Josephine Butler to 'Dear Friend' [Miss Priestman]

Scope and Content

Written from Wimbledon. Finds the severe cold 'hard for me to live through at all.' Would love a stay with them but does not like to leave her son George quite alone for Christmas and the New Year. Gives her views on Evil: that all Evil will cease to exist. She is sorry that 'Stead has taken such a crase (sic) about Ghosts and hypnotism and Theosophy. He put in the frontispiece of his ghost number a portrait of my poor cousin Edmund Gurney, a very fine lad, who committed suicide, owing to the misery he came into by giving up Christ and taking to Spiritualism. He was murdered in a way by Fred Myers of the Ghost Society' [See Note]. She still has with her her little grand child Josephine and has to keep a careful watch on her as 'it was just this time last year that she took rheumatic fever'.

Administrative / Biographical History

'I am not well enough to leave my house just now' In the Oct issue of the 'Dawn' (p.8) we read: 'It is with regret found necessary to give notice ... that Mrs Josephine Butler took ill while editing the present issue of the 'Dawn' after her return from Brussels ... [in the doctor's opinion] it would be a very great risk ... for her to speak at or attend any meetings during the coming winter'

JB struggled on doing work at home, but after Christmas she succumbed to the prevailing influenza and was at death's door. He recovery was slow.

'I am sorry Stead has taken such a craze about ghosts and hypnotism and Theosophy ... poor cousin Gurney ... he was murdered in a way by Frederick Myers' From 1890 onwards Stead became keenly interested in psychical matters; one of the most notable among Stead's associates in the early 90's was Lady Henry Somerset and it was when staying at Eastern Castle (Lady Henry's home) in 1892 that the famous messages from Julia began to come through and were taken down in automatic writing by Stead (See Note on 'Letters from Julia' in letter of 6 Jan 1898 JB to Miss Forsaith).

The intellectual interest in psychical subjects was greatly stimulated by the publication of 'Phatasms of the living' in 1886. The joint work of Myers, Podmore and Gurney; Myers was one of the founders in 1882 of The Society for Psychical Research.

Edmund Gurney wrote largely from 1882 in the Proceedings of the SPR and periodicals such as 'Mind'; papers on hypnotism, hallucinations and kindred subjects. He was found dead in bed from an 'overdose of narcotics to procure sleep'

'I have to watch little Josephine very much just now' Little Josephine was struck down with a dangerous illness early in 1891 and brought down to London for treatment. She was moved to her Granny's residence at Wimbledon early in Jul and did not return to her parents till Jun 1892.

Biog: WT Stead; Edmund Gurney; Frederick W H Myers; 'Little Josephine'