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of St. Denys, that it is only the first step that is at all difficult of belief. If it is once admitted that spirits are in the habit of taking part in mundane affairs in the manner asserted by Mr. Home and his brethren, we have no means of testing the limits of their power, and therefore we have no difficulty in attributing all extraordinary occurrences to their intervention. We may easily suppose, then, that some spirit, possibly that of Cagliostro,* placed the handkerchiefs in the packet, sealed them with his seal, and deposited them in the place where they were found; indeed, so plausible is this hypothesis, that Mr. Howitt, who notices the story, seems half inclined to convert Robert Houdin, bon gre, mal gre, into a spiritual medium. 'The feat of Houdin at St. Cloud,' he says, 'was either done by great previous preparation and collusion on the part of tlio people of the palace, or it was not mere sleight of hand. To send several handkerchiefs out of a room, in the presence of spectators, into the palace garden, introduce them into the tub of an orange-tree guarded by officials, into an old iron chest, and under the root of the tree, requires something more than the cleverest legerdemain.' Unfortunately, M. Houdin himself refuses to be converted into a medium for the sake of a theory; and, though in this instance he confesses to preparation, he denies collusion. All his feats, he tells us, are performed by real sleight of hand, and without the aid of accomplices. We doubt whether any person, except a professed presiidigitateur, could explain by what means this and many other of M. Houdin's marvels were performed; but we do not therefore doubt that they were performed by natural means of some kind or other.
We should be inclined at once to adopt a similar conclusion with regard to many of the performances recorded by Mr. Home (others perhaps would more naturally suggest an abnormal condition of the mind or the nerves), were it not for his own positive' declarations to the contrary. And it is this dilemma, and this alone, which, in the case of this extraordinary autobiography, drives us to the third course of absolute suspension of all judgment. It is impossible to believe, without violating all the ordinary rules of credibility; and it is impossible to disbelieve, without imputing frauds which we have no means of proving. But if the whole superstructure of this marvellous narrative is to
• Cagliostro is rather a favourite Dew ex marhiud with our modern spiritualists, but unfortunately their accounts of him do not agree together. Mr. Howitt mentions a woman having the gift of mediumship, who 'saw Cagliostro. and perceived that he had spiritual power, but used it as a necromancer.' To Mr. Home, on the contrary, his spirit appears in brilliant light and with ' three wafts of perfume,' and states that his power was that of a mesmerist, but all-misunderstood by those about him.
rest, as it seems at present to rest, on the credit due to Mr. Home's personal testimony, we are at least justified in demanding, as a preliminary condition, that a satisfactory account should be given of one or two unpleasant circumstances, which, so long as they remain unexplained, prevent us from receiving that testimony as wholly above suspicion.
It has been asserted, for instance, by a writer in ' Once a Week' (vol. iii. p. 405), that when Robert Houdin was summoned before the Emperor of the French to see Mr. Home, no manifestation took place. Mr. Home, who is at the pains to contradict many of the statements of the press concerning his adventures in France, takes no notice of this.
It has been asserted, again, by a writer in 'All the Year Round' (vol. vii. p. 608), that a gentleman who 'had been trumpeted about London as the most wonderful of all the wonderful mediums ever wondered at' (can this be any other than Mr. Home ?), could succeed in nothing when he was attentively watched by five persons seated in his own room, at his own table; of which five persons, the writer was one, the conductor of the journal another, and M. Robin, of the Egyptian Hall, a very dangerous third.
It has been asserted, again, by the same writer, that the same medium, having undertaken to communicate with the spirit of a deceased friend of the writer's, elicited no responsive rap to any name out of a long list, with the exception of that of an eminent public character recently deceased—the said eminent person not being the friend thought of by the writer, but being the only one on the list whom the medium must have known to be dead.
Another circumstance, not as yet satisfactorily explained, is the anachronism, already noticed by two of Mr. Home's critics, in connexion with one of his seances at Paris. In a hotel situate on the Boulevard des Italiens, Mr. Home met two English officers just returned from the Crimean campaign. While talking together, they were visited by a spirit who spelt out on the alphabet the name of 'Gregoire,' and informed them that he had passed from earth, giving the time of his departure. The two officers were incredulous, for they recognised the name of an intimate friend in the French army, whom they had left in the Crimea slightly wounded, but apparently in no danger. On subsequent inquiry, however, it was ascertained that the French officer had actually died at the time mentioned by the spirit. This occurrence, as originally narrated in Mr. Home's • Life,' is placed among the events occurring during a visit to Paris in the latter part of 1857—more than a year after the termination of the Crimean War. In a subsequent letter, published in the Times of April 16th, 1863, Mr. Home so far corrects his original statement as to place the event in the autumn of 1856. But as the Crimean War ended in the May of that year, it is still difficult to understand why an officer only slightly wounded should have lingered on the spot to die there in the autumn. The inaccuracy is the more remarkable, inasmuch as the occurrence, according to Mr. Home's later statement, took place during the year in which the spiritual power had left him, and could hardly have failed to be noticed as a signal exception.
We mention the above circumstances as matters connected with Mr. Home's history which require explanation, and which, till they are explained, prevent us from putting implicit faith in his narrative. Yet we are bound to state, on the other hand, that the general tone of his book resembles that of a man who writes with simplicity and good faith, and that his intellectual calibre, as exhibited in his writings, seems hardly compatible with any great amount of brilliant invention or consistent simulation. If he should turn out, after all, to be a wrolf in sheep's clothing, he may at least claim the credit of having worn the borrowed fleece with an air of sheepishness which looked very like nature.
If Mr. Home is the Mohammed, Mr. Howitt may fairly claim to be the Ali of spiritualism. He writes in a temper which savours strongly of the declaration of that zealous vizier of the prophet, 'Whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly.' He furnishes a startling instance (not the only one in our day) of the fiercely pugnacious qualities which may be developed from the peaceful training of the Society of Friends. Poor Bishop Douglas has the misfortune to take a different view from Mr. Howitt of the miracles performed at the tomb of the Abbe Paris; and our energetic champion of spiritualism gives vent to his feelings in the assertion that 'the mildest term for Bishop Douglas's Criterion is an infamous book, fraught with the most frightful falsehoods penned in the very face of the most remarkable, most irrefutable mass of official and other evidence perhaps ever brought together'—a specimen of mildness which reminds us of some of the speeches of Boatswain Chucks in ' Peter Simple,' beginning with, ' Allow me to observe,, my dear man, in the most delicate way in the world,' and ending with, 'Do it again, and I'll cut your liver out.' Nonconformists are not much better treated than bishops. Dr. Calamy, for his opposition to the miraculous pretensions of the Cevennois, is facetiously metamorphosed by Mr. Howitt into ' Dr. Calumny.' Nor is Friend William's noble rage entirely exhausted by the publication of his book: it breaks
out out again in a letter published in the 'Spiritual Magazine,' in which he says of his reviewers in general, '' In almost every instance the so-called criticisms have been a series of deliberate falsehoods ;' and of one luckless wight in particular, 'There must have been some radical impenetrability in his nature to the grand principle of truth: his training would seem rather to have been under the especial care of that very ancient and paternal professor known as the Father of Lies.' Assuredly, if Spiritualism is destined hereafter to rise to the rank of a liberal art, it has not yet proved its claim to the title by softening the ferocity of its disciple's manners.
Sometimes, however, Mr. Howitt's denunciations are accompanied by blunders so ludicrous that the indignation they are intended to excite in the reader explodes prematurely in a fit of laughter. Of the bete noire of his book, Bishop Douglas, he says: 'This system [a system for the annihilation of Christianity] was adopted with avidity by the infidels of France . . . and it had now travelled back to England from France with wonderfully augmented effect under the excitement of the French Revolution. There was a new atmosphere for a new champion to work in; and Douglas therefore came out with a bolder and more dogmatic mien. He professed to combat David Hume, but in reality he fought most vigorously on his side.' The reader who remembers Goldsmith's 'Retaliation' may be somewhat startled to find 'the scourge of impostors, the terror of quacks,' cited as a disciple of the French Revolution; but the ' Criterion' might perhaps be a work of the author's old age. The simple fact, however, is, that Mr. Howitt has mistaken the second edition of the 'Criterion,' published in 1807, for the first, published in 1754; and, under the influence of this erroneous date, has invented the influence of the French Revolution from his own imagination. In another passage, Mr. Howitt denounces the Church of England in general, in the following eloquent and classical language: 'Look onward still, and behold the learned professors of arts and sciences, with their souls all shrivelled up by the exsiccating process of this Anglican drying-house, and whose looks and words are of the purest dryasdust order—capitesmortuum-men, of the earth, earthy.' Could not the same spirits who, we are gravely told, have more than once enabled people to speak Greek without learning it, have inspired their latest champion with two words of correct Latin?
The same habit of inaccuracy manifests itself in other parts of Mr. Howitt's book, rendering it, however amusing as a collection of stories, almost worthless for any other purpose. Though the whole tone of the book is fiercely controversial, the author never
seems seems to have understood clearly what is the conclusion which the controversy is intended to establish, or what premises are required to establish it. Statements the most inaccurate are assumed as the basis of reasonings the most irrelevant. His subordinate details and illustrations and the conduct of his main argument both exhibit the same characteristics of careless assertion and confused thought. He cites Dr. Johnson as a believer (in common with himself) in the Cock-lane ghost; though Johnson, in fact, was one of those by whom the imposture was detected. He quotes Rogers, the poet, as pronouncing 'Spiritualism'
'That oracle to man in mercy given,
whereas Rogers is speaking, not of ' spiritualism'' in any form, but of the mariner's comjniss! He adduces in evidence the ghost that appeared to Shelley and uttered the words siete sodisfatto; though the very biographer whom he quotes adds, that 'the dream is said to have been suggested by an incident occurring in a drama attributed to Calderon,' and another of Shelley's biographers gives a full account of the very work from which the apparition and the question were borrowed. He charges Niebuhr with rejecting the miraculous stories in Livy, probably with the intention that the same system should be applied to the Bible; though Niebuhr has recorded his belief in the miracles of the New Testament in language as clear and emphatic as it is possible for man to use. This last statement, indeed, is in accordance with Mr. Howitt's whole argument, the purport of which is to leave no middle course open between the hardest rationalism and the blindest credulity; to allow of no reasonable belief in the miracles of Scripture, except on condition of believing also in the Cock-lane ghost and the Drummer of Tedworth. He seems to divide all mankind into two great classes, those who believe everything that is supernatural, and those who believe nothing; the former representing the good principle of humanity under the name of Spiritualists, the latter representing the evil principle—being all of them, consciously or unconsciously, virtually or actually, Materialists.
It is difficult, in reading Mr. Howitt's book, to maintain the balance between the respect that is due to the excellence of his intentions and the regret which we must feel at the extreme want of judgment manifest in his performance. With a deep and earnest conviction of the divine authority of Scripture, he has given expositions of the sacred text which, it is to be feared, will rather furnish mirth to the scorner than edification to the believer. The writer