Great Spiritualists and Friends
Considered one of the foremost poets of the Victorian era, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most devoted admirers of the medium Daniel Dunglas Home.
In a letter dated July 23, 1855 to her sister, Henrietta, Elizabeth described a séance with Home she had experienced along with her famous poet husband, Robert Browning. She reported being touched by both visible and invisible hands, seeing a table move on its own, and hearing mysterious raps.
“At the request of the medium, the spiritual hand took from the table a garland which lay there and placed it upon my head,” she wrote. “The particular hand which did this was of the largest human size, as white as snow and very beautiful. It was as near to me as this hand I write with, and I saw it distinctly.” She was certain that it was not a mere mental impression or hallucination, although her husband felt it was some kind of trick that he was unable to understand.
In a letter to an American friend, Robert Browning told of seeing a heavy lamp moved on the table, of seeing the table lifted off the floor, of seeing an accordion played by invisible hands, and other phenomena, and admitted that he saw no evidence of conjuring, but concluded that there was no other explanation.
Apparently feeling some alienation of affection, Robert Browning was prompted to write one of his most famous poems, entitled “Mr. Sludge, the Medium,” which was published after Elizabeth’s death, in which he denounced Home.
In a letter to her friend, Harried Beecher Stowe, the American author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Elizabeth wrote: “I don’t know how people can keep up their prejudice against spiritualism with tears in their eyes, how they are not at least thrown on the wish that it might be true… My tendency is to break up against it like a crying child.”
She added that only serious appreciation of spiritualism could “keep it from the desecration of charlatans and fanatics.”
Text and photo of Mrs. Barrett Browning courtesy of Michael Tymn, author of The Articulate Dead where Michael examines several of the best mediums of yesteryear and the scientific research surrounding them.