Florence Marryat.

There is no death online

. (page 1 of 24)
Online LibraryFlorence MarryatThere is no death → online text (page 1 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Maria Grist, Suzanne Shell and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Works by Florence Marryat



85. Blindfold, 50

135. Brave Heart and True, 50

42. Mount Eden, 30

13. On Circumstantial Evidence, 30

148. Risen Dead, The, 50

77. Scarlet Sin, A, 50

159. There Is No Death, 50




"There is no Death - what seems so is transition.
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the Life Elysian
Whose portal we call - - Death." - Longfellow.


Copyright, 1891,
United States Book Company




It has been strongly impressed upon me for some years past to write an
account of the wonderful experiences I have passed through in my
investigation of the science of Spiritualism. In doing so I intend to
confine myself to recording facts. I will describe the scenes I have
witnessed with my own eyes, and repeat the words I have heard with my
own ears, leaving the deduction to be drawn from them wholly to my
readers. I have no ambition to start a theory nor to promulgate a
doctrine; above all things I have no desire to provoke an argument. I
have had more than enough of arguments, philosophical, scientific,
religious, and purely aggressive, to last a lifetime; and were I called
upon for my definition of the rest promised to the weary, I should
reply - a place where every man may hold his own opinion, and no one is
permitted to dispute it.

But though I am about to record a great many incidents that are so
marvellous as to be almost incredible, I do not expect to be
disbelieved, except by such as are capable of deception themselves.
They - conscious of their own infirmity - invariably believe that other
people must be telling lies. Byron wrote, "He is a fool who denies that
which he cannot disprove;" and though Carlyle gives us the comforting
assurance that the population of Great Britain consists "chiefly of
fools," I pin my faith upon receiving credence from the few who are not

Why should I be disbelieved? When the late Lady Brassey published the
"Cruise of the _Sunbeam_," and Sir Samuel and Lady Baker related their
experiences in Central Africa, and Livingstone wrote his account of the
wonders he met with whilst engaged in the investigation of the source of
the Nile, and Henry Stanley followed up the story and added thereto, did
they anticipate the public turning up its nose at their narrations, and
declaring it did not believe a word they had written? Yet their readers
had to accept the facts they offered for credence, on their authority
alone. Very few of them had even _heard_ of the places described before;
scarcely one in a thousand could, either from personal experience or
acquired knowledge, attest the truth of the description. What was
there - for the benefit of the general public - to _prove_ that the
_Sunbeam_ had sailed round the world, or that Sir Samuel Baker had met
with the rare beasts, birds, and flowers he wrote of, or that
Livingstone and Stanley met and spoke with those curious, unknown tribes
that never saw white men till they set eyes on them? Yet had any one of
those writers affirmed that in his wanderings he had encountered a gold
field of undoubted excellence, thousands of fortune-seekers would have
left their native land on his word alone, and rushed to secure some of
the glittering treasure.

Why? Because the authors of those books were persons well known in
society, who had a reputation for veracity to maintain, and who would
have been quickly found out had they dared to deceive. I claim the same
grounds for obtaining belief. I have a well-known name and a public
reputation, a tolerable brain, and two sharp eyes. What I have
witnessed, others, with equal assiduity and perseverance, may witness
for themselves. It would demand a voyage round the world to see all that
the owners of the _Sunbeam_ saw. It would demand time and trouble and
money to see what I have seen, and to some people, perhaps, it would not
be worth the outlay. But if I have journeyed into the Debateable Land
(which so few really believe in, and most are terribly afraid of), and
come forward now to tell what I have seen there, the world has no more
right to disbelieve me than it had to disbelieve Lady Brassey. Because
the general public has not penetrated Central Africa, is no reason that
Livingstone did not do so; because the general public has not seen (and
does not care to see) what I have seen, is no argument against the truth
of what I write. To those who _do_ believe in the possibility of
communion with disembodied spirits, my story will be interesting
perhaps, on account of its dealing throughout in a remarkable degree
with the vexed question of identity and recognition. To the
materialistic portion of creation who may credit me with not being a
bigger fool than the remainder of the thirty-eight millions of Great
Britain, it may prove a new source of speculation and research. And for
those of my fellow-creatures who possess no curiosity, nor imagination,
nor desire to prove for themselves what they cannot accept on the
testimony of others, I never had, and never shall have, anything in
common. They are the sort of people who ask you with a pleasing smile if
Irving wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and say they like
Byron's "Sardanapalus" very well, but it is not so funny as "Our Boys."

Now, before going to work in right earnest, I do not think it is
generally known that my father, the late Captain Marryat, was not only a
believer in ghosts, but himself a ghost-seer. I am delighted to be able
to record this fact as an introduction to my own experiences. Perhaps
the ease with which such manifestations have come to me is a gift which
I inherit from him, anyway I am glad he shared the belief and the power
of spiritual sight with me. If there were no other reason to make me
bold to repeat what I have witnessed, the circumstance would give me
courage. My father was not like his intimate friends, Charles Dickens,
Lord Lytton, and many other men of genius, highly strung, nervous, and
imaginative. I do not believe my father had any "nerves," and I think he
had very little imagination. Almost all his works are founded on his
personal experiences. His _forte_ lay in a humorous description of what
he had seen. He possessed a marvellous power of putting his
recollections into graphic and forcible language, and the very reason
that his books are almost as popular to-day as when they were written,
is because they are true histories of their time. There is scarcely a
line of fiction in them. His body was as powerful and muscular as his
brain. His courage was indomitable - his moral courage as well as his
physical (as many people remember to their cost to this day), and his
hardness of belief on many subjects is no secret. What I am about to
relate therefore did not happen to some excitable, nervous, sickly
sentimentalist, and I repeat that I am proud to have inherited his
constitutional tendencies, and quite willing to stand judgment after

I have heard that my father had a number of stories to relate of
supernatural (as they are usually termed) incidents that had occurred to
him, but I will content myself with relating such as were proved to be
(at the least) very remarkable coincidences. In my work, "The Life and
Letters of Captain Marryat," I relate an anecdote of him that was
entered in his private "log," and found amongst his papers. He had a
younger brother, Samuel, to whom he was very much attached, and who died
unexpectedly in England whilst my father, in command of H. M. S.
_Larne_, was engaged in the first Burmese war. His men broke out with
scurvy and he was ordered to take his vessel over to Pulu Pinang for a
few weeks in order to get the sailors fresh fruit and vegetables. As my
father was lying in his berth one night, anchored off the island, with
the brilliant tropical moonlight making everything as bright as day, he
saw the door of his cabin open, and his brother Samuel entered and
walked quietly up to his side. He looked just the same as when they had
parted, and uttered in a perfectly distinct voice, "Fred! I have come to
tell you that I am dead!" When the figure entered the cabin my father
jumped up in his berth, thinking it was some one coming to rob him, and
when he saw who it was and heard it speak, he leaped out of bed with the
intention of detaining it, but it was gone. So vivid was the impression
made upon him by the apparition that he drew out his log at once and
wrote down all particulars concerning it, with the hour and day of its
appearance. On reaching England after the war was over, the first
dispatches put into his hand were to announce the death of his brother,
who had passed away at the very hour when he had seen him in the cabin.

But the story that interests me most is one of an incident which
occurred to my father during my lifetime, and which we have always
called "The Brown Lady of Rainham." I am aware that this narrative has
reached the public through other sources, and I have made it the
foundation of a Christmas story myself. But it is too well authenticated
to be omitted here. The last fifteen years of my father's life were
passed on his own estate of Langham, in Norfolk, and amongst his county
friends were Sir Charles and Lady Townshend of Rainham Hall. At the time
I speak of, the title and property had lately changed hands, and the new
baronet had re-papered, painted, and furnished the Hall throughout, and
come down with his wife and a large party of friends to take possession.
But to their annoyance, soon after their arrival, rumors arose that the
house was haunted, and their guests began, one and all (like those in
the parable), to make excuses to go home again. Sir Charles and Lady
Townshend might have sung, "Friend after friend departs," with due
effect, but it would have had none on the general exodus that took place
from Rainham. And it was all on account of a Brown Lady, whose portrait
hung in one of the bedrooms, and in which she was represented as wearing
a brown satin dress with yellow trimmings, and a ruff around her
throat - a very harmless, innocent-looking young woman. But they all
declared they had seen her walking about the house - some in the
corridor, some in their bedrooms, others in the lower premises, and
neither guests nor servants would remain in the Hall. The baronet was
naturally very much annoyed about it, and confided his trouble to my
father, and my father was indignant at the trick he believed had been
played upon him. There was a great deal of smuggling and poaching in
Norfolk at that period, as he knew well, being a magistrate of the
county, and he felt sure that some of these depredators were trying to
frighten the Townshends away from the Hall again. The last baronet had
been a solitary sort of being, and lead a retired life, and my father
imagined some of the tenantry had their own reasons for not liking the
introduction of revelries and "high jinks" at Rainham. So he asked his
friends to let him stay with them and sleep in the haunted chamber, and
he felt sure he could rid them of the nuisance. They accepted his offer,
and he took possession of the room in which the portrait of the
apparition hung, and in which she had been often seen, and slept each
night with a loaded revolver under his pillow. For two days, however, he
saw nothing, and the third was to be the limit of his stay. On the
third night, however, two young men (nephews of the baronet) knocked at
his door as he was undressing to go to bed, and asked him to step over
to their room (which was at the other end of the corridor), and give
them his opinion on a new gun just arrived from London. My father was in
his shirt and trousers, but as the hour was late, and everybody had
retired to rest except themselves, he prepared to accompany them as he
was. As they were leaving the room, he caught up his revolver, "in case
we meet the Brown Lady," he said, laughing. When the inspection of the
gun was over, the young men in the same spirit declared they would
accompany my father back again, "in case you meet the Brown Lady," they
repeated, laughing also. The three gentlemen therefore returned in

The corridor was long and dark, for the lights had been extinguished,
but as they reached the middle of it, they saw the glimmer of a lamp
coming towards them from the other end. "One of the ladies going to
visit the nurseries," whispered the young Townshends to my father. Now
the bedroom doors in that corridor faced each other, and each room had a
double door with a space between, as is the case in many old-fashioned
country houses. My father (as I have said) was in a shirt and trousers
only, and his native modesty made him feel uncomfortable, so he slipped
within one of the _outer_ doors (his friends following his example), in
order to conceal himself until the lady should have passed by. I have
heard him describe how he watched her approaching nearer and nearer,
through the chink of the door, until, as she was close enough for him to
distinguish the colors and style of her costume, he recognized the
figure as the facsimile of the portrait of "The Brown Lady." He had his
finger on the trigger of his revolver, and was about to demand it to
stop and give the reason for its presence there, when the figure halted
of its own accord before the door behind which he stood, and holding the
lighted lamp she carried to her features, grinned in a malicious and
diabolical manner at him. This act so infuriated my father, who was
anything but lamb-like in disposition, that he sprang into the corridor
with a bound, and discharged the revolver right in her face. The figure
instantly disappeared - the figure at which for the space of several
minutes _three_ men had been looking together - and the bullet passed
through the outer door of the room on the opposite side of the corridor,
and lodged in the panel of the inner one. My father never attempted
again to interfere with "The Brown Lady of Rainham," and I have heard
that she haunts the premises to this day. That she did so at that time,
however, there is no shadow of doubt.

But Captain Marryat not only held these views and believed in them from
personal experience - he promulgated them in his writings. There are many
passages in his works which, read by the light of my assertion, prove
that he had faith in the possibility of the departed returning to visit
this earth, and in the theory of re-incarnation or living more than one
life upon it, but nowhere does he speak more plainly than in the
following extract from the "Phantom Ship": -

"Think you, Philip," (says Amine to her husband), "that this world is
solely peopled by such dross as we are? - things of clay, perishable and
corruptible, lords over beasts and ourselves, but little better? Have
you not, from your own sacred writings, repeated acknowledgments and
proofs of higher intelligences, mixing up with mankind, and acting here
below? Why should what was _then_ not be _now_, and what more harm is
there to apply for their aid now than a few thousand years ago? Why
should you suppose that they were permitted on the earth then and not
permitted now? What has become of them? Have they perished? Have they
been ordered back? to where? - to heaven? If to heaven, the world and
mankind have been left to the mercy of the devil and his agents. Do you
suppose that we poor mortals have been thus abandoned? I tell you
plainly, I think not. We no longer have the communication with those
intelligences that we once had, because as we become more enlightened we
become more proud and seek them not, but that they still exist a host of
good against a host of evil, invisibly opposing each other, is my

One testimony to such a belief, from the lips of my father, is
sufficient. He would not have written it unless he had been prepared to
maintain it. He was not one of those wretched literary cowards who we
meet but too often now-a-days, who are too much afraid of the world to
confess with their mouths the opinions they hold in their hearts. Had he
lived to this time I believe he would have been one of the most
energetic and outspoken believers in Spiritualism that we possess. So
much, however, for his testimony to the possibility of spirits, good and
evil, revisiting this earth. I think few will be found to gainsay the
assertion that where _he_ trod, his daughter need not be ashamed to

Before the question of Spiritualism, however, arose in modern times, I
had had my own little private experiences on the subject. From an early
age I was accustomed to see, and to be very much alarmed at seeing,
certain forms that appeared to me at night. One in particular, I
remember, was that of a very short or deformed old woman, who was very
constant to me. She used to stand on tiptoe to look at me as I lay in
bed, and however dark the room might be, I could always see every
article in it, as if illuminated, whilst she remained there.

I was in the habit of communicating these visions to my mother and
sisters (my father had passed from us by that time), and always got well
ridiculed for my pains. "Another of Flo's optical illusions," they would
cry, until I really came to think that the appearances I saw were due to
some defect in my eye-sight. I have heard my first husband say, that
when he married me he thought he should never rest for an entire night
in his bed, so often did I wake him with the description of some man or
woman I had seen in the room. I recall these figures distinctly. They
were always dressed in white, from which circumstance I imagined that
they were natives who had stolen in to rob us, until, from repeated
observation, I discovered they only formed part of another and more
enlarged series of my "optical illusions." All this time I was very much
afraid of seeing what I termed "ghosts." No love of occult science led
me to investigate the cause of my alarm. I only wished never to see the
"illusions" again, and was too frightened to remain by myself lest they
should appear to me.

When I had been married for about two years, the head-quarters of my
husband's regiment, the 12th Madras Native Infantry, was ordered to
Rangoon, whilst the left wing, commanded by a Major Cooper, was sent to
assist in the bombardment of Canton. Major Cooper had only been married
a short time, and by rights his wife had no claim to sail with the
head-quarters for Burmah, but as she had no friends in Madras, and was
moreover expecting her confinement, our colonel permitted her to do so,
and she accompanied us to Rangoon, settling herself in a house not far
from our own. One morning, early in July, I was startled by receiving a
hurried scrawl from her, containing only these words, "Come! come!
come!" I set off at once, thinking she had been taken ill, but on my
arrival I found Mrs. Cooper sitting up in bed with only her usual
servants about her. "What is the matter?" I exclaimed. "Mark is dead,"
she answered me; "he sat in that chair" (pointing to one by the bedside)
"all last night. I noticed every detail of his face and figure. He was
in undress, and he never raised his eyes, but sat with the peak of his
forage cap pulled down over his face. But I could see the back of his
head and his hair, and I know it was he. I spoke to him but he did not
answer me, and I am _sure_ he is dead."

Naturally, I imagined this vision to have been dictated solely by fear
and the state of her health. I laughed at her for a simpleton, and told
her it was nothing but fancy, and reminded her that by the last accounts
received from the seat of war, Major Cooper was perfectly well and
anticipating a speedy reunion with her. Laugh as I would, however, I
could not laugh her out of her belief, and seeing how low-spirited she
was, I offered to pass the night with her. It was a very nice night
indeed. As soon as ever we had retired to bed, although a lamp burned in
the room, Mrs. Cooper declared that her husband was sitting in the same
chair as the night before, and accused me of deception when I declared
that I saw nothing at all. I sat up in bed and strained my eyes, but I
could discern nothing but an empty arm-chair, and told her so. She
persisted that Major Cooper sat there, and described his personal
appearance and actions. I got out of bed and sat in the chair, when she
cried out, "Don't, don't! _You are sitting right on him!_" It was
evident that the apparition was as real to her as if it had been flesh
and blood. I jumped up again fast enough, not feeling very comfortable
myself, and lay by her side for the remainder of the night, listening to
her asseverations that Major Cooper was either dying or dead. She would
not part with me, and on the third night I had to endure the same ordeal
as on the second. After the third night the apparition ceased to appear
to her, and I was permitted to return home. But before I did so, Mrs.
Cooper showed me her pocket-book, in which she had written down against
the 8th, 9th, and 10th of July this sentence: "Mark sat by my bedside
all night."

The time passed on, and no bad news arrived from China, but the mails
had been intercepted and postal communication suspended. Occasionally,
however, we received letters by a sailing vessel. At last came
September, and on the third of that month Mrs. Cooper's baby was born
and died. She was naturally in great distress about it, and I was doubly
horrified when I was called from her bedside to receive the news of her
husband's death, which had taken place from a sudden attack of fever at
Macao. We did not intend to let Mrs. Cooper hear of this until she was
convalescent, but as soon as I re-entered her room she broached the

"Are there any letters from China?" she asked. (Now this question was
remarkable in itself, because the mails having been cut off, there was
no particular date when letters might be expected to arrive from the
seat of war.) Fearing she would insist upon hearing the news, I
temporized and answered her, "We have received none." "But there is a
letter for me," she continued: "a letter with the intelligence of Mark's
death. It is useless denying it. I know he is dead. He died on the 10th
of July." And on reference to the official memorandum, this was found to
be true. Major Cooper had been taken ill on the first day he had
appeared to his wife, and died on the third. And this incident was the
more remarkable, because they were neither of them young nor sentimental
people, neither had they lived long enough together to form any very
strong sympathy or accord between them. But as I have related it, so it



I had returned from India and spent several years in England before the
subject of Modern Spiritualism was brought under my immediate notice.
Cursorily I had heard it mentioned by some people as a dreadfully wicked
thing, diabolical to the last degree, by others as a most amusing
pastime for evening parties, or when one wanted to get some "fun out of
the table." But neither description charmed me, nor tempted me to pursue
the occupation. I had already lost too many friends. Spiritualism (so it
seemed to me) must either be humbug or a very solemn thing, and I
neither wished to trifle with it or to be trifled with by it. And after
twenty years' continued experience I hold the same opinion. I have
proved Spiritualism _not_ to be humbug, therefore I regard it in a
sacred light. For, _from whatever cause_ it may proceed, it opens a vast
area for thought to any speculative mind, and it is a matter of constant
surprise to me to see the indifference with which the world regards it.
That it _exists_ is an undeniable fact. Men of science have acknowledged
it, and the churches cannot deny it. The only question appears to be,
"_What_ is it, and _whence_ does the power proceed?" If (as many clever
people assert) from ourselves, then must these bodies and minds of ours

Online LibraryFlorence MarryatThere is no death → online text (page 1 of 24)