Leila Waddell

Leila Ida Nerissa Bathurst Waddell (1880-1932):

Waddell was an Australian violinist of considerable talent. She was born in Bathurst, New South Wales on the 10th of August, 1880.  She was the daughter of David Waddell and Ivy Lea Bathurst of Randwick, New South Wales. Waddell began playing violin at the age of seven and quickly became adept.  She would later teach violin at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Croyton. She also taught at two girls’ boarding schools: Ascham in Edgecliff, and Kambala, an Anglican school in Rose Bay.  She toured abroad as a professional violinist, which led to her performing as part of the Ladies’ Orchestra in George Edwardes’s A Waltz Dream, at Daly’s Theatre in Leicester Square on January 17th of 1911. It was while playing in London that she met Aleister Crowley, who fell madly in love with her. 

Waddell was admitted to the A∴A∴ on April 1, 1910.  Crowley called her Laylah and she became one of the most important Scarlet Women.  Her now iconic image appears in The Book of Lies in the chapter which includes her name.  She famously played violin during the first performance of The Rites of Eleusis, at London’s Caxton Hall in 1910.  A few years later, when Crowley staged a declaration of the Irish Republic at the base of the Statue of Liberty, she accompanied him on violin.  Laylah would also inspire several poems by Crowley, who dedicated two short stories to her, The Vixen and The Violinist.

Later in life, Waddell would return to Sydney.  Once back home, she would perform with JC Williamson’s Orchestra at Her Majesty’s Theatre, and with the Conservatorium and the Philharmonic Society. She would also return to teaching, this time at the Convent School of the Sacred Heart in Sydney.

She later died of cancer at age 52 on September 13th 1932.