Lola Montez: "Courage and Shuffle the Cards!"
1847 portrait by Joseph Stieler
(photo credit: Bayerische Verwaltung, Munich)
There is no evidence she ever said those words. But in the mythology that has evolved around the life of Lola Montez they may serve as a kind of motto. Who was this remarkable woman? In mid-ninteenth century she danced her way across three continents leaving a trail of scandal, dead husbands and a monarch dethroned in her wake. Today Lola Montez is only a footnote in history for most people, but in her day she made immense waves wherever she went. A recent biography of her by Bruce Seymour, however, has brought her to prominence (cf. below) and shed new light of her remarkable life. I am indebted to his work for much of this paper. If the reader finds this little essay of interest he or she could do nothing better than read Seymour's definitive biography. I first met Lola in my studies of the life of Franz Liszt. In 1844 their paths crossed and he lived to regret it.
Lola Montez (a name assumed later in life) was born, in her own words, of a "somewhat combustible compound." Her real name was Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert. She was born in Grange, County Sligo on February 17, 1821. Her father, an ensign in the British army, was Edward Gilbert. He was 23 or 24 years old at the time of her birth. Her mother, Miss Eliza Oliver, came from a prominent Irish Protestant family. She was about sixteen years old at the time of Lola's birth. Bruce Seymour's research has established that "Although as a pseudo-Spaniard she had been necessarily masquerading as a Catholic for years, her parents were both Protestants, had been married in Cork's most prestigious Church of Ireland parish, and Lola herself had been baptized in the Church of England on the eve of her second birthday." The Gilberts were married in April of 1820.
Shortly after Ensign Gilbert took his child bride and Lola to India he died in 1823 at the age of 26. Not long after after the death of her husband Lola's mother married a Lieutenant Craigie. Upon returning from India Lola was later placed in a strict environment in Scotland and later England. She soon became a very rebellious child and would remain a rebel throughout her life.
By the time Lola was 16 (1837) her mother was already making plans, according to Lola, to marry her off to someone appropriate. But Lola had other ideas and ended up eloping with Lieutenant Thomas James. They were married in County Meath, Ireland, in 1837 and went to India to live. The marriage did not last long, however. Lola claimed she caught her husband cheating on her. She left him and returned to England. But Bruce Seymour, her biographer, points to evidence that "Lola's mother insisted on her returning to England because she was a social misfit and embarrassment to her mother in India after having left her husband." For Lola, "runaway marriages, like runaway horses, are almost always sure to end in a smashup." On the way back to England she had an affair aboard ship with a Lieutenant Lennox. Once in London she began to live it up with her new companion and took up Spanish dancing lessons. In 1842 she was charged with adultery and got caught up in a nasty divorce proceeding with her first husband that involved scandalous public testimony that made The Times of London. By this time Lola was taking on a new identity. She had voyaged to Spain to study dancing and had returned with a new name: Lola Montez, more exactly, Maria Dolores de Porris y Montez, "the proud and beautiful daughter of noble Spanish family." (Seymour, 1996)
In 1843 Lola attempted a stage debut in London as a dancer. The reviews were positive. But her impresario, Lumley, "wrote in his memoirs that he reluctantly withdrew her from the bill because he learned of her fraudulent impersonation." (Seymour). In fact she never became a great dancer and her talents as a writer and lecturer later in life would far surpass her dancing ability. Yet she was so beautiful and outrageously exotic that she eventually created an electrifying style that would serve her well in the future. So she headed for the continent and adventure as a Spanish dancer. Her "Spider Dance" became a hallmark. This feisty and flamboyant Irish girl with an assumed Spanish name and Spanish blood adopted all the mannerisms that would cultivate such an image. It was in 1844 that she would enter the life of Franz Liszt - much to his regret forever after.
In his monumental three volume biography of Franz Liszt Alan Walker explores the unfortunate relationship between Liszt and Lola. Certainly at this stage in her life, as Dr. Walker has noted, "Everything about Lola Montez was false - except perhaps her ample bosom." Regarding the same, a German biographer, Edward Fuchs, has written that "Lola's beauty, particularly the splendor of her breasts, made madmen everywhere."
Bruce Seymour in his research has detailed how Lola sought out Liszt
for the purpose of acquiring letters of introduction to important people
in Paris to foster her career. While in Russia she had learned that Liszt
was to appear in concert in Germany and she promptly set out in haste to
rendezvous with the pianist in 1844. So it was that Lola intercepted Liszt
en route to Dresden where they arrived together in 1844.
Franz Liszt, 1856. Oil portrait by Wilhelm von Kaulbach
photo credit: Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum
Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, Budapest
Fond as he was of interesting women it is not surprising that he would have initially been fascinated by her. But Liszt was no Don Juan. As was often the case with the women in his life, it was they who sought him out. Certainly this is true in the case of Lola. They were often seen together. What went on remains undocumented although rumors abounded. One legend that has refused to die describes how Lola followed Liszt to several towns. Eventually, the story goes, she embarrassed him so much that he had to bribe the concierge of a hotel to lock her in her room for twelve hours so he could get out of town. He is said to have paid the hotel in advance for the damage that her fury would cause to the room and its furnishings during her confinement. It's a good story and surely pure fiction but illustrates perhaps Lola's volatile temperament that became legendary. Of greater significance to lisztians is a meeting Lola arranged between Liszt and the fourteen-year old Hans von Bülow, Liszt's future son-in-law. Hans played some variations on some of Lola's Spanish songs for Liszt and Liszt in turn improvised on the same tunes for the young lad. The chain of events that followed Von Bülow's disastrous marriage to Liszt`s daughter, Cosima, is a saga best told in Alan Walker's expansive biography of Liszt. (cf. below) But for lisztians it may Lola's claim to fame.
Whatever the relationship between Liszt and Lola it was enough, indeed too much, for Marie d'Agoult, the mother of Liszt's three children. She and Liszt had a big quarrel and Marie told him bluntly that she didn't mind being his mistress, but was not interested in being one of his mistresses. They would part company that same year and Marie would follow up with a vindictive kiss-and-tell novel thoroughly trashing Liszt.
Lola invaded Liszt's life once again in 1845. An eye-witness to the fiasco described Lola at this time: ""Her strange appearance and provocative manner made her particularly striking. She was small in stature, endowed with a graceful figure, and wore an extremely simple, almost shabby, black dress. But with her tumbling dark hair, her fiery eyes, and glowing southern glances, she could not fail to catch attention." (Williams, 1990). The encounter in question took place during the unveiling of a great Beethoven Monument in Bonn. When sufficient contributions were found wanting Liszt came forward with a large donation for the statue of Beethoven. He also underwrote the cost of the festive hall built for the occasion. The closing ceremonial banquet turned into a riotous occasion. People had too much to drink and a dispute arose about whether French or German should be used. Amid the din Lola jumped up on a table and knocked over champagne bottles and glasses as she "executed a pirouette." The fiasco fortunately came to an abrupt end with a sudden thunderstorm. Not soon enough for Liszt.
In that same year another of Lola's lovers in Paris was killed over her in a duel with a Creole suitor. Lola had to testify at his murder trial the following year in Rouen. This turned into another sensational event witnessed by French luminaries such as Alexandre Dumas (père et fils).
In 1846 Lola arrived in Munich and a new chapter in her life opened. The sixty year old King Ludwig I of Bavaria fell head over heels for Lola when she burst into his palace unannounced. There is another groundless legend that she danced for him in his chambers, then cut the strings of her bodice to display the splendor therein. Her biographer finds no evidence that this occurred and the story remains one more myth that haunts Lola's life. A New York Times book review, 6/2/02, of the book 'Sisters of Salome': Headless Body and Topless Dancer by Stacy Schiff) reminds the reader of the ancient conundrum:
"Why is it that men suit up for battle, while women find their
power enhanced when they take it off? ...
As every culture that has attempted to enshroud them recognizes, naked women have made more conquests than their clothed sisters."
In Lola's case, as Bruce Seymour points out, in matters sexual, it "may have been more provocation than performance."
Whatever transpired, the old man became irreparably smitten. During the following months the king remodeled a stately home for her, spending a few million dollars along the way, and gave her a title, Countess of Landsfeld, something she treasured and bore the rest of her days. The long-suffering queen endured in silence while the king became a laughing stock. His advisors and the nation fumed while he flitted away his time writing love poems for Lola. The beautiful portrait of Lola that he commissioned (above) is still admired by visitors to the Munich museum. The story of Lola and Ludwig is a novel in itself and should be explored in detail in Bruce Seymour's biography.
It was during
this period in Bavaria as King Ludwig's constant companion that Lola's
animosity toward the Catholic church fermented. Bavaria was a very
Catholic country and the clergy were horrified at the king's behavior
and the insult to the queen. Lola had developed a long standing paranoid
suspicion of the Jesuits, even though they had long been expelled from
Bavaria . Whenever things went wrong for her later in life, as they often
did, she would attribute this to sinister jesuitical plots. One
of her famous lectures later in life on "Romanism" expounds on her
criticism of the Roman Catholic church. When the Revolution of 1848
finally forced King Ludwig to abdicate in favor of his son Lola was
driven from the kingdom of Bavaria.
In spite of the embarrassment
Lola had previously caused Liszt, three years later he would praise
King Ludwig as a lucky fellow, indeed "the happiest of mortals."
"She is the most perfect, most enchanting creature I have ever known....Oh,
one must have seen her! She is always new! always plastic!
Creative at every moment! She is truly a poet! The genius
of charm and love! All other women pale beside her! One can understand
everything that King Ludwig has done and sacrificed for her! Everything!"
(Williams, op. cit.) Obviously Liszt was
speaking from experience.
Undaunted, Lola's next misadventure occurred in England when, on July 19, 1849, she married George Trafford Heald who came from a rich and distinguished family. The problem for Lola was that her first husband was still alive. Since there had only been a legal separation she was arrested for bigamy on August 6. She skipped out of the country, traveled through Europe and did not return to the stage until September 1851 when she performed her now famous act. Her reputation for affairs continued with some claiming without proof that she had an affair with a Nepalese ambassador.
One would think that such a life would soon burn out. Not for Lola, "la Belle Horizontale," as some would call her. Ahead of her lay adventures in America and Australia.
With her second marriage a failure Lola set out for America in 1851 and had her New York debut in December. This was followed by a one week engagement in Philadelphia that was "extended for a second week because she was doing such good business at the box office." (Seymour) By 1853 her acting and dancing career had reached California. Here she fell in love with an Irishman named Patrick Hull. They were married in Catholic ceremony in 1853. (Lola, as in her her relationship with King Ludwig, frequently passed herself off as Catholic.) But this marriage didn't last either and Hull left Lola after two months of connubial bliss. Another myth that arose in the Lola "hagiography" is an alleged fourth marriage to a German baron. Lola is said to have described it as "copiously consummated." Although a somewhat amusing tale, it is dismissed by her biographer as "total fantasy." This gentleman was soon killed in a hunting accident. Lola was obviously not having great marital success. Unlucky in love, she is said to have written: "Love is a pipe we fill at eighteen and smoke until forty. Then we rake the ashes till our exit." Again there is no record of this quotation and the legend simply grows.
Lola with a cigarette sometime in the 1850's
There was another side to Lola besides that of the fiery fury who frequently horsewhipped men who got in her way. While out West she began to devote much of her time to child care and showed great compassion for troubled women. She had by now also become an expert equestrian and excelled at needlework. She even settled down in a rural community where she lived as a model citizen and was much admired.
In 1853, however, she set out for Australia for a tour where she made a great sensation with her Spider Dance. Tragedy again befell her, however, on the way back to America. Her manager with whom she had fallen in love fell overboard and was lost at sea. This event seems to have affected her deeply and she gave way to grief. There were other tours of Europe, but she eventually settled into writing and the lecturing in America. I have read parts of some of her lectures. They are eloquent and enjoyable even today. She also was an excellent writer. One of her writings is still available in print, republished in 1998: "Timeless Beauty: Advice to Ladies & Gentlemen ." Her best weapon, as one biographer wrote, had always been her "physical presence." Her insistence on healthy and natural foods, for instance, and her admonitions about certain female cosmetic and hygienic practices are very sound and even visionary in light of what we know today.
Another theme of Lola's, already mentioned, was her attack on the church. She would first express real admiration in a preface: "I know not that history has anything more wonderful to show than the part which the Catholic Church has borne in the various civilizations of the world. What a marvelous structure it is....." Then she would launch into a tirade against the 19 th century church as she saw it - an enemy of progress and out to destroy modern civilization: for Lola the church had become "like bands of iron around the expanding hearts and struggling limbs of modern freedom.... Who will dare tell me that this terrible Church does not lie upon the bosom of the present time like a vast unwieldy and offensive corpse, crushing the life-blood out of the body of modern civilization.?"
Powerful words from a lady with reputation of her own. Yet when one considers the failures and disappointments of her past and the rather reactionary and dark period of church history in which she lived one can understand her sentiments, bitter as they may seem. This was the period of Pope Gregory XVI and his assault on freedom of the press, freedom of conscience and condemnation of Lamennais (cf. my essay on Lamennais). During her travels in Australia Lola had also begun to show an interest in Spiritualism, She had a great emptiness in her life and was reaching out for something. She soon enough became disillusioned by the fraudulence of this movement however. But her spiritual journey had now begun and was to lead her on to an uncertain future.
By 1857 Lola's thoughts were turning more and more toward religion, her own spiritual state, even thoughts of death. She seems to have had a profound religious experience. Lola became sincerely remorseful over her wasted life. She converted to Methodism. In what must have been a remarkable change she could be seen carrying a bible in the streets of London and New York preaching and praying for forgiveness and lecturing on the evils of slavery. She was a formidable and eloquent lecturer by all accounts- far better than she was a dancer. Seymour's biography is filled with newspaper accounts and rave reviews of the diction, clarity and intelligence of her lectures. She still remained haunted by accusations and denunciations of her former life however. Little did her critics know of the inner conversion that had happened within her. She was known to visit prisons and the Magdalen Asylum for "fallen women" in New York City. This was an extraordinary change in her life, a true metanoia as theologians would call it today. She did not flaunt the depth of the spiritual transformation that was going on within her and continued to maintain to a great extent "her public image of a cynical, carefree woman of the world." (Seymour)
Then tragedy struck. On June 30, 1860 Lola suffered a sudden and paralyzing stroke and for months it seemed that she would not live. When Eliza Craigie, her mother, heard in England of her daughter's misfortune she traveled to New York. Her biographer states that she had perhaps one meeting with her daughter. But it had never been a happy relationship and the visit was not welcomed. Some claim that the only reason her mother came was to see if there was any money to be had. There is no evidence of this. In fact, Bruce Seymour points to a letter that Mrs. Craigie wrote to Lola's doctor indicating a "sincere interest in Lola's prognosis." Although Lola had made a lot of money in her lifetime she was not wealthy at this time; neither was she impoverished.
One who did come to her rescue by October was a Mrs. Buchanan, an old schoolmate from Scotland who learned of Lola's plight. By October Lola was given a room in a boarding house on 17th Street in Manhattan just down the street from her old classmate's home. It is remarkable that Lola began to recover her speech and ability to walk by the fall of that year. She asked to be driven to the Magdalen Asylum on 88th Street where she spoke and counseled troubled women - one of her great charities. Taking a walk on a chilly day after Christmas, however, proved fatal for Lola in her weaken condition. She contracted pneumonia and it proved fatal. Lola died repentant and piously on January 17, 1861. The Reverend Francis Lister Hawks (1798-1866), an Episcopal clergyman, had been called to minister to her at the end of December 1860. His account of her last days and state of soul, written two days after her death (January 19, 1861) is truly moving. (The Story of a Penitent: Lola Montez). "In the course of a long experience as a Christian minister I do not think I ever saw a deeper penitence and humility, more real contrition of soul, and more bitter self reproach, than in this poor woman.." In his discussions and prayer with her he felt that "she was the preacher, and not I." Given Rev. Hawks' reputation as the finest preacher in New York at the time this last comment is most significant.
In this same slim book there are also fragments of a spiritual diary Lola kept and one is easily moved to tears by the sincerity of her faith. Her bible easily fell open to the worn pages of the account of Christ's forgiveness of the sinful woman in the house of Simon. Jesus had told the onlookers, "Many sins are forgiven her because she has loved much." In her last hours Lola had whispered to Rev, Hawks, "Ah, but she loved much. Can I love enough?" (see the complete text of Rev. Hawks' testimony about Lola's final days see Appendix 1 below. For some interesting background on Rev. Hawks, see Appendix 2.)
Lola was buried from Calvary Church on January 19, 1861, with the Rev. Hawks officiating.
She was buried in a simple grave marked "Mrs. Eliza Gilbert" in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. Her biographer notes ironically that all her life Lola had lied about her name and her age. Her grave gives her a name that was not hers and makes her older than she really was by a couple of years. More on her grave site later in this paper.
I am reminded of a line from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. When Scrouge asks the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob, why he is dragging chains behind him, he replies: "The chains I wear I forged in life. I made them link by link." Lola no doubt had forged not a few links in her own tragic life. But Lola's life also says something to me about avoiding judgment and overly quick condemnation of another, about never giving up on someone no matter how far they have fallen. There was more than a spark of goodness here. For me Lola's life also bears witness to hope and God's persistent grace. When one reads the letter Lola wrote in her final years (1859) one has the feeling of being in the presence of a saint. As the poet once remarked about the Good Thief beside Jesus on the cross:
"Thief to the last, he stole heaven."
A recent footnote was should be mentioned. The New York Times not long ago noted that her biographer, Bruce Seymour, had donated a new monument at Lola's grave site in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. The original marker had, according to Mr. Seymour in his correspondence with this writer, "weathered into near total illegibility." He used part of the royalties from his biography to have a "granite replica of the original white marble stone erected." He also added on the reverse side the real place and date of her birth which, he states, "conflicts with the incorrect age at death given on the original inscription, together with her title as Countess of Landsfeld." A nice ending to a sad story thanks to her magnanimous biographer.
Below is the landmark entrance to historic Greenwood Cemetery as photographed
on a recent visit.
Richard Cross, 1998. Revised June 2002.
Sources for this article and recommended reading:
- Bayerische Verwaltung, Munich. Schloss Nymphenburg,Schönheitsgalerie:Gemälde
painting of "Lola Montez", Inv. Ny. G 55, von Josepf Steiler, 1847.
- Calvary Episcopal Church Parish Registry and archives
- Dyer, Rev. H. The Story of a Penitent: Lola Montez. TheProtestant Episcopal Society for the Promotion of Evangelical Knowledge, 1867.
- Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum, Budapest. Portrait of Liszt
- Montez, Lola. Timeless Beauty: Advice to Ladies & Gentlemen. Thomas Publications, 1998.
- * Seymour, Bruce. Lola Montez: a Life, Yale University Press, 1996.
- Seymour Bruce- personal correspondence with this writer
- Ross, Ishbel. The Uncrowned Queen, Harper & Row, 1972. (contains inaccuracies)
- Wyndham, Horace. The Magnificent Montez: from Courtesan to Convert, 1935. Reissued by Benjamin Bloom, Inc.1969 (contains some inaccuracies)
- Walker, Alan. Franz Liszt (3 volumes), Alfred A. Knopf
- Williams, Adrian. Portrait of Liszt, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990
Testimony of the Rev. Francis Lister Hawks, DD., of the Protestant Episcopal Church, dated January 19, 1861, two days after the death of Lola Montez (source: the original text is found in the parish registry of Calvary Episcopal Church, Manhattan, and was viewed by this writer. It was first published (1867) in "The Story of a Penitent").
The photo below shows Rev. Hawks' entry of January 19, 1861, in the burial registry of the church. Note that he wites "Eliza Gilbert, alias, Lola Montez." He then refers the reader to the back of the burial book where he has written the following two-page reflection. The photo below also shows his opening paragraph: "It was in the latter part of 1860..."
"It was in the latter part of the year 1860 that I received a message from the unhappy woman so well known to the public under the name Lola Montez, earnestly requesting me to visit her as a clergyman, and minister to her spiritual wants. She had been smitten down by a paralysis of her left side, and for some days was unconscious, and her death seemed to be at hand.
She had, however, rallied, and a most benevolent Christian female, who had been her schoolmate in Scotland in the days of girlhood, and knew her well, had stepped forward and provided for the temporal comfort of the afflicted companion of her childhood. The real name of Lola Montez was Eliza G., and she was of reputable family in Ireland, where she was born.
I, of course, complied with her request to visit her; and saw her from time to time until she died - always in company with the excellent woman above alluded to, and in the presence of Lola's nurse. And I should never have written a word of this statement, had I not deemed it a duty to bear witness to the mighty power of the Holy Ghost in changing the heart of one who had been a great sinner.
In the course of a long experience as a Christian minister I do not think I ever saw a deeper penitence and humility, more real contrition of soul, and more bitter self-reproach, than in this poor woman. Anxious to probe her heart to the bottom, I questioned her in various forms; spoke as plainly as I could of the qualities of a genuine repentance; set forth the necessity of the Operations of the Holy Spirit really to convert from sin to holiness - and presented Christ as all in all - the only Savior.
For myself I became quite satisfied, and am now, that, as far as a poor mortal can judge, God the Holy Ghost had renewed her poor sinful soul unto holiness. I think she had been taught from on high, by a blessed experience, "the secret of the Lord."
There was no confident boasting, however. I never saw a more humble penitent, nor one more overwhelmed than she was by the thought that Christ's blood could save such a sinner as she felt herself to have been. When I prayed with her, nothing could exceed the fervor of her devotion; and never had I a more watchful and attentive hearer when I read the Scriptures. She read the blessed volume for herself, also, when I was not present. It was always within reach of her hand; and, on my first visit, when I took up her Bible from the table, the fact struck me that it opened of its own accord to the touching story of Christ's forgiveness of the Magdalene in the house of Simon.
I spoke to her of Christ's gentle pity and pardon to this poor woman. "Ah!" she replied, "but she loved much. Can I love enough?"
If ever a repentant soul loathed past sin, I believe hers did. If ever a renewed soul prayed for the help of the Holy Spirit to keep her from all sin, for Christ's dear sake, I think hers did.
She was a woman of genius, highly accomplished, of more than usual attainments, and of great natural eloquence. I listened to her sometimes with admiration, as, with the tears streaming from her eyes, her right hand uplifted, and her singularly expressive features (her keen black eye especially) speaking almost as plainly as her tongue, she would dwell upon Christ, and the almost incredible truth that He could show mercy to such a vile sinner as she felt herself to have been, until I would feel that she was the preacher, and not I.
When she was near her end and could not speak, I asked her to let me know by a sign whether her soul was at peace, and she still felt that Christ would save her. She fixed her eyes on mine and nodded her head affirmatively.
I thank God that I can believe she found forgiveness through the precious blood of Christ, and that her departed spirit rests in comfort in the paradise of God."
Francis Hawks. January 19, 1861
(Below) Two excerpts in Rev. Hawks' hand: the burial
notatation in the the Calvary Church archives that indicates that Eliza
alias Lola Montez, was buried from the church on January 19, 1861, two days after her death.
Appendix 2: Notes on Rev. Francis Lister Hawks. (source: Rev. Stephen S. Garmey, Vicar, Calvary Church, New York City).
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Lister Hawks (1798-1866) was the fifth rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Manhattan. "He was born in North Carolina in 1798 and became a lawyer and member of the State Legislature; he was short in stature but so great an orator that whenever he was to speak, the word went out: "that little man is speaking" and the galleries were soon filled to overflowing. One day he decided he had entered the courthouse for the last time and was going to become a clergyman instead.
"In a few years he had become a professor of Divinity at Trinity College, Hartford, and then in 1831 rector of St. Thomas' Church, New York, and was known as a the peerless preacher of the day. He also became a professor at General Theological Seminary and instructed students there in Pulpit Eloquence.
"He wrote books on such varied subjects as Egyptian monuments, the history of North Carolina, Alexander Hamilton, Perry's Expedition to China, and, under the name 'Uncle Philip', a whole series of children's books. He founded a boys' school in Flushing, which soon failed, owing, it was said, to his mismanagement; he had, as a result, to resign as rector of St. Thomas'. (the author here notes that Hawks had taken the blame for the misdeeds of others).
"He went ot New Orleans, and became the first president of the University of Louisiana, but, when he was officially exonerated by General Convention, he returned to New York and became rector of Calvary in 1852.
"All the while he was very much a Southern
gentleman, and when in 1862 (not long after Lola's death) he refused
to let the Union flag fly from the church following a Northern victory,
he gave in only when a mob threatened to burn the church down. He
felt he must resign and he did, over the
protestations of the vestry, and went to be rector of Christ Church, Baltimore, for the duration of the war."
Appendix 3: Links for Lola Montez: (there are over 3,700 on the Internet. Here are a few:)
picture of Lola:.
More links to Lola:
http://www.standingstones.com/crabtree.html (California days)
http://www.angelfire.com/il2/oaparchives2/agftp092899.html (one lady's "find")
http://members.ozemail.com.au/~dspice/lm.htm#lmtw (a musical based on Lola's adventures in Australia)
http://www1.bigcelebrities.com/celebs/lolamontez.html (many links to Lola)
http://malakoff.com/goldcountry/mcgrslmh.htm (color photoof Lola's house in Grass Valley, California)
http://www.pancakeparlour.com/Locations/Canberra/DetailsofCanberra/detailsofcanberra.html (Spider Dance and libertine)
http://lin.cbl.com.au/ballarathistory/artslola.html (Lola causes a stir in Australia)
Appendix 4. Excerpts from the Lola Montez lecture on "Romanism."
reflects many of the views held in America in the nineteenth century)
I know not that history has anything more wonderful to show than the part which the Catholic Church has borne in the various civilizations of the world.
What a marvelous structure it is, with its hierarchy ranging through long centuries almost from apostolic days to out own; living side by side with forms of civilization and uncivilization, the most diverse and the most contradictory, through all the fifteen hundred years and more of its existence; asserting an effective control over opinions and institutions; with its pontificate (as is claimed) dating from the fisherman of Galilee, and still reigning there in the city that heard Saint Peter preach, and whom it saw martyred; impiously pretending to sit in his chair and to bear his keys; shaken, exiled, broken again and again by schism, by Lutheran revolts and French revolutions; yet always righting itself and reasserting a vitality that neither force nor opinion has yet been able to extinguish.
Once with its foot on the neck of kings, and having the fate of empires in its hands, and even yet superintending the greatest ecclesiastical mechanism that man ever saw; ordering fast days and feast days, and regulating with omnipotent fiat the very diet of millions of people; having countless bands of religious soldiery trained, organized, and officered as such a soldiery never was before nor since; and backed by an infallibility that defies reason, an inquisition to bend or break the will, and a confessional to unlock all hearts and master the profoundest secrets of all consciences.
Such has been the mighty Church of Rome, and there it is still, cast down, to be sure, from what it once was, but not yet destroyed; perplexed by the variousness and freedom of an intellectual civilization, which it hates and vainly tries to crush; laboriously trying to adapt itself to the Europe of the nineteenth century, as it once did to the Europe of the twelfth; lengthening its cord and strengthening its stakes, enlarging the place of its tent, and stretching forth the curtains of its habitations, even to this Republic of the New World.
The only wonder is that such a church should be able to push its fortunes so far into the centre of modern civilization, with which it can feel no sympathy, and which it only embraces to destroy. I confess I find it difficult to believe that a total lie could administer comfort and aid to so many millions of souls; and the explanation is, no doubt, that it is all not a total lie; for even its worse doctrines are founded on certain great truths which are accepted by the common heart of humanity.
There is such a thing as universal truth, and there is such a thing as apostolic succession, made not by edicts, bulls, and church canons, but by an interior life divine and true. But all these Rome has perverted, by hardening the diffusive spirit of truth into so much mechanism cast into a mold in which it has been forcibly kept; and by getting progressively falser and falser as the world has got older and wiser, till the universality became only another name for a narrow and intolerant sectism, while the infallibility committed itself to absurdity, and which reason turns giddy, and faith has no resource but to shut her eyes; and the apostolic succession became narrowed down into a mere dynasty of priests and pontiffs. A hierarchy of magicians, saving souls by machinery, opening and shutting the kingdom of heaven be a "sesame" of incantations which it would have been the labour of a lifetime to make so much as intelligible to St. Peter or St. Paul.
Now who shall compute the stupefying and brutalizing effects of such a religion? Who will dare say that a principle which so debases reason is not like bands of iron around the expanding heart and struggling limbs of modern freedom?
Who will dare tell me that this terrible Church does not lie upon the bosom of the present time like a vast unwieldy and offensive corpse, crushing the life-blood out of the body of modern civilization? It is not as a religious creed that we are looking at this thing; it is not for its theological sins that we are here to condemn it; but it is its effects upon political and social freedom that we are discussing.
What must be the ultimate political night that settles upon a people who are without individuality of opinions and independence of will, and whose brains are made tools of in the hands of a clan or an order? Look out there into that sad Europe, and see it all! See, there, how the Catholic element everywhere marks itself with night, and drags the soul, and energies, and freedom of the people backwards and downwards into political and social inaction - into unfathomable quagmires of death!
Appendix 5. Fragments (the original manuscript is now lost) from Lola's diary.
(I copied these verbatim out of the original edition of The Story of a Penitent- a book that I purchased and subsequently donated to the Calvary Episcopal Church in Manhattan in the fall of 2002. Bruce Seymour, her biographer notes that Lola was not in the habit of keeping a diary. These spiritual notes written in England, as far as we know, are the only diary she kept.)
Saturday, September 1, 1859.
It is good to write down every day what have been our thoughts and actions during the twenty-four hours.
Oh! may Jesus bless this endeavor; and may I find, through His grace in my heart, on looking it over in the future, that my endeavors of leading a better life have not been diminished; but that my soul may progress ever upward and onward to Him who is the divine centre of all peace, love, and true happiness!
With what gratitude ought I to give thanks to Him who did not forsake me, even when walking in utter darkness and death! I knew not, neither cared for, or thought of, His love.
How many, many years of my life have been sacrificed to Satan, and my own love of sin! What have I not been guilty of, either in thought or deed, during these years of misery and wretchedness!
Oh! I dare not think of the past. What have I not been! I only lived for my own passions; and what is there of good even in the best natural human being! What would I not give to have my terrible and fearful experience given as an awful warning to such natures as my own! And yet, when people generally, even to my mother, turned their backs on me and knew me not, Jesus knocked at my heart's door- oh! so gently; but 'twas He alone! and, in the deep, dark hour of my mental agony, which no mortal eye saw, my Savior came to the darkest sinner, and brought a sweet light around me.
Oh! how long, long was He telling me that I should come to Him. I was indeed "weary and heavy laden." O my Teacher! I did come to Thee. Thou didst indeed give me peace. And all Thou didst say in Thy words are balm to me. But I owed Thee much, and Thou didst forgive me much. My prayers to Thee, God of mercy and love, remain not unanswered. Thou surely dost cast comfort around my soul, in my lonely and unloved, uncared for earth-life.
O my Master, my loved Savior! lead me, guide me, teach me, is my prayer. Before Thee let me feel as a little child. What is my worldly knowledge in Thy sight- an impediment to get to Thee. What has the world ever given to me? (And I have known all that the world has to give- all!) Nothing but shadows, leaving a wound on the heart hard to heal- a dark discontent.
Now I can more calmly look back on the stormy passages of my life- an eventful life, indeed - and see onward and upward a haven of rest to the soul. I used once to think, like many others, that heaven was a place somewhere beyond the clouds; and that those who got there were as if they had not been themselves on the earth. But light has been given to me to know that heaven begins in the human soul, through the grace of God and His holy word. Those who can not feel somewhat of heaver here will never find it hereafter-though this can only be faintly indeed.
We are told to seek and we shall find. All is true in that word; but this can only be known to those who seek.
O God of love and mercy! bless my undertaking, and increase in me all good, for thy honor and glory. O lord Jesus! Cast the devils out of me, as Thou didst from Magdalene of old; and oh! strengthen and preserve me against my sins. Let it not be said that Thou didst die for me in vain; but let me lie, O Lord! forever at Thy feet, blessing Thy holy name. Amen.
Looking back on the past week, though guilty, and sinning but too often in thought, word and deed, I find that my earnest prayers have been answered, and that the Lord has indeed preserved my from temptation, and delivered me from evil; but still, how far, how very far, I am away from Him! But I will cry unto Him, and He will deliver me.
I am afraid, sometimes, that I think too well of myself. But let me only look back to the past. Oh! how I am humbled!
Tomorrow (the Lord's day) is the day of peace and happiness.
Once it seemed to me any thing but a happy day; but now all is wonderfully
changed in my heart. I can well understand how David sang, in his joy
and gladness, the praises of God. And yet he had
not Jesus to go to as a friend, a brother, a God. This is my song of praise. Thou didst lead me from death to life. I was blind, and now I see. I was deaf; now I hear. What I loved before now I hare. But oh! to leave Thee one moment is to perish. Oh! that in this coming week I may through Thee overcome all sinful thoughts, and love every one. Keep my tongue from evil speaking and lying; make me charitable in thought, in word, and in deed. Watch over me, dear Lord. Amen.
Another week! and though of small importance as regards external events, what an eventful inner life it has been to me. What a hopeless state, were it not for the certitude of our dear Lord's help and pity for our struggles. What a perpetual disappointment of one's self. Oh! how little of truth is there in the world's opinion of each other! We only see effects, but are blind to causes. As for myself, He who said, "Come unto me," has surely helped my weak endeavors to live to Him during the past week. But yet I am now far from the path. How manifold are my sins, and how long in years have I lived a life of evil passions without a check! Bunyan's thoughts of himself are thus:
(there follows a long quotation from John Bunyan about the “seven abominations” in his heart and the seven ways these can be used to help him improve)
Oh! if a good man like Bunyan felt all this, what effect
must it have on a miserable
sinner! But God never turns a deaf ear to the heart's prayer oh! never! Jesus is more ready to hear than we to go to Him.
Oh! what a fearful spell has Satan over the world! Oh! what an awful cost it was for our Savior to redeem the world! Oh! that I may at last be one of the redeemed' and yet through what fiery trials I have to pass at every moment of the day. O Lord, without Thee, I must sink; for my nature is so stubborn; it must be only Thee that can hold me up. Oh! dear Lord, make my thoughts pure and charitable, and my actions will be the fruit.
Dear Lord, compel my hasty temper to be controlled, and give me an humble heart. Oh! What great gifts are these – an humble heart! And yet forever shall I pray to my Father until He hears my prayer.
Thankful I am that I have been permitted to pray this day. Three years ago I cried aloud in agony to be taken: and yet the great, All-Wise Creator has spared me, in his mercy, to repent. Oh! Give me the fruit of repentance! This week I have principally sinned through hastiness of temper and uncharitableness of feeling toward my neighbor. And yet how little am I, compared to those around me; for they certainly have not committed the heinous transgressions that I have done. Oh! That I could have only love to others, and hatred of myself!
How is it that I feel so forgetful of Jesus in the day, and draw nearer to Him at night? This I know not, but it is true; and I feel sadly disturbed about it. I should wish to feel that same at all times; but this as yet is not for me. But I will trust in God, who will hear my thoughts, for the sake of Jesus. Oh! Let me ever have that name before the eyes of my soul.!
All that has passed in New-York has not been mere illusion. I feel it is true. The Lord heard my feeble cry to Him, and I felt what no human tongue can describe. Such feelings belong not to pen, or will, or words. The world cast me out, and He, the pure, the loving, took me in.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and I shall go to the poor little humble chapel, and there will I mingle my prayers with the fervent pastor, and with the good and true. There is no pomp and ceremony among these. All is simple. No fine dresses, no worldly display, but the honest Methodist breathes forth a sincere prayer, and I feel much unity of soul. What would I give to have daily fellowship with these good people! To teach in the school; to visit the old, the sick, the poor. But that will be in the Lord’s good time, when He thinks me fit for this happiness-that is, when self is burned out of me completely.
O dear Lord! Will this ever be? Shall the love in my heart for Thee ever grow to this? Shall all turbulent passions in my soul be hushed, and wilt Thou take thine abode with me? The lesson now given to me to learn practically is, first, learn to subdue thyself, before thou canst do all things, Thou wilt do this in me. Oh! Let me learn to bear with meekness all things which happen in my daily life. O Lord and Master! May the next week be more to Thy glory! May I live more to Thee in all things. May I feel all Thy love and mercy more vitally, and may Thy Holy Spirit strengthen me! Amen
Saturday, in London.
Since last week my existence is entirely changed. When I last wrote, I was calm and peaceful – away from the world. Now I must again so forth. It was cruel, indeed, of Mr. E. to have said what he did; but I afraid I was too hasty also. Was that following the precepts of our Divine Master? Oh! That I practiced more of His teachings in my life! If it were not for His love and forbearance, what must become of me! Ought I to have resented what was said? No. I ought to have said not a word. The world would applaud me; but, oh! My heart tells me that for His sake I ought to bear the vilest reproaches, even unmerited. But I feel no anger in my heart. Why did I even for a moment? Oh! I must ever cry for help, until my own nature is subdued. I tremble to think of my utter weakness.
Good-by all the calm hours of reflection and repose I enjoyed at Derby. But, O God of mercy! Let me ever pray to Thee in spirit. Let me ever struggle against inward sin. Let me feel my Redeemer nearer and nearer to me. O Lord! Forsake me not! Give me life! Through Thee. Let me bless Thee in sorrow and in joy. Let me know Thy hand in all things. Cover me with the shadow of Thy power, and I shall be safe from the tempter. Oh! Hear me prayer to Thee for strength against myself. Forgive me my faults of the past week; and O dear Lord! On Thy day (tomorrow) let my heart be touched by Thy grace, that I may pray to Thee with fervor, believing.
Oh! My calm days at the cottage are gone, gone. But
I will not look back. “Onward!”
Must be the cry of my heard. O weary pilgrim! Despised and rejected of all, look to nothing earthly for happiness or peace. This is to be found alone in the bosom of Jesus. O my dear Father! Watch over me on the Lord.
O happy earthly father! To have been taken so young from this world of sorrow! And yet the Creator of all knows best how to dispose of all. Let me bow to His all-wise decree. O Lord! My heart is sore afraid. Give me light. Leave me not. Let me suffer with joy any agony, rather than deliberately displease and disobey Thee.!
Lord, Thy mercies are great to me. Oh! How little are they deserved, filthy worm that I am! Oh! That the Holy Spirit may fill my soul with prayer! Let me put undivided trust in my Savior, and let my rugged, lonely path (unseen by all) be radiant with light.
Lord, have mercy on the weary wanderer grant me all I beseech of Thee! Give me a meek and humble heart.
Reader, whoever thou art, if thou hast not yet found a refuge within the arms of the Good Shepherd, seek it without delay, and with thy whole heart. Fear not to bring all thy burden of guilt and fears to the Savior’s feet. Let no device of the evil one tempt thee to think that there is no forgiveness for thee. All thy sins, grievous and aggravated though they be, can not outweigh thy Redeemer’s merits. He knows them all, and thou canst not hide anything from His omniscient eye, and He has commanded thee to come. It is true that He can not look upon sin but with abhorrence; yet His love is infinite, and calls upon thee in tines of utmost tenderness to forsake they evil ways, and to bathe in that fountain of mercy opened for sin and for all uncleanness; to receive that renewing and sanctifying influence of his Holy Spirit which can renovate thy nature, and which He has declared He is more willing to bestow upon the sincere supplicant than an earthly father is to bestow good gifts upon his children.
Only believe, and whatever difficulties and stumbling-blocks
appear to obstruct the way shall be removed. “Who are thou, O great
mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”
Only believe: and the God of this poor penitent, who brought her out of
darkness into His marvelous light, and ministered peace and comfort to her
sin-stricken soul, will do the same for thee. Only believe: all needed blessings
shall be added unto thee, and thou shalt, with her, and with all the host
of the redeemed who have come up from the miry clay of wickedness and through
sore trials and affliction, be received into the blissful mansions prepared
for those who love and serve God in sincerity and truth.
Appendix 6. A powerful letter of Lola Montez to Miss Laura Cornelia
Mitchell - April 4, 1859.
Source: The New York Public Library archives: "The Crane family
At the suggestion of Lola's biographer, Bruce Seymour, I was able
to find this important letter and obtain a copy of it from the New York Public
Library. According the Seymour, the letter was written from London
to Miss Laura (née Mitchell) Crane (born 1833) at the time living
at 8 St. Mark's Place in New York City. It was written from London while
Lola was on a lecture tour not long before her death.
"She was the daughter of John Wroughton Mitchell, originally of
Charleston, S.C. and Caroline Green Mitchell of New York City. Sometime
after the Civil War, Laura Mitchell married Alexander Baxter Crane.
He had been born in Berkeley, Mass. in 1837, but subsequently moved to
Terre Haute, Indiana, and served in the war with distinction as a colonel
of Indiana volunteers. He moved to New York City after the war, where
he practiced law. After his marriage he moved to Scarsdale, buying
a large stone house at what is now 25 Crane Road in Scarsdale. He
made extensive changes to the house, which was purchased many years after
his death by Trinity Lutheran Church of Scarsdale. Trinity Church
converted the Crane Manor House, as it was then called, into a church, which
it remains to this day. According to the Smithsonian's Register of
American Portraits, twin oil portraits of Alexander and Laura Crane, painted
in their old age by Stephen S. Thomas about 1914, exist in a private collection.
Laura Mitchell Crane died in 1917. There is no evidence that she ever
had any contact with Lola Montez other than this single letter, but it
obviously meant a great deal to her since it has been so carefully preserved
in the family archive."
I have slightly edited the text for easier reading:
Lola's letter to Laura Mitchell
49 Weymouth St.
Portland Place (London)
April 4th. 1859
Although personally a stranger to you, as you to me, a mutual friend, Mr. Young, has had a long conversation with me about you which has so deeply interested me, that I must write to you, not as an unknown, but as a dear suffering sister, to comfort, to aid and to strengthen.
Oh, may the Lord Jesus give vitality to my words, that they may come home and dwell in your thoughts. I know you as if I had lived beside you for years, and, oh, how I pity, how I love you, poor, poor child. Once I lived for and from the world, was carried away to commit all its fearful sins and deceptions. I then loved that world. It was my all. I kissed and worshipped its chains that fettered me. And why was this?
Because I lived out of myself depending on it for my happiness, then my very bread from its vices. Oh, it took me years and years to rise out of its degradations. I loathed myself, loathed sin. I from my self tried to reform, not in outward show, for I never was a hypocrite, but from an inward drawing toward the light which is truth. I could not do this of myself for I had too many proofs that of myself I could only sin. My state of mind
at that time was a most negative one. I hung between good and evil, but as I felt dark in my soul. I could not live in myself. My state was a wretched one, fearfully wretched. I began to see what a monster in spirit I was. I sought for something I could not find. I went amongst Spiritualists and every sect, every kind of thinkers. Still I could not find that thing I sought – Peace. I read my Bible with true feelings of much repentance of soul. I felt better, calmer, but still one thing was wanting, and at last,
Oh, blessed be God’s holy name forever, I have found, found what nothing else can be compared with, what nothing else, what no one can give either by sympathy, advice or kind actions. That the love of God was so great to the most depraved of sinners that he gave his Son, His Divine Humanity, that He might come into the world to take all sin from the world and die for us that through his death we may have eternal life. The wages of sin is death, spiritual death to all sweet holy and good feelings. Christ our dearest friend, our brother and our God saves us eternally by our believing in him. Oh, this holy thought – that our dear Savior, daily and hourly in his earth life bearing the most dreadful persecution, living with a divine love and gentleness, and then completing his wonderful sacrifice by the most cruel of deaths, praying for those who did all this “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Oh, Madame, what, who can you love or live for but Him after once your heart is struck with these things?
Who other would do all this for you or for me but Jesus?
Oh, meditate on these things and you will, like myself, go to Jesus and lay hold of His garment and cling to it forever.
I pray that He may quicken your heart that these glories may be received and pray, pray ever, at every moment, pray that He may not let you be tempted beyond your poor strength. Say His own prayer, It is the most beautiful that ever lips breathed.
Oh, do pray, do. Go and converse with Mr. Harris of the New Church. Never mind an introduction. Go and tell him all about yourself. Hide nothing. The Lord will do the rest for you. I believe Mr. Harris is a true servant of the Lord. Tell him also how much good and how much consolation and strength his “Arenna Celestial” has done my spirit. Tell him I am brought to Jesus. Oh, never again to be lost.
I write all this to you from what Mr. …… tells me about you. Oh, how I wish I was near you. But seek others far better than I am. A true Christian will never turn away from you. Oh, know that they will take you to Christ, to their hearts for the love of Christ, and there are many sincere ones in New York.
If you will see Mr. Harris he will lead you through Our Lord into a path beaming with light. Remember, dear one, there is in Heaven the greatest joy and gladness over one sinner that repenteth and goeth to Him whose name is Love.
I feel so deeply for you about your state of mind, your unhappiness that, were you my sister, I could not take your distresses more to heart. But remember that I have been taught that the greatest blessings come sometimes through the greatest miseries.
Have faith, perfect faith
Read what He says and believe not the half but the whole, and fear not, never mind the morrow but do what is strictly right today through love of Him and He will take care of His own.
But do remember nothing can truly be of yourself. Go to Jesus and ask Him to come and dwell in you and what you ask will surely be granted.
Think what a sinner I was. How impossible it once seemed to me to become even better. And it is only by His constant care and love and by my fervor and sincerity of heart that He has accomplished this miracle. I beg of you alone at night to read His words. I could not point to any particular passages for all are beautiful. Then after reading His teachings go down on your knees, and talk to Him as your best and only friend. Never did He turn the deaf ear. Do not, I pray, be either offended or astonished at reading all this, I prayed before I began for His holy grace that it might through these few words go to your heart.
The Lord has helped me and I praise Him.
Remember ‘tis for Love, love to Christ brings love in the heart to all His creatures.
Will you write to me? I should be happy were you to do so. Address your letter to 49 Weymouth St and give me some good news. Mr. ……. has promised to get you a little book. It is a simple little book but there is a grand beauty in there because it speaks not to reason, not to the senses, but straight to the heart. Do not consider that I am sending you a sermon or a long rigmarole of words or that I consider myself better than you or anyone else.
I am a frail sinner in myself and only breathe truth and peace because I prayed Jesus to come and dwell in my heart. I feel very humble.
I have myself renounced much money and am poor as far as money goes.
I did the right thing for love of my God and I have found the fullest in Him. I am ready to accept all He gives me – joys or sorrows – for it is all good.
My prayer is not that He may give me of this world’s goods but that He will give me heavenly feelings which never go away when once you feel them ....(illegible).
May God our Father, friend and Savior watch over you. May His spirit come to you is my earnest prayer with which I subscribe myself.
Your sister in Christ
The reader can tell by now that I am fascinated by this incredible lady.
Was she a sinner who became a saint? A Methodist saint? There
remains much about Lola that requires further study. What was 26 year-old
Laura Mitchell's problem that so moved Lola to write her such a poignant
letter? What kind of trouble was she in? After she later married into
the prestigious Crane family why did Laura still preserve this letter, found
to this day in the Crane family papers in the archives of the New York Public
Library? Laura kept Lola's letter until her death in 1917 when she
was 84 years old. What was her secret and why did Laura chose to preserve
Lola's letter all those years?
Much has yet to be written about the Magdalene Asylum in New York where
Lola visited troubled young women at the end of her life and that
is my on-going interest about which I will write later.
Lola may not have been a great dancer - but she was a "ball of fire"
and surely could hold her own in the world. She was generous and caring
and, I think, revealed a true heart open to grace. She could write
and lecture extremely well. She was highly intelligent and in
many ways a women ahead of her time. When lecturing on beauty, for instance,
(Timeless Beauty: Advice to Ladies and Gentlemen - still available in
print) Lola shows herself to be "green" in the modern sense of the word.
"Lola recommended avoiding whatever is unnatural, including commercially
prepared cosmetics, which she branded as dangerous, and we now know many
were indeed poisonous. She provided her own formulas for skin creams,
hair washes, waxes for hair removal, and the like, all made from natrual
products. Fresh air, exercise, moderation in all things, scrupulous
cleanliness were all elements of her beauty plan."
cf. Timeless Beauty: Advice to Ladies and Gentlemen. Copyright
1998 Juanita Leisch, ed. Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA 17325
Unfortunately Lola is most remembered for her romantic and sometimes
outrageous escapades. The story of her conversion and the short time
left to her afterwards is not well known. Yet it was a profound and
totally sincere turning away from her old ways and embracing a new life
- "metanoia"(μετανοια) - as theologians would call it. One cannot read
this final chapter of her life without being moved. I, for one,
do not hestitate to welcome her to my own roster of personal saints.
American Liszt Society
Lola's House (Source: Greenwood Cemetery Bulletin)