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The Queen of Humbugs: Edmund Russell, an Account of an Interview of HPB

Account of an American artist, Edmund Russell on H.P.B.

“All felt her penetration and her power. Each fell to the charm of her universality. She lifted people to the expression of their best at once. It gave men new force to feel they had met one who could look right through to their real selves, uninfluenced by the littleness of which others make so much. Naturally, the creedbound, the literal Jonah-swallowing-the-whale order who were frightened at symbolic interpretation, were uncomfortable in the light of her logic and deep-dredged knowledge and went away calling her “a dreadful woman.” Sometimes their wives confessed, “We don’t approve of her – but love her just the same.” (…)

“When she wanted to draw anyone on in argument, she pretended not to know English very well, but her knowledge and command increased as she swept into discussion. It was amusing to watch her parry with a journalist – lean, mental, cross-examining – who had come to trap her. At such times she would put on that stupid look Loie Fuller uses so effectively, as if only a little brighter she might be called half-witted; lead him on to play out all his rope, then, regaining her trenches step by step, drop her bombs; till finally she wiped up the floor with him. Then with hearty laugh she would grasp his hand. “You are a splendid fellow – come often – come always!”

“I have seen her in an argument suddenly strike her forehead with her clenched fist: “What an idiot I am! My dear friend, forgive me – you are right, and I am wrong.” How many will do this? (…) Samadhi or god-consciousness was her ideal. She was the bar of iron heated red-hot which becomes as fire, forgetting its own nature. Most people occupy themselves with the needs or pleasures of the lower all the time. She seemed not to have needs or pleasures of her own. Often she did not go out of the house for half a year. Not even for a walk in her garden. The influence of such example was the secret of the astonishing growth and expansion of the Theosophical Society. She lived in great truth, yet was called a liar; in great generosity, and was called a fraud; in a detestation of all shams, and yet – was crowned the Queen of Humbugs.” (Edmund Russell, 1852 – 1927, Artist)

Jean Beraud, People Gathering

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