Page images

that he had forced Mrs. Hayden to avow herself an impostor.” As this was important if true, because this lady was the medium whose phenomena had convinced Professor de Morgan, I inquired further about it, and found from Mr. Lewes's own statement of his experiment that he had asked a series of written questions which were answered through the alphabet by raps in the usual way, most of the answers being either vague or altogether wrong, and the last question was, “Is Mrs. Hayden an impostor?” to which the answer was “Yes." And this ingenious trick he afterwards termed "forcing Mrs. Hayden to avow herself an impostor!”

As it is always of interest to have at first-hand an expression of the frame of mind of eminent men upon this subject, I here give a letter from John Stuart Mill to a gentleman who sent him a tract in which it was stated that he, along with Ruskin, Tennyson, and Longfellow, had become believers in spiritualism, and asking if it were true. This gentleman, Mr. N. Kilburn, of Bishop Auckland, sent me a copy of Mill's reply, which was as follows :

“It is the first time I ever heard that I was a believer in spiritualism, and I am not sorry to be able to suppose that some of the other names I have seen mentioned as believers in it are no more so than myself.

“For my own part I not only have never seen any evidence that I think of the slightest weight in favour of spiritualism, but I should also find it very difficult to believe any of it on any evidence whatever, and I am in the habit of expressing my opinion to that effect very freely whenever the subject is mentioned in my presence. You are at liberty to make any use you please of this letter.”

This was dated “March 18, 1868," but I did not know of it till 1874, or I might have mentioned the subject when I dined with him in 1870. If by "any evidence whatever” Mr. Mill meant testimony of others, I myself, and most spiritualists, were in the same frame of mind when we began our inquiries; but as he used the word "evidence," he no doubt included personal evidence, and to decide beforehand

that he would not believe it is very unphilosophical. Still, he only says difficult, not impossible, and here, again, I quite agree with him.

At this same period I had letters from other men of various degrees of eminence of a much more satisfactory nature. On receipt of a copy of my pamphlet, Professor de Morgan wrote me as follows:

“I am much obliged to you for your little work, which is well adapted to excite inquiry. But I doubt whether inquiry by men of science would lead to any result. There is much reason to think that the state of mind of the inquirer has something—be it internal or external-to do with the power of the phenomena to manifest themselves. This I take to be one of the phenomena–to be associated with the rest in inquiry into cause. It may be a consequence of action of incredulous feeling on the nervous system of the recipient; or it may be that the volition-say the spirit, if you likefinds difficulty in communicating with a repellent organization; or, maybe, is offended. Be it which it may, there is the fact.

“Now the man of science comes to the subject in utter incredulity of the phenomena, and a wish to justify it. I think it very possible that the phenomena may be withheld. In some cases this has happened, as I have heard from good sources.

“I have had students a couple of dozen in my life-whose effort always was not to see it. As I, their informing spirit, was under contract to make them see it if I couldwhich the spirits we are speaking of are not-I generally succeeded in convincing them. In their minds I have studied—with power of experiment arranged by myself—the character of the man of science.

“D'Alembert said, speaking of mathematics—of all things En avant et la foi viendra. But I doubt if the man of science of our day can persuade himself of a possibility of his fifth attempt destroying the effect of the failure of the first four.

· De Morgan was one of the greatest mathematicians of his time, and Professor of Mathematics at University College.

[ocr errors]

“Your book will set many rational persons suspecting they ought to inquire.

“Yours faithfully,


This seems to me to exhibit the scientific frame of mind, as manifested by Tyndall, Lewes, and W. B. Carpenter, with great perspicuity.

I had some correspondence at this time with William Howitt, and he and Mrs. Howitt came one evening for a séance with Miss Nichol, and were much pleased with the curious musical and other phenomena ; and I also made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, and visited them to attend a séance with Home, which, although all present were friends and spiritualists, turned out a failure, owing to the circle being broken by Mr. Hall being called out on urgent business. But perhaps the most interesting response to a copy

of my pamphlet was that from Robert Chambers, which I here give

“St. Andrews, February 10, 1867. “DEAR SIR,

“I have received your letter of the 6th inst., and your little volume. It gratifies me much to receive a friendly communication from the Mr. Wallace of my friend Darwin's

Origin of Species,' and my gratification is greatly heightened on finding that he is one of the few men of science who admit the verity of the phenomena of spiritualism. I have for many years known that these phenomena are real, as distinguished from impostures; and it is not of yesterday that I concluded they were calculated to explain much that has been doubtful in the past, and when fully accepted, revolutionize the whole frame of human opinion on many important matters.

"How provoking it has often appeared to me that it

seems so impossible, with such a man, for instance, as Huxley, to obtain a moment's patience for this subject—so infinitely transcending all those of physical science in the potential results!

“My idea is that the term 'supernatural' is a gross mistake. We have only to enlarge our conceptions of the natural, and all will be right.

“I am, dear sir,
“Yours very sincerely,


In the latter part of the year, while attending the meeting of the British Association at Dundee, I visited St. Andrews, and after a geological excursion under the guidance of Sir A. Geikie, and a collation with the university authorities, at which Robert Chambers was present, I had the great pleasure of an hour's conversation with him in his own house. The Spiritual Magasine, founded by William Howitt and some friends, was at that time admirably edited by Mr. Thomas Shorter, and my host told me that he always read it through from cover to cover, and that few of the magazines of the day contained so much valuable information and so much good writing as this depised periodical, in which I fully agreed with him.

Two years later (in 1869) I received a letter from him to introduce me to Miss Douglas, a lady much interested in spiritualism, who lived in South Audley Street. Here I attended many séances—on one occasion when Home was the medium and Mr. (now Sir William) Crookes was present. As I was the only one of the company who had not witnessed any of the remarkable phenomena that occurred in his presence, I was invited to go under the table while an accordion was playing, held in Home's hand, his other hand being on the table. The room was well lighted, and I distinctly saw Home's hand holding the instrument, which moved up and down and played a tune without any visible cause. On stating this, he said, “Now I will take away my hand”which he did ; but the instrument went on playing, and I

saw a detached hand holding it while Home's two hands were seen above the table by all present. This was one of the ordinary phenomena, and thousands of persons have witnessed it; and when we consider that Home's séances almost always took place in private houses at which he was a guest, and with people absolutely above suspicion of collusion with an impostor, and also either in the daytime or in a fully illuminated room, it will be admitted that no form of legerdemain will explain what occurred.

In view of the extraordinary misstatements that were continually made by scientific men, who had influence with the public (and are still made both on this and on other subjects), it will be well to give a short account of one of these, which caused much discussion at the time.

Mr. Home first came to England (since his childhood) early in 1855, and lived for some months with Mr. Cox, of Cox's Hotel in Jermyn Street. Here, among numerous other eminent men, he gave a sitting to Lord Brougham accompanied by Sir David Brewster, “in order to assist in finding out the trick," as Sir David himself stated. About six months afterwards a not quite correct account of this séance was given in the Morning Advertiser, copied from an American paper, whereupon Sir David wrote to the editor to give his own account, in which he said, “It is quite true that I saw at Cox's Hotel, in company with Lord Brougham, and at Ealing, in company with Mrs. Trollope, several mechanical effects which I was unable to explain. But although I could not account for all these effects, I never thought of ascribing them to spirits stalking beneath the drapery of the table ; and I saw enough to satisfy myself that they could all be produced by human hands and feet, and to prove to others that some of them, at least, had such an origin.

“ Were Mr. Home to assume the character of the Wizard of the West, I should enjoy his exhibition as much as that of other conjurors; but when he pretends to possess the power of introducing among the feet of his audience the spirits of the dead, of bringing them into physical communication with their dearest relatives, and of revealing the secrets of the

« EelmineJätka »