because it involved early rising. I excused myself on the ground that I had been brought up among the Plymouth Brethren. The dean asked me to come and see him occasionally and discuss the matter, and I had the astonishing impudence to write to him that ''the seed planted by my father, watered by my mother's tears, would prove too hardy a growth to be uprooted even by his eloquence and learning''. It sounds like the most despicable hypocrasy, but it was pretty good cheek, and I had made up my mind that I would not be interfered with. I regarded any attempt to control my actions as an impertinent intrusion and I was not going to waste time in taking any but the easiest way out.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 108]


 
 
 
Crowley remained at Trinity College until the Easter Term of 1898. After he left he still kept in contact with certain like-minded undergraduates. 'As Crowley was a former student of Trinity it was perfectly in order for him to visit his old college and to walk up any of the staircases.' [General J F C Fuller in Jean Overton Fuller's 'The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg'. 1965. P. 143]
It was in this way that he me the young poet who would become his magical assistant Victor Benjamin Neuburg (1883-1940). Victor went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in the Michaelmas Term (October) of 1906 aged twenty-three. He took the Tripos in Modern Languages and passed his examinations gaining a third class Honours degree. He was in residence at Trinity until the Easter Term of 1909.
'Crowley, though he had a sentiment for his old university and habitually came to it to recruit for his Order - Mudd, Pinsent, Merton and Gerald Yorke, were all Cambridge men - did not regard degrees.' [The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg. Jean Overton Fuller. 1965. P. 147]
 
'Mudd' is Norman Mudd M.A. (1889-1934) of Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered Trinity in July 1907 on a mathematics scholarship, remaining until 1910. He was secretary of the Cambridge University Freethought Association where he knew Victor Neuburg (1883-1940). He became Professor of Applied Mathematics at Grey University College, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Mudd [Frater Omnia Pro Veritate] assisted Crowley at the Abbey of Thelema in 1923 and sadly took his own life in 1934.
'Pinsent' is Gerald Hume Pinsent (1888-1976) who took mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.
'Merton' is Wilfred Merton (1888-1957), engraver and printer.
Gerald Joseph Yorke (1901-1983) of Trinity College, Cambridge. English cricketer and Major in the British Army. Yorke became a member of Crowley's magical order.
 
 
 'Like Byron, Shelley, Swinburne and Tennyson, I left the university without taking a degree. It has been better so; I have accepted no honour from her; she has had much from me.' [The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. P. 166]