BECK, Lily Adams (1862-1931)




Author Tags: 1900-1950, Fiction, Literary Landmarks, Religion, Women

LITERARY LOCATION: About ten minutes drive from Empress Hotel, via Fairfield Road, adjoining Beach Drive in Oak Bay, is the short street called Mountjoy Avenue, where lived B.C.'s most prolific author of the 1920s.

Having travelled in India, Tibet, China, Burma, Japan and Egypt, Lily Adams Beck was a staunch Buddhist. Arriving in Victoria in 1919, she surrounded herself with Oriental art and servants. A strict vegetarian with ascetic inclinations, she entertained fortnightly at her home on Mountjoy Avenue. She was the daughter of Royal Navy Rear Admiral John Moresby who explored the coast of New Guinea and discovered the site of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea--which he named after his father, Admiral Sir John Fairfax Moresby. Moresby Island in B.C. is also named after Lily Adams Beck's grandfather.

“The publications of L.A. Beck and The Brother XII,” wrote literary critic Charles Lillard in 1989, “must be considered the first serious religious writing done outside the established churches of Vancouver Island, and perhaps in British Columbia.”

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Born in Queenstown, Cork, Ireland, circa 1860, the most prolific female author of British Columbia in the 1920s, Eliza Louisa Moresby Beck (aka Lily Adams Beck) wrote most of her 30-odd books in Victoria in less than ten years while she was in her Sixties. Her seafaring father had died at Fareham, Hampshire, on July 12, 1922. It has been suggested she was the first female fantasy writer of Canada, having published The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories (1922), The Key of Dreams (1922) and Dreams and Delights (1926). Elizabeth Louisa Moresby Beck was also known as Elizabeth Louisa Beck, Eliza Louisa Moresby Beck and Lily Moresby Adams. Possibly Beck's first book was The Ladies! A Shining Constellation of Wit and Beauty (1922).

In her esoteric works, such as The Splendor of Asia (1926) and The Story of Oriental Philosophy (1928), she attempted to interpret the life and teachings of Buddha. Her romance entitled The House of Fulfillment: The Romance of a Soul (1927) incorporates some of the Hindu philosophy of the Upanishads to explain supernatural phenomena. The Garden of Vision (1929) is about an Englishwoman who forsakes materialism to seek wisdom and spirituality in Japan.

Beck began her career by publishing stories in the Atlantic Monthly and other publications, which were gathered into a popular collection, Dreams and Delights (1926). Beck used various pen names such as Louis Moresby for non-fiction and E. Barrington for popular romances set in exotic locales, such as The Way of Stars: A Romance of Reincarnation (1925), The Thunderer: A Romance of Napoleon and Josephine (1927) and The Laughing Queen: Romance of Cleopatra (1929), set in ancient Egypt.

Beck’s The Divine Lady: A Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton was made into a film in northern California in 1929. The script was credited to E. Barrington, Harry Carr, Forrest Halsey, Agnes Christine Johnston and Edwin Justus Mayer. The producers were Walter Morosco and Richard A. Rowland. It gained an Oscar for its director Frank Lloyd.

Associated with the rise of Theosophy, Lily Adams Beck continued to write her fantastical novels of faraway places from Victoria until her death in Kyoto, Japan, on January 3, 1931. She had lived in Japan for the final three years of her life.

A portrait of her by N. de Bertrand Lugrin appeared in Maclean's magazine in 1925 for an article entitled "The Lady with the Mask."

FULL ENTRY:

The most prolific female author of British Columbia in the 1920s, Lily Adams Beck, daughter of the Royal Navy Captain John Moresby, wrote most of her 30-odd books in Victoria in less than ten years. It has been suggested she was the first female fantasy writer of Canada, having first published The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories (1922), Dreams and Delights (1922) and The Key of Dreams (1922).

She lived in Queenstown, Ireland (c 1860 - ); Havant, Hampshire, England (1881); Greenwich, London, England (1891); Victoria, British Columbia (1919); Kyoto, Japan (1928? -1931).

In her esoteric works, such as The Splendor of Asia (1926) and The Story of Oriental Philosophy (1928), she attempted to interpret the life and teachings of Buddha, and her romance entitled The House of Fulfillment: The Romance of a Soul (1927) incorporates some of the Indian philosophy of the Upanishads to explain supernatural phenomena. The Garden of Vision (1929) is about an Englishwoman who forsakes materialism to seek wisdom and spirituality in Japan. “The publications of L.A. Beck and The Brother, XII,” wrote literary critic Charles Lillard in 1989, “must be considered the first serious religious writing done outside the established churches of Vancouver Island, and perhaps in British Columbia.”

Having travelled in India, Tibet, China, Burma, Japan and Egypt, Beck was a staunch Buddhist who came to Victoria in 1919. Surrounded by her Oriental art and Oriental servants, she entertained fortnightly at her home on Mountjoy Avenue in Oak Bay as a strict vegetarian with ascetic inclinations.

Beck began her career by publishing stories in The Atlantic Monthly and other publications. These were gathered into a popular collection in 1926. Beck used various pen names such as Louis Moresby and E. Barrington to also write popular romances set in exotic locales, such as The Way of Stars: A Romance of Reincarnation (1925), The Glory of Egypt (1926) and The Laughing Queen: Romance of Cleopatra (1929), all set in ancient Egypt and all penned under different names. As E. Barrington she wrote a fictional account of Lord Byron's life, Glorious Apollo (1925). She was also known as Elizabeth Louisa Beck, Eliza Louisa Moresby Beck and Lily Moresby Adams. Under her pseudonym of E. Barrington she wrote The Thunderer; A Romance of Napoleon and Josephine (1927). Her historical romance called The Divine Lady: A Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton was made into a film in northern California in 1929. The cast included Corinne Griffith, Victor Varconi, H.B. Warner, Ian Keith, Marie Dressler, Dorothy Cumming, William Conklin, Montagu Love, Julia Swayne Gordon, Helen Jerome Eddy, Michael Vavitch, Evelyn Hall and Joan Bennett. The script was credited to E. Barrington, Harry Carr, Forrest Halsey, Agnes Christine Johnston and Edwin Justus Mayer. The producers were Walter Morosco and Richard A. Rowland. It gained an Oscar for its director Frank Lloyd.

Other Beck titles include How Great is the Glory of Kwannon!, The Building of the Taj Majal, The Fire of Beauty, The Hatred of the Queen, The Incomparable Lady, The Interpreter and The Round-Faced Beauty, and Anne Boleyn (1932). Now sometimes associated with the rise of Theosophy, Lily Adams Beck also lived on Simcoe Street in Victoria and continued to write her fantastical novels of faraway places until her death in Kyoto, Japan, in 1931.

According to Canada's Early Women Writers: "It was perhaps through her father's work that she met her first husband, Royal Navy lieutenant and commander Edward Western Hodgkinson (c1848-c1910). Their first child, Harry Drake Hodgkinson, would prove a valuable figure in Lily's career as the caretaker of her posthumous copyright concerns. Shortly after being widowed, she married again in 1912, this time to fellow widower and newly-retired solicitor and Ironmongers' Company clerk, Ralph Coker Adams Beck (c1848-1935). The couple travelled together throughout Asia, with stops in Egypt, India, China, Tibet, and Japan, where Elizabeth picked up the interest in Asian and Buddhist cultures that would carry through her writings for the next two decades. Elizabeth was about sixty years old when she began to publish her novels; astonishingly, she produced over thirty-five books after the Becks settled in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1919. Although Ralph soon returned to England, Elizabeth remained in Victoria for close to a decade. A member of the Canadian Authors Association, she included Duncan Campbell Scott among her literary friends, as well as individuals who frequently attended topical lecture series offered by the eccentric doyenne at her home. Adding to her mystique, she wrote under three pseudonyms, each with its own purpose: "Louis Moresby" for nonfiction, "E. Barrington" for historical romances, and "L. Adams Beck" for stories with Asian settings and philosophies. In 1927, her popularity as "E. Barrington" led her to begin to sign many of her books as either "L. Adams Beck (E. Barrington)" or "E. Barrington (L. Adams Beck)." The "Louis Moresby" titles were kept separate. Elizabeth wrote very quickly, attributing her productivity to her sparse vegetarian diet and Buddhist habits of mental discipline; her best-selling fictional biography of Byron, Glorious Apollo(1925), took only one month to complete. Her use of history and the occult accounts for much of her popularity. Lily returned to the Orient in the 1920s to continue her studies of Buddhism, and died in Kyoto in 1931...
Lily Moresby (Mrs. Hodgkinson) is credited as an invaluable collaborator in her father's [book], Two Admirals: Sir John Moresby and John Moresby (1909). Beck's will included a bequest to be applied to the Kyukoin Temple in Koyassam, Japan, demonstrating the author's dedication to her faith."

The following notice appeared in the London Gazette in June of 1932: "Re Mrs. ELIZA LOUISA MORESBY BECK, late of Miyako Hotel, Kyoto, Japan, but formerly of Mountjoy Avenue, Victoria, British Columbia,and Royal Palace Hotel, Kensington, London. NOTICE is hereby given that creditors and others having claims against the estate of the above named deceased, who died on the 3rd day of January, 1931, should, on or before the 14th day of September, 1932, give notice thereof, in writing, to the undersigned, the Solicitors to the executors of the Will of the said Eliza Louisa Moresby Beck, after which date the executors intend to distribute the estate of the said Eliza
Louisa Moresby Beck among the parties entitled thereto, having regard only to the claims of which notice has then been received by the said Solicitors. — Dated this tenth, day of June, 1932."

BOOKS

As Lily Adams Beck

Lily Adams Beck (1920), Dreams and Delights
Lily Adams Beck (1922), The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories, New York: Dodd, Mead. (It includes The Ninth Vibration and The Interpreter.)
Lily Adams Beck (1922), The Key of Dreams.
The Ladies! A Shining Constellation of Wit and Beauty (1922).
Lily Adams Beck (1923), The Perfume of the Rainbow .
Lily Adams Beck (1923), The Treasure of Ho, A Romance, London: Collins .
Lily Adams Beck (1925), The Ways of the Stars, A Romance of Reincarnation, New York: Dodd, Mead .
Lily Adams Beck (1926), The Splendour of Asia .
Lily Adams Beck (1927), Way of Power: Studies in the Occult .
Lily Adams Beck (1928?), The Story of Oriental Philosophy . (This book can sometimes be found catalogued as published in year 1923.)
Lily Adams Beck (1929), The Garden of Vision Lily Adams Beck (1930), The Openers of the Gate, Stories of the Occult, New York: Cosmopolitan Book Co. (It includes The Openers of the Gate, Lord Killary, How Felicity Came Home, Waste Manor, The Mystery of Iniquity, Many Waters Cannot Quench Love, The Horoscope, The Thug, Hell, The Man Who Saw.)

As E. Barrington

E. Barrington (1922), The Ladies
E. Barrington (1923), The Chaste Diana .
E. Barrington (1924), The Divine Lady .
E. Barrington (1924), The Gallants .
E. Barrington (1925), Glorious Apollo, Dodd, Mead & Co. .
E. Barrington (1926), The Exquisite Perdita .
E. Barrington (1927), The Thunderer. A Romance of Napoleon and Josephine, Dodd, Mead & Co. .
E. Barrington (1927), The House of Fulfillment. The Romance of a Soul, London: T. Fisher Unwin .
E. Barrington (1928), The Empress of Hearts .
E. Barrington (1928), Captain Java .
E. Barrington(?)[citation needed] (1929), The Laughing Queen. A Romance of Cleopatra., Dodd, Mead & Co. .

As L. Moresby

L. Moresby (1926), The Glory of Egypt, George H. Doran Co. .
L. Moresby (1930), Duel of the Queens .
L. Moresby (1931), The Irish Beauties .
L. Moresby (1931), The Joyous Story of Astrid .
L. Moresby (1932), Anne Boleyn .
L. Moresby (1932), The Great Romantic .

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015] "Religion" "1900-1950" "Fiction" "Women" "Classic" "Movie"