In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

A Letter-Writing Spirit


Miss Florence Marryat is an authoress and therefore given to story-telling; but the strange tale she tells in this month’s number of the Idler (Chatto and Windus) is written in the spirit of sober truth. The tale is one of many dealing with the subject of ghosts and spiritualism, the other contributors of more or less weird stories or experiences being Mrs Besant and Messrs A. P. Sinnett, Eden Philpotts, Tract and W. L. Alden. This is the Christmas number, by the bye, so that the “creepy” topic is introduced appropriately enough. There is plenty else of interest in the number – to wit, Mr. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “In the Neolithic Age” and his account of “My First Book”, Mr Jerome K. Jerome’s installment of graphic and discursive “Novel Notes.” Dr. A. Conan Doyle’s short tale, “The Los Amigos Fiasco” other complete stories by other well known writers and verses, pictures and “notions” galore making together a most abundant sixpenny worth. But to return to Miss Florence Marryat with apologies for having kept a lady waiting. This is her reminiscence:-

I was staying in the country house of an old friend – a lady who in her maiden days enjoyed the questionable advantage of being considered one of the most marvelous mediums in existence, but who now, having married and become the mother of a family, has long given up “sitting” as a practice. We never held a regular seance whilst I was with her. We only walked and talked and drove together, as old friends will do, and yet the most wonderful manifestations were constantly taking place in our presence, both by day and candle-light.

The most remarkable of these – at least, to me – were letters, which were written to me, day after day, in the handwriting of a friend who died thirty years ago in India and whose writing my hostess had never seen. These letters, which spoke of my most private affairs, and were always signed with my friend’s name, J. G. Powles, were found in all sorts of places and at all sorts of times, until I decided at last – although I never questioned the perfect faith of my hostess for one minute – to put the validity of my correspondence beyond all doubt. When I institute tests of Spiritualism, it is not for my own satisfaction, or to make sure of the medium, but that I may be able (as in this case) to rend my story credible for others.

These letters had always been written on my professional paper, which bore my name and address. On counting the sheets, I found I had forty-six left. I tied these sheets together with cotton, numbering them so as to make sure of no mistake, and, folding them in a large piece of paper, placed the packet in my writing-case and locked it. The case I put in my travelling trunk, which I also locked, securing the key round my neck. I did not mention what I had done to my hostess, and I quite thought I had put a spoke in Mr. Powles’s wheel. However, as we were sitting very quietly together that same evening, about seven o’clock, when it was quite light, and in a room apart from my bedroom, the leather writing case was suddenly thrown through the air into my lap.

It was still locked.

On opening it I found a fresh letter inside from J. G. Powles, written in ink and addressed to me. I then told my hostess what I had done and we visited my bedroom together, where we found the travelling trunk locked, just as I had left it in the morning. Indeed! how could it have been otherwise, when the key was still in the bosom of my dress? I wish I could give the letter verbatim here, but it related such private matters that I should be violating the secrets of others by doing so. The last paragraph ran thus:- “I have taken a lot of your paper, but you should not tie it up with cotton. I shall keep your lace but return your pen.” N.B. – The pen had been thrown into my lap with the writing-case. When I opened my box I found a lace fichu missing. I locked the box again, and went downstairs.

The next morning, as my hostess and I were in my bedroom after breakfast, I said to her, “I am going to unlock my box and see if Powles has put back my lace.” When I had opened the box, however, the fichu was still missing and I exclaimed, laughing, “Oh, that bothering boy! I hope he is not going to keep it altogether, for it is the last clean one I have left!”

As I spoke the words, the lace fichu came flying through the air right into my face. “Tis true, tis true!” but I cannot add, “and pity tis, tis true.”

Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc (Portsmouth, England), Saturday, December 17, 1892; Issue 5808
Gale Document Number: BC3206157527
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