Punch, 44 (1863), 159.
At Home with the Spirits (By a Competent and Candid Observer)
Spiritualism, Supernaturalism, Miracle, Observation, Charlatanry, Imposture
This long poem details the narrator's experiences at a spiritualist sťance. He begins by describing the 'still and solemn ring' of people around a table, people who 'were not of the sceptics. / Who scorn on mysteries fling', and notes the presence of the apparently reliable medium, whose name he does not reveal through fear that the sťance will be called 'a sell'. Proceeds to describe the dim lighting in the room, without which 'the spirits kept aloof', the participant's anticipation of spirits and their memories of supernatural phenomena, and finally the sudden raps heard around the sťance room. The spirits confirm their existence and later, 'At the medium's command', they manifest a moving white hand which participants identify as belonging to different deceased relatives. Noting how an accordion played and moved about under a table, the author insists that this was not a 'trickster's game', which the medium sought to prove by asking for the shutters to be opened. Later, the medium is seen floating near the ceiling, a similar feat having been performed by Daniel D Home. Some participants agree that the medium must have been floating and later note how the 'spirits' let him fall back into his chair. The author then reflects on his experiences, wondering if he should 'misdoubt my senses' because of the absurdity of the phenomena, asking whether 'candid souls remain, / Still crushed beneath the burden / Of bigot's reason chain', and insisting that what is vouched for by William Howitt, Samuel C Hall, and Edward G E L B Lytton 'Is surely proved for all—though Brewster be uncandid— / And Faraday be small'. Concludes by noting that despite the secrecy of these 'modern miracles' and their witnesses 'The eye of faith is single; / The throat of faith is wide!'.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005-07
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