"I have looked over
Gerald Massey's Poems ― They seem to me zealous, candid, warlike, ―
intended, as they surely are, to get up a strong feeling against the
British aristocracy both in their social and governmental political
Walt Whitman, 1855.
"His revolutionary lyrics have
done their work. The least that can be said for them is, that
they are among the very best inspired by those wild times when
Feargus O'Connor, Thomas Cooper, James [Bronterre] O'Brien and
Ernest Jones were in their glory. Of their effect in awakening
and, making all allowance for their intemperance and extravagance,
in educating our infant democracy and those who were to mould it
there can be no question."
The Poetry of Mr. Gerald Massey
by John Churton Collins, 1905.
"No one ever understood the
mythology and Ritual of Ancient Egypt so well as Gerald Massey since
the time of the Ancient Philosophers of Egypt."
Albert Churchward—Preface to
Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man.
|Pleasantly the Chime that calls to
Bridal-hall or Kirk;
But Hell might gloatingly pull for the peal
wakes the babes to work!
"Come, little Children," the Mill-bell rings,
drowsily they run,
Little old Men and Women, and human
The life of Infancy into silk; and fed, Child,
The factory's smoke of torment, with the
O weird white face, and weary bones, and
they hurry or crawl,
You know them by the factory-stamp, they
wear it one
The Factory-Fiend in a grim hush waits till
all are in,
and he grins
As he shuts the door on the fair, fair world
and hell begins!
. . . . life in Tring's Silk
(1828 - 1907)
Poet, author, lecturer and Egyptologist.
19th Century view of Tring High Street.
Photograph: Wendy Austin collection.
Not by appointment do we meet delight
Or joy; they heed not our expectancy;
But round some corner of the streets of life
They of a sudden greet us with a smile.
Bridegroom of Beauty
Known in his
home town (in Hertfordshire, England) as "Tring's
Poet", this extraordinary man's enduring reputation rests more on his
unparalleled ability to piece together historical connections between cultures
than on his poetry, which dates mainly from the early part of his life. It
is impossible to categorise GERALD MASSEY
comfortably under one heading, for at different times he succeeded as a . . . .
Chartist and journalist, writing
in radical publications such as The Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom,
The Red Republican
and The Friend of the People (see also
W. J. Linton,
Karl Marx on 'Chartism';
Chartism Is' and 'James
Watson, a Memoire'). In 1886, Massey returned briefly to the
hustings, publishing a set of satirical "Election
Lyrics," which offered support to Gladstone and his ill-fated
Bill to give home-rule to Ireland;
Poet, his poetry also being
published widely in North America. In much of his
poetry—particularly his early verse—Massey protests about the
lack of sorely-needed political and social reform (see the
Essayist and poetry critic
for various Victorian periodicals—particularly on poetry for the
into the background to the Sonnets (Shakspeare
and his Sonnets;
The Secret Drama of Shakspeare's Sonnets);
Lecturer on a wide range of
subjects. During his early years, Massey
concentrated mainly on poets and literary personages, but later
he lectured increasingly on
and the origin of religious beliefs, and on
spiritualism, subjects that became absorbing interests and
were—and continue—to damn him in the eyes of many;
Researcher into the
influence of ancient Egyptian beliefs on the development of
western myth, symbol, language and religion (Judaism and
Throughout his works, when examining racial mythology, Massey
places particular emphasis on ancient Egyptian myths,
maintaining that these developed as a necessary and fundamental
central core of belief from the earliest times, and are the
roots of modern cultural origins. He maintains that myths were
founded on natural phenomena and remain the register of the
earliest scientific observation and 'the mirror of prehistoric
". . . .
much of the Christian History was pre-extant as Egyptian Mythology.
I have to ask you to bear in mind that the facts, like other
foundations, have been buried out of sight for thousands of years in a
hieroglyphical language, that was never really read by Greek or Roman,
and could not be read until the lost clue was discovered by Champollion,
almost the other day! In this way the original sources of our Mytholatry
and Christology remained as hidden as those of the Nile, until the
century in which we live."
From Massey's lecture....
Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ'
Few Christians realise that the Gospels contain many points of
similarity with ancient Egyptian teachings; indeed, that they might even
have been derived from much earlier ancient Egyptian religious ritual.
During the later years of his life — from about 1870 onwards — Massey
became increasingly interested in the similarities that exist between
ancient Egyptian mythology and the Gospel stories. He studied the
extensive Egyptian records housed in the British Museum, eventually
teaching himself to decipher the hieroglyphics. Following
years of diligent research into the history of Egyptian civilisation and
the origins of religion, Massey concluded that Christianity was neither
original nor unique, but that the roots of much of the Judeo/Christian
tradition lay in the prevailing Kamite (ancient Egyptian) culture of the
region. By demonstrating such links are plausible, Massey
inevitably places a question mark against the
strict historical veracity of the Gospels. In the view of Dr.
Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880-1963), a scholar of comparative religion who was
much influenced by Massey's research:
"We are faced with the inescapable realisation that if Jesus had been able to
read the documents of old Egypt, he would have been amazed to find his
own biography already substantially written some four or five thousand
Massey published the results of his extensive
research in his 6-volume "trilogy" on the origin of man, of civilization
and of western religions—"I began my study in 1870, with the idea, which
has grown stronger every year, that the human race originated in
equatorial Africa." (Massey derived an etymology from the Egyptian
af-rui-ka, "to turn toward the opening of the Ka."
The Ka is the energetic double of every person and
"opening of the Ka" refers to a womb or birthplace.
Africa would be, for the Egyptians, "the birthplace").
today's growing interest—the books are again available in facsimile
reprint editions—at the time of their publication the trilogy failed in
popularity due mainly to the contentious subject matter; however, it
must also be said that some of Massey's theories are poorly defined and
so supported with detail that readers found them difficult to
Lacking any formal education — particularly with regard to the
need to evaluate and record his sources — and the services of an editor,
it is unsurprising that Massey's research attracted criticism, not just
with regard to the controversial nature of his conclusions but due to a
lack of clarity in how he reaches them. In:
The Book of the Beginnings, published 1881, Massey challenges
conventional opinions of race supremacy;
Natural Genesis, published in 1883, Massey delves deeper into ancient
Egypt's influence on modern myths, symbols, religions and languages. By
proclaiming Egypt to be the birthplace of modern civilisation, Massey challenges
conventional theology as well as fundamental notions of race supremacy;
Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, published shortly before his
death in 1907 and by far Massey's most important work, he concludes that Kamite
thought was the direct progenitor of the philosophy, meta physics, religion and
science that eventually shaped Western civilisation. "It is a work which
has occupied me over thirty years, and I shall be well content if in another
century my ideas are acknowledged as correct".
Although now largely overlooked, during the
mid-Victorian era Massey was considered a significant poet, both in
Britain, where he achieved the distinction of being awarded a civil list
pension, and in North America, where he was published widely in both
books and periodicals.
A happy island in a sea of
Smiling it lies beneath the changing sky,
Well pleased, and conscious that each
Is tempered kindly or with blessing rich:
And all the quaint cloud-messengers that
Voyaging the blue Heaven's summer sea,
Soft, shining, sumptuous, blown by
Touch tenderly, or drop with ripeness
Spring builds her leafy nest for birds and
And folds it round luxuriant as the Vine
When grapes are filled with wine of merry
The Summer burns her richest incense
Swinging the censers of her thousand
Brown Autumn comes o'er seas of glorious
And there old Winter keeps some greenth
When on his head the snows of age are
It fell upon a merry May morn,
I' the perfect prime of that sweet time
When daisies whiten, woodbines
The dear Babe Christabel was born . . .
The birds were darkling in the nest,
Or bosomed in voluptuous trees:
On beds of flowers the happy breeze
Had kissed its fill and sank to rest . . .
We sat and watched by life's dark stream,
Our love-lamp blown about the night,
With hearts that lived, as lived its
And died, as did its precious gleam . . .
She thought our good-night kiss was
And like a flower her life did close.
Angels uncurtained that repose,
And the next wakening dawned in
Heaven . . .
No jewelled beauty is my love,
Yet in her earnest face,
There's such a world of tenderness,
She needs no other grace.
Her smiles, her voice, around my life
In light and music twine;
And dear, O very dear to me
Is this sweet Love of mine.
Jewelled Beauty Is My Love
Come hither my brave Soldier boy, and sit
you by my side,
To hear a tale, a fearful tale, a glorious
How Havelock with his handful, all so
faithful, and so few,
Held on in that far Indian land, to bear
Her pass of bloodiest peril, and her reddest
And strode like Paladins of old on their
Massey's best poetry leans toward the tender side of nature—often
painting a succession of beautiful, even extravagant vignettes—and to
romantic scenes close to home. Examples in this category are the
ballad Babe Christabel,
Massey's best-known long poem, in which he gently relates the birth,
life and death of a young child; in
The Singer, he pictures a skylark, singing softly and sweetly as
it soars up into the heavens, but the ripe, drooping ears of corn below
are deaf to its song; in My
Massey muses lovingly on his wife's perfections and imperfections, a
poem that I suspect makes a candid statement of devotion for his first
wife Rosina, whose imperfections gradually became legion but who he
There's No Dearth of Kindness, which takes as its theme
brotherly love, is probably Massey's best-known short poem, its first
four lines often appearing in dictionaries of quotations.
In stark contrast is Massey's political poetry, among his
earliest and arguably his best. These exhortatory, fiery protests,
written mostly for publication in unstamped Chartist and working-class
newspapers of the period (1847-52), reflect the wrongs suffered by the
masses (A Red Republican Lyric),
their bitterness (Yet we are
Brothers Still) and utter hopelessness of a better life (Hope
On, Hope Ever!) and they display much force and vitality in the
process. Conveying as they do the feelings and sentiments of the
oppressed poor, Massey's political poems are of interest to social
historians of the period, while examples often appear in compilations of
Victorian working-class verse. For further examples see
Early Poems and Voices of Freedom and
Lyrics of Love.
Occasionally, Massey takes as his subject a patriotic or,
perversely for a champion of the downtrodden, an imperialist episode,
Sir Richard Grenville’s Last Fight,
The Death Ride and
Havelock’s March. The latter is a long narrative of the
Indian Mutiny, which Massey described as "more properly historic
photographs, rather than Poems in the Esthetic sense" that "may
have their place as illustrations in historic records"; a perceptive
comment. It's interesting to compare the first two of these
examples with Tennyson’s popular treatment of the same themes in 'The
Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet' and in 'The Charge of the Light
Brigade'. Whereas Tennyson paints his pictures with rich but
delicate strokes, Massey's are more confused and indistinct, his poems a
maze of figures. In the opinion of a critic writing in the
Bucks Advertiser (May, 1847), when Massey left nature and took
to the battlefield, "his sentiment is coarse, and the phraseology
vulgar." He would have done well to have taken note, for
Havelock's March and similar poems, while providing interesting
views on the headline events and sentiments of the time, are not among
which was composed during 1855 when Massey held an editorial post on the
Edinburgh News, and A Tale
of Eternity, a ghost story published in 1870— and his last
significant poem—are among Massey's most accomplished poems in blank
A number of Massey's poems were set to music and
proved popular, both as hymns and songs; judging from the number of
composers that set the piece and the number of copies that remain
in circulation, No Jewelled
Beauty is my Love seems to have been a particular
favourite (it's certainly one of mine). But having sold the
copyright of his poetry to the publishers, I doubt whether Massey ever
received any royalties from the
sheet music sales.
Despite its failings, strength and sincerity always shines
through in Massey's poetry
placing it above mere poetic merit. Of course much of it is
dated, for the concerns and conflicts that he and his Chartist and
Radical contemporaries faced, often addressing in their verse, have long
since receded below our horizon. Their battles against child
labour, appalling factory and social conditions, the right to protest
without the fear of brutal reprisal, gender inequality and the lack of
universal suffrage, to name but some, were fought long and hard and
eventually won to our benefit (although our civil liberties are again at
risk from the all-seeing eye of modern technology and from those who
operate it!). Sadly, these battles and those who fought them are
now historic footnotes, or are forgotten.
Tennyson, who Massey greatly admired — they
met once, towards the end of the Laureate's life — described him
"a poet of fine lyrical impulse and of a rich, half-Oriental,
imagination". . . . possibly Gerald Massey’s finest eulogy as a
(Gerald Massey's last known poem).
He set his battle in array, and thought
To carry all before him, since he fought
For Truth, whose likeness was to him revealed;
Whose claim he blazoned on his battle-shield;
But found in front, impassively opposed,
The World against him, with its ranks all closed:
He fought, he fell, he failed to win the day
But led to Victory another way.
For Truth, it seemed, in very person came
And took his hand, and they two in one flame
Of dawn, directly through the darkness passed;
Her breath far mightier than the battle-blast.
And here and there men caught a glimpse of grace,
A moment's flash of her immortal face,
And turned to follow, till the battle-ground
Transformed with foemen slowly facing round
To fight for Truth, so lately held accursed,
As if they had been Her champion from the first.
Only a change of front, and he who had led
Was left behind with Her forgotten dead.
is a cold place to write Poetry in….. A poor man, fighting his
battle of life, has little time for the rapture of repose which
Poetry demands….. Considering all things, it may appear madness for
a poor man to attempt Poetry in the face of the barriers that
Born in a hovel at Gamnel Wharf, Tring, on
29th May 1828, (THOMAS) GERALD
MASSEY was the eldest son of an impoverished
and illiterate canal-boatman. Massey
said of himself that 'he had no childhood,' for on reaching the
age of eight he was put to work in the Town’s silk mill where his
twelve-hour days spent labouring in grim conditions added between nine
pence and one shilling and three pence to his father's meagre earnings.
He later worked in Tring’s then-thriving straw plaiting industry
producing braid for the straw hat trade in nearby Luton and Dunstable.
Thanks to his mother, Mary, Massey received a scant education at a
“penny school”. Despite these tough beginnings, he learned to read
and write using the Bible, Bunyan, Robinson Crusoe and Wesleyan tracts
left at the family home.
Torn from mother's arms to labour,
Fragile limbs in childhood's day—
Soon the cherub lines of beauty
From their pallid cheeks decay;
And the cankerworm of death
Makes young hearts its early prey.
At Eventide There Shall Be Light
God shield poor little ones, where all
help to be bread-bringers!
For once afoot, there's none too small
To ply their tiny fingers.
Poor Pearl, she had no time to play
The merry game of childhood;
From dawn to dark she went all day,
A-wooding in the wild-wood.
The Legend of Little Pearl
Gamnel Wharf, Tring. The steam flour mill dates from 1875.
Photo: Wendy Austin collection.
Massey's father, William, worked for the proprietor of the flour mill…
"… I know a poor old man in England who, for 40 years, worked for
one firm and its three generations of proprietors. He began at a
wage of 16s. per week, and worked his way, as he grew older and
older, and many necessaries of life grew dearer and dearer, down to six
shillings a week, and still he kept on working, and would not give up.
At six shillings a week he broke a limb, and left work at last, being
pensioned off by the firm with a four-penny piece! I know whereof
I speak, for that man was my father."
"The child comes into the world
like a new coin with the stamp of God upon it…the poor man’s
child [is] hustled and sweated down in this bag of society
to get wealth out of it…so is the image of God worn from
heart and brow, and day by day the child recedes devil-ward.
I look back now with wonder, not that so few escape, but
that any escape at all, to win a nobler growth for their
humanity. So blighting are the influences which surround
thousands in early life, to which I can bear such bitter
I would not plod on, like these slaves
Who shut up their souls, in a dusky cave,
I would see the world better, and nobler-souled,
Ere I dream of Heaven in my green, turf-grave.
I may toil till my life is filled with dreariness,
Toil, till my heart is a wreck in its weariness,
Toil for ever, for tear-steept bread,
Till I go down to the silent dead.
But, by this yearning, this hoping, this aching,
I was not made merely for money-making.
Was Not Made Merely for Money-Making
On Heaven, blood shall call,
Earth, quake with pent thunder,
And shackle and thrall,
Shall be riven asunder,
It will come, it shall come,
Impede it what may,
Up People! and welcome!
Your glorious day.
At the age of 15, Massey moved to London, where he found work as an
errand boy, believed to have been at the once famous Regent Street store
of Swan & Edgar.
With access to more reading material, he flourished,
absorbing the classics and other influences, including the political
writings of Thomas Paine, Volney and Howitt. He also studied
French. In later life Massey recalled that his first published
poem on 'Hope' — its author then being without any — appeared in
1843 in the Aylesbury News, but this has not been traced.
His first identified poem, At
Eventide there shall be light, was published in The
Bucks Advertiser when he was eighteen, being attributed to "A Tring
Peasant Boy". A Tring bookseller published Massey’s first volume
of poems, Original Poems and Chansons,
in 1847, 250 copies being printed and offered for sale at a shilling
each. No copy is known to have survived (but see
Throughout his life, Massey was committed to the
labourer’s cause. The revolutionary spirit of the 1840s caught his
enthusiasm and he joined the Chartists, applying his pen in support of
their cause. In 1849 he began editing
The Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom, a paper written by working men, and
was dismissed from several jobs for publishing it.
Massey's Calvinist upbringing had taught him that the
Bible and church doctrines were true, but following his move to London
he realised that the social injustice that surrounded him was plainly
incompatible with strict church teachings. This dichotomy was
exacerbated when, having joined the Chartist movement, he came into
contact with political and religious radicals. At that time ― the
late 1840's and early 1850's ― there were discussions about and
publications refuting the strict historical veracity of biblical
teachings (which continue to this day). At that time, Massey’s
sympathies veered to the religious side of the reforming movement, where
he supported the Christian Socialists' ideals, acted as secretary to the
Christian Socialist Board and contributed to
The Christian Socialist
journal. In general, "Christian Socialism" was taken to mean a
restructuring of labour based on co-operation, joint ownership and with
increased power to the working class. F. D. Maurice, who coined
the term, intended that by these means to
Christianise socialism by opposing the unsocial Christians and the
unchristian socialists. Despite this association, however, Massey
also contributed more radical material to George Julian Harney's
Red Republican, sometimes
under the pen names 'Bandiera' or 'Armand Carrel', a venture with which
the promoters of the Christian Socialist
Massey, by John and Charles Watkins (ca. 1856)
Following the virtual collapse of the Chartist Movement by the mid
1850s, Massey continued to write poetry—much of his poetry remaining
religious in tone—together with literary articles and reviews. His
earliest surviving published poetry collection,
Voices of Freedom and Lyrics of Love, appeared in
1851, but it was not until his third collection, The Ballad of Babe
with other Lyrical Poems, published in 1854, that he achieved a wide
reputation as a poet. This volume went through five editions in a
year and was reprinted in New York (as
Poems and Ballads). The critic John Ruskin acknowledged
Massey's talent, writing to him; "Your education was a terrible one,
but mine was far worse", the one having suffered the bitterness of
poverty, the other having been the pampered child of wealth.
― poems based on the Crimean War ― followed in 1855,
Craigcrook Castle in 1856,
Robert Burns: a Centenary Song
in 1861 and, in 1870, A Tale
of Eternity, itself a poem (and his last significant effort in
the genre) dealing with the supernatural, on which one critic commented
that ".... Weird, grisly, eerie, eldritch horror runs through the
whole current of the narrative". In 1886, in support of W. E.
Gladstone's election campaign, Massey penned a short collection of
political poems, which he published as "Election
Lyrics." Following the success of earlier compilations,
Massey collected the best of his poems into a two-volume edition, which
with other material was published in 1889 as My Lyrical Life (Part
1, Part 2); a
second, slightly extended edition, appeared in 1896 (Part
Massey's other published writing includes a detailed
study of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Following his
essay on the Sonnets published in the Quarterly Review in
April, 1864, Massey delved deeper in the mystery surrounding the
characters that they address. Shakespeare's Sonnets Never
appeared in 1866 followed in 1872 by a revision, which Massey published
in a limited edition of 100 copies by subscription as The Secret
Drama of Shakespeare's Sonnets Unfolded: With the Characters Identified.
A further revision,
The Secret Drama of Shakspeare's
Sonnets, which followed in 1888, exhibited an improved literary
style (Massey's spelling of 'Shakspeare' appears to have been taken from
Ben Johnson, among others, and is a recognised, though less used
"That Spanish Emperor who fancied
he could have improved the plan of creation if he had been
consulted, would hardly have managed to better the time, the place,
and circumstances of Shakespeare's birth. The world would not have
been more ripe, or England more ready - the stage of the national
life more nobly peopled - the scenes more fittingly draped - than
they were for his reception. It was a time when souls were made in
earnest, and life grew quick within and large without. The
full-statured sprit of the nation had just found its sea-legs and
was clothing itself with wings."
"It must be borne in mind that we are
endeavouring to decipher a secret history of an unexampled kind. We
can get little help, except from the words themselves. We must not
be too confident of walking by our own light; we must rely more
implicitly on that inner light of the sonnets, left like a lamp in a
tomb of old, which will lead us with the greater certainty to the
precise spot where we shall touch the secret spring and make clear
the mystery. We must ponder any the least minutiae of thought,
feeling, or expression, and not pass over one mote of meaning
because we do not easily see its significance. Some little thing
that we cannot make fit with the old reading may be the key to the
Gerald Massey.... extracts from
The Secret Drama of Shakespeare's Sonnets Unfolded.
Among Massey's radical friends and associates during
his Chartist years were
W. J. Linton,
G. J. Holyoake,
J. J. Bezer,
F. D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley. Later, when he had established
his literary reputation, came
Hepworth Dixon, Walter Savage Landor and George Eliot, who is
widely reported to have taken Massey as her model for the character of
Felix Holt in "The Radical," although there is no hard evidence to
support this. Somewhat later came Robert Browning (who Massey met
at the establishment of Lady Marion Alford, his patron, at Ashridge in
Hertfordshire ― see Massey's
letter in defence of Browning) and the
poetess, novelist and author of charming children's stories,
Jean Ingelow, to
whom, following the death of his first wife, Rosina, in 1866, it was
rumoured that Massey proposed marriage (another rumour of this
period linked Jean Ingelow with Robert Browning).
This period, 1869-70, saw the publication of A
Tale of Eternity and other poems, the last of Massey's
significant poetry; it also marked the end of Massey's long
association (and for him, a comparatively regular stipend) as a poetry
reviewer for the influential periodical, the Athenæum. The
cause of the break is unknown, but in a letter to another of the
journal's reviewers, Thomas Purnell, Massey hints at a 'falling out' . .
Curiously enough I had corresponded with the ‘Athm.’ people about
resuming my old seat on their Critical bench. But, after one
meeting and your communication, I shall drop the subject and not ask for
any Books. The whole affair is infinitely funny.
Thereafter Massey all but abandoned poetry and
commenced his long research into religious origins. His 'trilogy'
("The Book of the Beginnings", "The Natural Genesis" and "Ancient
Egypt: The Light of the World"), published between 1881 and 1907,
demonstrates clearly his complete change of thought regarding the
organised religions of the day and his firm alignment to the concept of
evolution; whilst he did not become an atheist, he might be classed as a
deist (i.e. "One who believes in the existence of a God or supreme being
but denies revealed religion, basing his belief on the light of nature
A misconception about Massey's religious beliefs
stems from his connection with the Most Ancient Order of Druids to which
he was elected Chosen Chief, an honorary position that he held from 1880
until 1906. The position might have involved some minor
administrative duties, but it required no formal membership. To
Massey, at least, it was not a religion and did not involve forms of
initiation, ceremonial dress or attendance at active meetings at
megalithic sites; indeed, Massey did not believe in such pagan ceremony
and made his interest in the Druids plain . . . .
"I cannot join in the new masquerade and simulation of ancient
mysteries manufactured in our time by Theosophists, Hermeneutists,
pseudo-Esoterics, and Occultists of various orders, howsoever profound
their pretensions. The very essence of all such mysteries as are got up
from the refuse leavings of the past is pretence, imposition, and
imposture. The only interest I take in the ancient mysteries is in
ascertaining how they originated, in verifying their alleged phenomena,
in knowing what they meant, on purpose to publish the knowledge as soon
and as widely as possible." (vide Massey's response to the Blavatsky
letter, Agnostic Journal,
Original editions of most of Massey's books are
available on the antiquarian
(but, in good condition, can command high prices) and most of
his work is also now available in modern reprints. Copies of all
Massey's major published work are held by the
British Library, at
British & Irish
university libraries, and in the US
Library of Congress.
Day after day her dainty hands
Make Life's soiled temples clean,
And there's a wake of glory where
Her spirit pure hath been.
At midnight, through that shadow-land,
Her living face doth gleam;
The dying kiss her shadow, and
The Dead smile in their dream.
In silence sat our Crimean Hero, he
Who told us how they fought at Inkerman:
His heart swam up in tears at thoughts of Home.
The roar and rack of Battle over and gone;
No more surprises in the bloody trench,
Where midnight swarmed with visions horrible,
And earth was like a fiery coast of hell!
All that long aching wintriness of soul,
Warm-melted in the arms of Wedded Love,
That drew him from the bloody battle-press,
And claspt him safe in their serene heaven,
Where Past and Future crown him as they kiss.
And with dumb eloquence his poor armstump moved,
As it were dreaming of a dear embrace.
Up-rouse ye now, brave brother-band;
With honest heart, and working hand:
We are but few, toil-tried and true,
Yet hearts beat high to dare and do.
And who would not a champion be,
In Labour's social Chivalry?
Chivalry of Labour
In addition to his books and journalism, Massey sought a living from
contributions to periodical magazines, among others being Chambers'
Magazine, Cassell's Magazine, All the Year Round, and Good
Words—the first issue of this once-popular periodical (in 1860)
includes a poem on the great Italian unifier Garibaldi, for which Massey
received ten guineas. He also contributed to literary journals,
including Hogg's Instructor, Fraser's Magazine, the
North British Review, the Quarterly Review and the
Massey also lectured widely in the U.K., mainly, in his
earlier years, on literature, poetry and pre-Raphaelite art, his fiery
style proving popular and often attracting large audiences—Professor
Marvin Vincent, an American theologian, described him thus:
"He is a splendid lecturer. He
went off like the eighty-one ton pounder. I didn't agree with his
opening remarks, but it was like a shell bursting among us, and we had
enough to do to look out during the rest of the lecture".
In later years Massey undertook lecturing tours to North America; the
first, in 1873-74, included California and Canada, the second in 1883-85
extended to Australia and New Zealand, but his third tour of the U.S.A.
came to a premature close when he was called home to be with his dying
daughter, Hesper, for whom he had a particular affection. By this
time he was lecturing chiefly on the subjects that absorbed his later
life, spiritualism, mythology and the mystical interpretation of the
Scriptures; in 1887 Massey published a selection of his
lectures on these topics.
Massey was twice married.
He had 7 daughters and 2 sons (neither of whom reached maturity),
including two surviving daughters from his first marriage.
My Love in Heaven! love was not hid
By closing of a Coffin-lid!
Dear Love in Heaven! true love survives
All separation in our lives!
O Love in Heaven, from you I win
Sure help without, and hope within!
My Love in Heaven, for me she waits
Like Morning golden at her Gate
Massey's first wife, Rosina Jane Knowles, was a noted
She was born in Bolton in Lancashire and was nineteen when they married
Rosina was to influence Massey's life significantly,
particularly his interest in and commitment to spiritualism.
Sadly, she was to develop severe depression, possibly stemming from the
loss of two of her children, a condition that was aggravated by growing
dependence on alcohol. She died in 1866 at the age of
thirty-four—her badly weathered white
tombstone, her name barely
discernable, lies near the gate of the beautiful secluded parish church
of Saint Peter and Saint
Paul at Little Gaddesden near Tring.
wife, Eva Byrn, who he married in 1868, was the daughter of an artist
and 'Professor of Dancing'. A contemporary magazine article
described Eva as accomplished and beautiful while referring to Massey as
having . . .
"a young, fresh look; a finely-formed head, too large for the small,
spare body; a pleasant, winning face, and long, dark brown hair,
whiskers, and moustache".
possibly by John & Charles Watkins.
Some years earlier (1854) the poet and critic Sydney Dobell
(1824-74) described Massey thus:
"The upper part of his face reminds me of Raphael's angels, and I
catch myself dwelling upon him with a kind of optical fondness, as one
looks upon a beautiful picture or a rare colour. And this in spite
of a blue satin waistcoat! and a gold-coloured tie! The second
morning I came upon him early, sans neckerchief or collar, nursing his
sickly baby, the grey wrapper in which he sat, being like the mist to
the morning as regards his wonderful complexion, and it would be
difficult to imagine more marvellous (masculine) beauty . . ."
Massey ca. 1854.
. . . . while after the passage of 30 years (1884), during his second
lecturing tour of the U.S.A.
an American journalist
found Massey to be:
"… at the grand climacteric of life; and is below the medium
stature. Grey whiskers, of English trim, half mask a face which
wears a look of intensity as he plows through the mystical domains of
Egyptology and the shadowlands of the ancient Orient. Brown hair,
with occasional streaks of grey, rolls forward in a billow on his crown,
and ripples off from the ears. He wears spectacles when he reads
A careworn Massey: a sketch from a
during his first American lecture tour, 1873.
While Eva does not appear to have had any discernable
impact on Massey's work, she undoubtedly brought stability to his
domestic life. Sadly, few of Massey's children by either
marriage survived into adulthood and with the death of his grand
daughter, Helena Viola, in 1988, his direct line came to an end.
Of his three brothers, Frederick left
numerous descendants and his line survives to this day.
Ashridge: the residence of Lord Brownlow and his mother, Lady Marion
Throughout his life Massey was beset with money problems, sometimes
having to borrow from friends. Although he eventually received a
civil list pension of £100 per annum—which must be judged by the
standards of the time—having to care for Rosina and a large family
exacerbated his already precarious existence as a writer and travelling
lecturer. Massey was fortunate, however, in securing the patronage
of Lady Marion Alford, mother of the wealthy owner of the Ashridge
Estate near Tring.
Of such as he was, there be few on earth;
Of such as he is, there are few in Heaven:
And life is all the sweeter that he lived,
And all he loved more sacred for his sake:
And Death is all the brighter that he died,
And Heaven is all the happier that he's there.
In 1865, Lord Brownlow settled Massey’s debts and
provided him and his family with an estate cottage in the village of
Little Gaddesden. However, Rosina's unbalanced state of
mind—made worse by alcoholism—and her abilities as a clairvoyant
aroused deep superstitions in the villagers, who came to believe her
to be a witch. The Brownlows again came to the rescue,
providing Massey with a large isolated farmhouse,
Ward's Hurst, where he lived rent-free until 1877 when he moved
to London. It was mainly during the period at Wards Hurst that
Massey developed an interest in psychic phenomena that was to absorb
his later years, years in which he dropped from public view and in
which there is little record of his life.
Impecunious to the end, Massey died at his home
in South Norwood Hill, London, on the 29th of October 1907, and was
laid to rest in the family tomb in London’s old Southgate Cemetery.
Like many men of action and enterprise he was his own educator,
attending the best school that has ever existed since men began
their search for knowledge, the School of Experience, wherein he
became in his particular field—unravelling the mysteries of ancient
Egyptian mythology and elucidating its parallels with western
religions—one of its most distinguished graduates. . . ."It is a
work which has occupied me over thirty years, and I shall be well
content if in another century my ideas are acknowledged as correct".
Gone are the last faint flashes,
Set is the sun of my years;
And over a few poor ashes,
I sit in my darkness and tears.
Mine, though a sorry Autograph,
May serve to make the looker laugh,
And say when I have given the hint,
We like his writing best—in print.