Faith and reason--History, Occultism--Great Britain--History--17th century, Occultism--Great Britain--History--18th century, Skepticism--Great Britain--History--17th century, Skepticism--Great Britain--History--18th century, Enlightenment--Great Britain, Science and magic--History, Spiritualism--Great Britain--History--17th century, and Spiritualism--Great Britain--History--18th century
A new history which overturns the received wisdom that science displaced magic in Enlightenment Britain In early modern Britain, belief in prophecies, omens, ghosts, apparitions and fairies was commonplace. Among both educated and ordinary people the absolute existence of a spiritual world was taken for granted. Yet in the eighteenth century such certainties were swept away. Credit for this great change is usually given to science – and in particular to the scientists of the Royal Society. But is this justified? Michael Hunter argues that those pioneering the change in attitude were not scientists but freethinkers. While some scientists defended the reality of supernatural phenomena, these sceptical humanists drew on ancient authors to mount a critique both of orthodox religion and, by extension, of magic and other forms of superstition. Even if the religious heterodoxy of such men tarnished their reputation and postponed the general acceptance of anti-magical views, slowly change did come about. When it did, this owed less to the testing of magic than to the growth of confidence in a stable world in which magic no longer had a place.
Despite supernatural scepticism, stories about spirits were regularly printed and shared throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This case-study in the transmission of a single story (of a young gunsmith near Bristol conjuring spirits, leading to his early death) reveals both how and why successive generations found meaning in such accounts.
Spiritualism--United States--History--19th century, Spiritualists--New York (State)--New York--Biography, Sisters--New York (State)--New York--Biography, and Spiritualism--Great Britain--History--19th century
Kate, Leah and Margaret Fox were three young sisters living in upstate New York in the middle of the nineteenth century who discovered an apparent ability to communicate with spirits. When this became known, they quickly found themselves at the core of an emerging spiritualist movement, and their public seances in New York City were attended by many. the movement gained considerable popularity, although Margaret would later admit to producing rapping noises by cracking her toe joints and both she and Kate eventually died in poverty. Spiritualism nonetheless became something of a Victorian phenomenon, both in America and Britain, with figures such as James Fenimore Cooper and Arthur Conan Doyle amongst its adherents. Maurice Leonard's account of the lives of the Foxes is a fascinating and informative look at the birth and early days of spiritualism, a belief that remains popular to this day.
Quacks and quackery--Great Britain--History--19th century, Spiritualism--Great Britain--History--19th century, and Magical thinking--Great Britain--History--19th century
The Victorians had a thirst for knowledge. This drove them to explore the unchartered corners of the world, plumb the unfathomable depths of science, discover evolution and create some of the engineering and architectural marvels of the world. Yet this open-mindedness also at times made them utterly gullible. Because of their closeness to disease and the ever-present threat of their own mortality, it was inevitable that they would be open to the claims of quacks who promised all kinds of panaceas, and to mediums who offered a means of communicating with the dead. So too did it make them eager for diversion and entertainment by the conjurers and illusionists of the great music halls. Strangely, it was through the magic-making skill of the conjurers that the activities of many of the tricksters and fraudulent mediums finally came to be exposed. Medical Meddlers, Mediums & Magicians is a box of delights for all students of Victoriana.
English fiction--20th century--History and criticism, English fiction--Women authors--History and criticism, Spiritualism in literature, and Spiritualism--Great Britain--History--19th century
Using a wide range of unexplored archival material, this book examines the'spectral'influence of Victorian spiritualism and Psychical Research on women's writing, analyzing the ways in which modern writers have both subverted and mimicked nineteenth century sources in their evocation of the séance.
Mesmerism--Great Britain--History--19th century, Theater--Great Britain--History--19th century, Women and spiritualism--United States--History--19th century, Theater--United States--History--19th century, Women and spiritualism--Great Britain--History--19th century, Women mediums--United States--History--19th century, Mesmerism--United States--History--19th century, and Women mediums--Great Britain--History--19th century
Spiritualists in the nineteenth century spoke of the'Borderland,'a shadowy threshold where the living communed with the dead, and where those in the material realm could receive comfort or advice from another world. The skilled performances of mostly female actors and performers made the'Borderland'a theatre, of sorts, in which dramas of revelation and recognition were produced in the forms of seances, trances, and spiritualist lectures. This book examines some of the most fascinating American and British actresses of the Victorian era, whose performances fairly mesmerized their audiences of amused skeptics and ardent believers. It also focuses on the transformative possibilities of the spiritualist theatre, revealing how the performances allowed Victorian women to speak, act, and create outside the boundaries of their restricted social and psychological roles.