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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

1854: Dickens & the Psychograph

From Charles Dickens, writing to Rev. James White from the Tavistock House on March 7, 1854:
Mrs._________ has gone stark mad—and stark naked—on the spirit-rapping imposition. She was found t'other day in the street, clothed only in her chastity, a pocket-handkerchief, and a visiting-card. She had been informed, it appeared, by the spirits, that if she went out in that trim she would be invisible. She is now in a madhouse, and, I fear, hopelessly insane. One of the curious manifestations of her disorder is that she can bear nothing black. There is a terrific business to be done, even when they are obliged to put coals on her fire. 

_________  has a thing called a Psycho-grapher, which writes at the dictation of spirits. It delivered itself, a few nights ago, of this extraordinarily lucid message : 
"x., y., z!"
upon which it was gravely explained by the true believers that "the spirits were out of temper about something." Said _________ [MP: don't you just LOVE those Victorian privacy parameters???] had a great party on Sunday, when it was rumoured "a count was going to raise the dead." I stayed till the ghostly hour, but the rumour was unfounded, for neither count nor plebeian came up to the spiritual scratch. It is really inexplicable to me that a man of his calibre can be run away with by such small deer.

A propos of spiritual messages comes in Georgina, and, hearing that I am writing to you, delivers the following enigma to be conveyed to Mrs. White : —

"Wyon of the Mint lives at the Mint."

Feeling my brain going after this, I only trust it with loves from all to all."
Wagner is, of course, in London around this time, attempting to gain footing with Psychograph sales where it seems he failed in Berlin:
Psychograph ad, Morning Post, February 7, 1854, exactly 1 month prior to Dickens' letter.


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