Alice Richardson

Other names: 

Ratan Devi

Alice Coomaraswamy


Alice Richardson met Ananda Coomaraswamy around 1910, most probably at a recital of folk songs given by pupils of the collector of folk songs and cultural revivalist, Cecil Sharp. Richardson accompanied Coomaraswamy on a trip to India in 1911 and became his second wife. They lived on a houseboat in Srinagar, Kashmir, whilst she studied Indian music with Abdul Rahim of Kapurthala, and Coomaraswamy researched Rajput painting of northern India.

Once back in London, Alice Coomaraswamy became noted for her recitals of Indian music which were often introduced by an explanatory lecture given by her husband. She performed widely in the UK (including at the Theosophical Society Summer Schools) under the name Ratan Devi and in Indian dress. When the Coomaraswamys first went to the US, it was for her concert tour. Alice had two children (a boy, Narada, and a girl, Rohini) by Coomaraswamy before their divorce and his subsequent marriage to the American dancer and artist, Stella Bloch.

Published works: 

Thirty Songs From the Panjab and Kashmir, Recorded by Ratan Devi with Introduction and Translations by Ananda K. Coomarswamy and a Foreword by Rabindranath Tagore (Old Bourne Press, 1913)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Modern Review (October 1911)


Asiatic Review

New York Times

Secondary works: 

Clayton, Martin, and Zon, Bennett, Music and Orientalism in the British Empire, 1780s-1940s: Portrayal of the East (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007)

Crowley, Aleister, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ed. by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969)

Lipsey, Roger, Coomaraswamy, 3 vols, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977)


Tagore, Rabindranath, 'Foreword', in Thirty Songs From the Panjab and Kashmir: Recorded by Ratan Devi with Introduction and Translations by Ananda K. Coomarswamy (Old Bourne Press, 1913), pp. vi-ii


Rabindranath Tagore describes his experience of hearing Ratan Devi sing.


Sometimes the meaning of a poem is better understood in a translation, not necessarily because it is more beautiful than the original, but as in the new setting the poem has to undergo a trial, it shines more brilliantly if it comes out triumphant. So it seemed to me that Ratan Devi’s singing our songs gained something in feeling and truth. Listening to her I felt more clearly than ever that our music is the music of cosmic emotion...Ratan Devi sang an alap in Kandra, and I forgot for a moment that I was in a London drawing-room. My mind got itself transported in the magnificence of an eastern night, with its darkness, transparent, yet unfathomable, like the eyes of an Indian maiden, and I seemed to be standing alone in the depth of its stillness and stars.

Archive source: 

Stella Bloch Papers, Princeton University Library, Princeton