BRASS POT AND EARTHEN VESSEL.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Sin,—Lady Glenconner is mistaken in thinking either that I am prejudiced against her book or that I am a " baffled ration- alist." As a Catholic I am obliged (and glad) to believe in supernatural possibilities, and in this question of converse with dead friends I was interested long before she turned her quick attention to it, and shall remain interested long after she is absorbed in some fresh pastime. But she is far more gravely mistaken in regarding as proof of her own success in establishing such converse what to me and to most others is the veriest gossamer of suggestion. The actual value of her " book-tests " has been shown in your columns by a dozen corre- spondents; I confine myself to the message she claims to have received, on October 12th, 1920, through the Births, Marriages, Deaths, In Memoriam, and Personal columns of the Times, columns whose special property it is that they contain daily
almost all the commoner Christian names of men and women, and a number of personal messages, cryptograms, texts of Scrip- ture, and the like. The " baffled rationalist " will at once sug- gest that an ingenious medium, before entertaining Lady Glenconner, sent to Printing House Square an assortment of notices containing appropriate names and sentiments, knowing that her outlay on these would be more than covered by the tokens of a wealthy visitor's gratitude. But I make no such suggestion. That outlay would be excessive; for any number of the Times can, with a little subconscious manipulation, be made to corroborate any such " message" so as to satisfy a curious but uncritical mind. Lady Glenconner professes a large degree of contentment with the results given on October 12th, and had she, and not I, obtained the much better results of March 26th and 28th, there could be no doubt of her complete satisfaction.
On October 11th she received a "message" with six points, two of which might almost be called definite. At a certain place she would find "Stephen's," at another "the lord's name." " Stephen's" name is, I believe, " Stephen James Napier Tennant," and doubtless any of these four would have been accepted as a " proof." Yet in the Times next morning not one of the four names could be found; a further scrutiny yielded " Stefano." Close to this name was to be found one suggesting a place "Bim liked tremendously "—a vague enough indication coming from an impulsive boy who had visited many places. Yet no hint of such a place could be found; further scrutiny yielded, two paragraphs below "Stefano," the name " Freda," suggesting a person who, in " Bim's" childhood, had invited him to a place he liked. Disappointed, myself, by these "Proofs," I turned to the Times of the day (March 28th) and, in the place indicated, at once found the name "Stephen," followed immediately liy the word " College," which to "Bim," as to myself or any other Wykehamist, automatically suggests— Pace Lady Glenconner, who is not a Wykehamist—those grey courts and green watermeads by the Itchen whose appeal is so strong, lasting, and indescribable. In the previous issue of the Times I found Stephen's surname " Tennant," and the word " Winchester "; also the names of two places near "Bim's " Scottish home.
The next two points must be called wholly indefinite. At the
top of the third column would be found an appropriate message for a passing soul to have sent to its bodily survivors. The third is the Personal Column, except when, on battle anni- versaries, the In Memoriam notices crowd into it. Either way, such messages would naturally be found there, and on March 28th I find the startling words " would be grateful for Proof." Yet October 12th yields nothing better than " Many thanks for all your loving messages," which would come from the soul after, not at the moment of its passing. At the top
of the first column would be found the names of two deceased relatives. This column opens with the names of recent parents; now to me, almost every one of the commoner Christian names suggests at once one or several relatives who have died in the last twenty years (and from many of whom messages have since come). This may be my Scottish pedantry, but surely anyone
but a Foundling—nay, even the children or giandchildren of a Foundling could say the same. The last two points must be closely scrutinized, as the value of Lady Glenconner's experi- ments depends entirely on the use she makes of her material. In the lower half of the first column she would find (the second definite point, this) " the lord's name," which to her meant her husband's name, "Edward Priaulx Tennant." The name " Edward " is so common that it occurred four times in the lower half of the first column of the Times on March 28th, but on October 12th it occurred not at all. Nothing daunted, Lady Glenconner searched the upper half of the column, found it 5 inches from the top of a column 191 inches long, and describes that ae " towards " the lower half. Within half an inch of it was to be found the name of " a close relation of his who has passed over." This test, again, was satisfied twice (to the half-inch) on March 26th, but on October 12th all that could be found was, a full half-inch above " Edward," the name " Alfred," that not of " a close relation," says Lady Gleneonner, but of a " connexion " of the Tennant family. Lady Glen- conner attracts the public attention so frequently to herself and to her children that she must not resent occasional public criticism. I took up her book with interest, which deepened when I found in it a message received by a "close relation " of my own, in whose good faith I have every confidence. But I was surprised, as I read the book, to find on page after page errors of detail which I could correct from my own knowledge; inaccuracy in citing the titles of books, for instance, and one considerable slip, where Lady Glenconner claims descent from the author (meaning the subject) of Moore's Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. It is too much, perhaps, to expect accuracy from so copious a writer; but, without some guarantee of her general attention to detail, the public can scarcely be expected to take these "proofs " at even their face value.
One other point. We humbler mortals who commemorate dead friends in the privacy of our hearts, and publicly with a few lines in the Times, print the latter as our friends' memorials, and not that they may serve as " miesing-words " to puzzle and occupy the minds, grown weary of other "jig-eaws," of persons with much leisure and little faith. What do the friends of "Stefano," "Freda," and the rest think of Lady Glenconner?—
I am, Sir, &c., C. K. Scars Moscaisre. Serge Club, W.
P.S.—In reply to Mr. Drayton Thomas, my " tests" were obtained upon first and second trials, which I have not repeated.