The notorious Edwardian dancer, Maud Allan


Maud Allan, famed in England for her dance of the seven veils had formerly changed her name and fled across the Atlantic to escape the scandal of her brother's actions, but in later life it was her own behaviour which provoked criticism.

Beulah Maude Durrant was born in Canada, but in 1879 her family moved to San Francisco where her elder brother later started training in medicine.  A well respected member of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Theodore Durrant was the Assistant Sunday School Superintendent.  In April 1894, Blanche Lamont, a young member of the same church, disappeared without trace.  Ten days later, the body of Minnie Flora Williams was found, gruesomely murdered, in the Library of Emmanuel Church. Searching the church the following day, police discovered the naked body of Blanche Lamont hidden in the church Belfry.



After a long trial, the mainly circumstantial evidence convinced the jury that Theodore was guilty.  In January 1898 he was executed.  Before this happened Maud had been sent to Berlin to study Music.  She was also a graphic artist and in 1900 she published an illustrated sex manual for women.

The British audience first came to know Maud Allan in 1908 when she made her dancing debut in The Vision of Salome at the Palace of Varieties in London.  Inspired by Oscar Wilde's earlier play, Maud's dancing captivated Edwardian audiences, particularly women.  Maud was paid £250 a week for her performances.  In the same year she wrote her autobiography "My Life and Dancing."  Many compared her to Isadora Duncan but Maud hated this comparison.  As she took Salome on tour, some places such as Manchester banned her performance.  This only increased demand so she took her tour worldwide.  She appeared in Carnegie Hall but doubts were expressed about her performance in India.
"Her appearance is expected to have an ill-effect on the native mind,"  She also appeared in the silent film, "The Rug Maker's Daughter."



But things came to a head when Noel Pemberton Billing wrote an article called "The Cult of the Clitoris." He maintained that Maud Allan was one of a group of German agents "spreading debauchery and lasciviousness."  He said that she was having an affair with her good friend, Margaret Asquith, wife of the former Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith.

Maud took him to court. In May 1918, Billing appeared at the Old Bailey accused of obscene criminal and defamatory libel.  During the court case Billing stated that there was a black book of Britains in high office who were being blackmailed to enable spying activities.  Her connection to her executed brother Theodore Durrant was revealed and all the juicy details filled the newspapers.  The case against Billing was dismissed and Maud's life was never the same again.

However, in 1921 after spending four years teaching dance, she returned to performing in public.





From 1928 she began a 10 year relationship with her secretary Verna Aldrich.  Her last performance on the British stage was in 1932 when she was 60.  Four years later she gave her final performance in Los Angeles.  Settling in California, she worked for many years as a draughtsman and died in 1956.

Comments

  1. Fascinating story. I'd never heard of her. From the first picture of her she was certainly quite beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My thoughts exactly, Mary. It's a shame she died so young.

    ReplyDelete

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