Underhill, Evelyn

BORN 8 Dec 1875, Wolverhampton, West Midlands - DIED 15 Jun 1941, London: Hampstead
GRAVE LOCATION London: St John-at-Hampstead, Churchyard Extension, Church Row, Hampstead (P 80)

Evelyn Underhill was the daughter of a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, London, who wrote about law. She was educated in Folkestone and studied history and botany at King's College in London.

She had grown up with Hubert Stuart Moore and she married him in 1907. She was very interested in Catholic religion and spiritual matters, an interest that wasn't shared by her husband, who was a Protestant. They did share a passion for the country and for cats. Between 1898 and 1913 she travelled frequently to Switzerland, France and Italy where she visited churches and monasteries. Between 1903 and 1909 she wrote fiction. In 1904 her novel "The Grey World" was published, followed by several others.

She published books under the pseudonym John Cordelier. In 1911 her best known book "Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness" was published. She considered mysticism to be a practical instead of theoretical activity, entirely spiritual and connected to love and a psychological experience. In 1912 she published "The Spiral Way" and in 1914 "Ruysbroeck" about the mystic Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381) was published.

She gradually drifted from being an agnostic to Catholicsm, much to the dislike of her husband. Initially she thought that joining the Catholic Church would be a matter of time for her, but it never happened. Her husband was an author himself and supportive of her writing. In 1921 she joined the anglican church.

In 1921 Oxford University invited her to give the Upton lectures at Manchester college. She was the first woman to lecture on religion. She was seen as an authority on mysticism and her research was respected. The lectures were published as "The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today" (1922). Baron Friedrich von Hügel encouraged her writing as a spiritual mentor from 1921 to 1924.

In 1936 she published another important work, "Worship". She received honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Aberdeen University in 1939. Before the outbreak of the Second World War she had became a convinced pacifist and she expressed this in 1940 in the pamphlet "The Church and War (1940). She died in London in 1941.


The grave of Evelyn Underhill at the Churchyard extension of St. John-at-Hampstead, London.
Picture by Androom (30 May 2014)


Evelyn Underhill - Wikipedia

Underwood, Charles

Published: 26 Dec 2018
Last update: 13 Aug 2023