Frederic William Henry Myers.

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twenty years afterwards I did not know whether he was alive or dead, and was
entirely ignorant of his military career. I never read any history of the Penin-
sular War, and am perfectly certain that I never had an opportunity of seeing
Gurwood's crest, or knowing anything about it. H. W.

The following is the account Mr. Wedgwood wrote of the first seance
at the time :

June 26tA, 1889.

Had a sitting at planchette with Mrs. R. this morning. Planchette said
there was a spirit there who thought he could draw if we wished it. We said
we should be glad if he would try. Accordingly P. made a rude attempt at a
hand and arm proceeding from an embattled wall and holding a sword. A
second attempt made the subject clearer. P. said it was meant for a test. The
spirit signed it " J. G.," no connection of any of ours, he said. We gradually
elicited that his name was John Gurwood, who was wounded in the Peninsula,
in 1810, and killed himself on Christmas Day, 1845. It was not the wound, but
the pen that did it.


Something like that.

July tfh, 1889.

I made the foregoing memorandum the same day, having very little expec-
tation that there would be any verification. H. WEDGWOOD.


Friday, September yjth.

Mr. Wedgwood came, and we had two sittings in the afternoon and even-
. ing. I think the same spirit wrote throughout, beginning without signature ;
but when we asked the name, writing (after some struggle and illegibility)
" John Gurwood."


The effort was at first incoherent, but developed into the following sen-
tences :

" Sword when I broke in, on the table with plan of fortress belonged to
my prisoner ; I will tell you his name to-night. It was on the table when I
broke in. He did not expect me; I took him unawares. He was in his room,
looking at a plan, and the sword was on the table. Will try and let you know
how I took the sword to-night."

In the evening after dinner :

" I fought my way in. His name was Banier " (three times repeated). " The
sword was lying on the table by a written scheme of defence. Oh, my head.
Banier had a plan written out for the defence of the fortress. It was lying on
the table, and his sword was by it."

To a question :

"Yes; surprised him."

Mr. Wedgwood thinks the name of the Governor of the fortress of Ciudad
Rodrigo was Banier; but he says this would not be a test, as he knew it. He
is going to see if he can find anything in Napier's Peninsular War corrobora-
tive of what is said about the sword.

" Look. I have tried to tell you what you can verify."

Mr. Wedgwood reports his verification as follows :

When I came to verify the message of planchette I speedily found that
Colonel Gurwood, the editor of the Duke's despatches, led the forlorn hope at
the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, in 1812 [note error in date], "and received a
wound in the skull from a musket ball which affected him for the remainder of
his life." Annual Register, 1845. In recognition of the bravery shown on that
occasion he received a grant of arms in 1812, registered in the College of Arms
as having been passed " upon the narrative that he (Captain G.) had led the
forlorn hope at Ciudad Rodrigo, and that, after the storming of the fortress, the
Earl of Wellington presented him with the sword of the Governor, who had
been taken prisoner by Captain Gurwood." 1

The services thus specified were symbolised in the crest, " Out of a mural
coronet, a castle ruined in the centre, and therefrom an arm in armour embowed,
holding a scimitar." 2

It is plainly this crest that is aimed at by planchette in his very rude de-
sign, which represents the arm and sword as issuing from the mural coronet
alone, omitting the ruined castle as too complex a subject for the powers of the
designer. The drawing was given merely as a test, and if it pointed unmis-
takably to the Gurwood crest it would fulfil its purpose.

In accordance with the assertion of planchette, Colonel Gurwood killed
himself on Christmas Day, 1845, and the Annual Register of that year, after
narrating the suicide, continues : " It is thought that this laborious undertaking
(the editing the despatches) produced a relaxation of the nervous system and
consequent depression of spirits. In a fit of despondency the unfortunate gentle-
man terminated his life." Compare planchette: " Pen was too much for

me after the wound."

I continue the quotation from Mrs. R.'s journal :

Mr. W. : " Can you tell me where else to look?"

" I have no power to direct you. We have exhausted, but I wished to tell

1 Information received from the College of Arms, July iSth, 1889.
2 The Book of Family Crests, Washbourne, 1856.


you about poor Quentain ... to tell you a secret of poor Quintain's, which is
on my mind. It might once have made a difference ; but not now."

We had a difficulty in reading the name. Mr. W. thought it Quinlon, and
asked if this was right ?

" Not quite : a t. . . . Quentain. Not quite [right], but nearer : try
again to-morrow."

Mr. W. : " Is power exhausted now, and shall we stop ? "


Saturday, September 2&th.

Mr. Wedgwood and I sat again this morning. First came some preliminary
scribbling and circling, and then the right spelling of the name at which John
Gurwood was trying last night.

" Quentin. I knew him, and a secret of his that might have made a differ-
ence, but I was pledged."

Mr. W. : " Tell us what the secret was ? "

" I should like to try."

Mr. W. : " What difference would it have made to you ? "

" Might have done to him : on my mind."

Then followed a word here and there among much that was illegible. I

copy what we succeeded in reading. " in the army scrape the

sake of another very foolish, but nothing wrong for verdict

was unfortunately what there was let me go on, I am trying say that,

but quite mistaken case in all its his commission of second

(company ?) private soldier going out gave to his Colonel very strong feeling
about it all."

The above filled four pages. We pondered over it, but could not make out
any more. When planchette was put back, the following was volunteered :

" Tell James I remember him quite well. He will recollect about Quentin's

Mr. Wedgwood's friend, Captain James, of course, was meant. Mr. W.
said he would write and ask him ; but did the writer mean that Captain James
knew the secret ?

" No one knew it." (Two lines illegible.) "James will tell you, I have not
power. He was tried by court-martial."

Mr. W. : " This Quentin was in the army then ? "

" Yes. rest of them would have but I cannot write plainly in

answer, though I try. I wanted to tell you about poor Quentin, but have not
power without further practice. I knew a secret of his at the time of his scrape
conduct offices . The court-martial 1 did not."

Mr. Wedgwood here suggested we should stop for a time, to see if rest
would increase the power. We sat again for a few minutes before lunch,
directly after which he left by train ; but the control was then different, and the
few words written did not appear to have any special interest or meaning.

Mr. Wedgwood writes on October 3131, 1889 :

I find that there was a famous court-martial on Colonel Quentin in October
1814, in consequence of a round robin signed by twenty-four of his officers. I had
a vague recollection of the name of Colonel Q. as a friend of George IV., and
something must have turned up about the court-martial in the early twenties,
when the loth Hussars became notorious, as I found I had heard of the round


robin. The accusation, too, was of a want of proper directions to his subor-
dinates in action, so no reticence of anybody could have made any difference,
and he was himself the Colonel of the regiment.

With respect to the capture of Banier, the only chance of verification would
be from the family, and Miss Gurwood has not answered my letter.

Captain James writes to me from 10 Hereford Road, London, June
1891 :

About the year 1830 my regiment was quartered at Portsmouth, and
Colonel Gurwood was then on the staff of the garrison there. The Colonel was
an honorary member of our mess, and dined with us nearly every day. I
remember I used to be very fond of sitting next to him, and conversing with
him about the various events that occurred during the Peninsular War. Of
course the Quentin trial must have taken place when I was a mere child, as I
was born in 1804.

862. Mr. Wedgwood gave us also another case of a somewhat
similar character, which I cite in 862 A.

Finally, a few months before his death, I received from him a third
retrocognitive case, which is printed in full in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix.
pp. 99-104. It relates to the execution of Alice Grimbold a maid-
servant at an inn at Leicester who was condemned to be burnt alive for
complicity in the murder of her mistress in 1605. A number of names
and details were given, all of which were afterwards verified in a History
of Leicester. The automatists were confident that they had never heard
of any of the facts before.

863. I have given these cases in succession, so that the reader
may see the kind of growing difficulty which the theory of forgotten memo-
ries here involves. It will be seen that with each automatist of good
faith the question may with patience be capable of definite solution.
Were Mrs. R. willing and able which at present she is not to find
some other partner with whom she can write, now that Mr. Wedgwood
and her sister have been removed by death, and to record a long series
of communications, we might gradually obtain a conviction that the
matters therein narrated either could or could not all of them have been
previously seen and forgotten. Similar records kept by many other auto-
matists might help to some general conclusion as to the source from
which these retrocognitive facts come, if in any cases forgotten memory
fails to explain them. One of the most important data for such a
decision consists in the account absolutely trustworthy, as I believe
given by Mr. Stainton Moses in " Spirit Identity," of a series of messages
from musical composers, giving the principal dates of their respective
lives, as they may be found in any Biographical Dictionary, with
hardly anything more. Now were such messages offered to us as
coming through an alleged automatist not of known probity or who
could bring no proof of other messages not capable of being got up
beforehand, we should naturally set them aside. But with Mr. Moses, as


with Mrs. R. above and in a still higher degree there was so con-
siderable an independent history of provably supernormal phenomena
that we are bound to consider these musical biographies in their place
as a part of that series. Their peculiar nature excited the surprise of
Mr. Moses and his friends, who were informed by the " guides " that
these were in fact messages from the spirits in question, but that these
spirits had refreshed their memory of their earth-lives by consulting
printed sources of information. It is obvious that this is to drop the
supposed proof of identity altogether. If any given spirit can consult
his own printed life, so also presumably can other spirits ; and so per-
haps can the still incarnated spirit of the automatist himself. This was
of course felt by Mr. Moses, who told me that subjectively also the feeling
which accompanied these biographical writings was very different from
that which came when, as he held, some spirit was entering with him into
real and direct communication.

864. From these remote historical narratives I go on to certain
messages avowedly coming from persons more recently departed, and
into which something more of definite personality seems to enter. One
element of this kind is handwriting; and in the next case it will be seen
that resemblance of handwriting is one of the evidential points alleged.
Now proof of identity from resemblance of handwriting may conceivably
be very strong. But in estimating it we must bear two points in mind.
The first is that (like the resemblances of so-called " spirit-photographs " to
deceased friends) it is often very loosely asserted. One needs, if not an
expert's opinion, at least a careful personal scrutiny of the three scripts
the automatist's voluntary and his automatic script, and the deceased
person's script before one can feel sure that the resemblance is in more
than some general scrawliness. This refers to the cases where the
automatist has provably never seen the deceased person's handwriting.
Where he has seen that handwriting, we have to remember (in the second
place) that a h)'pnotised subject can frequently imitate any known hand-
writing far more closely than in his waking state ; and that consequently
we are bound to credit the subliminal self with a mimetic faculty which
may come out of these messages without any supraliminal guidance what-
ever on the automatist's part. I give in 864 A an abridged account of a
series of experiments by Professor Rossi- Pagnoni at Pesaro, into which the
question of handwriting enters. The full account illustrates automatic
utterance as well as other forms of motor automatism, and possibly also
telekinetic phenomena. The critical discussion of the evidence by Mr.
H. Babington Smith, to whom we are indebted for the account, shows
with what complex considerations we have to deal in the questions now
before us.

865. The case of Mrs. Underwood next to be quoted (in 865 A)
contains several points of interest besides the alleged resemblance of
handwriting. It shows once more, for instance, the great similarity of


ways in which this writing takes its rise with automatists all over
the world, and the recurrence of the same puzzles with observers of many
different types, and may thus serve as an introduction to the groups of
cases which follow.

866. I now cite a few cases where the point of central interest is
the announcement of a death unknown to the sitters.

The first is a case which we received from Dr. Lie"beault, of Nancy,
and which was first published in Phantasms of the Living (vol. i. p. 293),
where it was regarded as an example of a spontaneous telepathic
impulse proceeding directly from a dying person. I now regard it as
more probably due to the action of the spirit after bodily death. The
translation of Dr. Lie"beault's narrative is as follows :

NANCY, September #k, 1885.

I hasten to write to you as to that case of thought-transference of which I
spoke to you when you were present at my hypnotic sconces at Nancy. The
incident occurred in a French family from New Orleans, who had come to stay
for some time at Nancy for business reasons. I had become acquainted with
this family from the fact that M. G., its head, had brought to me his niece,
M Ue B., to be treated by hypnotism. She suffered from slight anaemia and
from a nervous cough, contracted at Coblentz, in a High School where she was
a teacher. I easily induced somnambulism, and she was cured in two sittings.
The production of this hypnotic state suggested to the G. family (Mrs. G. was
a spirit medium) and to M 1Ie B. herself that she might easily become a medium.
She set herself to the evocation of spirits (in which she firmly believed) by the
aid of her pen, and at the end of two months she had become a remarkable
writing medium. I have myself seen her rapidly writing page after page of
what she called " messages," all in well-chosen language and with no erasures,
while at the same time she maintained conversation with the people near
her. An odd thing was that she had no knowledge whatever of what she was
writing. " It must be a spirit," she would say, " which guides my hand ; it is
certainly not I."

One day, it was, I think, February yth, 1868, about 8 A.M., when just about to
seat herself at table for breakfast, she felt a kind of need, an impulse which
prompted her to write ; it was what she called a trance, and she rushed off
at once to her large note-book, where she wrote in pencil, with feverish haste,
certain undecipherable words. She wrote the same words again and again on
the pages which followed, and at last, as her agitation diminished, it was
possible to read that a person called Marguerite was thus announcing her
death. The family at once assumed that a young lady of that name, a friend
of M Ile B.'s and her companion and colleague in the Coblentz High School, must
have just expired. They all came immediately to me, M Ue B. among them,
and we decided to verify the announcement of death that very day. M Ue B.
wrote to a young English lady who was also a teacher in that same school.
She gave some other reason for writing ; taking care not to reveal the true
motive of the letter. By return of post we received an answer in English, of
which they copied for me the essential part. I found this answer in a portfolio
hardly a fortnight ago, and have mislaid it again. It expressed the surprise of
the English lady at the receipt of M Ue B.'s unexpected and apparently motive-


less letter. But at the same time the English correspondent made haste to
announce to M Ue B. that their common friend, Marguerite, had died on
February 7th, at about 8 A.M. Moreover, the letter contained a little square
piece of printed paper ; the announcement of death sent round to friends.

1 need not say that I examined the envelope, and that the letter appeared
to me to have veritably come from Coblentz. Yet I have since felt a certain
regret. In the interests of science I ought to have asked the G. family to
allow me to go with them to the telegraph office to inquire whether they had
received a telegram early on February 7th. Science should feel no shame ; truth
does not dread exposure. My proof of the fact is ultimately a moral one : the
honour of the G. family, which has always appeared to me to be absolutely
above suspicion. A. A. LI^BEAULT.

Upon these last sentences Gurney remarks that, apart from the impro-
bability that the whole family would join in a conspiracy to deceive their
friend, the nature of the answer received from Coblentz shows that the
writer of it cannot have been aware that any telegraphic announcement
had been sent. And it is in itself unlikely that the authorities of the
school would have felt it necessary instantly to communicate the news to
Mdlle. B.

867. I shall next give in 867 A a case of curious complexity received
from M. Aksakoff ; an automatic message written by a Mdlle. Stramm,
informing her of the death of a M. Duvanel. The principal incidents
may here be disentangled as follows :

Duvanel dies by his own hand on January isth, 1887, in a Swiss village,
where he lives alone, having no relations except a brother living at a distance,
whom Mdlle. Stramm had never seen (as the principal witness, M. Kaigorodoff ,
informs us in a letter of May 1890).

Mdlle. Stramm's father does not hear of Duvanel's death till two days
later, and sends her the news in a letter dated January i8th, 1887.

Five hours after Duvanel's death an automatic message announcing it is
written at the house of M. Kaigorodoff, at Wilna in Russia, by Mdlle. Stramm,
who had certainly at that time received no news of the event.

From what mind are we to suppose that this information came?

(i) We may first attempt to account for Mdlle. Stramm's message on the
theory of latency. We may suppose that the telepathic message came from
the dying man, but did not rise into consciousness until an opportunity was
afforded by Mdlle. Stramm's sitting down to write automatically.

But to this interpretation there is an objection of a very curious kind.
The message written by Mdlle. Stramm was not precisely accurate. Instead
of ascribing Duvanel's death to suicide, it ascribed it to a stoppage of blood,
" un engorgement de sang."

And when M. Stramm, three days after the death, wrote to his daughter
in Russia to tell her of it, he also used the same expression, " un engorgement
de sang," thus disguising the actual truth in order to spare the feelings of his
daughter, who had formerly refused to marry Duvanel, and who (as her father
feared) might receive a painful shock if she learnt the tragic nature of his end.
There was, therefore, a singular coincidence between the automatic and the
normally-written message as to the death ; a coincidence which looks as though


the same mind had been at work in each instance. But that mind cannot have
been M. Stramm's ordinary mind, as he was not supraliminally aware of
Duvanel's death at the time when the first message was written. It may,
however, be supposed that his subliminal self had received the information of
the death telepathically, had transmitted it in a deliberately modified form to
his daughter, while it remained latent in himself, and had afterwards influenced
his supraliminal self to modify the information in the same way when writing
to her.

(2) But we must also consider the explanation of the coincidence given by
the intelligence which controlled the automatic writing. That intelligence
asserted itself to be a brother of Mdlle. Stramm's, who died some years before.
And this " Louis " further asserted that he had himself influenced M. Stramm
to make use of the same euphemistic phrase, with the object of avoiding a
shock to Mdlle. Stramm ; for which purpose it was needful that the two
messages should agree in ascribing the death to the same form of sudden

Now if this be true, and the message did indeed come from the deceased
" Louis," we have an indication of continued existence, and continued knowledge
of earthly affairs, on the part of a person long dead.

But if we consider that the case, as presented to us, contains no proof of
" Louis' " identity, so that " Louis " may be merelyone of those arbitrary names
which the automatist's subliminal intelligence seems so prone to assume ;
then we must suppose that Duvanel was actually operative on two occasions
after death, first inspiring in Mdlle. Stramm the automatic message, and
then modifying in M. Stramm the message which the father might otherwise
have sent.

868. I next give in 868 A and B two cases where certain telekinetic
phenomena seem to have been connected with the announcement of a
recent death, which in the first case was given by raps, and in the second
was accompanied by other physical disturbances. It must be observed,
however, that the evidence for the identity of the spirit who was supposed
to be communicating in this second case is far from complete. I have
already pointed out that the class of motor automatisms seems to lead to
telekinetic phenomena, but I shall postpone any discussion of them till
the following chapter.

869. I next give in 869 A and B two cases where the supposed
communicators had been dead some time, the deaths being known to the
automatists, but certain details of the deaths were correctly given, in
opposition to the beliefs of the automatists.

870. I add to these in 870 A another curious case where various
details known to the alleged communicator were correctly given, although
unknown to the sitters ; yet where other circumstances were described
as they were at the time of the communicator's death, although the sitters
were aware that these circumstances had since altered.

871. I know not in what light I should have regarded the next
case I give (in 871 A) had I seen it only in a book bearing the
somewhat alarming title of The Holy Truth (Arthur Hallah, 1876).


But the aggressiveness of religious conviction with which Mr. Hugh
Junor Browne's experiences have inspired him does not prevent his being,
as I have heard from the Hon. Sir W. G. Windeyer, Judge of Supreme
Court, Sydney, and have found on personal acquaintance, a man of high
standing as to both character and practical capacity. He is a prosperous
man of business at Melbourne, and the elder of the two daughters with
whose automatism we have to deal is married to one of the foremost men
of the Colony of Victoria. I regard him, therefore, as a witness whose
strong opinions, indeed, might help a fraudulent medium to deceive him,
but who is fully to be trusted as regards easily observed events occurring
in his own family circle. I discussed this case with him and Mrs. Browne
on October 3rd, 1891. Mrs. Browne seemed tome a good witness, and
corroborated the facts so far as immediately known to her, giving me a
written confirmation of the writing of the young child, who was present

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 24 of 89)