Josephine Butler to Mr WT Stead

Scope and Content

Written from 29 Tooting Bec Road, Balham. In answer to his letter and printed notice, though she says she finds it difficult to send him any reply or opinion on his typed circular, which would be suitable to publish. (This had to do with communication with the spirit world, as recently Stead had taken up Spiritualism with the ardour and energy he always showed for any subject he took up). JB stated firmly that she believed in the spirit world; she was permitted and enabled not only 'to hold conscious communion with the spirits of the departed' but also 'to realise the presence and sweet and powerful ministry of the unseen angels of God who surround us'. She has therefore no wish or need to study 'occult phenomena' as the followers of spiritualism do. In fact she regards it as a dangerous practice, for there are evil spirits as well as good, and without divine protection she may become subject to tiresome and at worst harmful spirits. So let him beware whom he approaches in the spirit world.

Administrative / Biographical History

This is the first letter addressed from the first home of her own she had had since she left Winchester after her husband's death in Mar 1890.

'I find it difficult to send you any reply or opinion on your typed circular which would be suitable to publish' - WT Stead had the gift of automatic writing and the messages he received through these means had convinced him and others that he could by these means get in touch with the spirit world. His best known experiment was his record of messages from 'Julia' which were recorded by him Aug 1892 - Jan 1893, and afterwards published (c.1897) under the title Letters from Julia.

This form of communication was not likely to meet with Josephine's approval, as is shown in her letter, though she does not directly refer to 'automatic writing'.

(For an account of this, see The Life of WT Stead by Frederick Whyte, Vol.1, Ch.16, which is devoted to Letters from Julia)

Biog: Mr WT Stead