Editor's Note: we found the letter below on the Internet,
and asked its author, Steve Jackson, to allow its publication.
Letter on Crowley and Greene,
written from Steve Jackson, to Jerry and Marlene
Dear Jerry and Marlene,
My compliments on your excellent web site.
I'm researching Crowley's activities in America from 1914 to 1919, And
think that I may be able to add a few names and some additional information
for your list of Friends and Acquaintences.
click to enlarge
Among the numerous women mentioned by Crowley in his Magical Record of the
Beast, May 31, 1920ev, is the name Belle Green. This is almost certainly
Belle da Costa Greene (Fig. 1), J.P. Morgan's
Jean Garner describes her thus: "Belle Greene became J.P. Morgan's librarian
in 1905, and following his death she became the director of his library,
working there for a total of forty-three years. Empowered by J.P. Morgan,
and then by his son Jack, Greene spent millions of dollars buying and selling
rare manuscripts, books and art. She travelled frequently and lavishly to
Europe, staying at the best hotels -- Claridge's in London and the Ritz
in Paris. It was even said that "on trips abroad, made on Morgan's behalf,
she would take along her thoroughbred horse, which she rode in Hyde Park."
Belle Greene was described as beautiful, sensual, smart and outspoken. One
author writes that "she daringly posed nude for drawings and enjoyed a Bohemian
freedom." Never married, she favored affairs with rich or influential men,
with a focus on art scholars. Another scholar states, "her role at the Morgan
Library placed her at the center of the art trade and her friendship was
coveted by every dealer." For many years, Belle Greene wielded an astounding
amount of power in the art world and moved comfortably in elite social circles...
Belle Greene was a black woman who denied her color to pass herself as white.
Evidence indicates that whispers and rumors about her passing circulated
around her throughout her life. People like Isabella Gardner, society patron
of the arts with close ties to Harvard and a peer of Morgan's, wrote that
Belle Greene was a "half-breed" in a private letter (1909) to Bernard Berenson
and his wife, Mary, saying, "But first you must both swear secrecy. If not,
please do not read anymore of this.".... In order to pass, Greene and her
mother decided to change their name. (Actually, you could say that they
altered their label.) They added "da Costa," claiming to be part-Portuguese
to account for their dusky appearance, a common strategy used for passing.
True to the rumors, not only were they black passing for white, but Belle
Greene's father was the distinguished lawyer and public figure, Richard
Theodore Greener, the first black undergraduate to receive a degree from
The Morgan Library is located at 29 East 36th
Street in New York, just two blocks from Crowley's residence during most
of 1915. Belle Greene (and J.P. Morgan, for that matter) were familiar
with lawyer and art patron John Quinn, who had befriended Crowley when
Crowley arrived in America, and supported him financially by purchasing
copies of Crowley's books. As Garner shows, Quinn was able to find some
sort of employment for the French futurist Marcel Duchamps, when Duchamps
arrived in New York in 1915, by using his influence with Greene, who was
acting as paymaster for Morgan. This arrangement with Duchamp did not
last long, and seems to have inspired one of Duchamps "readymades", as
Garner demonstrates in her essay, "Duchamps
Bottles Belle Greene: Just Desserts For His Canning".
If I am correct, Quinn did a similar favor for Crowley. Both Quinn and J.P. Morgan were pro-British regarding the war. If Crowley had been sent "on a mission" by some branch of British Intelligence, it is not unlikely that he would receive a warm welcome, and some form of financial backing, as he infiltrated the German propaganda machine in America, passing himself off as a traitor to England.
Crowley himself said about this trip, "I had intended, when I left England, to conclude my special business in New York within a fortnight, to make a little splash in any case, and to get home in a month on the outside." In spy jargon, assassination is sometimes referred to as "wet work".
That's all for now. Got more if you want it. I'd be very interested in hearing any comments you may have.
Afterword from Steve Jackson
follwing our request for publishing his letter
I have been researching the subject of Aleister
Crowley's activities in America during the years of the "Great War" for
some time, and had already suspected that he had received sponsorship
and/or employment with J.P. Morgan. And, learning that Duchamp was in
New York at the same time, I wondered if the two might have met, since
they both were friendly with John Quinn. Bonnie Jean Garner's revelations
about the relationship between Duchamp and Belle Greene seem to parallel
Crowley's experience, though Crowley seems to have lasted somewhat longer
on the Morgan payroll.
Crowley was in America acting as an agent of
the British Government, as was John Quinn. J.P. Morgan was the chief financial
agent for the British Government in the US, and was likely sponsoring
Crowley's Intelligence work. Since Crowley was attempting to infiltrate
the Irish revolutionary movement in America, and succeeded in infiltrating
the pro-German "Propaganda Cabinet" of George Sylvester Viereck, it was
important for Crowley to keep his distance from Morgan. At least publicly.
Perhaps the J.P. Morgan Library was being used to quietly channel funds
To speculate further, it is at least possible
that Morgan had his own private Intelligence Department, dedicated to
helping the Allied cause. Other contemporary plutocrats, such as the rubber
baron Thomas Fortune Ryan and arms magnate Sir Basil Zaharoff, employed
spies like Claude Dansey and Sidney Riley. With the responsibility of
providing the British (and French) with the sinews of war, Morgan could
scarcely do less. And who better to run such a private Intelligence Department
than the formidable Belle Greene?
And so I wonder about Duchamp's employment
with the Morgan Library. Is it possible that he, like Crowley, was on
some secret mission in America? I realize that Duchamp may seem like the
most unlikely of spies, but successful agents are usually unlikely suspects.
Once more, my compliments on your fine publication,
and to Bonnie Jean Garner for her brilliant detective work.