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    Rather A Strong Dose

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    Chapter 7
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    "Doctor John Campbell, the minister of the Tabernacle Chapel,
    Finsbury, and editor of the British Banner, etc., with that massive
    vigour which distinguishes his style," did, we are informed by Mr.
    Howitt, "deliver a verdict in the Banner, for November, 1852," of
    great importance and favour to the Table-rapping cause. We are not
    informed whether the Public, sitting in judgment on the question,
    reserved any point in this great verdict for subsequent
    consideration; but the verdict would seem to have been regarded by a
    perverse generation as not quite final, inasmuch as Mr. Howitt finds
    it necessary to re-open the case, a round ten years afterwards, in
    nine hundred and sixty-two stiff octavo pages, published by Messrs.
    Longman and Company.

    Mr. Howitt is in such a bristling temper on the Supernatural
    subject, that we will not take the great liberty of arguing any
    point with him. But--with the view of assisting him to make
    converts--we will inform our readers, on his conclusive authority,
    what they are required to believe; premising what may rather
    astonish them in connexion with their views of a certain historical
    trifle, called The Reformation, that their present state of unbelief
    is all the fault of Protestantism, and that "it is high time,
    therefore, to protest against Protestantism".

    They will please to believe, by way of an easy beginning, all the
    stories of good and evil demons, ghosts, prophecies, communication
    with spirits, and practice of magic, that ever obtained, or are said
    to have ever obtained, in the North, in the South, in the East, in
    the West, from the earliest and darkest ages, as to which we have
    any hazy intelligence, real or supposititious, down to the yet
    unfinished displacement of the red men in North America. They will
    please to believe that nothing in this wise was changed by the
    fulfilment of our Saviour's mission upon earth; and further, that
    what Saint Paul did, can be done again, and has been done again. As
    this is not much to begin with, they will throw in at this point
    rejection of Faraday and Brewster, and "poor Paley", and implicit
    acceptance of those shining lights, the Reverend Charles Beecher,
    and the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher ("one of the most vigorous and
    eloquent preachers of America"), and the Reverend Adin Ballou.

    Having thus cleared the way for a healthy exercise of faith, our
    advancing readers will next proceed especially to believe in the old
    story of the Drummer of Tedworth, in the inspiration of George Fox,
    in "the spiritualism, prophecies, and provision" of Huntington the
    coal-porter (him who prayed for the leather breeches which
    miraculously fitted him), and even in the Cock Lane Ghost. They
    will please wind up, before fetching their breath, with believing
    that there is a close analogy between rejection of any such plain
    and proved facts as those contained in the whole foregoing
    catalogue, and the opposition encountered by the inventors of
    railways, lighting by gas, microscopes and telescopes, and
    vaccination. This stinging consideration they will always carry
    rankling in their remorseful hearts as they advance.

    As touching the Cock Lane Ghost, our conscience-stricken readers
    will please particularly to reproach themselves for having ever
    supposed that important spiritual manifestation to have been a gross
    imposture which was thoroughly detected. They will please to
    believe that Dr. Johnson believed in it, and that, in Mr. Howitt's
    words, he "appears to have had excellent reasons for his belief".
    With a view to this end, the faithful will be so good as to
    obliterate from their Boswells the following passage: "Many of my
    readers, I am convinced, are to this hour under an impression that
    Johnson was thus foolishly deceived. It will therefore surprise
    them a good deal when they are informed upon undoubted authority
    that Johnson was one of those by whom the imposture was detected.
    The story had become so popular, that he thought it should be
    investigated, and in this research he was assisted by the Rev. Dr.
    Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, the great detector of impostures"-
    -and therefore tremendously obnoxious to Mr. Howitt--"who informs me
    that after the gentlemen who went and examined into the evidence
    were satisfied of its falsity, Johnson wrote in their presence an
    account of it, which was published in the newspapers and Gentleman's
    Magazine, and undeceived the world". But as there will still remain
    another highly inconvenient passage in the Boswells of the true
    believers, they must likewise be at the trouble of cancelling the
    following also, referring to a later time: "He (Johnson) expressed
    great indignation at the imposture of the Cock Lane Ghost, and
    related with much satisfaction how he had assisted in detecting the
    cheat, and had published an account of it in the newspapers".

    They will next believe (if they be, in the words of Captain Bobadil,
    "so generously minded") in the transatlantic trance-speakers "who
    professed to speak from direct inspiration", Mrs. Cora Hatch, Mrs.
    Henderson, and Miss Emma Hardinge; and they will believe in those
    eminent ladies having "spoken on Sundays to five hundred thousand
    hearers"--small audiences, by the way, compared with the intelligent
    concourse recently assembled in the city of New York, to do honour
    to the Nuptials of General the Honourable T. Barnum Thumb. At about
    this stage of their spiritual education they may take the
    opportunity of believing in "letters from a distinguished gentleman
    of New York, in which the frequent appearance of the gentleman's
    deceased wife and of Dr. Franklin, to him and other well-known
    friends, are unquestionably unequalled in the annals of the
    marvellous". Why these modest appearances should seem at all out of
    the common way to Mr. Howitt (who would be in a state of flaming
    indignation if we thought them so), we could not imagine, until we
    found on reading further, "it is solemnly stated that the witnesses
    have not only seen but touched these spirits, and handled the
    clothes and hair of Franklin". Without presuming to go Mr. Howitt's
    length of considering this by any means a marvellous experience, we
    yet venture to confess that it has awakened in our mind many
    interesting speculations touching the present whereabout in space,
    of the spirits of Mr. Howitt's own departed boots and hats.

    The next articles of belief are Belief in the moderate figures of
    "thirty thousand media in the United States in 1853"; and in two
    million five hundred thousand spiritualists in the same country of
    composed minds, in 1855, "professing to have arrived at their
    convictions of spiritual communication from personal experience";
    and in "an average rate of increase of three hundred thousand per
    annum", still in the same country of calm philosophers. Belief in
    spiritual knockings, in all manner of American places, and, among
    others, in the house of "a Doctor Phelps at Stratford, Connecticut,
    a man of the highest character for intelligence", says Mr. Howitt,
    and to whom we willingly concede the possession of far higher
    intelligence than was displayed by his spiritual knocker, in
    "frequently cutting to pieces the clothes of one of his boys", and
    in breaking "seventy-one panes of glass"--unless, indeed, the
    knocker, when in the body, was connected with the tailoring and
    glazing interests. Belief in immaterial performers playing (in the
    dark though: they are obstinate about its being in the dark) on
    material instruments of wood, catgut, brass, tin, and parchment.
    Your belief is further requested in "the Kentucky Jerks". The
    spiritual achievements thus euphoniously denominated "appear", says
    Mr. Howitt, "to have been of a very disorderly kind". It appears
    that a certain Mr. Doke, a Presbyterian clergyman, "was first seized
    by the jerks", and the jerks laid hold of Mr. Doke in that
    unclerical way and with that scant respect for his cloth, that they
    "twitched him about in a most extraordinary manner, often when in
    the pulpit, and caused him to shout aloud, and run out of the pulpit
    into the woods, screaming like a madman. When the fit was over, he
    returned calmly to his pulpit and finished the service." The
    congregation having waited, we presume, and edified themselves with
    the distant bellowings of Doke in the woods, until he came back
    again, a little warm and hoarse, but otherwise in fine condition.
    "People were often seized at hotels, and at table would, on lifting
    a glass to drink, jerk the liquor to the ceiling; ladies would at
    the breakfast-table suddenly be compelled to throw aloft their
    coffee, and frequently break the cup and saucer." A certain
    venturesome clergyman vowed that he would preach down the Jerks,
    "but he was seized in the midst of his attempt, and made so
    ridiculous that he withdrew himself from further notice"--an example
    much to be commended. That same favoured land of America has been
    particularly favoured in the development of "innumerable mediums",
    and Mr. Howitt orders you to believe in Daniel Dunglas Home, Andrew
    Davis Jackson, and Thomas L. Harris, as "the three most remarkable,
    or most familiar, on this side of the Atlantic". Concerning Mr.
    Home, the articles of belief (besides removal of furniture) are,
    That through him raps have been given and communications made from
    deceased friends. That "his hand has been seized by spirit
    influence, and rapid communications written out, of a surprising
    character to those to whom they were addressed". That at his
    bidding, "spirit hands have appeared which have been seen, felt, and
    recognised frequently, by persons present, as those of deceased
    friends". That he has been frequently lifted up and carried,
    floating "as it were" through a room, near the ceiling. That in
    America, "all these phenomena have displayed themselves in greater
    force than here"--which we have not the slightest doubt of. That he
    is "the planter of spiritualism all over Europe". That "by
    circumstances that no man could have devised, he became the guest of
    the Emperor of the French, of the King of Holland, of the Czar of
    Russia, and of many lesser princes". That he returned from "this
    unpremeditated missionary tour", "endowed with competence"; but not
    before, "at the Tuileries, on one occasion when the emperor,
    empress, a distinguished lady, and himself only were sitting at
    table, a hand appeared, took up a pen, and wrote, in a strong and
    well-known character, the word Napoleon. The hand was then
    successively presented to the several personages of the party to
    kiss." The stout believer, having disposed of Mr. Home, and rested
    a little, will then proceed to believe in Andrew Davis Jackson, or
    Andrew Jackson Davis (Mr. Howitt, having no Medium at hand to settle
    this difference and reveal the right name of the seer, calls him by
    both names), who merely "beheld all the essential natures of things,
    saw the interior of men and animals, as perfectly as their exterior;
    and described them in language so correct, that the most able
    technologists could not surpass him. He pointed out the proper
    remedies for all the complaints, and the shops where they were to be
    obtained";--in the latter respect appearing to hail from an
    advertising circle, as we conceive. It was also in this gentleman's
    limited department to "see the metals in the earth", and to have
    "the most distant regions and their various productions present
    before him". Having despatched this tough case, the believer will
    pass on to Thomas L. Harris, and will swallow HIM easily, together
    with "whole epics" of his composition; a certain work "of scarcely
    less than Miltonic grandeur", called The Lyric of the Golden Age--a
    lyric pretty nigh as long as one of Mr. Howitt's volumes--dictated
    by Mr. (not Mrs.) Harris to the publisher in ninety-four hours; and
    several extempore sermons, possessing the remarkably lucid property
    of being "full, unforced, out-gushing, unstinted, and absorbing".
    The candidate for examination in pure belief, will then pass on to
    the spirit-photography department; this, again, will be found in so-
    favoured America, under the superintendence of Medium Mumler, a
    photographer of Boston: who was "astonished" (though, on Mr.
    Howitt's showing, he surely ought not to have been) "on taking a
    photograph of himself, to find also by his side the figure of a
    young girl, which he immediately recognised as that of a deceased
    relative. The circumstance made a great excitement. Numbers of
    persons rushed to his rooms, and many have found deceased friends
    photographed with themselves." (Perhaps Mr. Mumler, too, may become
    "endowed with competence" in time. Who knows?) Finally, the true
    believers in the gospel according to Howitt, have, besides, but to
    pin their faith on "ladies who see spirits habitually", on ladies
    who KNOW they have a tendency to soar in the air on sufficient
    provocation, and on a few other gnats to be taken after their
    camels, and they shall be pronounced by Mr. Howitt not of the
    stereotyped class of minds, and not partakers of "the astonishing
    ignorance of the press", and shall receive a first-class certificate
    of merit.

    But before they pass through this portal into the Temple of Serene
    Wisdom, we, halting blind and helpless on the steps, beg to suggest
    to them what they must at once and for ever disbelieve. They must
    disbelieve that in the dark times, when very few were versed in what
    are now the mere recreations of Science, and when those few formed a
    priesthood-class apart, any marvels were wrought by the aid of
    concave mirrors and a knowledge of the properties of certain odours
    and gases, although the self-same marvels could be reproduced before
    their eyes at the Polytechnic Institution, Regent Street, London,
    any day in the year. They must by no means believe that Conjuring
    and Ventriloquism are old trades. They must disbelieve all
    Philosophical Transactions containing the records of painful and
    careful inquiry into now familiar disorders of the senses of seeing
    and hearing, and into the wonders of somnambulism, epilepsy,
    hysteria, miasmatic influence, vegetable poisons derived by whole
    communities from corrupted air, diseased imitation, and moral
    infection. They must disbelieve all such awkward leading cases as
    the case of the Woodstock Commissioners and their man, and the case
    of the Identity of the Stockwell Ghost, with the maid-servant. They
    must disbelieve the vanishing of champion haunted houses (except,
    indeed, out of Mr. Howitt's book), represented to have been closed
    and ruined for years, before one day's inquiry by four gentlemen
    associated with this journal, and one hour's reference to the Local
    Rate-books. They must disbelieve all possibility of a human
    creature on the last verge of the dark bridge from Life to Death,
    being mysteriously able, in occasional cases, so to influence the
    mind of one very near and dear, as vividly to impress that mind with
    some disturbed sense of the solemn change impending. They must
    disbelieve the possibility of the lawful existence of a class of
    intellects which, humbly conscious of the illimitable power of GOD
    and of their own weakness and ignorance, never deny that He can
    cause the souls of the dead to revisit the earth, or that He may
    have caused the souls of the dead to revisit the earth, or that He
    can cause any awful or wondrous thing to be; but to deny the
    likelihood of apparitions or spirits coming here upon the stupidest
    of bootless errands, and producing credentials tantamount to a
    solicitation of our vote and interest and next proxy, to get them
    into the Asylum for Idiots. They must disbelieve the right of
    Christian people who do NOT protest against Protestantism, but who
    hold it to be a barrier against the darkest superstitions that can
    enslave the soul, to guard with jealousy all approaches tending down
    to Cock Lane Ghosts and suchlike infamous swindles, widely degrading
    when widely believed in; and they must disbelieve that such people
    have the right to know, and that it is their duty to know, wonder-
    workers by their fruits, and to test miracle-mongers by the tests of
    probability, analogy, and common sense. They must disbelieve all
    rational explanations of thoroughly proved experiences (only) which
    appear supernatural, derived from the average experience and study
    of the visible world. They must disbelieve the speciality of the
    Master and the Disciples, and that it is a monstrosity to test the
    wonders of show-folk by the same touchstone. Lastly, they must
    disbelieve that one of the best accredited chapters in the history
    of mankind is the chapter that records the astonishing deceits
    continually practised, with no object or purpose but the distorted
    pleasure of deceiving.

    We have summed up a few--not nearly all--of the articles of belief
    and disbelief to which Mr. Howitt most arrogantly demands an
    implicit adherence. To uphold these, he uses a book as a Clown in a
    Pantomime does, and knocks everybody on the head with it who comes
    in his way. Moreover, he is an angrier personage than the Clown,
    and does not experimentally try the effect of his red-hot poker on
    your shins, but straightway runs you through the body and soul with
    it. He is always raging to tell you that if you are not Howitt, you
    are Atheist and Anti-Christ. He is the sans-culotte of the
    Spiritual Revolution, and will not hear of your accepting this point
    and rejecting that;--down your throat with them all, one and
    indivisible, at the point of the pike; No Liberty, Totality,
    Fraternity, or Death!

    Without presuming to question that "it is high time to protest
    against Protestantism" on such very substantial grounds as Mr.
    Howitt sets forth, we do presume to think that it is high time to
    protest against Mr. Howitt's spiritualism, as being a little in
    excess of the peculiar merit of Thomas L. Harris's sermons, and
    somewhat TOO "full, out-gushing, unstinted, and absorbing".
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 7
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