JAMES (WILLIAM) Autograph letter signed ('Wm James'), to Mrs Thaw, about the celebrated visit of the internationally famous Italian medium E[usapia] P[alladino] to America in 1909
Lot 93
JAMES (WILLIAM) Autograph letter signed ('Wm James'), to Mrs Thaw, about the celebrated visit of the internationally famous Italian medium E[usapia] P[alladino] to America in 1909
Sold for £1,250 (US$ 2,140) inc. premium
Lot Details
JAMES (WILLIAM)
Autograph letter signed ('Wm James'), to Mrs Thaw, about the celebrated visit of the internationally famous Italian medium E[usapia] P[alladino] (1854-1918) to America in 1909 and her investigation by the [Society for Psychical Research], particularly the part played by H[ereward] Carrington (1880-1959), the conjuror, friend of Aleister Crowley and psychic researcher, later the author of the 353-page Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena, at the time one of the three members [with Everard Feilding and W. Baggally] of the Society deputed to investigate her claims, and the one who had daily charge of her; James promises to pass on to Carrington the charges Mrs Thaw makes against Palladino, together with others he has heard from other quarters, expresses his own opinion about the medium's authenticity ('...I believe Eusapia does what appears, sometimes by cheating sometimes not...'), promises to see Palladino if she comes to Boston while doubting his contribution over and above the research done on her in Europe [by Enrico Morselli and Philippe Bottazzi] ('...I don't regard my duffer observation of the slightest value...I count whats publisht...'), expresses some sympathy for Carrington ('...what with the malignity of certain disbelievers, and the vile newspaper sensationalism...poor Carrington "bit off" far more than he can "chew". I feel sorry for him, he say he leads a dog's life...I fancy that H.C. is far more sinned against than sinning, tho' if he had more of the serpent's wisdom, he would not have let him get over-powerd by the reporters at the start...'), discusses the extravagant life-style of Palladino ('...Board for herself & sister in law comes to about 50 a week, to say nothing of the taxi-cabs, dinners, theatres etc, which are needed to keep her in good humor. Interpreter all day and night, stenografer, seance-room rent and fotographer, and apparatus, have to be paid, and money for her return passage, first class, with her companion, provided for...'), outlines Carrington's methods of raising money for her (and himself), including raising sitting fees and obtaining support from backers, the chief of whom has reserved the first seven sittings for himself though James comments 'The "scientific" donkeys and deadheads should have come first. Now they seem to be coming last' and recounts a description of an outing with Palladino by Mrs Carrington, 6 pages, small 4to, 95 Irving Street, Cambridge [Massachusetts], 19 December 1909

Footnotes

  • William James (1842-1910, American philosopher and psychologist, the father of American psychology, founding member of the Society for Psychical Research, brother of Henry James, and a lifelong student of the para-psychical), had discovered Eusapia Palladino in 1885 and for twenty years she remained under supervision by the Society for Psychical Research. The opinion he expresses about her in the present letter anticipated the conclusion finally reached by the Society. The author of Principles of Psychology, Varieties of Religious Experience and Essays in Radical Empiricism, James established the first psychology laboratory in America.

    The European researchers into Palladino concluded that their experiments 'eliminated the slightest trace of suspicion or uncertainty relative to the genuineness of the phenomena'; the Americans, while largely convinced, found, however, that she could reach behind her body with her foot and kick furniture while her arms were being held by two men.

    Hereward Carrington was author of the best-selling Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them, Death Deferred, Psychic Science and Survival and Fasting for Health. Mrs Thaw may be the wife of the eccentric millionaire 'sensitive', Harry Thaw, who killed the architect Stanford White in 1906. Letters by William James have become extremely scarce. No letter of the professional interest and quality of the present one, has been sold at auction in the last thirty years.
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