Sharp, William (1856–1905)
Scottish poet, biographer, and editor, who also achieved
fame under the name of ‘‘Fiona Mac-Leod’’—not so much a literary
pseudonym as virtually a psychic secondary personality.
Sharp was born in Paisley, Scotland, on September 12, 1856,
and spent his childhood in the Scottish Highlands. He ran away
from home three times, on one occasion spending a whole
summer in a gypsy encampment. He studied for two years as
a student at Glasgow University before becoming an attorney’s
clerk.
He suffered from ill health and his family sent him on a Pacific
cruise. Afterward he settled in London as a bank clerk,
eventually becoming acquainted with literary circles that included
B. G. Rossetti and Walter Pater.
Pater encouraged his literary work, which first appeared in
the Pall Mall Gazette. Then in 1885 Sharp became the art critic
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Sharp, William
1395
for the Glasgow Herald. In the same year he married his first
cousin Elizabeth Amelia Sharp, who became companion and
co-worker as well as wife. They worked jointly on the anthology
Lyra Celtica (1896). Sharp abandoned banking for a journalistic
career, becoming editor of The Pagan Review in 1892. He traveled
throughout Europe and even visited the United States,
where he met Walt Whitman.
Sharp’s enthusiasm for the Celtic literary revival brought
him into contact with William Butler Yeats and the Isis Urania
Temple of the famous Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
magical society. Here he was initiated into the Neophyte grade.
This occult connection may have been a stimulus to the development
of his anima personality of ‘‘Fiona MacLeod.’’ Sharp
and ‘‘Fiona’’ remained distinctly different identities in literary
style and outlook, even corresponding with friends as separate
personalities for many years.
Sharp himself kept up a correspondence with Yeats and
George W. Russell on occult and mystical experiments, while
also writing to them on literary, poetical, and Celtic matters as
‘‘Fiona Mac-Leod.’’
The identical nature of the two personalities remained a
closely guarded secret among Sharp, his wife, and one or two
personal friends until after Sharp’s death. The ‘‘Fiona’’ letters
were in the handwriting of Sharp’s sister, but their style and
personality were those of a distinct individual. ‘‘Fiona’s’’ letters,
poems, and books were quite feminine in outlook, quite unlike
the masculine lifestyle and writings of the bearded Sharp.
The ‘‘Fiona’’ works played a leading part in the Scottish
Celtic literary revival and were the product of automatic writing
by Sharp, who virtually acknowledged ‘‘Fiona’’ as a separate
personality. She was said to be a distant cousin and even had
a biography in the prestigious British biographical annual
Who’s Who.
Sharp died December 12, 1905, after catching a cold during
a visit to a friend in Sicily. His widow died a few years later, leaving
two large packets of materials ‘‘to be destroyed unexamined.’’
It is believed that these may have contained Golden
Dawn documents.
Sources
MacLeod, Fiona. The Divine Adventure. Portland, Maine T.
B. Mosher, 1903.
———. The Dominion of Dreams. New York F. A. Stokes,
1900.
———. Green Fire. N.p., 1896.
———. The Immortal Hour. Portland, Maine T. B. Mosher,
1907.
———. The Mountain Lovers. N.p., 1895.
———. Pharais. Chicago Stone & KImball, 1895.
———. The Sin-Eater. New York Duffield, 1910.
———. The Washer of the Ford. New York Stone & Kimball,
1896.
———. Winged Destiny. New York Dufdfield, 1910.
Sharp, William. Earth’s Voices. N.p., 1884.
———. Flower o’ the Vine. N.p., 1894.
———. Human Inheritance. N.p., 1882.
———. Life of D. G. Rossetts. N.p., 1882.