Cecil, Lord William (1867–1936), priest. The second son of the 3rd marquess of Salisbury, and brother of Lord Hugh Cecil, Lord William sat in the House of Lords for 20 years as the bishop of Exeter. Called ‘Fish’ by the family, he married Lady Florence Bootle-Wilbraham, known as ‘Fluffy’. Fluffy was the more socially adept. In company, Lord William usually remained silent, leaving it to Fluffy to keep the conversation going. Sometimes he would fall into a deep sleep. On one occasion, when making a courtesy call on important new arrivals in the see, Fluffy decided that the visit had gone on for long enough. ‘Well,’ she said to their hostess, ‘we must be going now. We only dropped in to say “How do you do?”’ The bishop, waking with a start, heard only the last few words. He jumped up and held out his hand. ‘How do you do?’ he said. Following his wife to the front door, and thinking they’d just arrived, he wiped his feet on the mat, returned to the drawing room, sat down and once again fell asleep. On trips abroad with his seven children, Lord William’s behaviour changed and he liked to take the lead. At home he would have nothing to do with money. Abroad, he wore a money belt to confound pickpockets, but he usually put this on upside down, thereby losing the family’s travelling expenses and return tickets. On his many trips to the south of France, often by bicycle, he wore yellow glasses, a broad-brimmed hat and a brown silk suit. Believing that the colour red was a protective against the sun, he dressed the girls in red dresses and the boys in red shirts. When they got home, Fluffy always checked the bishop’s suitcase to ensure that he’d remembered to pack his pyjamas, and not the hotel’s towels and sheets. When Lord William became bishop of Exeter he declined to live in the palace, preferring to travel in by bicycle from a small house outside the city. The bicycle was painted orange so that he could recognize it when parked among others. Even so, he often made mistakes. On one occasion he realized when he was half way home that he was on someone else’s bicycle – a woman’s machine, painted black. He pedalled back to Exeter, apologized to its anxious owner and, raising his hat, climbed on to the same bicycle and pedalled away. An enduring interest was the invention of scientific improvements to the home. Lord William was particularly proud of a new central heating system that involved naked electric light bulbs wrapped in a hockey mask. This was plugged into the mains and placed under armchairs. When his nephew, the literary historian Lord David Cecil, pointed out that this wasn’t very safe, the bishop replied, ‘My dear boy, when one is putting in a heating system, safety must go to the wall.’
Clap, Margaret (c.1682–1727), brothel proprietor. In July 1726 ‘Mother’ Clap was convicted of running a ‘sodomitical house’ in Holborn, generally supposed to be the one visited by the notorious double-dealing thief-takers Jonathan Wild and Charles Hitchin, and the occasion of the latter’s downfall. According to the trial records, Constable Samuel Stephens, accompanied by Constable Joseph Sellers, visited the house in December 1725 and found as many as 50 men indulging in gross behaviour. Sometimes, according to Constable Stephens:
…they would sit in one another’s laps, kissing in a lewd manner and using their hands indecently. Then they would get up, dance and make curtsies, and mimic the voices of women. “Oh fie, Sir!”, “You’re a wicked devil!”, “I swear I’ll cry out!” Then they’d hug and play and toy.To satisfy themselves that their eyes had not deceived them on their first visit, Constables Stephens and Sellers returned to the house on the following Sunday, and again on the Sunday after that. They were then able to report that they’d found as much to be disgusted by in the course of these later visits as on the first occasion. Stephens told the court that ‘the company talked all manner of gross and vile obscenity in “Mother” Clap’s hearing, and she appeared wonderfully pleased with it.’ He further divulged that ‘one Eccleston, used to stand pimp for her, to prevent strangers disturbing her clients in their diversions’ – and failing in his duties, he might have added, at least with regard to himself and Constable Sellers. ‘Mother’ Clap defended herself with vigour. ‘I hope it will be considered that I am a woman,’ she said, ‘and therefore it cannot be thought that I would ever be concerned in such practices.’ The court took a different view and she was sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield, to pay a fine of 20 marks and to serve two years in prison. The sentence was unnecessary. When placed in the pillory, Margaret Clap was assaulted so viciously by the crowd that she died of her injuries within a week.
Crowley, Aleister (1875–1947), writer and magician. Born into a family of wealthy brewers and religious dissenters, Crowley became interested in the occult as an undergraduate at Cambridge, his time there coinciding with the magic revival of the late 19th century. For a time he was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, which the poet W.B. Yeats also joined. When he was expelled for ‘extreme practices’, Crowley founded his own order, the Silver Star, which handed out comicopera degrees in mysticism and related hocus-pocus. He liked to be known as ‘the Great Beast’ (the name given to him by his mother, who had brought him up after his father died when he was 11) and as ‘the wickedest man alive’. In receipt of a substantial inheritance, Crowley spent the first part of his life trying to combat boredom. He travelled, climbed mountains, dabbled in mysticism, designed boomerangs and invented a gadget for indoor golf. When the money ran out he had little choice but to sell himself as an apparently serious occult hierophant, peddling an inconsistent brand of sex magic. Among other practices, he recommended self-improvement through mystic buggery. In 1920 he founded an experimental Thelemic community near Cefalu, in Sicily. He claimed he could conjure up demons, and the community’s watchword, ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’, excited the condemnation of the popular press. Crowley’s sexual relations became increasingly intertwined with his magical work as he grew older. He aspired to guilt-free sex, and, with some psychological insight, recognized that this was best achieved through humiliation, involving the total destruction of the personality. However, his sadistic impulses were too strong to allow him to reach this point himself. His emotional prison turned out to be not, as he had supposed, a respectable English childhood, but the fact that he came to prefer the humiliation of others for its own sake to any sexual pleasure derived there-from. This tension had unfortunate consequences both for himself and for those with whom he came in contact. On his travels he beat his porters and guides. At home he beat his lovers of both sexes. If he could have been bothered with his children he would no doubt have beaten them too. And, privately, he may have recognized that his inability to overcome his heroin addiction was a poor reflection on his teaching that ‘Will is the whole Law’. Crowley’s ideas on sex and drugs brought about a revival of interest in the 1960s, particularly in America, where he has always been taken more seriously than in his native country, and where Wicca, the neo-pagan cult that he had some influence on founding, is now recognized as an official religion by the United States army. In England, Crowley was always treated as something of a joke. His many appearances in the libel courts, where it was consistently decided that he had no reputation worth defending, were a constant source of public entertainment. When his third wife, Marie De Miramar, was committed to an insane asylum, her identification as Mrs Aleister Crowley was taken as a further symptom of her condition.