Welcome. This is my blog, and you're my most coveted guest. If I seem a bit too intense, it's only because I have so much that I want to share with you, and I can see that you're eager to begin as well. So, please...make yourself at home, sip an East India cocktail (I blended the pomegranate juice myself), and sample some of my domestic and imported Arcana: useless, but fascinating information about Victoriana, Steampunk and other favoured topics; music which evokes that dark, lost Lenore sensibility; and other pleasant or, perhaps, unsettling non sequiters whispered in a darkened room. Linger long or short, leave a comment or refrain, but remember to come back soon to play a (shhhh) parlour game.
Velkommen. Dette er min blog, og du er min mest eftertragtedegæst. Hvis jeg synes en smule for intenst, det er kunfordi jeg har så meget at jeg vil dele med jer, og jeg kanse, at du er ivrig efter at begynde så godt. Så kan du ...føl dig hjemme, sip et East India cocktail (jeg blandetden granatæble juice mig selv), og prøve nogle af mine indenlandske o importerede Arcana: ubrugelig, menfascinerende oplysninger om Victoriana, Steampunkog andre begunstigede emner; musik der fremkalderdenne mørke, mistede Lenore sensibilitet, og andrebehagelige eller måske foruroligende, ikke sequitershviskede i et mørkelagt rum. Linger lang eller kort,efterlade en kommentar eller afstå, men husk at komme tilbage snart til at spille en (Shhhh) selskabsleg.
- I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
Nocturne in G Flat major
Chopin, darkness, light, sand and wind, starlight tread. Beethoven, love, fear, madness, redemption in the night. Liszt, waltzing widows, desperate bargains, pleasure's secret plight. Now, then, before, always, forever. Promises made on lonely beaches, celestial summer's perfect kiss, passions quenched in salty breezes, the lure of distant mist-draped heights. Bitter interlude. Final, private nocturne. Burned down like a candle. Doomed bleeding beauty. Fated sacrificial night.
We love all things dark and mysterious, macabre and obscure, odd and unfathomable. Nothing is too strange or bizarre for our little blog. And although we would never presume to offer definitive answers to the great questions of life, we shall do our best to enlighten, inform and delight our visitors with our whimsical potpurri of facts, anecdotes, trivia and informational outpourings. We strive not to offend, but to edify those who wish to reach beyond their comfort zone and touch the fabric of another time and place, and of distant, but genuine worlds and lives. As Victorian-themed blogs go, ours may not be the most austere, nor the most comprehensive, but we know what we like, and if our readers like it as well, then all is as it should be in this ramshackle corner of our own personal Victorian empire.
A Musical Note
A Musical Note: We feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by one or more of the following musical selections. Then again, we also feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by a glass of absinthe, a bite of lemon cake, and a foot massage (preferably by someone you know). So, to paraphrase the otherwise completely irrelevant-to-our-blog Mr. Aleister Crowley, "Do what thou wilt...but be open to Chopin."
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012
THEY CALL HIM MR. SLUDGE: THE CURIOUS CAREER OF DANIEL DUNGLAS HOME
In the annals of spiritualism, there are few careers that rival that of Daniel Dunglas Home (he pronounced it "hume"). Born March 20, 1833, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest of eight siblings, Home was labeled a "delicate child" from the start. His mother, Elizabeth had a reputation as a seer, a "gift" which apparently ran in the family, and which, as such "gifts" so often do, created friction for her and those closest to her. Home's father, William, had his own issues. Allegedly the illegitimate son of Alexander, the 10th Earl of Home, he supported his wife and family with payments made from his father's estate and his earnings from his job at the Balerno paper mill, for which purpose he moved his family to the town of Currie shortly after Daniel was born. As might be expected, Home's childhood was not a happy one. His father was reportedly a bitter, morose man who took out his frustrations on his wife, adding to the burden of raising a delicate, high-strung child whose cradle reportedly rocked by itself on occasion and who, when he was older, upset family members by predicting the death of his brother, Adam, and, later, a cousin who lived several miles away in the town of Linlithgow.
When he was only a year old, Home's mother decided that it would be best for him (and for herself and the Home family in general) to pass him on to her childless sister, Mary Cook, who lived with her husband in the nearby coastal town of Portobello. A few years later, the Cooks emigrated to the Unites States, settling in Greeneville, Connecticut where Home spent his formative years, which, like his earlier years in Scotland, were not particularly happy ones. Nicknamed "Scotchy" by his classmates because of his red hair and pale, freckled skin, the tall, thin, frail-looking Home was something of an outsider, eschewing sports and other boyish games in favor of long walks in the woods with his friend, Edwin, who shared with him a deep interest in metaphysical matters. Alone in the woods, the two boys read Bible stories out loud to each other and made a pact by which they promised that if either of them should die, the deceased would try to make contact afterward. According to Home, when he and his aunt and uncle moved to Troy, a town some 300 miles away, several years later, he was awakened one night by a bright light hovering at the foot of his bed. On seeing the light, Home said, he had the feeling that it was his old friend, Edwin, and was convinced that Edwin had died, a conviction that was borne out three days later when a letter arrived at his house, informing him that Edwin had died of malignant dysentery, on what would have been just three days before the mysterious light had appeared in Home's bedroom.
One of the few bright spots in Home's youth occurred when he was in his teens, and his mother emigrated with several of his younger siblings from Scotland to Waterford, which was only 12 miles from where Home lived with the Cooks. Unfortunately, the reunion was short-lived. Within a year of settling in Waterford, Elizabeth Home supposedly appeared to her son in a vision, telling him that she would die at 12 o'clock, which she did several days later. Overcome with grief, Home turned to religion for comfort. But even this caused problems for the young seer. His aunt was a staunch Presbyterian, who believed that an individual's fate had already been decided for him or her at birth. Seeking a less fatalistic viewpoint, Home embraced the Wesleyan faith, the tenants of which were rooted in the biblical concept of salvation. Taking issue with her nephew's defection from what she held to be the true religion, Home's aunt tried to force him to convert to Congregationalism, which, though not her own religion, at least espoused tenants closer to what she believed. The clash of beliefs reportedly set off an ongoing disturbance in the household, which consisted of rappings and loud knocks that did not stop even when Mary called several ministers, a Baptist, a Congregationalist, and a Wesleyan, to the house. Instead, in their presence, a table supposedly moved of its own volition, and continued to move, even when the disgruntled aunt placed a Bible on top of it and pressed herself against it in an effort to keep it still. Frustrated and convinced that her nephew was possessed by the devil, she ordered Home out of the house.
Home's expulsion from the home of his aunt precipitated what would become one of the most astounding mediumistic careers of the 19th century. Living at first with a friend in Willimantic, Connecticut, Home began holding seances around 1851. A shy young man, who was not particularly adept in social settings, Home was fortunate in possessing what was considered to be a pleasing appearance coupled with what seemed to be a natural inclination to please those around him. His apparent mediumistic abilities, which included being able to communicate with the dead (the spirits of which seemed to enjoy moving heavy furniture whenever Home was around) and to heal the sick, garnered quite a few fans, many of whom showed their appreciation to Home by showering him with gifts, mainly money, which allowed him to spend his time traveling around New England and holding seances without having to work a day job for the next several years.
Witnesses to the alleged supernatural phenomena at Home's early seances included poet and newspaper editor, William Cullen Bryant, John Edmonds, a Supreme Court judge, and Harvard professor David Wells, all of whom claimed to have seen furniture move as though by its own volition in Home's presence, the activity accompanied by what Bryant described as "a phosphorescent light gleam over the walls." A series of investigations of Home during this period, by the aforementioned men and others of similar note, reportedly turned up no evidence of fraudulence on Home's part.
It was around this time that Home relocated to New York, where he took an apartment on 42nd Street, holding seances there, one of which was attended by William Makepeace Thackery, author of Vanity Fair and a rabid skeptic when it came to the business of mediumship. Although initially impressed when he witnessed a table move at the seance he attended, Thackery decided, ultimately, that it was all "dire humbug" and wrote a newspaper editorial saying as much. Disheartened by Thackery's skepticism and ill with the early stages of tuberculosis, Home left New York and returned to Connecticut, from which he sailed for England in March of 1955, purportedly on the advice of his doctors, who had recommended that he recuperate there.
Once in England, what seemed to be Home's natural ability to win favor among the elite resulted in a friendship with a man called William Cox, the owner of a high-class hotel in London, who allowed Home to stay there rent-free for the duration of his stay in the city. Cox's interest in Home prompted him to introduce the medium to members of London's artistic community, including Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Zanoni, The Last Days of Pompeii) and the poet Robert Browning, who turned out to be one of Home's harshest critics. Browning, an Englishman, was the husband of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the American poet (and native New Yorker) best known for her love sonnet, "How Do I Love Thee?", which she wrote with Browning in mind. During their marriage, which lasted from 1849 until her death in 1861, Browning was much less famous than his wife. An invalid from a well-off family who disapproved of Browning, a fact which resulted in the couple beginning their married life In secret, Mrs. Browning was an unapologetic supporter of Home from the first time she attended one of his seances. Her enthusiasm for a man he considered to be nothing more than a charlatan prompted her husband to write "Mr. Sludge The Medium", a "dramatis personae", which begins with the following vitriolic stanza:
"NOW, don’t, sir! Don’t expose me!
Just this once! This was the first and only time, I’ll swear,—
Look at me,—see, I kneel,—the only time,
I swear, I ever cheated,—yes, by the soul
Of Her who hears—(your sainted mother, sir!)
All, except this last accident, was truth—
This little kind of slip!—and even this,
It was your own wine, sir, the good champagne,
(I took it for Catawba, you ’re so kind)
Which put the folly in my head!
Browning's condemnation of Home centered not just on what he dismissed as fraudulence on the medium's part, but on what he saw as Home's ability to dupe monied, often titled members of English society who insisted on showering Home with financial gifts and other perks in exchange for his mediumistic services. By the time he came to England, Home had made a name for himself not only as a communicator with the dead, but as a master of levitation. English physicist William Crookes (who would later investigate Florence Cook under questionable circumstances) claimed to have attended 50 seances during which Home levitated as much as six inches off the floor, remaining airborne for 10 seconds before slowly descending again. Home was also reportedly able to elongate his arms, legs, and torso at will, and on at least one occasion, supposedly astounded sitters by floating out of an open three story window and returning to the room the same way. Home's fame was so great that he was even summoned to France, where he performed for Napoleon III, and to the Netherlands, where he gained another notable fan in Queen Sophia of Sweden.
Back in England, a wealthy widow called Jane Lydon was so enamored of Homes that she adopted him as her son and presented him with a gift of 60,000 pounds. She later brought suit against Home, telling the court that she had been compelled to give him the money under spiritual influence. The court agreed with her and forced Home to return the money, but although the press had a field day with the incident, Home's high-crust friends rallied around him, lauding him for his "gentlemanly behavior" throughout the ordeal and refusing to shun him because of it.
Home's apparently remarkable abilities continued to win him new fans and supporters, especially after he was investigated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories and a committed spiritualist who declared Homes the greatest physical medium he had ever seen. By the late 1850s, Home counted among his friends the writer Alexander Dumas (The Three Musketeers) who was Home's best man when he married Alexandria de Krol, the 17-year-old daughter of a wealthy Russian nobleman. The marriage lasted until the young lady's death, from tuberculosis, in 1862. Nine years later, Home married another wealthy Russian woman, Julie de Gloumeline, for whom he joined the Greek Orthodox Church. The couple were married for 15 years, during which time Home continued to hold seances and impress notables with his ability to levitate, elongate, and summon spirits. At the age of 38, his health deteriorating due to the tuberculosis from which he had long suffered, Home decided to pack it in and went into retirement. He died on June 21, 1886 and was buried in St. Germain-en-Laye, a Russian cemetery in Paris.
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