Punch,  39 (1860), 83.

A Spirited Attack: By a Strong-Minded Assailant

Sophonisba Smith


Letter, Spoof


Spiritualism, Faith, Zoology, Animal Behaviour, Charlatanry, Belief

    Expresses no surprise at Mr Punch's scepticism towards 'the mysteries of Spirit-rapping', but attacks him for adopting a position of 'lazy disbelief' towards spiritualism, for turning 'a deaf ear to the truths which are rapped out of our tables', and for regarding the raising of a 'spiritual enthusiast' to the ceiling as the 'height of imposition'. Admits that Mr Punch does not cram his scepticism 'down the public throat', because in articles describing the 'spirit-conversation of the Bloater and the Rapper' (see PU1/39/11/1), he gave readers 'some knowledge of the wonders that are working, and gave them a fair chance of conversion to our faith'. Attempts to convince Mr Punch that the fish in the article can talk, sing, fly, and swim. In support of these claims, the author refers to the recently deceased 'Talking Fish', and the testimony of James E Tennent (also a noted séance-goer) and Dr Adams in favour of singing fish. She considers this testimony by 'naturalists' to be 'quite as strange as the tales of the supernaturalists'. Questions why Mr Punch believes in the singing fish of Ceylon reported by these naturalists, but not those in England, adding that William Shakespeare supported the existence of the fish by speaking of 'calling spirits from the "vasty deep"'. Concludes by telling Mr Punch that if he persists in doubting whether a 'herring can be heard by a person who is under the influence of spirits' then she will box his ears.

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