Frieda Lady Harris’s grandson has just released his memoir, Odd Boy Out. It promises to give insight into the family history—including his grandparents and the family business “Bing Harris”—as well as his own life as a descendant of such illustrious figures.
Given that Frieda’s family took a dim view of her occult interests, her friendship with Aleister Crowley, and her subsequent exploits in Srinigar, it’s interesting to see the book cover embrace her Thoth Tarot artwork, even hailing it as her famous accomplishment. Perhaps being a generation removed allows a more balanced appraisal. I’m eager to read the book and find out. According to the book’s blurb,
When Paul Ashford Harris receives a phone call to say his childhood home has burned to the ground, he begins a fascinating journey to reclaim the history of his eccentric family and its relationship to New Zealand from the beginning of colonisation.
We meet his highly respectable Victorian grandfather, Sir Percy Harris, an eminent member of the House of Commons. His grandmother, the highly bohemian Lady Frieda Harris, an artist, suffragette, friend of Emily Pankhurst, and the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, for whom she painted the famous Thoth Tarot cards.
Then there’s his eternally distant parents, whose idea of parenthood was giving birth as swiftly as possible, immediately appointing a nanny and arranging a couple of satisfactory boarding schools.
Taking you on a remarkable journey from the politics of London’s East End, to the early years of the Australian gold rush and rise and fall of the family business Bing Harris, Odd Boy Out is at its core a poignant memoir that examines the legacy you are given – whether good or bad – and how it shapes you into the person you are today.
Paul Ashford Harris is a novelist, playwright and environmental activist who was born in New Zealand and graduated from Cambridge University in 1967, before moving to Australia in 1969. He is the author of a series of Australian environmental children’s picture books, and published his debut novel Aardvark in 2016.
Paul Ashford Harris
This memoir represents a welcome addition to the literature on Frieda Harris, as very little has been published about her by family members and friends. Primary sources include Percy Harris’s memoir 40 Years in and Out of Parliament
, her son Jack Harris’s Memoirs of a Century
, and her friend Clifford Bax’s Some I Knew Well
. (Bax is the one who introduced Harris to Crowley.) Deja Whitehouse
has dug up some great unpublished information in her research, some of which appears in her article on Frieda Harris in the Chipping Campden History Society’s journal Signpost
(read part 1 here
). I’ve written about Frieda Harris in Perdurabo
and elsewhere, including in my book chapters on the Thoth Tarot for Mathematics in Popular Culture
and Tarot in Culture
, as well as my Order of the Eagle essay
and my keynote address “Transmutation and Transmission of a New Iconography in the Thoth Tarot” for the 2016 Trans-States conference
(video embedded below). I hope this memoir adds some meat to the bones of what we already know about Frieda Harris.
Paul Ashford Harris’s Odd Boy Out
is available worldwide now as an ebook
. It is also available in paperback directly from the publisher
, and from booksellers in Australia and New Zealand. Ventura Press, ISBN 9781925384284
, epub ISBN 9781925384307 304 pages / 2951 KB.