Lot 424
Sold for £ 13,200 (US$ 18,546) inc. premium

Lot Details
Archive of manuscript and printed material charting the progress of the Christian Israelites from the last decade of the 18th century to the 20th century, including seven volumes of early 19th-century transcripts of Joanna Southcott's prophecies, in several hands (comprising some eighty prophecies, letters, etc., dated between 1795 and 1814), letters to her successor George Turner, and transcripts of some of her prophecies witnessed by her close companion Jane Townley; together with some 300 pamphlets recording the prophetic utterances of the movement's leaders from Richard Brothers, the 'Prince of Hebrews', Joanna Southcott, and George Turner, to John Wroe, his successor James Jershom Jezreel and his wife Clarissa Rogers, 'Queen Esther', the pamphlets bound in volumes, bearing imprints of Leeds, Wakefield, Ashton-under-Lyme, Gravesend, Manchester, Whitby, Bishopwearmouth, Bradford, Liverpool, Newbury, Stourbridge, Exeter, Hull, Gloucester and Doncaster, dust-staining throughout and other signs of use and wear, some printed volumes torn, browned or imperfect and bindings broken, sold as a collection not subject to return


  • This voluminous collection charts the progress of the Christian Israelite movement beginning with some twenty items pertaining to the career and prophetic utterances of the philosemitic Richard Brothers (1757-1824) in the 1790s. Brothers appropriated to himself the titles of Prince and Prophet of the Hebrews and Nephew of the Almighty, and claimed descent from King David through James, the brother of Christ. Some 200 items in the collection relate to the career and prophecies of Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), 'the Mother of Shiloh', who emerged independently of Brothers in Exeter in 1801 while absorbing many of his followers into her movement, and died in 1814 while supposedly pregnant with the son of God. A woman of working class origins and of enduring appeal, she has been described by the historian E.P. Thompson as England's 'greatest prophetess of all'.

    Further items pertain to her successor George Turner and to his successor John Wroe. Wroe was founder of the Christian Israelites, a community divided into twelve tribes and ruled by a body of regulations usually based on the Pentateuch; the males growing long bears and wearing dark, broad-brimmed hats, silk waistcoats and long, claret-coloured coats, while adhering to strict Sabbath observance and a vigorously teetotal vegetarian regimen. Wroe in his turn was succeeded by James Jershom Jezreel, a name compounded from the Hebrew for 'stranger' and 'Israel', while the initial 'J' of each paid tribute to his prophetic predecessors, Joanna and John. Jezreel established his community - the Jezreelites - in the Gillingham area of Kent, his followers transferring their property to a fund over which he had complete control, and with which in 1884 he founded Israel's International College. After his death in 1885 the movement, now known as the New and Latter House of Israelites, was taken over by his widow, Clarissa Rogers. She assumed the name of Esther, Queen of Israel. It is she who began building the enormous Jezreel Tower on Chatham Hill that was to stand as a local landmark until its demolition in 1959. With her death in 1888 work on the tower was abandoned and the community began to disintegrate. (For further details of Joanna Southcott see the entry in the Oxford Dictionary National Biography by Sylvia Bowerbank; for notices of Brothers, Wroe and Jezreel, see the individual entries by Timothy C. F. Stunt in the same work).

    The present collection has descended through the family of a niece of Queen Esther, one pamphlet bearing the ownership inscription of her uncle John Rogers, another that of Francis Clark, her groom; while another is inscribed "July 11 - 1807 The Property of Joanna Sout[hcott] E.J. Field". The transcripts of Joanna Southcott's prophecies can be dated to the 1830s: a terminus ante quem of 1830 for the first volume is provided by the pencil annotation "33 years ago" against the date 1797; while volume V is on paper watermarked 1829, and volumes IV and VIII are on paper watermarked 1833.

    A direct archival link to Joanna Southcott's successor George Turner is provided by three original letters addressed to him (complete with address panels, postmarks and seals). Two of these are by Thomas P. Foley, written from Old Swinford, near Stourbridge, where he was Rector. Foley has been described by Bowerbank as "one of Southcott's most loyal friends" (ODNB). He, with Turner, had been one of the original 'Seven Stars', six of whom were followers of Brothers, appointed to examine her credibility on her first emergence in Exeter in 1801, and who later arranged for her to move to London and promoted her work. The first of Foley's letters is dated 12 June 1803 and provides us with a vivid account of the prophetess's immediate circle: "This little Communication every Believer ought to be made acquainted with - as we have nothing to do with any Politics whatever - We [are] only humble Instruments in the hands of Our Blessed Lord & Master to bring in His Glorious Kingdom of happiness & Peace upon Earth, after the destruction of satan's... Joseph Preston had a wonderful Vision just before we left Town of satan's being chained down Pray God! it may happen quickly - The drawing was most wonderful - and it was finished only on the Fifth of June, the day before Joanna left the High House, Paddington - I understand from my Wife that She has had a most astonishing explanation of the above Vision...". In the second letter, dated 2 October 1813, Foley sends Turner a "Letter from our Beloved Spiritual Mother" to the Bishop of London, opening: "My Lord/ I have no doubt your Lordship have heard of my Name, tho' it might be in mockery & ridicule; but I must beg your Lordship will take the pains or perusing over this Book which I am ordered to send...". The third letter is dated 19 November 1810 and is from Joanna Southcott herself, albeit in the hand of an amanuensis (possibly Ann Underwood, the maidservant of her supporter Jane Townley) and subscribed "From Joanna Southcott". Docketed by Turner as "Concerning Buisness", it describes apocalyptical times in the financial markets, with "pecuniary embarrasments" causing a member of the Baring family to commit suicide, and a wave of bankruptcies to hit the City of London, all of which was exacerbated by terrible weather and flooding: "we may truly say they are tumbling down the Steps one after the other, the distress amongst the Merchants in London I am told is incredible as the goods sent out, do not return in Money, and they fear for the goods also/ the Bankers will not discount the Bills, as they know not whom they can trust, for those that had large Property are now become poor, and they that have Money oweing to them, cannot get it... now when I see all these carried away in the floods, I cannot advise any one to launch into business, before the Storm begin to abate, which I fear they will rise higher before the time, of its being overblown which time is not yet come, I speak from appearance, as well as Prophecies, knowing the greatest Storm this Nation have to pass thro' is not over yet, there are but the beginning of Sorrows for the end is not yet...".
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