The Tring Lecture: Clairvoyance

TRING: History About Library Contact TRING: Home

Up Biography Poetry Prose Reviews Miscellanea Site Search



Ed.—Massey's first wife, Rosina Jane, was a noted clairvoyant ("
Somnambule Jane") who—"offered enquirers a crop of Clairvoyant Phenomena every Monday and Thursday.  Admission, 2s. 6d. cut price".  Indeed, Massey first met Rosina at such a demonstration in 1850.

    The following report and correspondence, which are taken from the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, the local paper for Massey's home town of Tring, relate to two 'lectures' the 25-year old Massey gave there on clairvoyance and mesmerism.  Money was forever tight in the Massey household and, particularly in their early years together, Rosina's clairvoyant consultations provided a necessary source of income.  Judging from the newspaper report the Tring audiences received their money's-worth; but one cannot help feeling that the pair were 'rumbled' by the local medical man, Edward Pope,*  for as Pope put it . . . .

"Why accept a shilling or eighteen pence for exhibiting manifestations of a power which, skilfully applied, would make them 'rich beyond the dream of avarice?'"

. . . . and Dr. Pope was not the only sceptic ― see extract from Punch Magazine.

Rosina's reactions to Dr. Pope's suggested experiments brings Shakespeare to mind (Hamlet, Act 3 scene 2).....The lady doth protest too much, methinks - indeed, some 20 years later the Globe reports Massey making a candid and touching confession to a large audience about one particular clairvoyante demonstration.  But for the moment the last word should rest with the worldly James Robertson, who takes Dr. Pope to task . . . .  "Why, Sir, you mesmerise upon a large scale, and then find fault with a poor soul that only trades now and then for a crust." (letter below)


* Edward Pope, aged 39, is listed in the 1851 census for Tring as a 'Medical and General Practitioner MCSL LicAH'.  He lived at 63 Akeman Street (in the photo below, on the left hand side, just beyond the bend in the road - now demolished) together with his wife Catherine,  a daughter (aged 6) and son (aged 1), a 'medical assistant', James McCann, and three female servants.

19th Century view of Akeman Street, Tring.
Photo: Wendy Austin Collection.

Extract from the....

 Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News,

21st January 1853.


TRING ― Two lectures have been delivered in mesmerism, on the evenings of Friday and Monday, in the Commercial Hall, by Mr Massey, now resident in London, but being a native of Tring, was known to the majority of the audience. The statement in the bills was, that Mrs Massey possessed the faculty of introvision, or seeing with the eyelids closed, and this drew together two such audiences as have never been seen in the Commercial Hall before. On the second evening the doors were besieged, long before the time of opening. The first lecture was principally devoted to mesmerism; its history and utility as a sanative art. Then followed some interesting experiments on Mrs Massey, the clairvoyante [sic], who had previously been thrown into a mesmeric sleep. The experiments commenced by her reading from any and every book or paper given to her from the audience, with her eyes effectively covered by the hands of anyone who could hold them in not too rough a manner. The handbills contained a request that the spectators "would provide themselves with their own papers for the clairvoyante to read, in order to prevent the supposition or collusion or deception, and in all cases the print is legible." Now although some very small type was handed to Mrs Massey, scarcely and instance occurred where she refused, but on the contrary, read to the perfect satisfaction and astonishment of the majority of her auditors. The first evening concluded with some experiments in phrenomesmerism and catalepsy.

    During the time elapsing between the first and second lecture scepticism was on the alert, and many of those who were most satisfied with what their eyes beheld and hands felt, on the Friday evening, were persuaded that it was a mere trick, and prevailed upon others to think so; imagining the clairvoyante, like themselves, read by looking between the hands before her.  At length Monday evening arrived when the whole affair was to be exploded like the imposition recorded in Chambers Journal, of Jan 8th.  The lecturer upon this occasion entered into an explanation of clairvoyance and ordinary somnambulism, relating a few anecdotes in connection therewith.  The conclusion of the lecture was the time selected for the first blow in the shape of sundry questions and propositions put to Mr Massey, all of which were fairly answered.  Then came the clairvoyante's turn to be tested, who passed most successful; reading everything that was given her, although two hands and once four were placed over her eyes. Even with this, one gentleman was not satisfied, nor would he be, unless allowed to hold the eyelids down in a manner proposed by himself; when he had arranged his fingers a card was handed to Mrs Massey, who laid it upon her forehead, who read it aloud to the satisfaction of the unbeliever.   It is only fair to state, that every means that could be thought of was adopted in the endeavour to disconcert the youthful pair, and prove them impostors in the word and deed.  After giving some hearty cheers, the majority left the hall well pleased with what they had beheld.

Tring High Street, ca 1890, viewed towards the photographer's position in the first photograph.
The Bank of Tring ('Butcher's Bank'), a bank of issue, is the gable-ended building, mid distance on the right.

SATURDAY, FEB. 5, 1853.


To the Editor of the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News

Sir,—Having read in your paper of Saturday last an incorrect and one-sided statement relative to the late lectures and experiments in mesmerism and clairvoyance, at Tring, I claim, in justice to myself and several other gentlemen who were present, and who disapprove of your report, a space in your forthcoming number.

Medical practitioner at Tring, and clairvoyance sceptic.

    A few days prior to the delivery of the first lecture, I received a printed handbill, in which "all who desired to become acquainted with the truth of a marvellous phenomenon were invited to a fair and faithful investigation."  I also received, a private invitation from the lecturer, in which he stated that he "did not fear medical men, although they were the greatest sceptics."  Thinking, therefore, that if I did not attend it would be said that I shrank from the enquiry, and knowing also that a morbid feeling, with respect to this subject, prevailed in the minds of some who believed that the wonders they had heard of were the actual works of Satanic power, a notion full of ignorance and superstition, I determined to accept the invitation and to make a fair and faithful investigation.  I attended the first lecture and witnessed the experiments, covering on one occasion the eyes of the clairvoyante with my hands, in the way directed by the lecturer; thus, the palm of each hand was placed immediately over the eye, the two hands crossing each other about the centre of the nose at an acute angle.  All the experiments thus conducted were successful.   But, although it was evident that no proof of the truth of clairvoyance could result from experiments thus performed, I left (as there was to be another lecture) without giving any opinion.  On the following day I tried several experiments, both on myself and others, and was soon convinced that it is impossible for any one by placing his hands in the way directed, over the eyes of another, to satisfy himself that the light is entirely excluded from them, and that it is equally impossible for a spectator in front to be so assured.  On the conclusion, therefore, of the second lecture I proposed certain experiments, which, if the clairvoyante should succeed, I offered to move a resolution to the effect that, the truth of clairvoyance had been proved. After explaining what natural vision is, and how the images of things seen, are depicted by the action of the light proceeding from them, on the expansion of the optic nerve or retina; and after deducing from the, printed handbill what is meant by clairvoyance, which the eye is said not to be used in a natural way; that is as a lens, and for which purpose, therefore, light cannot be necessary, and the exclusion of which was of course the object intended, by covering the eyes with the hands. I proposed—

1st. That the clairvoyante should read in the dark, putting out the light altogether, being a much more simple and satisfactory way of excluding it from the eyes than covering them with the hands, and this too in a room in which were several strong gas-lights.

2nd. That she should read a printed paper, which was twice folded upon itself, and enclosed within an envelope; and here I would remark that in such experiments the envelope should be opaque, for in certain angles of light ordinary vision is sufficient to read a word enclosed within several folds of letter paper which is translucent.

3rd. That I should be permitted to close the eyes in any way that I might consider necessary.

I then said these were the only experiments that would convince me of the truth of clairvoyance.  With respect to them Mr. Massey, after replying to my observations relative to matters contained in his lectures, said, that after my expression of scepticism, Mrs. Massey would not only not submit to them but that she would not allow me to come near her.   For I must tell you that the mesmerists guard their experiments in every way; and thus, in order to cover failures or avoid detection, they say that this wonderful power of clairvoyance may be destroyed by the near approach even of a sceptic!   The fact is, Mr. Massey knew, that had the clairvoyante submitted she would undoubtedly have failed, and a public failure would never do; a few such and ''Othello's occupation would be gone."   In the remarks I made I was careful not to say anything offensive, beyond the expression of my disbelief, lest it should be said that my interference had spoiled the experiments. I was, therefore, not a little surprised, on the clairvoyant being introduced, to see her assume an air of the worst possible temper, and to hear her make rude and vulgar personal remarks, the whole being wound up with a fit of feigned hysteric.   I say "assume" and ''feigned," it being evident the whole thing was a sham, got up for the purpose of enlisting the sympathy of the audience.  On being thrown into the so-called mesmeric or somnambulic state she continued her rude personalities, proceeding even to call names, and directing occasionally towards me her countenance full of demoniacal expression, but which, I will do her humanity the justice to believe, she did not really feel.  The experiments, as on the former evening, were then proceeded with, but as those I had proposed had been refused, and no one pressed them, I, after the treatment I had received, took no further part in the proceedings.   The experiments, as usual, were of course successful—and I believe many persons present fully credited the powers of the clairvoyante—thus showing how easily the "discerning public" will allow itself to be deluded. In the first place, there was not the slightest proof that the clairvoyante was in the so-called mesmerie or somnambulic state—her whole demeanour, after being roused from what is called the state of coma, being that of a person awake, with the eye-lids apparently closed—and such as any one could assume. 2nd. Fair crucial experiments, not cruel, which two words Mr. Massey appeared to confound, were objected to, and those only were tried which the clairvoyante and her husband themselves proposed-that is, experiments with conditions attached.  Why, has not every conjuror his conditions, and is not his trick undetected?

    With respect to the phrano-mesmeric phenomena, I pass these over altogether, as at must be obvious that where husband and wife are the operators, there can be no check against collusion.  I may, however, observe that Mr. Massey accounted for the susceptibility of the clairvoyante's cerebral organs to "excitation without contact," by supposing her skull to be very thin, and politely suggested a not very flattering contrast between it and the skulls of some of the audience.   And now, Sir, after what I have stated, I think you will agree with me, that the question of the truth or falsehood of clairvoyance will remain just what it was before the delivery of the late lectures and experiments at Tring, in the minds of all such as are acquainted with the laws of evidence, and whose previous prejudices have not rendered them incapable of being guided by such laws.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

Tring, 2nd Feb., 1853.

Tring: Frogmore St., looking towards High St. and Akeman St.

FEB. 12, 1853.


To the Editor of the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News

    Mr. Editor,—A letter signed Edward Pope appeared in your paper of last Saturday, and such a one that demands a spirited reply. Respecting the Satanic agency ascribed by some people in Tring to mesmeric influence I have only to say that where the Devil has the best quarters the people seem most afraid of him.  All honour to Mr. Pope for his determination to expose quackery; but only let the public see how the question of mesmerism and clairvoyance affects him, and they will be enlightened upon his objections to the system pursued by Mr. Massey.  I believe Mr. Pope is one of the faculty practising in the town of Tring, and therefore desirous that the present system of medicine adopted by himself shall remain as lucrative as it is now.  Mr. Pope would endeavour to make the people that saw the experiments to be blockheads, and take to himself the sole and exclusive judgment, as if other people could not judge as well as himself.  Now, Mr. Pope may pronounce the experiments quackery if he chooses, but let him know the mesmeric quackery is not the only quackery in the world. I will not attempt, Mr. Editor, to enumerate the quackeries in existence, only beg of Mr. Pope, before he condemns scientific experiments, to sweep his own doorway clean before Othello's occupation is gone.

    Mr. Pope's propositions are the following:—First, that the clairvoyante should read in the dark; second, that she should read a printed paper which was twice folded upon itself and enclosed in an envelope; and thirdly, that he should be permitted to close her eyes in any way he might think necessary.

    Now, upon the first proposition, can Mr. Pope read in the dark?  If he cannot how can he expect Mrs. Massey to do it. Secondly, not only in the dark but have a printed paper twice folded in an envelope; now how would Mr. Pope like to be told to read a letter without opening it, or how would he like it to be folded in an envelope?   Oh, says he, I do not profess to be able.   No, Sir, it would be all the same if he did.   For even Mr. Pope cannot do everything.   Thirdly, that he should be permitted to close her eyes in any way he thought necessary.  How would he like a man to close the eyes of his wife in any way that man may like, or how would he like his wife to be submitted for an examination even by a brother member of the faculty?   Was you not ashamed of yourself, Sir, to interrupt a meeting to question a lady's sincerity or even venture to propose to touch her eyes?   Is not your wife your property?   Is not Mr. Massey's his property also?   And how dare you, Sir, if you are a gentleman, to think of such a thing?

    You say that Mr. Massey and his wife acted in concert.  Well, Sir, and what of that ?  A blessed thing when they can do so.  Do not say any more on that point or the public will think that Mr. and Mrs. Pope do not.

    You say that every conjuror has his conditions, and his trick remains undetected.  Do you dare, Sir, to call Mr. Massey a conjuror and his wife a trick?  Bald language, to be sure, for a man that works with mesmeric influence every day.  How many poor souls have gone to the grave because you have shaken your head, to say nothing of your compounds?  How many have got well because you have smiled and kept the physic-bottle away ?  Why, Sir, you mesmerise upon a large scale, and then find fault with a poor soul that only trades now and then for a crust.

    Trusting I have made myself understood, and hoping that Mr. Pope will not be found blacking the aspirations of the youthful pair,

I subscribe my name without hesitation,

Leighton Buzzard, Feb. 8, 1853.

Tring: Frogmore Street, from the opposite direction to the previous photo.
Photo: Wendy Austin Collection.


FEB. 12, 1853.


To the Editor of the Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News.

    DEAR Sir,—Do not be startled at the heading of my article, I do not allude to Pio Nono who lately put down sham clairvoyance in Rome, because he thought the trick so infernally clever, but to the Pope in miniature, who lately extinguished "Clairvoyance in Tring."  I see by your paper of the 5th inst., that we are snuffed out irrecoverably.  I little thought that after convincing millions of people of the genuineness of our pretensions, it was reserved for the good people of Tring to detect the humbug of them.  But Sir, will you bear one word from the condemned on his way to execution?  In the meanwhile perchance a reprieve may come.

    Mr. Pope commences to correct an incorrect statement which appeared in your paper, and which he does not correct in any one particular.  In this respect he reminds me forcibly of the Dutchman, who having to leap a dyke, ran a preliminary two miles in order that he might get a good start, and when he arrived at the edge of it, had run himself out of breath, and could not take the leap at all.  I shall endeavour to answer Mr. Pope's letter seriatim.  (The Clairvoyante looking over my shoulder, construes that into " Sir! I hate him;" and begs to endorse the sentiment. Of course, Mr. Pope will "do her humanity the justice to believe she does not feel it.")

    Mr. Pope speaks of the "several gentlemen" who disprove of your previous report.  I presume he reckons on the principle that one of them being the landlord of an inn, he constituted a whole Host in himself!  At our seace they were a minority of two.   Mr. Pope informs you that "fair crucial experiments were objected to, and those only were tried which the clairvoyante and her husband themselves proposed."  Indeed!  Did we propose the experiments and tests of Messrs. Parkes and Sherman, the clergyman, and others, who held the clairvoyante's eyes with the tips of their fingers?  Why it was one of the very tests Mr. Pope himself proposed; only, mark you!  The condition he stipulated for was, that "he should be the person who was to hold her eyes in the proposed way."  That, in a great measure, explains why she would not read for Mr. Pope, and why she did read for any one beside, in the way Mr. Pope himself proposed; and she was perfectly successful in every instance.  He states that no proof of the truth of clairvoyance could result from the experiments as performed at Tring.  Now, sir, I stated distinctly that what we had to show was little or no evidence for the existence of clairvoyance; and that the subtler experiments could not be induced before a public audience.  We went to Tring to demonstrate more particularly that in the somnambulic state, and in certain persons, a transfer of vision takes place, and that they can see without the ordinary use of the eyes.  Such a power has existed in the natural somnambulist, and they have met Mr. Pope’s conditions by seeing in the dark.  Clairvoyance does exist where this change, or intensifying of the physical sight does not occur.  Indeed, I am not aware that any living clairvoyante possesses this faculty in such a degree as Mrs. Massey does, and this is the great fact we have to demonstrate publicly.  This is what we ask your opinion upon, and not something else.  Mrs. Massey's reputation as a clairvoyante is not staked on this reading faculty; but whatever else she may be able to do in clairvoyance would not help you or any one to a belief in this sight.  As regards the way we prefer the eyes being held, we choose it because it is found by experience to be the most generally convincing; and because, if we had not conditions, we should be at the mercy of an audience, who would furnish probably 20 different tests in one night, and each person would have as legitimate a right to insist on trying his test as Mr. Pope.  But if that gentleman will read one line for me in the way we propose the clairvoyante's eyes shall be held, at any of our lectures, I will hand over to him the proceeds of the evening, and I will neither crush his head, pinch his nose, or dig my fingers into his eyes.  We invite persons to place their hands over the eyes of the clairvoyante for their own satisfaction; not that she would be able to see naturally if they did not, for she is totally unable to use the eyes at all in the normal way so long as she continues in the mesmeric state.  Mr. Pope demands that the clairvoyante shall read in the dark, to prove to him that she can do what she professes to do in the light.  He might just as philosophically demand that a given steam-engine should blow him up at a given time and spot, to demonstrate to him the extraordinary power of steam!  But the impossible could in no wise enable him to grasp the possible.  And if she were to read in the dark?  That would not convince the sceptic that it was done by clairvoyance, not in the least.  He would probably admit the fact that it was done, that he, the sceptic, was done, that the “discerning public" was done, and that we were all done together.  But as to clairvoyance.  No; anything but that.  There are chemical compositions that are luminous in the dark.  Beside, perhaps the clairvoyante might have smuggled in a glow-worm or a fire-fly.  We could not see what she did in the dark.  We know the sceptics, Sir, better than they know themselves: they do not mistrust us alone; they cannot trust themselves.

Again, he demands that she read through an opaque envelope to prove to him that she can see the letters of a book.  We never contended for any such powers.  I never denied that light was an essential condition for our success, nor did I assert that she could see more with the eyes held than I or Mr. Pope can see without.  I have heard of both these things being done, and believe that Mrs. Massey could do them; but the one would demand too great an excitement of the brain, the other would only prove to me a transmission of thought, and not actual sight.  Mr. Pope remarks, "the mesmerists say that this wonderful power of clairvoyance may be destroyed by the near approach of a sceptic."  In illustration, take the following extract from the Coventry Herald of Feb. 4th, relative to our lectures in that place:—"There was one very remarkable circumstance connected with the reading on this evening.  One lady present held the clairvoyante's eyes, when she complained that the lady's influence was so dark she could not see; but if some gentleman would place his hand over, in addition to the lady's, she should be able to read. This was done, and she then read fluently."  That does not look like seeing through the fingers, does it?  Mr. Pope seems to suppose that he was the only person in Tring knowing enough to detect the trick and to cause us to fail, that we went to Tring especially to convince him, and that, failing to do so, therefore clairvoyance does not exist.  Very amusing, but by no means logical or conclusive.  Mr. Pope complains of the demeanour of the clairvoyante.  I suppose he thinks a clairvoyante should have no feeling, and that she should hear herself set down as an impostor and humbug, and bear the sneer, the taunt, and the insult with the most seraphic meekness.  Mr. Pope may find his wife thus docile, but mine is'nt; she's not made in that mould.  He says the clairvoyante assumed ill-temper and feigned hysteric, which assertion is unwarranted and untrue: I should add ungentlemanly and cowardly; but I suppose I must credit him with the cruel consistency of believing that the whole of our exhibition was humbug.  Just as he pleases.  Only I think she felt too much to "feign" and was far too ill to "assume," which, as regards the miserable motive he assigns for the "sham," he knows well enough that the "sympathy of the audience" was entirely with us from first to last, and that he was one in a minority of two or three.

Mr. Pope also states that "There was not the slightest proof that the clairvoyante was in the so-called mesmeric or somnambulic state."  A Daniel come to judgment, say I!  Now, I should like to know what would constitute sufficient evidence for the truth of something, the very existence of which the sceptic denies?  He does not believe that the thing exists, consequently he cannot be competent to reason on its proofs.  But, Sir, we are too intimately acquainted with scepticism to marvel at any of its manifestation.  It is the same blind, cold, wilful thing it ever was—no matter whether it stands mocking the dying Christ, thrice-crowned on Calvary—torturing Galileo, and refuting him by the sharp logic of the rack—or putting its squinting constructions on mesmerism and clairvoyance.  It is with clairvoyance, as with most other things, the eyes of the beholder can only see just so much as they bring with them the power of seeing, and if persons have not the faculty for believing that things may exist which they cannot reason upon, and mathematically demonstrate, we may never convince them of the truth of clairvoyance.  Credence depends upon capacity as well as evidence.  We measure things according to our organization, and I cannot help looking suspiciously on the person who, where an alternative exists between honesty and roguery, comes immediately to the rogueish conclusion.  But there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in medical science, and clairvoyance does exist although some persons have not the capacity for believing it, and Mrs. Massey's faculty for reading with the eyes closed is genuine, independent of Mr. Pope's belief or disbelief.

In conclusion, Mr. Pope mentions my invitation to him.  I did not intend it as a personal challenge, but I here subscribe a challenge, personal to him or any one beside, if any of those persons, who cannot credit what they see with their own eyes and feel with their own hands, would be inclined to back their scepticism with a sum of money worth trying a crucial experiment for, say from £20 to £60, I shall be very happy to wager its equivalent, that Mrs. Massey shall read with her eyes covered by as many plasters as there may be of pounds staked, and the sceptic may have the assistance of all the medical men in Tring in laying the plasters on securely.  Not that that would be sufficient evidence to some sceptics, but because their only vulnerable point is the breeches-pocket.  I shall lecture in Tring again, and shall be glad to hear from any one who will accept my offer.

I regret having inflicted so lengthy a letter on your readers, uninteresting to the majority of them; but I promise them that we shall shortly give them a better opportunity of judging of the truth of our experiments, and of deciding between clairvoyance and the Pope.

I am, dear Sir, your's faithfully,


Photo: Wendy Austin Collection.


FEB. 12, 1853.


To the Editor of the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News.

Sir—I thank you for the insertion of my letter in your last week's paper, relative to the above subject, and will beg the same favour for the following remarks, which an unwillingness to make my former communication too lengthy prevented me adding to it.

You will observe, that in the handbill, which I enclose, the public are invited " to a fair and faithful investigation," and that it is also stated that the clairvoyante has been "satisfactorily tested by numerous persons of all classes."

Relying on the good faith of this invitation, I attended for the purpose of making such "investigation" and I proposed to apply such tests as I considered would prove "satisfactory."  For, in a matter altogether so contrary to the order of nature, and in which, as the lecturer himself admitted, so much imposition has prevailed, I consider it is our duty not to take for granted any assertions of parties exhibiting, and not to receive anything as true, unless it be proved to be so.  Now, in the present case, when I proposed my tests, not a word was said about their unfairness or inapplicability; they were simply rejected, the lecturer stating they were there to perform their own experiments and not those of other people; and, instead of meeting my arguments with others, he permitted the clairvoyante to assail me with personalities.  She did, however, state that at a private sitting, and for a proper consideration, the clairvoyante would submit to other experiments.  But, if in private, why not in public?  Because, in the event of failure, its effect upon the fortunes of the clairvoyante in the former case would be comparatively harmless.  On the face, then, of the handbill there is a fraud; in it, the lecturer invites to "a fair investigation," which in the lecture-room he declines.  The only test he will allow is his own: the exclusion of light from the eyes by the unsatisfactory and clumsy expedient of covering them with the hands, and this, too, applied in his own way.  And here I should observe that everything that was read was held within the range of ordinary vision.  Of course, experiments thus conducted and thus tested must be successful.  But what inference, I ask, would any reasonable and reasoning person deduce from them?  The whole thing is absurd.

But perhaps the best test of the trick or falsehood of clairvoyance is that which was proposed about six years since by Sir Philip Crampton, the Irish surgeon-general.  This gentleman placed in the hands of one of the Dublin bankers the sum of £100, in the form of a note.  This was folded in a slip of paper, on which was written three English words, and enclosed in a sealed envelope.  On this was an endorsement to the effect that any person describing the particulars of the note and reading the three words should have it for their pains.  It is, perhaps, needless to remark the note was never claimed.  Sir Philip, too, in the communication to the newspaper in which he published this offer observed that the professors of, and believers in, clairvoyance exhibited a wonderful forbearance in not turning their powers to a more profitable account.  Why accept a shilling or eighteen pence for exhibiting manifestations of a power which, skilfully applied, would make them "rich beyond the dream of avarice?" and he related a story which he had somewhere read of "an ingenious gentleman of the last age" who, lying violently afflicted with the gout, a person came and offered his service to cure him by a medicine which, he assured him, was infallible.  The servant carried the message up to his master, who inquired whether the person came on foot or in a chariot, and being informed that he came on foot, said, "Go, send the knave about his business; were his method as infallible as he pretends, he would, long before now, have been in his coach and six."

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

Tring, Feb. 9, 1853. EDWD. POPE.


The Pope family grave, The Parish Church, Tring.

In Loving Memory


Obituary, British Medical Journal, 26th March, 1898.

Photo: Wendy Austin Collection.


13th May 1872
(page 3)


    Mr. Gerald Massey has commenced a course of four lectures on subjects connected with Spiritualism.  "Facts of my own personal experience narrated and discussed, together with various theories of the alleged phenomena"—this was his subject yesterday afternoon, and some two or three hundred people, mostly spiritualists, assembled to hear him.  It is to be presumed that Mr. Massey's object is to promote the cause of spiritualism by establishing those who are in the faith and convincing those who are not.  As to what may have been the effect of his first lecture upon believers, we cannot venture to express any opinion.  People who are occasionally found to be so entirely independent of physical laws cannot safely be regarded as at all times amenable to ordinary mental influences.  But if the experience Mr. Gerald Massey related yesterday be the standard and ordinary experience of spiritualists, then people may exclaim, "Heaven preserve us from conversion."

    He began by declaring that either with the pitchfork, or the pen, he had been all his life long accustomed to hard work.  The circumstances which led him first to believe in clairvoyancy, and then to become a spiritualist, were very interesting, and might perhaps afford a subject for a painter, or a situation for a novelist.  He was in the company of a young lady clairvoyante, [Ed.―Rosina Jane, who became Massey's first wife in 1850; she died in 1866] who undertook to read a book without seeing it, and he was appointed to hold her eyes.  This, it must be confessed, was a very delicate office for a young man and a poet.  He frankly confessed yesterday that his anxiety for the young lady's success overcame for once his love of sincerity and truth, and that he purposely opened his fingers to enable her to see through.  Although this proved to be a very unnecessary display of partiality, it was of course a very unmistakable one, and we cannot be surprised that Mr. Massey ran away with the young clairvoyante and made her his wife.

    The lecturer proceeded to give the facts of his married life in connection with spiritualism.  We really cannot bring ourselves to recount them.  We have read them over—the spirits that nibble like a rat, and rap like a telegraph, and whisk like a dog's tail—ad nauseam.  Here and there Mr. Massey certainly ran somewhat above the ordinary level.  It is not every spiritualist who can relate from his own experience such a hideous ghost story as that with which he yesterday delighted his audience, nor is it every one who has occasionally found his wife ghastly and convulsed, and possessed by the spirit of a murderer, who cries, "Give me back my bones."  It is, too, only fair to add that unlike most spiritualistic experiences, Mr. Massey's are not entirely void of a practical utility.  The spirit of Shakespeare has occasionally communicated with him, and on one occasion gave him a genuine hint about the interpretation of one of those perplexing sonnets of his.  Now, this is something like what we have so long been demanding.  There really is some sort of sense in a manifestation of this kind.  An edition of Shakespeare edited by himself would be absolutely priceless.

    If all the facts of our experience lead us to believe, for instance, that ceilings must be impervious to Mrs. Guppy, why should Mr. Massey be severe upon us it we hold on by our facts and maintain that Mrs. Guppy can't come through, and that those who say she can must be lunatics?  It was impossible to hear this lecture and remain serious.  Trashy ghost stories might have been all very well when Mr. Massey wielded the pitchfork; but to hear them soberly delivered in terse, vigorous English, and with the racy, humorous good sense which is characteristic of his style, suggests the idea of a man of real intellectual power degenerated into a hopeless craze.

Tring: Brook Street.
Photo: Wendy Austin Collection.

Come and See, and prove it for Yourselves!


on MONDAY Evening, OCTOBER 25th, 1852, on the subject of—


In the Literary and Scientific Institution, John Street, Fitzroy Square.


    Mesmerism too generally accepted to demand its martyrs now.—A brief sketch of its history.—Its various manifestations.—Its curative powers.—A Contagion of Health as well as of Disease.—Different methods of Mesmerism.—Natural Somnambulism.—Instances of Spontaneous Clairvoyance.—Dangers of Sleepwalking.—Somnambulism Artificially Induced.—The Effects of Attraction and Repulsion.—Endeavours to account for Phenomenon.—The Sceptics and Commonscensical.—The Visible and Invisible.


   The Lecture will be illustrated by various interesting and marvellous experiments in Phreno-Mesmerism, Catalepsy, and Clairvoyance.  The Clairvoyante—Mrs Gerald Massey—will read any book, or paper, printed in the English language, produced by any of the audience, who can perfectly close the eyes of the Clairvoyante, and hold them with their own hands.  She will also endeavour to ascertain and describe any internal disease from which any one person present may be suffering.  The Mesmeriser will also answer any questions of the audience, if directly bearing upon the subject.

    Doors open at 8 o'clock.  Lecture at half past 8.

Admission: Hall and gallery, 3d. : Platform 6d.

Tickets may be had at the Institution, and at 56, Upper Charlotte-Street,

Fitzroy Square.

. . . . and from PUNCH, 9April, 1853. . . .