Mary Anne Atwood

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    Mary Anne Atwood (1817-1910)Mary Anne Atwood (1817-1910), was an English writer on hermeticism and spiritual alchemy. Atwood was born in Dieppe, France but grew up in Gosport, Hampshire. Her father, Thomas South, was a researcher into the history of spirituality, and she assisted and collaborated with her father from her youth

    A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery was written in 1850 by Atwood at her father's request, and in parallel with his own composition of a lengthy poem on the same subject. Thomas South paid for the book to be published anonymously in 1850, but without having read it, trusting his daughter's judgment. Reading it after publication, he believed Mary Anne had revealed many hermetic secrets that were better left unpublished, and therefore bought up the remaining stock and, with his daughter, burnt them, along with the unfinished manuscript of his poem. Only a few copies of the book survived, and she published nothing afterwards, but did have private correspondence with several influential Theosophists until her death in 1910.

    A Suggestive Inquiry was reissued in 1918 under Mary Anne's married name, with an appendix containing her table talk and memorabilia, and with an extensive biographical and philosophical introduction by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst. Scientific historians Lawrence M. Principe and William R. Newman considered A Suggestive Inquiry to be one of three books which started the influence of the spiritual interpretation of alchemy in early modern Europe.
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