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Leadbeater's Brazilian Adventure

Aug 06, 2006 06:35 PM
by gregory

Leadbeater’s story about his alleged time in Brazil is found in “Saved by a
Ghost. A True Story of an Adventure in Brazil, Near Bahia, 1861-2” published in
“The Theosophist” (1911), subsequently published as an off-print edited and
annotated by Jinarajadasa (1911) and then included in a collection of
Leadbeater’s short stories, “The Perfume of Egypt” (1911). It can be
supplemented by notes left by Jinarajadasa and A.J. Hamerster in the TS
archives at Adyar. Jinarajadasa also undertook research in Brazil in an attempt
to confirm the details.

The essential claims made by Leadbeater were:

1. He and his family were in Brazil between 1858-62: the story in “Saved by a
Ghost” allegedly occurs in 1861-2, biographical notes made by A.J. Hamerster
and corrected by Leadbeater record the family being in Brazil from around 1858
to 1862, and a “Memo for a Biography of C.W.L.” written by Jinarajadasa on the
basis of information given to him by Leadbeater states that the family went to
Brazil in 1858 and returned to London in 1861. The 1861 British Census records
show Leadbeater and his parents in England: Charles Leadbeater (35), who
described himself as a “railway clerk”, his wife Emma (39) and their son,
Charles W. (7) were lodgers in the house of a Mr Allen in Brompton, London.
Emma is described as having been born in Liverpool and Charles W. in Stockport.
The census return submitted by Leadbeater when he was Curate of Bramshott in
1881 reports that he was 34 (i.e. born in 1854) and had been born in Stockport,
and that his mother was 59 (i.e. she would have been born in 1822, and would
have been 39 in 1861). Unless it is claimed that the father, as a railway
clerk, took his family to Brazil around 1858, and returned with them to London
for the 1861 census, and then returned to Brazil for the “Saved by a Ghost”
adventure, but came back to London to die in 1862 (when Leadbeater reported his
death, describing his father as “book-keeper for a railway company”), the story
must be regarded as fantasy or fraud.

2. His father was the leading director of a railway company (which Leadbeater
did not identify but which Jinarajadasa, from his research in Brazil, claimed
was The State of Bahia South Western Railway Company).  Leadbeater’s father
must moved from being a “railway clerk” (1861 census) to “leading director”
(for the adventures in Brazil) to “book-keeper for a railway company” (1862
death certificate).

3. The company was building the Bahia and San Francisco railway. There was
indeed a company, The State of Bahia South Western Railway Company, which built
this railway around 1860.

4. There was a rebellion under a General Martinez (“the best swordsman in South
America”). However, no standard history of Brazil includes any reference to
uprisings in Brazil, 1850-1889, or to any general, rebel or otherwise, by the
name of Martinez. The Brazilian Embassy in London, having examined Leadbeater’s
account of his adventures in Brazil, stated that the events could not be
identified in Brazilian history.

5. Leadbeater’s brother, Gerald, was murdered by the rebels. However, there is
no record any child other than Charles Webster being born to Charles and Emma
Leadbeater in the period 1840-1870. None of the major international
genealogical search engines produces any result for “Gerald Leadbeater”. There
is no record in the British records of deaths of its citizens abroad of anyone
named Leadbeater. No British press reports have been located reporting the
murder of a British child in Brazil, 1860-1870.

6. Leadbeater’s father joined the army in fighting the rebels.

7. Leadbeater (aged either 15 by his account or 8 according to his birth
certificate) went with his father and the army to capture Martinez.

8. Leadbeater helped in the capture of Martinez, and was present at his

9. Leadbeater and his father were awarded decorations by the government for
their services to Brazil. The Brazilian Embassy in London, having examined
Leadbeater’s account, stated that the events could not be identified in
Brazilian history.

Perhaps Pedro’s South American connections may be able to provide more

Dr Gregory Tillett

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