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Title:      Oscar Wilde from Purgatory (1924)
Author:     Hester Travers Smith
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eBook No.:  0301181.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          August 2003
Date most recently updated: August 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Oscar Wilde from Purgatory (1924)
Author:     Hester Travers Smith

Psychic Messages
Edited by Hester Travers Smith [1868-1949]




In the pages in which I analyse these scripts, purporting to come from
Oscar Wilde, I assume throughout that I am speaking of a discarnate
personality of whose existence there is no question.

I leave it to my readers to pronounce on the case. I speak with assurance
of Oscar Wilde's continued existence, merely for convenience; my own
feeling is that of a diver who has pulled up a strange creature from the
deep and wonders of what nature he may be! I hope he may excite criticism
from every point of view and strengthen the ranks of those who take
psychic study seriously. A highly intelligent ghost seems worthy of
investigation; I have therefore made an effort to put the case fairly
from the three angles which seem possible.

I do not hold myself responsible for any of the literary criticism in
these scripts-the opinions expressed by "Oscar Wilde" are not mine.

I dedicate this book, with his permission, to
Sir William Barrett, F.R.S.,
respectfully and gratefully.


Whatever interpretation the reader may put upon the remarkable scripts
which are here published, there can be no doubt that they present an
amazing and most interesting psychological problem.

The complete solution of this problem may not be reached for many years,
but that any educated person should regard it as unworthy of study, or
that science should treat it with scorn, is a view now, happily, very
rare. The time has gone by when these novel psychical phenomena were
regarded by Dr. Carpenter and others as "epidemic delusions," or as "an
odious fraud," which is what the Lancet said of hypnotism in the middle
of the last century.

Psychologists now tell us that to regard these phenomena either as
delusions or fraud is nonsense; in fact, hypnotism has become a
therapeutic agent, recognised by the medical profession. Automatic
scripts are considered as the emergence of the subconscious," and
doubtless, in some cases, do indicate "a dissociation of personality."

Recently one of the foremost physiologists in Europe, Professor Richet,
after thirty years investigation of psychical research, has startled the
scientific world by his courageous publication of the results he has
obtained. With noble loyalty to truth he asserts that he has been
convinced of the genuineness of phenomena so amazing that many psychical
researchers hesitate to admit the facts. He is, however, a materialist
and explains his results from that point of view. He divides all
psychical phenomena into two classes: either subjective, such as
automatic writing and speaking; or objective, such as the physical
phenomena of spiritism. He does not believe in survival, and regards the
phenomena as merely due to psychical faculties possessed by certain
persons who are psychics or mediums. The subjective he attributes to
"cryptesthesia," the objective to "pragmatic cryptesthesia." But these
polysyllables do not help us any more than the names given by some
learned psychologists, who tell us all these psychical phenomena are
illustrations of the "exteriorised effects of unconscious complexes."

One is reminded, by this formidable nomenclature,of the numerous and
recondite hypotheses by which Ptolemaic astronomers tried to make their
observations square with the geocentric theory of the universe. To the
plain man it seems simpler, less improbable, and more in accordance with
facts, for biologists to recognise, what astronomers have done, that the
universe is not explicable from the restricted viewpoint of the earth or
of the brain. Personally I am convinced that whilst many super-normal
psychical phenomena may ultimately be proved to be due to abnormal
conditions of the brain, yet there will be found to remain well attested
facts which will compel science to admit the existence of a soul; and
also of a spiritual world,-peopled with discarnate intelligent beings,
some of whom can occasionally, but more or less imperfectly, get into
communication with us.

Whether these scripts, purporting to come from Oscar Wilde, will support
this view or not it is perhaps too soon to decide. Every reader will form
his own conclusions; to me it seems that-given the entire honesty and
trustworthiness of the automatists themselves, and of this there is no
reason to doubt-they do afford strong prima facie evidence of survival
after the dissolution of body and brain. Of the condition of the soul in
the unseen, at present we can only to; see through a glass darkly "; for
the messages that purport to come from the discarnate are little more
than the record of their earth memories and habits. We have little or no
evidence of that higher and more ample existence which we desire and mean
by eternal life. Perhaps this is because none of those whom the world has
known as saints ever seem to communicate; though many stupid personations
of the great and good frequently occur.

Since the foregoing was put in type, Miss G. D. Cummins, for many years a
friend and collaborator of Mrs. Travers Smith, has published in the
Occult Review for February 1924 an extremely interesting and impartial
study of these Oscar Wilde Scripts. Miss Cummins, like Mrs. Travers Smith
herself, was at first very sceptical and regarded the results of
automatism-much as orthodox psychologists do-as merely interesting
illustrations of the emergence of the subconsciousness of the automatist.
But as time went on, during the eight years she studied these psychical
phenomena, she was compelled to abandon her preconceived opinion. The
striking personality of the soi-disant Oscar Wilde gradually became
apparent. Miss Cummins remarks: "Style, handwriting, personality, the
speed of the communication, the facts unknown to the mediums" must all be
carefully considered before any judgment can be passed.

It will be seen from the dispassionate examination of the scripts which
Mrs. Travers Smith gives in the present volume that she is disposed to
agree with Miss Cummins, that the whole contents of the scripts afford
"more convincing evidence of survival than the giving of certain facts
unknown to the mediums."

Nevertheless, my own belief is that, just as here on earth our true
personality cannot reveal itself except through some material medium such
as the brain, so after death the soul must await the clothing of "the
spiritual body" before it can fully manifest itself to others. Be this as
it may, the fragmentary and elusive glimpses we get of those who have
passed into the unseen do afford to some a basis for religious belief,
and frequently they give inexpressible comfort and hope to many bereaved
and stricken hearts.



I    The Psychic Messages and Automatic Writings of Oscar Wilde
II   The Automatic Writing
III  The Ouija Board
IV   The Sub-Conscious
V    Cryptesthesia
VI   The Spiritist Explanation
VII  To the Public


This book bears the title of "Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde."
Twenty-three years have passed since the author of "De Profundis" passed
out of the present life. It may seem incredible that he should make an
attempt to send his thoughts back again to a world in which his share of
ill-fame exceeded his good fame and fortune. Have we adequate reason for
supposing that these messages are genuine? That Oscar Wilde still exists?
The public must judge of these matters; those to whom the writings came
can only transmit them to the world to which they are addressed.

How and by whom were these messages received? They came through automatic
writing and the ouija board, two methods of psychic communication which
are described later on in this book. In all cases Oscar Wilde was "the
communicator," not what is termed "the control." This distinction between
"a control" and "a communicator" may not be clear to those who have not
made a special study of Psychic Phenomena. "Control" is a term which is
applied to that mysterious entity who professes to be the "spirit guide"
of the medium. He is the intermediary who admits suitable communicators.
He is a being whose identity it is difficult to establish. The
"communicator" professes to be the discarnate spirit of a human being.
Our communicators, not our controls, go to prove or disprove survival.
These messages came directly from Oscar Wilde to his mediums. My control,
who calls himself "Johannes," merely introduces this communicator, rather
unwillingly, to me. In the automatic writing there was no control or

In the chapters which follow the automatic script I have more fully
described the circumstances under which these writings came. I have
frequently quoted and referred to the work of Professor C. Richest, not
only because I value his conclusions, but also because he has formulated
a theory which is logical and not impossible, and by which he seeks to
explain psychic phenomena without accepting the spirit hypothesis. It is
a significant fact, for those who refuse to consider psychical research
seriously, that Professor Richet has devoted thirty years of his life to
the study of this subject. His great distinction, as perhaps the most
eminent physiologist in Europe, should give him a hearing, though his
present theoretical opinion may be open to dispute. In fact, Sir Oliver
Lodge has already dealt very ably with the problem of "cryptesthesia" as
an explanation of psychic phenomena. It will seem difficult to many.

The first of our messages from Oscar Wilde came in automatic writing, as



Sitters-Mrs. Travers Smith and Mr. V.

Lily, my little Lily-No, the lily was mine-a crystal thread-a silver reed
that made music in the morning. (Who are you?) Pity Oscar Wilde-one who
in the world was a king of life. Bound to Ixion's wheel of thought, I
must complete for ever the circle of my experience. Long ago I wrote that
there was twilight in my cell and twilight in my heart, but this is the
(last?) twilight of the soul. In eternal twilight I move, but I know that
in the world there is day and night, seed time and harvest, and red
sunset must follow apple-green dawn. Every year spring throws her green
veil over the world and anon the red autumn glory comes to mock the
yellow moon. Already the may is creeping like a white mist over lane and
hedgerow, and year after year the hawthorn bears blood-red fruit after
the white death of its may. (Mrs. T.S.-Are you Oscar Wilde?) Yes, Oscar
Wilde. (Mrs. T.S.-Tell me the name of the house you lived in in Dublin.
Tell me where your father used to practice.) Near Dublin. My father was a
surgeon. These names are difficult to recall. (Mrs. T.S.-Not at all
difficult if you are really Oscar Wilde.) I used to live near here-Tite
Street. (Mrs. T.S.-There is a Tite Street near here and he has spelt it
correctly. I don't know where he lived in London. Did you know about it?)
(Mr. V, the writer of the script.-I have never been in Chelsea before
to-day, and to the best of my knowledge I had never heard of Tite
Street.) (Mrs. T.S.-Well, Oscar Wilde, what was your brother's name?)
William-Willie. (Mrs. T.S.-Now, what did your mother, Lady Wilde, call
herself?) Speranza. Pity Oscar Wilde. (Mrs. T.S.-Why have you come here?)
To let the world know that Oscar Wilde is not dead. His thoughts live on
in the hearts of all those who in a gross age can hear the flute voice of
beauty calling on the hills or mark where her white feet brush the dew
from the cowslips in the morning. Now the mere memory of the beauty of
the world is an exquisite pain. I was always one of those for whom the
visible world existed. I worshipped at the shrine of things seen. There
was not a blood stripe on a tulip or a curve on a shell or a tone on the
sea that but had for me its meaning and its mystery and its appeal to the
imagination. Others might sip the pale lees of the cup of thought, but
for me the red wine of life.

Pity Oscar Wilde. To think of what is going on in the world is terrible
for me. Soon the chestnuts will light their white candles and the
foxgloves flaunt their dappled, drooping bells. Soon the full moon will
swim up over the edge of the world and hang like a great golden
cheese-Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! This image is insufferable. You write like
a successful grocer, who from selling pork has taken to writing poetry.
(Mrs. T.S.-Who said that?) Oscar. I find the words in my medium's mind.
Try again-like a great golden pumpkin hanging in the blue night. That is
better, but it is a little rustic. Still, I adore rustic people. They are
at least near to nature, and, besides, they remind me of all the simple
pleasures I somehow missed in life. (Here Mrs. T.S. made some remark
about Lady Wilde being a half crazy old woman who thought she could write
poetry.) Please do not insult my mother. I loved and honoured her. (Mrs.
T.S.-We are not insulting her. Spell out the name by which your mother
called herself.) Speranza. Yes, it is quite true what I said. I lived for
the beauty of visible things. The rose flushed, anemones that star the
dark woodland ways, those loveliest tears that Venus shed for Adonis, and
shed in vain, were more to me than many philosophies.*

* Mr. V. wrote with Mrs. T.S.'s hand resting on his. When she took her
hand off, the pencil only tapped and did not continue. The italics have
been inserted in the above copy to indicate quotations similar in style
which were afterwards discovered in Wilde's works. Mr. V. is a
mathematical scholar and had no special interest in Oscar Wilde. He
stated he had read "The Ballad of Reading GaoL" "De Profundis" and "The
Picture of Dorian Gray."


JUNE 18TH, 1923.

Present.-Mr. V., Mrs. Travers Smith, Mr. B., Mr. Dingwall (Research
Officer of the Society for Psychical Research), Miss Cummins.

Mr. V. was the automatist, Mrs. T.S. touching his hand.

Oscar Wilde. Being dead is the most boring experience in life. That is,
if one excepts being married or dining with a schoolmaster. Do you doubt
my identity? I am not surprised, since sometimes I doubt it myself. I
might retaliate by doubting yours. I have always admired the Society for
Psychical Research. They are the most magnificent doubters in the world.
They are never happy until they have explained away their spectres. And
one suspects a genuine ghost would make them exquisitely uncomfortable. I
have sometimes thought of founding an academy of celestial
doubters...which might be a sort of Society for Psychical Research among
the living. No one under sixty would be admitted, and we should call
ourselves the Society of Superannuated Shades. Our first object might
well be to insist on investigating at once into the reality of the
existence of, say, Mr. Dingwall.

Mr. Dingwall, is he romance or reality? Is he fact or fiction? If it
should be decided that he is fact, then, of course, we should strenuously
doubt it. Fortunately there are no facts over here. On earth we could
scarcely escape them. Their dead carcases were strewn everywhere on the
rose path of life. One could not pick up a newspaper without learning
something useful. In it were some sordid statistics of crime or
disgusting detail relating to the consumption of pork, that met the eyes,
or we were told with a precision that was perfectly appalling and totally
unnecessary-What time the moon had decided to be jealous and eclipse the
sun. (Mrs. T.S.-Shall we ask him some questions?) Don't degrade me into
giving you facts. Enquire about Mrs. Chan Toon. I had the honour of her
acquaintance some years ago.

(Mr. B. told a story of Whistler and Wilde. Wilde had expressed a wish to
have made a certain witty remark which had just been uttered by Whistler.
Whistler retorted: "You will, Wilde; you will in time.") The pencil
suddenly moved and wrote: With James, vulgarity always begins at home.

OUIJA BOARD, JUNE 17TH, 1923, AT 11.30 P.M.

Recorded by Miss Cummins. The medium was Mrs. Travers Smith.

Oscar Wilde. I have come, as you asked for me. I am naturally an
interesting person-not only do I flaunt the colours of literature, but I
have the lurid flame of crime attached to me also. My dear lady, do you
realise that you are talking to a social leper? (Yes, we do.) I do not
wish to burden you with details of my life, which was like a candle that
had gutted at the end. I rather wish to make you believe that I was the
medium through which beauty filtered and was distilled like the essence
of a rose.

Forget my history, dear lady, and think of my best powers as they were
when London was the haunted house of the...Oscar is speaking again...the
haunted house which was peopled by the shades of Olympus. I think you may
reasonably believe you are a living being and I a chimera of your mind.
But let me explain that to me you are a mere chimera, and, in reality,
you are less alive than I am. For I am still a living soul and mind, and
I have as great a feeling for beauty as I had when I wore a top hat and
let my hair stream from beneath it. (Tell us about Mrs. Chan Toon.) I
will not tell you anything about her. For I want you to make enquiries
about the lady. She was a perfect specimen, fit for the satin lining of a
jewel-case; and if she is still alive she could tell you much that would
throw a light on my life as she knew it. It was not the life of a rustic,
but it had something of the rustic element in it, and I can confidently
say I had in my heart the innocent joy of a rustic who has never seen the
stones of this great prison house, where if a man is unfortunate he is
despised and thrown out upon his own mental chance of regeneration. Mine
was not a very lucky one. My chance, as I was, when I left that quiet and
monastical retreat where justice made me repose and take my pleasures
sadly. (Here Wilde was interrupted with the query: "Who did you
communicate through at the sitting for automatic writing this afternoon?
Through Mr. V, or through Mrs. Travers Smith?") Through you, dear lady.
He is a tool. You are the light that lets me peep again into the world
which seems so dazzling, now that the Divine justice finds it His
pleasure to keep me in dim twilight. (Did you know Mr. W. B. Yeats?) I
knew Yeats very well-a fantastical mind, but so full of inflated joy in
himself that his little cruse of poetry was emptied early in his career.
(What of his work?) A little drop of beauty that was spread only with
infinite pains over the span of many years.

He will not be interested to know that I have still the voice to speak
and the mind to put my thoughts on paper. He is too full of his own
literary salvation to worry over a brother in art who fell from too much
beauty, or rather, the desire for beauty. (Mrs. T.S.-Give us a proof of
your identity.) Do not ask me for proofs. I do not wish to visualise my
medium as an old spinster nosing into the other world in the hope that
she may find salvation for herself when Providence removes her from this
sphere. I rather like to think of her as a creature who hag a certain
feeling for those who strive from twilight to reach the upper air. (We
admire your work.) I am infinitely amused by the remarks you all make.
You seem to think that I am gratified by your approval and your smiles,
which mean that, in spite of all his crime, he had a certain value for
us. I have value as each and all of you have; and I am none the worse for
having drunk the dregs as well as the best of the vintage....

Here we are in the most amusing position. We are like so many ants that
creep round and round and do our silly tasks daily without any interest
in our work. I feel like a very ancient aunt nowadays. I am doing what is
little better than picking oakum in gaol. There, after all, my mind could
detach itself from my body. Here, I have no body to leave off. So one of
my most interesting occupations is impossible. It is not by any means
agreeable to be a mere mind without a body. That was a very decorous
garment, that made us seem very attractive to each other; or, perhaps,
supremely the opposite. Over here that amusement is quite out of the
question, and we know far too much about the interiors of each others'
ideas. They grow very pale in this process, and one tires of one's ideas
so easily. You can see them just as you saw the slightly creased and
dabbled clothes of your friends on earth. (Have you seen your mother?)
Yes, I have seen her. She has not really improved in the process of
dying. She is less comely now than, when Speranza used to lead the
intelligentsia in Dublin in those days when we had stiff the relics of
civilisation among us. (Will you come again?) I will come again gladly,
if you will let me buzz on as an autumn bee might who was tired of
hunting for fresh blossoms out of season. I am tired, too, but I like to
remind myself now and then of the fact that there are people who regard
this little globe as the whole of what is reality.

2ND, 1923.

The writer was Mr. V, who was assisted by Mrs. Travers Smith touching his

Present-Miss Cummins.

Note.-A portion of this script deals with the novels of Arnold Bennett,
H. G. Wells, and Eden Philpotts. Neither Mrs. Travers Smith nor Mr. V.
are great novel-readers. They had each read one novel by Arnold Bennett,
three or four of H. G. Wells' earlier novels; they had not read anything
whatever by Eden Philpotts.

Oscar Wilde. Like blind Homer, I am a wanderer. Over the whole world have
I wandered, looking for eyes by which I might see. At times it is given
me to pierce this strange veil of darkness, and through eyes, from which
my secret must be forever hidden, gaze once more on the gracious day. I
have found sight in the most curious places. Through the eyes out of the
dusky face of a Tamal girl I have looked on the tea fields of Ceylon, and
through the eyes of a wandering Kurd I have seen Ararat and the Yezedes,
who worship both God and Satan and who love only snakes and peacocks.

Once on a pleasure steamer on its way to St. Cloud I saw the green waters
of the Seine and the lights of Paris, through the vision of a little girl
who clung weeping to her mother and wondered why. Ah! those precious
moments of sight. They are the stars of my night, the gleaming jewels in
my casket of darkness, the priceless guerdon for whose sake I would
willingly barter all that fame has brought me, the nectar for which my
soul thirsts. Eyes I what can it profit a man if he loses them, or what
can a man give in exchange for them? They are fairer than silver, better
than seed pearls or many-hued opals. Fine gold may not buy them, neither
can they be had for the wishes of kings.... (A pause to rest the

It may surprise you to learn that in this way I have dipped into the
works of some of your modern novelists. That is, I have not drawn the
whole brew, but tasted the vintage. You have much to learn. Time will
ruthlessly prune Mr. Wells' fig trees. As for Mr. Arnold Bennett, he is
the assiduous apprentice to literature, who has conjured so long with the
wand of his master Flaubert that he has really succeeded in persuading
himself and others that he has learnt the trick. But Flaubert's secret is
far from him. Of his characters, one may say that they never say a
cultured thing and never do an extraordinary one. They are, of course,
perfectly true to life-as true as a bad picture. They are perfectly
commonplace, and, for the Clayhangers, the Lessways and the Tellwrights,
oblivion will have a plentiful meed of poppy. Mr. Bennett has undertaken
a grave irresponsibility by adding to the number of disagreeable types in
the world. Of late, we understand, he has taken to producing prostitutes.
It is pleasanter to turn to Mr. Eden Philpotts, who, unlike Mr. Bennett,
on whose sterile pages no flowers bloom or birds sing, has a real and
unaffected love of nature, and, unfortunately, all nature's lack of
variety. He is a writer who has been very faithful, far too faithful, to
his first love. One wishes that spring would sometimes forget to come to

The following communication came through Mrs. Travers Smith's hand at the
Ouija Board, July 2nd, 1923, at 11 p.m.

Recorded by Miss Cummins.

Oscar Wilde. I have no very special desire to give my thoughts from this
place of dimness to you who are breathing the upper air. But if it gives
you pleasure to speak to one, who is in a manner soiled in the eyes of
the world, I will continue to talk to you and to spin my webs of thought
around you. As you know, I have only dimness around me. It is that
darkness, which is reserved for those who are the prey of social
conventions, which has cast me into a state which is not beneficial for
me from the point of development of mind. My mind is now a rusty lock,
into which the key grates with a rasp. It does not move easily and
lightly as it used. I will go on and tell you how I have wandered into
the minds of the moderns, as you are pleased to call them.

It is a rather entertaining process. I watch for my opportunity, and when
the propitious moment comes I leap into their minds and gather rapidly
these impressions, which are largely collective. I spoke to-day of Mr.
Bennett and Mr. Wells. These two writers have somehow managed to attain a
summit which has deceived themselves. They actually believe they are fit
for the company of the gods who drink the nectar of pure mind. And here
they are utterly lost, neither of these gentlemen can do more than
prepare a ready-made costume for the lay figure. They cannot create, and
even when the lay figure is nailed together they cannot clothe it.

I feel the London of my time has been swallowed up; an article of a
coarser quality is now in its place. The women of my time were beautiful,
from the outward side at least. They had a mellifluous flow of language,
and they added much to the brilliant pattern of society. Now woman is an
excrescence, she protrudes from social life as a wart does from the nose
of an inebriate. (Do you see women?) I see them now and then, dear lady,
when I have the chance of using the eyes of a suitable medium. (Do you
see this room?) Yes, a little dimly. (Mrs. T.S.-Do you see me?) Yes, I
can see you quite clearly. (How do you manage when Mr. V. and I sit
together?) I can control his hand. I can only control your mind. Your
hand is guided by your mind....

(What is your opinion of Bernard Shaw?) Shaw, after all, might be called
a contemporary of mine. We had almost reached the point of rivalry, in a
sense, when I was taken from the scene of action. I had a kindly feeling
towards poor Shaw. He had such a keen desire to be original that it moved
my pity. Then he was without any sense of beauty, or even a sense of the
dramatic side of life, and totally without any idea of the outside of any
human being as he was utterly ignorant of his internal organs. And yet
there was the passionate yearning to be a personage, to force his person
on the London world and to press in, in spite of the better taste of
those who went before him. I have a very great respect for his work.
After all, he is my fellow-countryman. We share the same misfortune in
that matter. I think he may be called the true type of the pleb. He is so
anxious to prove himself honest and outspoken that he utters a great deal
more than he is able to think. He cannot analyse, he is merely trying to
overturn the furniture and laughs with delight when he sees the canvas
bottoms of the chairs he has flung over. He is ever ready to call upon
his audience to admire his work; and his audience admires it from sheer
sympathy with his delight.

(Whom do you admire among the moderns?)

I am not given to admiration, I fear. But if you ask me sincerely whom I
admire among the modern dramatists, I think there is only one who has any
approach to form and a sense of drama. I feel that if I give you the name
of this writer you will think that I praise his work chiefly as Shaw
might, with a desire to be original. But I assure you, the only mind I
have entered into which appeals to my literary sense is John Galsworthy.
He is my successor, in a sense. For although he dives more deeply into
the interior of the human being he is ever occupied with the exterior,
which is so important in the play of society; and he succeeds, with this
very difficult medium, in producing something akin to life with all the
artificiality which is so essential to the stage. He is the aristocrat in
literature, the man who takes joy in selection, as our poor friend Shaw
never did. Shaw plunges in and seizes the first object his hand can grasp
and takes a wholesome joy in ripping it to pieces. Galsworthy is slow in
his selection, but when he selects he does so from an exquisite sense of
fitness and he presents the complete pattern of his idea....

It gives me pleasure to dive a little into the present time. It is a form
of amusement over here.

The following communication came through Mrs. Travers Smith's hand at the
Ouija Board, July 4th, 1923
Recorded by Miss Cummins.

Oscar Wilde is here. I shall readily speak to you, because it seems to me
that these glimpses of the sun keep me from growing too mouldy here
below. Hamlet speaks of his father's ghost as "old mole." I often used to
smile in my unregenerate days at the clumsy way in which the
Englishman-for surely our Shakespeare was nothing if not English.... The
clumsy way in which he addressed the shade of his father used to wound my
feelings of delicacy and selection. But now that I am a mole myself I
understand. I fully appreciate this expression. It was well chosen and
should be of interest to the Society for Psychical Research, as it
displays an inward knowledge of the state over here....

So far I cannot be said to have found the after life a state of
bliss-rather it is the dimming of the senses and the stultifying of the
brain from lack of light and colour.... But doubtless the Almighty has an
excellent purpose in stamping out as far as possible that taste for his
creations which worked so deeply to my detriment....

I am a little astray as to what special subjects are of interest to you.
(We are interested in drama.) If you tempt me to speak of drama I shall
weary you with my complaints and my fancies. I had a different thought
from my fellows when my plays were shaped, and consequently I cannot
absorb their attitude towards the stage. My dear lady, how do you
approach the theatre? From what side of your nature does it repel or
attract you? Have you ever considered whether our task should be to aim
at representing life in its rather crude and disgusting shape, or whether
the stage, like the other platforms from which we endeavour to bring home
the essence of things to the herd, should be reserved for the exposition
of beauty in some form.... (Do you ask for my opinion?)

Oscar is still here. I do not intend to listen to your modern criticism,
because you have the misfortune to live in an age of harshness. In my
lifetime I strove to bring beauty home to the hearts of men. But in your
time the main endeavour of the so-called artist is to torture the senses.
Pain is the only quality which is essential to any literary work of the
present day which is to find its way into the favour of the pleb who
rules the world at the present hour....

(Tell me about your plays?) My idea in writing a play was to weave a
pattern of humanity, as I mentioned to you before, I think. I am quite
sensible of the fact that I sound superficial, and you may argue, if you
wish, that the poet who is an artist in weaving patterns from words
cannot approach the problem of weaving patterns from the human material
at his disposal.

I have never swerved from my ideal. I have served the theatre in my own
way, and from my own standpoint I succeeded. (Tell us about your earth
life.).... I have delayed a little. I feel it an effort now to lay my
past feelings before your eyes. They are past, after all; and in our
state it is difficult to look into the abyss that ties behind us.

I find it easier to speak of the present time for two reasons. One, that
you, my dear lady, are more useful to me when I speak of what you are
familiar with; and the other, that I enjoy my glimpses into the present
chaotic conditions. It affords me great happiness when I reflect that I
escaped this age of rasp.


JUNE 20TH, 1923.

Recorded by Miss Cummins.

Johannes. (Will you summon Oscar Wilde?) He is unpleasant. You may speak
to him, but not often or much.... Oscar Wilde is speaking. Yes, I will
give you a few minutes'; light; that allows me to look through the
peephole. It quite amuses me in a desultory way; it is not strictly an
intellectual occupation, but it is a mild distraction from the twilight
of my present state, which is somewhat the condition that is suitable for
the propagation of a low form of vegetable existence. (Mrs. T.S.-I have
sent your communications to Mr. Yeats.) He will not be gratified by
finding me still extant, unless it affords him some proof that he will
continue to inflate, in a further state, his ecstatic penetration of the
universe. (What about your literary work?) I do not get much literary
stimulus over here. I am rather in the condition of coma of the mind that
used to overcome me when the great massed-up population of London
oppressed my being. The shades here are really too tumultuous. They are
overcrowded and we get confused by seeing into each others' thoughts....

I wish you would just take me as I come. I crawl into your mind like a
sick worm and try to bore a hole above the earth so that I may once more
look at the sun....

(Why do you speak to me?)

I like to speak to you because you remind me of the time when I too was a
creature hampered by that garment you call a body. I really do not miss
it much, because there is a joy in that nakedness which leaves all the
thoughts and ideas of the mind, whether foul or fair, open to the public
gaze. I feel now as if the extreme reticence of wearing a body was almost
indecent. It is far more decent to go about blaring one's loves and
hates, blowing them in the faces of those we meet-as it were, being so
much on the outside that we cannot be said to have an inside. My dear
lady, what will it be for you to lose your little shape, to have no
shape, to be a fluid and merely stream about in such an undecided way
that it is like drifting before a Heavy tide. My mind is not really as
repulsive as you would expect. It looks quite respectable at times. Of
course there are times when it looks like an ancient thief, who steals
away from me with shame in his face. That is only one aspect of me. I
have other attractive ones. There is the brilliant orange of my thoughts,
and the deep rose red of my desires, which cling to me still. They are
perfumed and smell sweet to me. But there is somehow a sense that they
are getting a little stale. This condition of twilight is bringing out a
delicate mossy mould upon them which rather damages their hue. (Here the
sitting was interrupted.)

The following communication came through Mrs. Travers Smith's hand at the
Ouija Board, June 24th, 1923.

Recorded by Miss Cummins.

Oscar Wilde is speaking. I have come, as if I were a servant-maid who
replied to her mistress's bell with great assiduity.

I am glad to have a little of the upper air to breathe now and then. And
you, dear lady, have given me an opportunity.... I see you have made up
your mind that I am not a reasonable shade, that I am a capricious ghost,
who merely behaves as if he had no reason to guide his mind, which now
without a body to act as pilot strays about fluidly in space. But, my
dear lady, you are mistaken. My mind is quite clear. I am in excellent
condition for exploiting the English language, if only you give me a
theme to weave patterns on. (Tell us about your time at Trinity College,

I almost forget that time when I was chained within the walls of the
university.. I was like a carrier pigeon who had flown by mistake into a
nest of sparrows. These Dublin students could see such a short distance.
I was a giant among pigmies. (We are great admirers of your plays.)

I bend deeply to your compliment. My plays were scarcely drama. They were
more the weaving of character into pattern; and this, with the use of
language which I chose in each instance to illustrate the surface of the
human being. I did not propose to go deeply into the heart, as it is
called-that organ, which is so frequently maligned, did not interest me.
I was more intrigued by the human pattern as it appeared on the surface
of London society. It seemed to me we used to get more from each other by
accepting the outside than by probing into the intestines. The outside of
this great machine was at that date comely, and presented to the eye a
picture which had the charm of much shade and little light. It was a time
when beauty was spoken of, but kept in the innermost chamber and not
permitted to walk abroad....

I feel inclined to relate little tales to-day of my adventures on the
surface of society here. I may not be as full of grace if you call me
another time.... I should rather like to give you some idea of what it
meant to plunge into this huge heap of philistinism. I felt like a
goldfish who has choked from devouring too much bread. The meal did not
nourish me, it merely distended my stomach. It seemed a foolish thing to
go on living in such a world as this was. And I found I had a mission-the
mission of drawing aside the veil from beauty and showing her in her
nakedness to the world. I had all the ardour of a missionary; and my own
rather unusual appearance gave me, the suitable garb of a parson. The
priest of art, of culture, must of necessity show it in his own form.

The following communication came through Mrs. Travers Smith's hand at the
Ouija Board, July 5th, 1923.

Recorded by Miss Cummins. It was with difficulty the recorder kept pace
with the message.

Oscar Wilde. (I have a question to ask.) Your question shall have my best
attention, if it savours of what concerns yourself; if it concerns me, I
reserve the right to be silent if necessary. (Why did you select me as
your medium?) That, my dear lady, is not easy to explain. I have told you
how I gazed through the eyes of many nations that I might gain once more
a look into the glory of the world. I had often fancied conveying my
thoughts from this place of darkness to someone who had a fitting
understanding of a mind such as mine is-fantastical and pained by a
desire to express beauty in words. I tried many times to secure a vial
for my ideas, which could contain them in an essence as it were. But
until the day when I seized the pencil from some unnoticeable being, who
seemed to make an effort to press through the brain of "the tool," never
before had I found the exact quality I needed. If I am to speak again as
I used, or to use the pen, I must have a clear brain to work with. It
must let my thoughts flow through as fine sand might if filtered through
a glass cylinder. It must be clear and there must be material which I can
make use of. I can use the hand of the tool and leave an impress of my
writing as I used. But his brain does not serve me. I cannot use it, for
ideas would stick there as flies do in a cloyed mass.


JULY 6TH, 1923, 11.45 P.M.

Recorded by Miss Cummins. This communication came through with the same
rapidity as the previous message.

Oscar Wilde. I will try to let my thoughts fly through your brain. (I was
tired when I spoke to you last.) I found you less sensitive to my ideas
than before, but even when you are tired you are a perfect aeolian lyre
that can record me as I think. (Mrs. T.S.-A legend has sprung up
concerning you. It is believed by some that you did not die when you were
supposed to have died.)

Men are ever interested, my dear lady, in the remains of those who have
had the audacity to be distinguished, and when, added to this, the corpse
has the flavour of crime, the carrion birds are eager to light on it. In
my case the corpse was taken from the humble place where it was cast off
by my mental portion and conveyed to a retreat where it might decay
quietly and in peace. It had none of the gaudy obsequies which would have
fitted such as I was. And hence this legend, which had a charm, in spite
of the fact that I had passed from the public gaze long before this
dissolution took place. It is really delightful to think that when one
has striven and conquered London-for I conquered London partly through my
supposed crime-it is delightful to think that after the carcase has been
conveyed to its modest hole a legend is woven round its decaying
particles. You, I am sure, give me credit for the fact that I really
accomplished the feat of dying when I was supposed to die. I did not fly
from the world a second time in order to create fiction. This legend was
merely an accident due to the fact that I was still talked about. (Mrs.
T.S. took her hand off to rest her arm.)

(Mrs. T.S.-Are you there, Oscar?) I waited for your returning strength as
a footman might wait for his mistress, standing with deferential pomp
behind her. (That is very neat.) Thank, you, dear lady; I smile at your

(What is your opinion of "Ulysses," by James Joyce?)

Yes, I have smeared my fingers with that vast work. It has given me one
exquisite moment of amusement. I gathered that if I hoped to retain my
reputation as an intelligent shade, open to new ideas, I must peruse this
volume. It is a singular matter that a countryman of mine should have
produced this great bulk of filth. You may smile at me for uttering thus
when you reflect that in the eyes of the world I am a tainted creature.
But, at least, I had a sense of the values of things on the terrestrial
globe. Here in "Ulysses" I find a monster who cannot contain the
monstrosities of his own brain. The creatures he gives birth to leap from
him in shapeless masses of hideousness, as dragons might, which in their
foulsome birth contaminate their parent.... This book appeals to all my
senses. It gratifies the soil which is in everyone of us. It gives me the
impression of having been written in a severe fit of nausea. Surely there
is a nausea fever. The physicians may not have diagnosed it. But here we
have the heated vomit continued through the countless pages of this work.
The author thought no doubt that he had given the world a series of
ideas. Ideas which had sprung from out his body, not his mind!

I, who have passed into the twilight, can see more clearly than this
modern prophet. I also know that if he feels his work has sprung from
courage, which is innate in him, he should be led to realise that
"Ulysses" is merely involuntary. I feel that if this work has caught a
portion of the public, who may take it for the truth, that I, even I, who
am a shade, and I who have tasted the fulness of life and its meed of
bitterness, should cry aloud: "Shame upon Joyce, shame on his work, shame
on his lying soul. Compare this monster Joyce with our poor Shaw. Here we
find very opposite poles. For both these writers cry aloud that they have
found the truth. Shaw, like a coy and timid maiden, hides his enormous
modesty with bluster. Joyce, on the other hand, is not a blusterer at
all. In fact he has not vomited the whole, even in this vast and
monumental volume-more will come from Joyce. For he has eaten rapidly;
and all the undigested food must come away. I feel that Joyce has much to
give the world before, in his old age, he turns to virtue. For by that
time he will be tired of truth and turn to virtue as a last emetic.

(You are most amusing.)

I am glad that a poor ghost can bring laughter to your eyes.

(I am interested in literature.)

I quite appreciate that fact. You have a sense of style, and this helps
me to put poor thoughts before you.

(What do you think of Hardy and Meredith?)

I adore the rustic, as you know. His simple mind appeals to mine; and for
that reason I should be interested in Mr. Hardy's work. But all that is
in me of rusticity revolts against this realism that flaunts itself in
hopeless wanderings among the fields of Dorsetshire. Think for one moment
and reflect that Mr. Hardy's works are just the jottings down of a
limited village experience with a primitive sense of romance added to it.
A very harmless writer, Hardy. He almost succeeded in being a little
risky now and then in that dull period when he wrote. I well remember how
his Tess set maiden hearts athrobbing. It was a tale which might attract
the schoolgirl who imagined she had just arrived at puberty; but as a
work this book is shapeless and has neither value as an artificial
rendering of rustic life nor as a minute study of the village. Mr. Hardy
is indeed the middle class provincial. He never dreamt he could arrive,
and yet he had his day, partly because he tried to paint the peasant, who
at this period was just about to peep above the horizon for the first
time. We were quite interested to meet the peasant; we even found him
rich for a short space, but soon his day had passed. For Mr. Hardy
wearied us. We wearied of his peasants, and he had to fall back upon a
class a little more elevated but totally uninteresting. This, I feel, was
the reason for his steady decay.

(What do you think of Meredith?)

I am frankly an admirer of Meredith. He, of course, was a man without any
appreciation whatever of beauty, but he had a most ingenious way of
plaiting words, so that his most ardent admirers could never extricate
his thoughts from them. They clung about his ideas as barnacles on an old
ship. And he was so completely clogged that his ideas escaped and only
words were left. But, after all, what an immense achievement it is to
plait the English language! I never attempted this experiment myself. My
plan was to select my words, to cherish them and move them from one
corner of my room to another, until they each and all received their due.
Meredith collected them and wove them so intricately that his
intelligence was cramped by them, and no one ever penetrated their
crustated masses.

Note.-About a year previous to this sitting Mrs. Travers Smith hid
glanced at a copy of "Ulysses" for a few minutes in Ireland. Out of seven
hundred pages she could not have read more than half a dozen, nor had she
read reviews of this work. So she was not in a position to criticize it.
She is a great admirer of Meredith, and believes him to have a fine sense
of beauty. She therefore almost entirely disagreed with Wilde's caustic
estimate of his work.

The following communication came through Mrs. Travers Smith's hand at the
Ouija Board, July 8th, 1923.
Present-Miss D., Mr. M.L., Mr. C.L.
Recorded by Miss Cummins.

Oscar Wilde. (Give us your opinion of women?) Dear lady, do you really
wish to speak again to your criminal? I feel rather melancholy to-night.
So possibly it is an occasion on which I may reasonably babble about my
lost illusions. I have long since passed into a state in which women
appear to me merely to exist as the coloured phantoms of an over-excited
brain. But even here., in this condition into which the Almighty has
found it His pleasure to confine me, he cannot shut out from my
only-too-fertile memory the images of those who passed in and out of my
life-flashes of lightning flitting across the leaden Heaven....

I desired to say that not one woman passed across my path in life who
left no furrow on the road behind her. My sensations were so varied with
regard to your sex, dear lady, that you would find painted on my
heart-that internal organ so often quoted by the vulgar-you would find
every shade of desire there-and even more. (An interruption.) These
women, who like dancing flowers sprang on my path, these jewels, who
crowned me with torturing pleasure, were the strings of my lyre. They
gave me words to weave, and thoughts to cluster round my words.

(Tell us about one woman?)

Women were ever to me a cluster of stars. They contained for me all, and
more than all, that God has created. Evil came through them, and all the
best of me was woven from the woman. (Here there was an interruption from
those present.)

Oscar is speaking. Woman was to me a colour, a sound. She gave me all.
She gave me first desire, desire gave birth to that mysterious essence
which was within me, and from that deeply distilled and perfumed drug my
thoughts were born; and from my thoughts words sprang. Each word I used
became a child to me. I loved my words and cherished them in secret. They
became so precious they were hidden from the gaze of men until I nurtured
them, and in their fullness brought them forth as symbols of the

I feel it very difficult to make your simple nature follow me in this
matter. Do I insult you if I maintain that woman must ever be to man the
force that is creative. That was what made her hateful in my
sight-hateful and sweet as a too powerful vintage.

(Were all women the same to you?)

Women came to me like clustered stars. I gathered them as flowers might
be culled from a rich garden. All their varied perfumes came to me as an
intoxicating draught-not singly, but combined. This twined wreath
encircled me through life, and made my days both sweet and bitter....

(Are you there, Oscar?)

Oscar is still waiting on your fainting strength.

(Mr. L. What do you think of the Sitwells? Have you read their poetry?)
No. I do not spend my precious hours in catching tadpoles. I only leap
into the minds of those who have a certain value. Below this standard I
do not sink.

The criticism communicated by Oscar Wilde was considered too malicious to
be published. A sitting was therefore held at 15 Cheyne Gardens, Chelsea,
January 4th, 1924, and when Oscar Wilde spoke he was asked to write a
criticism of George Moores works which would be less unkind than the
previous one. The message was received through Mrs. Travers Smith's hand
at the ouija board. Recorded by Miss G. D. Cummins.

(What do you think of George Moore?)

My fellow-countryman from Dublin! Dear lady, here is a fine and intricate
mind deeply nurtured in culture; steeped in it in fact, to a point that
compels him to lose sight of the common forms of man and woman. To my
nature, writing of this kind is almost incomprehensible. I used the heavy
pen; and, from the soil my tool had turned, roses and flaunting lilies
rose; but from the rocky soil, on which Moore strives to plant the rose,
only the lichen draws sufficient nourishment. How can we meet on any

One difficulty, in reading him, is to differentiate between the sexes. To
me masculine and feminine are the entirely arbitrary division of nature,
while to him they seem perpetually to merge in each other. I am ever
intrigued as to whether his men are women or his women men. And yet, what
a fine perception of style has Moore; style, if you like to style it so.
A continual flow of words, rippling, as a stream without colour, flows
through a level plain-no rush in these waters; they follow their course
with a certainty which may be considered monotonous by the full-blooded.

The continual flow and ripple of Moore's prose lulls the reader to a
dozing state. It is "half slumber" that carries him through these
colourless pages.

Thus Moore murmurs on; never a clear or masculine idea, but the
half-tone, delicately sexless, sustained throughout. Do you agree, dear
lady? In your mind I find an admiration of Moore's style. Consider my own
productions, which have entirely sprung from out the male. How can I
speak of one whose delicacy of perception exceeds my own. My work was
fashioned in the glare of sunlight, his in the mist of evening. For,
after all, dear lady, even these figures, which move behind the blind in
Moore's tales, are but shadows.

I cannot speak too highly of what our Moore has said of art; here,
indeed, we find the slow but determined intention to criticize where
there is no intuitive taste. A worthy critic, Moore! Most conscientious,
in that he tries to approach that which, to him, is almost
unintelligible. I cannot praise his industry too highly, for sheer
determination has led him to the studio; and what he says is the result
of a decision to become what he is not, by nature.

(What do you think of "Hail and Farewell "?)

I have not, personally, a craving for the dissecting room. The enquiring
mind of Moore has induced him to lay his friends and enemies thus on the
table, in order that he may have the opportunity of observing their
entrails while still they are alive. An accurate method, but rather a
severe tension for the unfortunate subjects, who have to undergo this
ordeal in the cause of literature.

(A pause.)

I have a gentle feeling for poor George. He is so entirely opposed to me
in nature that I feel we, perhaps, are the complement of each other;
possibly the two halves of the whole. I have a sensation of mild
curiosity in trying to discover of what ingredients he is fashioned.

Note.-Mrs. T.S. has always been a great admirer of George Moore's work,
and more especially his style.

Copy of communication received at the Ouija Board by Mrs. Travers Smith,
July 12th, 1923.

Recorded by Miss Cummins.

Oscar at your bidding, dear lady. (Do you object to speaking of your
prison life?)

I do not at all object to speaking to you about what was to me a most
enthralling experience. When I say enthralling I mean that my circuit of
the world's pain would not have been adequate without that supreme
misery, for to me it was supreme. I, who worshipped beauty, was robbed
not only of the chance of beholding her face, but I was cast in on
myself; and there, in that barrenness of soul, I languished until my
spirit rose once more and cried aloud that this was its great

If I may be a little autobiographical, I will go back to the beginning.
It seemed to me at first that I had died and passed across the bitter
stream to that place of dimness where now I am confined. There was a
desolation of the soul that savoured of despair; and yet within me
despair had never found a lodgment. I was a fallen god, a fallen king,
and felt I had the dignity of royal blood within me. I hardly realised my
state. It seemed impossible that beauty had deserted me. I had been
condemned-it seemed a monstrosity-condemned by whom? Not by the world,
but by a spiteful, narrow crew who could not steer their ship if it fell
on a storm. I knew the value of that crew; the knowledge helped me in my
impotence. I sat and brooded on the values of the world. Hounded down by
little men and called unclean by Pharisees and Philistines I had a
greater place in the world's scheme than they had ever dreamed of. This
thought brought me a certain quiet. And as day by day came one by one
creeping upon each other in sterile dimness, my soul cried aloud that it
was healing....

Oscar, dear lady, waits for you. My soul was healing, but my vision of
things seen was blind. What service are the eyes if they behold nothing
but bare and ugly walls and barer, uglier humanity? What food for me, or
such as I, was then within these prison walls? My eyesight was my food,
my nourishment; and every stimulating glimpse of the world's wonder was
shut out from me-the pain to think of beauty there without, but not for
me! The agony to feel that still the seasons followed in their courses!
Spring dancing in with all its songs and blossoms, and Summer in her
fullness of repletion, and Autumn laden downwards with the fruit her womb
had born, and Winter ashen white...and in my cell was dimness, only

These were my pains-not suffering because the world was faithless to me,
but suffering because all that gave me life and gave the value of my life
was shut away from me. But here I learnt what I could never learn when
beauty was my playmate and companion....

I learnt the force and use of indignation, which, surging upwards in my
spirit, became a fury, a possession. It gave me life again-a scarlet
life-flashes of scarlet on a sombre background. But life it gave me, and
from the hour when first I realised the power of indignation I was a
living man again.

(Was that what induced you to write "The Ballad of Reading Gaol "?)

Here, in the twilight, I can think about the time I fought within myself
and conquered. I lived as fully then as in the days when I proclaimed the
triumph of my mistress beauty, and all the world of London stood still
and hearkened to my paeans in her praise.

Dear lady, could you only know the real values of the world, you would
not reckon crime a loss rather than a gain. For here I found for the
first time what strength is lodged within a man. My daily tasks were easy
to me from that day when from out my surging soul came this great
revelation of the spirit.

(Are you in dimness because of what you were sent to prison for?)

I worshipped the divine inhuman Power that casts me into darkness once
again. It is a different darkness from that within my cell. For over here
the soul and spirit have reached a realisation of themselves. Here is no
glorious birth for soul and spirit as that which sprang from me in
Reading Gaol....

(Do you know Galsworthy's play, "Justice"?)

Yes, I know it well. I have carefully digested what our friend has said
about a subject he knows nothing of. His fertile brain could not devise a
prison such as mine was. The world divides what it is pleased to call our
sins from our good deeds. This cleavage is possibly the net result of
total ignorance. For what can be called "justice" that rises from half
the man? I, bound as to a wheel which ever in its revolutions adds to my
pain, my pleasure and experience can speak of justice; and if you are
pleased to listen to me, I will give you what has come to me from joy, an
ecstasy of joy, an ecstasy of pain, an ecstasy of knowing every day what
can be known both in the body and in this state of fluid mind....

There is no justice possible here or in the world. For justice is the
full completion of experience, nothing more. The man who dares to dive
below the surface and pick from the depths the creatures of the darkness,
must ever be despised and hunted while still upon the earth he lives
within the body. The world has formulated many schemes for what he calls
the safety of his race; but he has never seen that in this scheme with
which he joys to torture those of his fellows who despise his edicts he
is providing for himself a torture of the soul's remorse. For here we
learn that what is anguish, more acute than human beings can attain to in
the world, is the remorseful soul, who, blind, even as a worm is blind,
has spent his hour in torturing his fellows as a benediction.

(I am tired. Could you speak of this some other time?)

I should be grateful if your womanhood would bend to hear me longer....

I wither here in twilight, but I know that I shall rise from it again to
ecstasy. That thought is given to us to help us to endure.... The human
spirit must pierce to the innermost retreats of good and evil before its
consummation is complete. I suffer here because my term is long, and yet
I have the power of knowledge-knowledge, such as all the justice that has
tortured the poor world since it was born, cannot attain to.

(I must stop now.)

I shall come again and speak to you of what you must experience before
you come to fitness.

Copy of automatic script written on July 13th, 1923.

The writer was Mr. V, with Mrs. Travers Smith touching his hand.
Present-Miss Cummins. The communication was written in an hour and a
half. The only interruptions were the replacing of one pencil by another
when the point was worn down.

Oscar Wilde. Society sent me to prison and then into exile. The world
that had welcomed me so gladly thrust me out from its care. With the
brand of Cain on my brow and the charity of Christ in my heart, I set out
to seek my bread in sorrow-and, like Christ or Cain., I found how weary
the way was-and, like Dante, how salt the bread when I found it. The
world had no place for me. When I walked in public places I was asked to
go, and when in hot confusion I retreated, the curious craned their heads
or raised their lorgnettes that they might the better view a monster of
vice. I had lost everything except my genius. All the precious things
that I had gathered about me in my Chelsea home and that had become
almost a part of my personality were scattered to the winds or lost or
passed into careless and alien hands. The very children of my imagination
were thought unworthy to live, and a lady whom I had trusted and who in
the days of my pride had often called me her friend, deliberately
destroyed a manuscript of mine. As the man was tainted so must his work
be tainted also. The leper with his cowl and little bell was not more
shunned than I.... But though I have forgiven the world the humiliations
that were heaped upon me, and though I can forgive even that last insult
of posthumous popularity that has been offered me, I find it hard to
forgive them for translating my beautiful prose into German. You may
smile, but that to the artist was a very real form of murder. To have
maimed my soul was terrible, but to have maimed the soul of my work was
more terrible still. For my work, besides being my great memorial, is my
one link with the minds of living men. More than that, it is the golden
thread that will draw me close to the happier generations in the after
time. And I am filled with a noble pleasure when I think that children
yet unborn will read in my pages the story of one who found love better
than riches or of him who refused the fair raiment of a king that justice
might hold her sceptre in the land; or of one who denied the mother that
bore him and expiated his sin in deeds of mercy and kindness. I once
said-I think it was in "Dorian Gray"-that art had a soul but man had not.
When I wrote those words they were perhaps no more to me than a phrase
flung from the flippant lips of a cynic. I did not realise that they
would have any tragic relation to my own life or to the lives of us all.
They were perhaps only half true. It would have been better to have said
that man has a soul and that the soul finds its true immortality through
art. Art is the true Vishnu, the preserver, who embalms the soul for
eternity, and embalms it not in natron or in wax or in honey like some
poor lifeless thing but in its own living fires.

The makers of history, those who ruled mankind with Justice or with the
pitiless sword, may find that the secret springs of their actions are
hidden from posterity and their motives misunderstood so that the good
they did is accounted unto them as evil and the evil good.

The man of science lives in the name of the flower or the star he has
discovered, and, like a flower or a star, his memory has no secure
abiding place. His work can be seen only in relation to the work of
others, his theories are superseded.

The little stone of jasper or of beryl is hidden away under the masonry
of many hands so that they, who contemplate the finished edifice, forget
the individual builder. To take one perfect illustration of this, look at
the history of astronomy.

On that wondrous shield forged by Hephaestos for Achilles, on which was
depicted the whole of the life of man in its joy and sorrow, we are told
was wrought "the earth and the sea and the unwearying sun, the Pleiads
and the Hyads, she that men call the Bear who watches Orion, and alone
hath no part in the baths of ocean."

That picture in its ageless simplicity of charm is as true to-day as it
was in historic times. The mariner at his wheel or the peasant in the
silent fields at evening may gaze on the same stars as Homer's heroes,
can watch the blazing Sirius and know not that to the Greek it brought
fever and pestilence and sorrow, can note the Pleiads and remember not
that their rising was the sign for the great horned ships to go forth on
the sea. But with science it is very different. We talk about the
changeless constellations, but through the ages of science the scroll of
the heavens is a palimpsest on which are written and erased the names of
many men. At the coming of Copernicus the heavens of Ptolemy ceased to
revolve, and after Copernicus came Galileo and Tycho Brahe, and Kepler
followed the Dane, and the fair guiding angel of Kepler's planets faded
into the cold dawn of Newton's great formula, and last, like a monstrous
fish, Newton himself lies snared in the strange nets of space and time
that Einstein has set about him. And of all these men what can we know,
what whisper of personality reaches us through the ages? A few anecdotes,
and these mostly myths, such as the myth of Newton losing his horse and
returning the bridle, or of Newton forgetting he had dined; or of Kepler
solving the problem of matrimony by mathematics, or of Galileo telling
the bystanders that nature abhorred a vacuum, but a vacuum of not more
than thirty feet. And as it was in the past, so it will be in the future.
When we have forgotten all that Poincare did in mathematics, we shall
remember that he walked the streets of Paris with a strange bird cage
which he had picked up at some stall and was puzzled to know how to
dispose of. And if we turn to the artists and poets we shall find that
their lives are just as uninteresting and as incomplete.

Even the love affairs of the poets are like those of ordinary mortals. We
feel as we read them they are as purely accidental, as incomplete, and as
frankly physical as those of thousands of quite commonplace people. Which
of us really wants to pry into Chopin's life at Majorca, or his relations
with George Sand; or who, without weariness, can read the ravings of
Keats over poor, foolish Fanny Brawne?

These things don't interest us, and simply because they do not reveal to
us personality. In fact a ploughman in love and a poet in love present
much the same spectacle, only the poet has a capacity for self-deception
that the ploughman, happily for himself, can never attain to. These
things are of no real vital consequence. They may, like Charlotte
Brontes' teapot, furnish lachrymal urns for the sentimental or go to
swell the muck heaps of that latest terror of modern society, the
psycho-analyst-but to the student of letters, the seeker after
personality, they signify so very little. In his search for the, real
Chopin and the real Keats, he will turn his eyes elsewhere. He will
realise that all we should care to know of Chopin, all at least that it
is important for us to know, the poet has put into those impassioned
preludes, and in that wonderful last sonnet the soul of Keats shines, as
steadfast as the lone star to which it was addressed, and sings as
sweetly in the great Ode as the immortal bird once sang in the Hampstead


Mrs. Travers Smith touching his hand.

Tell me, dear lady, what are the virtues that are necessary for a happy
life? Tell me in a few words. I don't want to know anything about the
vices! (Mrs. T.S.-Give me your views.) I have no views. I wish I knew. If
I did I should not tell you, since it is always bad advice that is given
away. (Mrs. T.S.-I really cannot name any virtue that makes for a happy
life.) I was afraid you were going to say work. Never having done any in
my life I am naturally an authority on it. Ah! I forget! I once trundled
the barrow for poor old John Ruskin, and in a moment of weakness I almost
renounced the great cardinal doctrine of the indignity of labour. But
during those few days I learned so much about the BODY of man, under
Socialism that afterwards I only cared to write about the soul. I told
people that I never even walked. But that was a pardonable exaggeration.
I always walked to bed. Don't talk to me about work, dear lady. It is the
last refuge of the mentally unemployed, the occupation of those too dull
to dream. To be eternally busy is a sign of low vitality. They who go to
the ant to learn her ways always come back ANTIQUATED but seldom wise.
And while it may be true that Satan sometimes finds mischief for idle
hands to do, even God does not know what to do with the industrious.

So, dear lady, live to do nothing and be happy. Eschew work and be fine.
No one should ever do anything. At least no woman should. The woman who
was content to merely BE was always charming, but the woman who DID was
often detestable. This is a maxim which might be taken to heart by our
modern business girls. Then, instead of hunting so diligently for their
husbands in dusty offices, they would stay at home and their husbands
would come to them.

JULY 19TH, 1923.

The writer was Mr. V., Mrs. Travers Smith's hand touching his.
Present-Miss Travers Smith, Miss Cummins.

Oscar Wilde. Let me descend for once into the dull abyss of facts. I
would like the world to know that the story of Walter Pater wanting to
kiss my hand was not true. It was invented by me perhaps to assist in the
revival of a lost art. (A story unknown to those present.) Pater, of
course, admired me immensely, but he was far too sensible to do that.
Pater sat at my feet. In fact everybody sat at my feet. He could not talk
at all himself.... It is so difficult to drag the past from memory's
black cave. One of my earliest recollections was of a little farm in
Ireland at, that's not the name...Glencree?...where we
stayed with Willie and Iso...and there was a good old man...used to look
after our lessons...a priest...Father...Prid...Prideau? There was a
beautiful stream near the farm.... Other memories.... Dining with Arnold
and Pater near Hyde Park. Lunching with Margot Tennant, Mrs. Fox Blunt
and others in London. Asquith was like a fish out of water. I did most of
the talking and afterwards told Margot stories. Stayed behind.*... (These
statements were not within the knowledge of anyone present.) (Here Miss
T.S. put her hand on Mr. V's hand instead of Mrs. T.S. The writing
remained the same in character but became considerably larger.)

*In "My Diaries," by Wilfred Scawen Blunt, on pp. 178-79, the following
entry occurs:
"17th July-A brilliant luncheon with Margot and her husband at 30 Upper
Grosvenor Street, and I took her a Wedding Ode which I had written for
her amusement. The other guests were, Mrs. Grenfell, Mrs. Daisy White,
Ribbesdale, his brother, Reggie Lister, and Oscar Wilde. All immensely
talkative, so that it was almost like a breakfast in France. Asquith
alone, rather out of it. I sat next to him and was rather sorry for him,
though he was probably happy enough. After the rest had gone away, Oscar
remained telling stories to me and Margot."
No "Mrs. Fox" was present at the luncheon. This confusion may have
occurred in connection with the next "memory," referring to Father
"Prideau-Fox." Wilde evidently forgot his second name, as he speaks of
"Father Prid-Prideau."

Oscar Wilde. One of my happiest moments.... One of my few happy moments
after leaving prison was when I entertained the little schoolchildren at
the little village near Berneval?...

 Of course I was M. Sebastian MELNOTTE in those days.... MELMOTH from
some ancestor of mine. Sebastian in memory of the dreadful arrows. Jean
Dupre I knew in a Paris Cafe. Everything is confused and I misplace
events in time.

Another memory of poor Whistler. His painting was quite delightful. It
had all the charm of being perfectly incomprehensible, and so formed an
excellent basis for criticism. Unfortunately, in a rash moment, and in
forgetfulness of a maxim which every conjuror knows, that where there is
no mystery there can be no magic, he set about to explain himself. (Mrs.
T.S.-Do write smaller.) I do the best I can. Have patience.

Poor James! He was really very absurd. I would watch him paint and he
would sing to himself some foolish ditty about his heart being true to
Poll." I forget what....

His pictures were interesting, but, of course, not so interesting as the
things I should have said about them.

Communication received by Mrs. Travers Smith at the Ouija Board, July 26,

Present-Miss D. (recording) and Miss Travers Smith.

Asked about the Epstein monument in Paris.

Allow me to be slightly egotistical for once. The French are a humorous
nation, but, at the same time, full of serious moral feelings. They,
naturally, wished to do honour to one who had served Art as far as his
humble powers would permit him, and hence they raise a mighty tomb, which
in its monstrous want of taste does homage to the man whose monstrous
want of morals suggested the design.

The French, dear lady, are a nation of moralists. Their morals are
condensed, they have packed them so tightly that they cannot allow any
sense of humour to come through.

This mighty monument, built and designed to ornament my tomb, outraged
the moral sense of the French nation so deeply that they decided with one
voice that Wilde and Epstein taken together were dangerous to France. The
moral tone of the great nation would risk a blot upon its escutcheon if
this indelicate block of hewn and carven marble was permitted to stand

In this design a part of me is given, that part which the world has
chosen as my symbol. But this enormous mass of stone does not contain an
atom of that power which came to me direct from my great ancestors. The
power which can create and fashion beauty is absent from this mountain,
erected by a man who should have known, that each and all of us contain
both what is noble and divine, combined with what is built of heavy clay.

The French nation did me honour in refusing to permit a monument which
expressed merely the earthy clay.

(Someone said here that the monument expressed the spirit struggling to
shake off the clay.)

An insult such as this should not be offered to the artist. The artist
does not struggle from the clay. The artist is a spirit which creates,
not a mere body which is striving upwards.

My spirit, which created beauty, was spirit; a passionate spirit craving
for form and colour. It did not strive to break its bonds, because no
bonds were there to bind it. The monstrous creature shaped by Mr. Epstein
does not express the soul of Oscar Wilde. In rejecting it, the French did
me great service therefore. My wings were spread, ready to carry me away
into the heavens, not lying slack and lifeless. This was an instinct in
the French, this sure appreciation of my genius.


I bow to your call, dear lady. Why have I lost you? The world cares
little for a shade, but if the shadows of my thoughts still interest, I
am willing that they should go forth as little moths flit into the deep

(Asked about Freud's theory of dreams.)

Dreams, dear lady; in your sterile age, dreams are degraded even as
woman. Dreams are the food on which the children of the light subsist,
and in your age of cold and harsh ideas dreams have become the offal, not
the food. But if you listen to the poet's voice, the priest of beauty in
her shrine; dreams dwell far from the world, and in your gross age they
live on those who know that life is faded and without form, unless the
dream comes which creates for us the veritable image of beauty as she is.

We, who have passed beyond your ken, we only know what these men (Freud
and Jung) guess at. Tell the world that vision for it must ever be
obscure. While body still exists, the mind is trammelled by weights such
as the heaviest burden borne by man cannot compare to.



IN his recently published volume, "Thirty Years of Psychical Research,"
Professor Richet, that eminent physiologist, speaks of certain hitherto
discredited branches of abnormal psychology as having come within the
realm of science. He even opens the door to ectoplasms and pre-vision.
The fact that he devotes 626 pages to the demonstration of the scientific
value of such subjects means that we, who are interested in what used to
be called "ghosts" and "hauntings," need no longer be alarmed at
accepting phenomena of that nature as being of supreme interest. We may
reasonably cry aloud on the house-tops that we have been wiser than some
of our scientific brethren in devoting time and attention to the sifting
of evidence in this direction. For, although Professor Richet cautiously
limits his declared beliefs to the acceptance of cryptesthesia* as an
explanation of monitions, premonitions and pre-vision, he confirms his
belief in the genuineness of materialisations and so-called ectoplasmic
forms as scientific facts, admitting that, so far, he is unable to
explain them.

*A super-normal power of discovering what is unknown.

I feel that the acceptance of the phenomena of pre-vision by an eminent
scientific man is of supreme importance to psychical research. The
impossible seems to have become possible if we are permitted to feel that
we may, without ridicule, give grave attention to what comes to us in
dreams or from the clairvoyante in its bearing on future events. We shall
still have constant backslidings and disappointments, but we are
confirmed in believing that every case which comes in our way is worthy
of attention.

For many years we have talked about telepathy until that theory has
become so extended that it threatens to snap asunder, if it has not done
so already. We are still deeply occupied with the study of the
sub-conscious. It is flattering to feel that each of us possesses a deep
well of stored-up memories into which we may dive if conditions permit
us, and from this diving we may draw up creatures rare and strange. Their
long sojourn in the waters of Lethe bring them back to us as new ideas.

Now Professor Richet tells us that each of us possesses "cryptesthetic
power." We may not discover the fact during our earth existence, but if
we analyse our experiences sufficiently carefully we shall recognise that
occasionally we have had a glimpse of the unknown; that we have been
cognisant of facts which must be outside our sub-consciousness. So here
we pause and look back and find that two of the planks on which we stood
are floating out to sea. If we are to take Professor Richet seriously we
shall begin to put less faith in that speechless converse of mind with
mind which served us so long; we shall begin to wonder whether the vast
well of our memories really contains this swarming mass of images. The
submerged self is a comparatively new suggestion; it has absorbed us
since Freud boldly laid his map of our dreams before us.

We wonder what the next step will be. Professor Richet has heaped us with
responsibilities. Where it was a case of "agent and percipient," our
percipient has vanished; we alone are responsible for what we used to
call "telepathic" impressions. We create our own phantoms, we even
materialise them in some cases. Our automatic messages are all part of
ourselves. They are largely fished from the great well which we call the
sub-conscious, but when we recognise impressions which must be outside
our memories, because, as yet they have not become memories, we have
created them through that new sense which in future we shall recognise as
cryptesthesia. Professor Richet expresses absolute pain  in having to
make some of these admissions. He has not suffered the supreme pain,
however, of accepting the spiritist theory; which, of course, is the
simplest explanation of the shadows that beset us from time to time. He
seems more ready to believe that angels and demons are in touch with us
than to give consideration to the possibility that those, who loved the
world and what it contains, may survive in some form and seize any
opportunity, no matter how dim, to impress their continued existence on

For my own part, I am an agnostic in these matters; I dare not say I
believe in the experimental proof of survival, though it seems to me on
the whole a less romantic idea than belief in annihilation. At any rate,
in our psychic studies, we should always bear in mind the possibility
that our communications are coming direct from the minds of human beings
who once were imprisoned in the body. After all, telepathy, the
sub-conscious and cryptesthesia are only words which serve to express
ideas covering phenomena which are so mysterious that the scientific
truth about them to-day may be the childish folly of to-morrow.

One of Professor Richet's arguments against "spirit" communication is,
that, in most cases, when we get messages purporting to come from the
dead, they are of a poor and trivial nature and rather tend to show that
death deprives us of our finer mental parts. I entirely agree with this
criticism of much that I have come across. At times we sicken when it
dawns on us that death seems to diminish mental vision, if our messages
are to be accepted.

I think this difficulty may be largely due to the imperfect means of
communication at our disposal. If the medium could be dispensed with and
a suitable "telephone" invented between this world and the other, no
doubt results would be less uneven and clearer. I am quite certain that
the mental and physical condition of the medium makes or mars the
messages to a great extent. If conditions are satisfactory the
communicator takes entire command; the medium remains absolutely passive
and can be "used." Satisfactory conditions chiefly consist in freedom
from distraction of any kind whatever. Physical upset makes communication
almost impossible, any mental worry is still more mischievous; noise,
windy weather, etc., all injure the quality of what comes through. The
reason is very evident to anyone who has had experience of hypnotism. If
we are to be used as "instruments" we must remain passive. In order to
acquire complete passivity, anything that jars on the mind or distracts
it in any way or keeps the consciousness awake must be eliminated. Trance
or "somnambulism" is the most favourable state for good results, but
here, when entire control of the personality is possible, that entity
which we call the "guide" seems to interfere. I believe that many of the
trivial results, attributed to discarnate personalities, are in reality
the work of the "guide" or "control" of the medium. This happens less
frequently automatic writing or ouija work, because hypnosis of the
medium is slight and an alteration in the communicator would be observed
immediately by an experienced sitter.

The "Oscar Wilde" script which I offer to the public, both because of its
literary and psychic interest, seems to me to suggest definitely the
possibility that we may be in touch with an external influence. If I were
fully convinced of that fact, I should certainly be as fully convinced
that Oscar Wilde had spoken to the world again. I should not attribute
any messages so characteristic of the whole man to an impersonation on
the other side. I think in this case it is a choice of two hypotheses;
either Oscar Wilde is speaking, or the whole script, ouija board and
automatic writing must be derived from the subconsciousness or
clairvoyance of two mediums. In either case, the matter of the messages
and the manner in which they came are of such unusual interest that I
feel the entire case should he stated as fully as possible. I believe it
to be quite outside those which can be accused of being trivial or dull.
Perhaps it is best first to explain how these scripts came to us.

A gentleman, whom I shall call "Mr. V," had several sittings for ouija
board work with me at the British College of Psychic Science. He seemed
quite conversant with his subject, but gave me to understand that he had
no powers as a medium himself. He is a mathematician and is interested in
music, but, so far as I know, he has no special interest in literature. I
soon perceived that he was one of those persons, who, in some mysterious
way, are helpful at a sitting. He was very reticent, but I had a sense
that he made communication easy and harmonious. There was a clearness of
psychic atmosphere when I sat with him which is not usual with strangers
who come to me for the first time.

In May of the present year, Mr. V. joined a small class of mine for the
development of automatic writing. I had a firm conviction that he had
mediumistic power, but to my disappointment he made no progress at the
first two sittings, either with writing or the ouija board. He seemed in
fact to have less power than the other members of my class. At the third
meeting Mr. V. wrote for the first time. I rested my hand on his, while
he held the pencil, and a sentence or two were written slowly, purporting
to come from a deceased friend of his own. This was rather more
encouraging, but it did not indicate that Mr. V. possessed any special
facility for automatism.

At the fourth meeting, which took place at my own house, Mr. V. was the
only one of my class able to be present. He wished to continue the
automatic writing. So we pursued the same method as on the former
occasion. Mr. V. held the pencil, I sat beside him and rested my fingers
lightly on the back of his hand. Before we had started he asked me
whether it would make any difference if he closed his eyes. I was pleased
at his suggestion. On two former occasions that desire to work with
closed eyes had been the prelude to interesting results,

At first his pencil tapped repeatedly on the paper, then it began to move
more rapidly than at our last meeting. He wrote the name of his deceased
friend again; the message concerned his daughter Lily. "I want my
daughter Lily, my little Lily," it began. As the word "Lily" was written
I was sensible of an interruption; I felt instinctively that the
communicator had changed. I asked who was speaking; immediately "Oscar
Wilde" was written and the message continued more and more rapidly. I
looked at Mr. V. He seemed only half conscious, his eyes were closed. His
pencil was so firmly controlled that I found it very difficult to move it
from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. I lifted my hand
from his; the pencil stopped instantly; it merely tapped impatiently on
the paper.

These first scripts, written by Mr. V. and myself, were short in
comparison with some of the later ones. It seemed that he wrote in a
state of semi-coma and this condition was of short duration. He stopped
and spoke two or three times while writing the first communication; as
soon as his pencil began to move he dosed his eyes and looked
unconscious. I was surprised at the clearness and accuracy of the
writing. The words were divided, the t's crossed, the i's dotted, even
quotation marks were added and punctuation attended to. The signature
struck me as unusual, and on reading the script over I noticed that at
times a Greek a was used; also that there were strange breaks between the
letters of the words, such as d-eath, vin-tage, etc. Neither Mr. V. nor I
had ever seen Wilde's writing so far as we could remember. When he was
gone it struck me that it would be interesting to compare the script with
a fac-simile, if I could find one. I was singularly fortunate, for at the
Chelsea Book Club, not only did I see a facsimile of Wilde's writing, but
an autograph letter of his happened to be there for sale. I was amazed;
the handwritings seemed similar, allowing for the fact that our script
was written with a heavy pencil and the autograph letter, probably, with
a steel pen. There was a Greek a, used occasionally, not invariably; and
there were the long breaks between the letters of certain words.

In this first communication there are many points of interest; some of
them seem to indicate sub-conscious plagiarism. I shall deal in a later
chapter with passages which, though not actually quotations, bear a
strong resemblance to ideas and sentences in various published works of
Oscar Wilde's-" Intentions," "De Profundis," etc. Against the
sub-conscious theory is the fact that certain questions I asked were
answered in a manner indicating that the communicator did not reply from
material which was in Mr. V's mind or mine. I asked for the address in
Dublin where Sir William Wilde (his father) lived and with which Oscar
must have been familiar. I could have written it without a moment's
hesitation as I know the house well; probably it was not in Mr. V's mind
as he does not know Dublin. The reply was: "Near Dublin; my father was a
surgeon; these names are difficult to recall." I was disappointed, this
savoured of the usual dodging of evidence we meet with so often in
automatism. No. 1, Merrion Square, where Oscar Wilde lived, is in the
centre of the city. I continued: "Not at all difficult if you are really
Oscar Wilde." The pencil moved again and wrote: "I used to live near
here, Tite Street." I took my hand off Mr. V's for a moment and said:
"There is a Tite Street near here and he has spelt it correctly. I don't
know where he lived in London, do you?

Mr. V. replied: "I have never been in Chelsea until to-day, and, to the
best of my knowledge, I never heard of Tite Street." Oscar continued the
writing. My next question was, "What was your brother's name?" "William,"
then a stroke underneath, and below it "Willie" was written. I then asked
for Lady Wilde's nom de plume, and "Speranza" was written without
hesitation. So far as he can tell, Mr. V. did not know Oscar Wilde's
address in London and neither did I, and yet it was written without my
having asked for it. I knew the Dublin address and no attempt was made to
give it; I knew Lady Wilde"s nom de plume, Mr. V. did not, yet he wrote
it immediately it was asked for. Taking these facts into consideration,
it cannot be said that the information was in the mind of the mediums; it
might probably be accounted for by, cryptesthesia if we exclude the
possibility that Oscar Wilde may have been speaking.

At our next meeting several persons were present. Mr. Dingwall, research
officer of the Society for Psychical Research; Mr. B, who is an excellent
medium, and Miss Cummins, who has wide experience of psychic work.

Mr. Dingwall probably gave the impetus to our message that day. The
entire departure from the redundant style of our first script into the
"Wilde" epigram interested and amused us all. It seemed such an
unexpected development from that "other side" from which so often we get
either trivialities or empty pomposities. My suggestion that we might ask
some questions was swept aside haughtily by our communicator. Wilde has
twice refused to give definite proofs, but on several occasions he has
volunteered information which was not in the mind of either medium, so
far as they know, and which proves to be correct. While the little tale
about James McNeill Whistler was told by Mr. B., Mr. V. and I sat as
before, he holding the pencil while my hand rested on his. When the story
was finished the pencil moved and wrote: "With James vulgarity always
begins at home!"

I have observed during all these sittings that this communicator is very
sensitive to the influence of those present or to the condition of the
mind of either medium. This is, of course, quite natural, whether we
consider that Oscar Wilde is speaking or that the sub-consciousness of
the sitters is responsible. At the first sitting (allowing the
communicator was Oscar Wilde) the control seemed passionately anxious to
convince us of his identity; he proceeded to do so by pouring out an
essay which would at once arrest attention by reason of its similarity to
well-known passages in his prose works. It does not seem to me that the
fact that he almost quoted from his own writings proves it to be a case
of sub-conscious plagiarism, because, in later scripts, this is not the
case. Certainly in this short essay on the Society of Psychical Research
he does not quote, and yet, if it was read aloud, the name of the author
being kept back, I think it would immediately suggest Wilde to anyone
conversant with his work. I need hardly draw attention to what is
obvious, that, in judging automatic script, allowance must be made for
the intervention of the medium. If the brain of the medium or mediums is
used, their personality must lend a certain flavour to the communication.
Less of this is traceable in these writings than in the average automatic
message. Again, if we return to the suggestion of sub-conscious
plagiarism, it is well to make it clear that neither Mr. V. nor I had
ever had any special interest in Oscar Wilde. Mr. V. states that he had
only read "The Picture of Dorian Gray," "De Profundis," and "The Ballad
of Reading Gaol," and all these before the war. I had read more than Mr.
V. and I had been interested in Wilde's plays, but, except "Salome," I
had not read a page of Oscar Wilde's work for twenty years past. This, of
course, does not reduce the value of the sub-conscious explanation, but
it is as well to state exactly how things stood before the first message
came and to make it plain that no recent suggestion had recalled Oscar
Wilde to our memories.


The OUIJA Board

MORE than half this script came to me when I was sitting alone at the
ouija board. Perhaps I had better explain this method of communication,
as it seems less familiar to most people than automatic writing. The
ouija board, which I use, is an ordinary card table covered in green
baize. On this the letters of the alphabet are placed; they are cut out
singly and arranged in any convenient order. A sheet of plate glass is
laid over the table and the letters. When using the board I rest my
fingers on a small, heart-shaped piece of wood covered with rubber and
shod underneath with three pads of carpet felt. This little "traveller,"
very much the same as a planchette, without its pencil, flies over the
glass from letter to letter, I prefer it to automatic writing because of
the speed with which I can get messages in this way. A shorthand writer
is at times necessary owing to the rapidity with which the communications
are spelt out.

On the evening after the first script had come to Mr. V. and me, I tried
the experiment of asking whether Wilde would speak through the ouija
board to me alone. My control, "Johannes," was very unwilling to permit
this. Apparently he considered I was getting into bad company. With a
little persuasion, however, he consented, and soon the name "Oscar Wilde"
was spelt out. The traveller flew from letter to letter with its usual
lightning rapidity, occasionally making a pause as if the communicator
was feeling for the right word. I gathered that this was a conversation.
The script in the afternoon seemed more premeditated and rather of the
nature of a short essay; the ouija was a method of "talking" to Wilde. In
this first "talk," I interrupted him several times. I hoped that he might
give me some definite proofs of his identity. A hint of any intention of
the kind was evidently unwelcome. Various circumstances, which were not
in my mind or Mr. V's, have come through spontaneously, but a definite
demand for evidence was always refused. In this first talk Wilde
describes his condition on the "other side" in a most depressing manner.
In the automatic writing he had spoken of being in twilight, here he
makes it plain that some routine work has been given him which bores him
infinitely. He is shut away from the beauty of the world and doing what
is little better than "picking oakum in goal." It is here for the first
time he speaks of that nakedness of mind which lays our thoughts and
feelings bare when the "decorous garment of a body "is cast off. Ideas
grow stale," he says, and look like the slightly creased and dabbled
clothes of our friends on earth." I have never had a statement of this
kind in any message before. The average communicator sometimes speaks of
seeing into my mind; that is to be expected if it is being used; but no
one except Oscar Wilde has mentioned this exposure of thought. Amongst
the questions asked was, whether Mr. V's mind or mine was used when the
automatic writing came through. The reply, "through you, dear lady, he is
a 'tool,' you are the light that lets me peep into the world," must not
be taken literally. Some explanation was bound to come and this may have
been considered flattering to me. It is interesting that the word "tool"
should be used of Mr. V. In Mr. Bligh Bond's first "Glastonbury" scripts
two mediums were responsible, Mr. Bligh Bond and an automatic writer, and
in these scripts the automatist is always spoken of as "the instrument."
In cases of double mediumship, such as the Glastonbury and the Oscar
Wilde scripts, it is so difficult to deter; mine how the results are
produced that it seems almost idle to attempt to solve the problem. The
facts as they stand now are

1. Mr. V. and I produced the first five or six automatic scripts. I could
not get the handwriting without him; he could get nothing without my
2. I found that I could get communications from Wilde sitting at the
ouija board alone.
3. I tested Mr. V. with four different persons at my house, but out of
these only one succeeded in getting anything through with him.
4. When my daughter touched his hand the same writing, magnified at least
twelve times, appeared. Since then, I understand that Mr. V. has found
two other mediums with whom he can work. The nature of the writings seems
to vary with each medium. So far as I know no literary criticism has come
with anyone except myself. On the occasion, when a strong circle was
present, Mr. V. was able to write alone. I sat beside him. The script was
long; not Wilde at his best, I thought.*

*It must be recognised that in cases of double mediumship the
communications cannot be attributed to either operator alone. In my
experience the ideas expressed are more definitely connected with the
person who lays his hand on the writer's hand than with the actual
automatist. The messages are definitely a joint production.

This case of Oscar Wilde is the third instance of successful double
mediumship which has come to me during the twelve years I have been
working at Psychical Research. The first opened up the path to the most
interesting series of experiments I have ever had.* These were sittings
at the ouija board, of which I have spoken before; both the mediums being
blindfolded; the messages being taken down by a shorthand writer in
absolute silence, so that the sitters had no idea what they had been
spelling out until their masks were removed from their eyes. Mr. L, my
fellow-medium, had never seen a ouija board until one evening he came by
chance to my house. He failed to get any movement whatever with his eyes
open, but immediately they were closed messages came rapidly when he and
I sat with both our fingers on the traveller. Mr. L. found one other lady
with whom he could work, but his results with her were rather different
from his results with me. In this manner we did a long series of most
intricate telepathic tests and had many interesting messages, including a
very accurate prophecy of the course of the Balkan war, which came to us
on the day after hostilities had begun. After these blindfold sittings
with Mr. L. I found one other medium who could work with me in the same
way. Mr. X. had enormous "driving" power at the ouija board, but alone he
could not spell out one word coherently. When he and I sat together we
never failed to get script blindfolded; without my help he could move the
traveller about at a tremendous rate, but there it ended. He got no
coherent messages when he worked alone. I quote these two cases of Mr. L.
and Mr. X., who worked with me blindfolded, to show that better results
often come through double mediumship than through one person. It does not
follow that other sitters cannot succeed with either medium, it
demonstrates rather that there is a certain psychic harmony in which one
automatist seems to complete the other. It is a matter which is
difficult, if not impossible, to explain.

* See my book "Voices From the Void" (Rider).

Here I think I must impress the fact on those who are not familiar with
automatism, that both these ouija scripts and the automatic writing came
from Wilde at such a headlong pace that it is impossible to imagine that
the mediums could possibly have improvised them consciously. The only
possible accusation might be that they were composed and memorised. I can
vouch for my own being entirely unpremeditated, and in double mediumship
the fact that both operators have a share in the work, sets that
contention aside; memorising would not serve where there was more than
one automatist. The speed of both the ouija work and the writing was
tremendous. The long script (700 words), in which Wilde mentions the
planets, came through in an hour and a quarter on a sweltering day in

To return to my ouija scripts. After my first "talk" we had another
sitting for automatic writing, and the second half of that afternoon's
work was a little essay on the novels of H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and
Eden Philpotts. Wilde states in that essay that he is permitted to gather
a little of the literature of to-day by dipping into the minds of modern
novelists. He explains this method rather more fully to me in a later
ouija script. He says:

It is a rather entertaining process. I watch for my opportunity and when
the propitious moment comes I leap into their minds and gather rapidly
these impressions, which are largely collective." These statements were,
to say the least of it, astonishing. I felt that as the essay in
automatic writing had been so entertaining I might test the
communicator's powers in that direction a little further. The criticisms
of modern writers in the script are not my conscious criticisms, of that
I can speak definitely. I cannot answer for my sub-consciousness, but I
can hardly imagine that any part of my mind could speak as Wilde does
here. I found no difficulty in inducing him to give his opinion in any
case which occurs in the script; but twice I asked for his ideas about a
writer with whom he must have been familiar and with whom I am familiar
also: Henry James. There may have been a complex there; no results came
on either occasion. I am personally a great admirer of Henry James and
would have been interested to have "Oscar's" ideas on his work.

All through we have the continual repetition of the state of dimness on
the other side into which, apparently, "victims of the social convention"
are cast. It is quite obvious that Wilde has lost neither his pride nor
his egotism, but he complains repeatedly of the dimming of his senses
"for lack of light and colour." "My mind is now a rusty lock into which
the key grates with a rasp," he says. "It does not move easily and
lightly as it used." Later on he speaks of "these glimpses of the sun
keeping him from growing too mouldy here below." It has been objected by
some critics that these messages have not the edge which we find in
Wilde's finest prose. I feel the persons who expect a style equal to his
best know little or nothing of the difficulties of Psychic communication.
He ended his life a wreck, saddened and disappointed, and he has
evidently found a certain meed of punishment awaiting him at the other
side. He seizes on this chance of speaking again to the world, to which
his love of objective beauty still binds him fast. Can we reasonably hope
that his brilliance should be still untarnished, that the edge of his wit
should be as keen as in the nineties? As I have said in the foreword, I
assume throughout this book that I am convinced that Oscar Wilde is
actually speaking at these sittings. The fact is, I try to keep an
entirely open mind on this point, but "an open mind" means that the
spiritist theory must have a hearing, for, to my thinking, our
imagination must be called on in any case, whether we accept Professor
Richet's cryptesthesia or the sub-conscious or the spiritist theory as
our hypothesis. It seems that, taking into consideration the universal
faith inherent in human beings that we survive death, it is equally
probable that Oscar Wilde's spirit is communicating with us or that Mr.
V. and I, and in some cases I alone, possess cryptesthetic power, or
possibly, that this is a case of plagiarism, arising from the
sub-conscious, which is less likely in my opinion. All three explanations
must be taken into account, but it is simpler for me to assume that Oscar
Wilde is actually with us again when I write of these scripts.

I do not consider that, even if we do accept the view of some of our
critics that Wilde's genius is diminished and that the edge of his wit is
less finely ground than when he was alive, it detracts from the enormous
importance of our having produced something so much akin to his style
that it invites discussion. It must be borne in mind that this individual
style is coupled with handwriting which is remarkably like Wilde's; that
fact adds enormously to our evidence in favour of its being a genuine
case of continued personality. It demands a very wide stretch of
imagination to believe that sub-conscious memory from a possible glance
at Wilde's writing could produce hundreds of pages of script which never
varies in its imitation and is written in a handwriting which is totally
unlike Mr. V.'s or mine. Most of those facts which were unknown to the
mediums, but which I have verified as being correct, came in automatic
writing. One important point, however, occurs in the ouija script which
is of great psychic interest. I quote three passages from the ouija
messages relating to Wilde's state on the other side.

He says: "My dear lady, what will it be for you to lose your little
shape, to have no shape, to be a fluid and merely stream about in such an
undecided way that it is like drifting before a heavy tide." Again he
says, speaking of his mind that is now without a body to act as pilot
strays about fluidly in space."

In another passage he says: "The shades here are really too tumultuous.
They are overcrowded...."

In Sherard's "Real Oscar Wilde" (which I did not read until all these
scripts came through) he mentions a sitting for automatic writing held at
Andre Gide's house after Oscar's death. Ruyssemberg said: "We would like
to know your opinion of life beyond the grave." Wilde answered: "A
chaotic confusion of fluid nebulosities, a cloaque of souls." I think it
is interesting to find the same idea in two of the three communications
which we actually know of from Wilde since he passed over.

In the ouija script, I have on several occasions tried to discover what
this process of entering into the brain of the medium actually is.
Replies to my questions are as vague as such replies generally are. Wilde
says: "If I am to speak again as I used, or to use the pen, I must have a
clear brain to work with. It must let my thoughts flow through as fine
sand might if filtered through a glass cylinder. It must be clear and
there must be material which I can make use of." Again he says: "Even
when you are tired you are a perfect aeolian lyre that can record me as I
think." It is difficult to follow exactly what is meant here, more
especially as I cannot reproduce Wilde's handwriting. If the actual
content of the medium's brain is used, possibly a training in passivity
may serve, also the fact that, in my case, there has been a literary
training also.

I felt it rather difficult and dangerous ground to ask about Wilde's
prison experience. What goes to prove, I think, that the ouija talks and
the automatic writing are from the same source is that Wilde willingly
spoke to me of his sufferings in gaol and continued the subject without
any suggestion on our part on the next occasion when Mr. V. and I sat.
This "prison" script is quite in harmony with what came before. It would
seem that, if there is a ruling Providence which moulds our destinies,
Wilde's love of objective beauty had to be starved before the spirit
could assert itself. For, except in "De Profundis" and "The Ballad of
Reading Gaol," we get beauty of a certain type from him, but it is beauty
of the flesh not the spirit. If we may carry speculation a little further
it may be imagined that his prison life had purged him only to a slight
extent. There was a drifting back to evil conditions, partly, perhaps,
due to the fact that when he was free again, nothing was left him, not
even his power to Create. In the "Real Oscar Wilde," Sherard says: "The
terrible fact is, that he was drinking because he could not work. He was
seeking in the palpable Hell of being unable to produce, because his
brain was exhausted, the artificial Paradise that alcohol affords."
Possibly his social fall was merely the beginning of what is continued in
the Hades where he is now shut away again from the joy of, "seeing,"
which was nourishment his nature demanded.

Despair never really caught hold of Oscar Wilde; he had a hungry
eagerness for what the world contained and even in prison he used, when
in the infirmary, to entertain his fellows with jokes and stories. In the
ouija script he says that when he learnt the power of indignation he was
a living man again. But his present condition is different from his state
in Reading Gaol. He says: "It is a different darkness from that within my
cell. For over here the soul and spirit have reached a realisation of
themselves. Here is no glorious birth for soul and spirit as that which
sprang from me in Reading Gaol." I must make it quite clear that until
all my ouija talks had come through I did not dare to open a book about
Oscar Wilde. I had forgotten most of his work that I had read, and I had
never been sufficiently interested in him to look up any facts about his
life outside what was made public at the time of his trial. Even now I
refrain from reading Ransome's Life in case I should have further
sittings. As it is, I feel, having published this book, I have been
forced to enquire too deeply into the subject to make further script

A passage (in the ouija talks) where he speaks of women, is, I think, in
its idea at least, very characteristic of the man. "Woman was to me a
colour, a sound. She gave me all, she gave me  first desire, desire gave
birth to that mysterious essence which was within me. And from that
deeply distilled and perfumed drug my thoughts were born: and from my
thoughts words sprang. Each word I used became a child to me." This
worship of words is underlined in my script. Twice Wilde speaks of
"weaving patterns from words in his poems, and he also speaks of weaving
patterns from character "in his plays. This feeling for the sound of
words must have been strong in him, though I believe he, like many other
poets, was not musical. I have made several attempts to get him to speak
of music, with no success, although music is my own special subject. I
asked him to compare music and colour. He immediately replied that colour
was far more closely allied to literature than music, and, leaving out
the question of music altogether, began discussing its relation to words.

Again and again he emphasises the importance of dealing with the surface
of both society and literature and forebearing to "probe into the
intestines." His words were in reality his children rather than his
ideas. During his prison life, however, ideas dominated him, perhaps for
the first time.



NOW that I have described the methods as to how these communications came
to us, perhaps it is well to discuss the three explanations which are
most likely to present themselves to my readers.

First, and apparently simplest, is the theory that Oscar Wilde has arisen
from the subconscious memories of one or both of the mediums who produced
the script.

I have already disposed of the idea that Mr. V. or I had been reading
Wilde's books immediately before these messages came or that he or I were
enthusiastic admirers of his work. That is naturally what the man in the
street says when he glances at these writings. It is true that if either
of the mediums had been making a special study of Wilde's work, there
would be a very strong case for the sub-conscious. Even then there are
points which would throw it off its balance. I shall not discuss this
sub-conscious theory except as a possible result of our readings of Wilde
many years ago and a less possible result of one or both of the mediums
having at some time seen a fac-simile or autograph, which would account
for the handwriting.

We are told by Freud and Jung, whose work on this subject has met with
very general acceptance, that everything seen, known or heard of is
photographed indelibly on the sub-conscious mind; everything, literally,
which has become a memory is there. Therefore, if I had at some time in
my life (now remote) picked up a book in some shop or stall and glanced
at it momentarily, whatever had met my eyes would probably remain in my
sub-consciousness, buried, but still alive. So that, if conditions were
favourable, that memory might, as well as any other, rise to the surface.
Now what are the conditions that send these buried memories floating up
to the conscious mind from the sub-conscious? To put it very mildly, the
most favourable condition is suspension of consciousness. This occurs, of
course, in sleep, in hypnosis, in trance. In a lesser form, I believe it
occurs when the medium is writing automatically, using the ouija board or
gazing into a crystal. Under these circumstances we may draw up from the
well of our memories anything we have seen, known, or heard of.

I do not attempt to dispute this hypothesis; it has, like many others,
been proved and accepted. That of course does not mean that it will not
be disproved at some future time. There are stumbling blocks for the
unscientific person in accepting this theory. It seems difficult to
account for the strange selection of fish that we draw up in our net.

If the sub-conscious really holds all our memories, why is it that what
is brought to the surface is frequently what has been of no particular
moment to us? For instance, if Oscar Wilde arises from my memories he is
one among hundreds of literary persons who has interested me, but
distinctly a lesser light, not one of the authors who has made any real
impression on my mind. Why should my sub-consciousness amuse itself by
plagiarising his style rather than the style of any other writer who has
arrested my attention more fully? The reply to this is "because Wilde's
style is easy to plagiarise." If we accept the explanation that Mr. V.
and I (either or both of us) have drawn up Oscar Wilde in a moment of
suspended consciousness, what was the process? First, we had both read
some of Wilde's work, poems and prose, though not recently. Echoes from
that source might readily rise upwards. Then it will have to be supposed
that at some unknown time one or both of us had seen an autograph or
fac-simile of Wilde's handwriting. Further, we shall have to imagine that
at some vague period one or both of us had read or heard a number of
small and intricate facts relating to Wilde's life which remain
photographed on our sub-conscious memories, while others more important
cannot be induced to make their appearance. Now, from these rags and
tatters in the sub-consciousness we must imagine we can create a style so
similar to Wilde's that the chief question for the critics is whether it
is Wilde at his best or whether his "wit is tarnished," and also
handwriting which is almost a fac-simile of his manuscript and which
continues without a break through hundreds of MS. pages. That point seems
to me to be difficult to explain. These buried memories rise rather
dimly, as a rule. At times they present themselves as symbols of what is
to be conveyed. It requires a wide stretch of the imagination to believe
that a glance at a letter of Wilde's at some undefined period would
result in this sustained forgery. I fancy the most accomplished forger
would find it a tough job to carry on through even a hundred pages-much
less through our manuscript. Of course, speaking from my own small
experiments, I am quite aware that the sub-conscious mind can do what the
conscious mind is incapable of. Its clairvoyante or "cryptesthetic"
powers are entirely different from those of the conscious mind. In fact
in my own case semi-hypnosis seems actually to create powers which I do
not ordinarily possess. Normally I have no clairvoyante gift at all that
I am aware of, yet at the ouija board I develop a power of getting at
facts which are not present in my consciousness. In my normal state I
might hold an object in my hand for hours and get no impression of its
history, but at the ouija board I can do psychometry. These facts are, I
take it, due to a state of semi-hypnosis, although any person sitting
with me would probably say I was fully conscious. A very important point
in this case would be to discover where the suggestion arose which
brought about this Oscar Wilde episode. It seems apropos of nothing. I
sit at the ouija board and ask my control to write me a poem or an essay,
and, at a speed which far exceeds that of the fastest writing, a poem or
essay is written, which is perhaps crude but is quite beyond my powers
unless I were to sit and think. Here we have script after script poured
out at a headlong rate in Oscar Wilde's style; indeed, in his two styles,
for we get his over-ornate and redundant prose and that sharp caustic
humour of his alternately.

It is said that Wilde was not quick at repartee. Whistler's rapid shafts
of wit used to annoy him because he never could reply with equal speed.
If the ouija talks sometimes contain expressions which seem cruder than
anything Wilde might be supposed to have used, it should be remembered
that they are conversations; they certainly are not prepared as the
automatic writings appear to be. The latter nearly always savour of the

I am quite ready to admit that the whole case can be explained by anyone
who accepts Professor Richet's theory that, under certain circumstances a
clairvoyante power, above and beyond what we possess normally, comes to
us; but I am not inclined to think that it i's due to sub-conscious
plagiarism alone. It is too accurate, too sharply defined. What rises
from the submerged past of us is blurred in its outlines. It is ever
ready to accept suggestion and spin elaborate webs around it, but where
there is no suggestion it is inclined to be indefinite. From long
practice I have come to recognise little halts and hesitations where the
sub-conscious alone is at work. In producing these scripts we have
sometimes had long pauses, and with the ouija board there have been halts
where the communicator was obviously hunting for a happy expression, but
in neither case has there been the groping that comes when one feels
instinctively that we are dealing with the subconscious mind alone.

All that I have said on this subject seems a special pleading against the
conclusion (which might be arrived at rapidly by any intelligent outsider
who reads the scripts) that both mediums, having a certain knowledge of
Wilde's work, were plagiarising from their submerged memories. I think
the opinion of the medium is worth something on that point; I feel
instinctively that it was not the case.

If we take these scripts one by one and analyse them we shall find much
that speaks in favour of and against this idea. In the first automatic
writing we had a dozen or more passages which, though not quotations,
were parallel with passages in "De Profundis," "Dorian Gray," and
"Intentions." That fact, of course, is an argument in favour of the
subconscious idea. On the next occasion we had a completely uncalled for
essay on the Society for Psychical Research, suggested probably by the
presence of Mr. Dingwall. His presence there might have given the
sub-conscious mind a suggestion; but, if so, how very aptly it responded!
Going back to the first script it should be remembered that when I asked
the address at which Sir William and Lady Wilde lived in Dublin, which I
knew, the reply to my question was that it could not be recalled; but the
Tite Street address, which I did not know, was given. Mr. V. or I may
have had this information at some time, but that cannot be proved or
disproved. Later on we bad various facts given to us which we could not
have known consciously and which go to disprove the sub-conscious
hypothesis. Some of these related to Wilde's personality, small details
which could not have reached me unless I had read a life of Wilde or met
someone who knew him intimately. He left Ireland after he had graduated
at Trinity College, and I never came across any member of his family, or,
so far as I know, anyone who knew him personally. Except one, the
literary scripts all came through the ouija board. The first, which was
in automatic writing, deals with H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and Eden
Philpotts. Neither Mr. V. nor I had ever read a page of Eden Philpotts'
work and very little of Arnold Bennett's; rather more of Wells. It is
noticeable that very little is said of Wells. Both automatists were more
familiar with his work than that of either of the other novelists. Surely
more should have been photographed on our sub-conscious minds of Wells,
whose works are fairly familiar to us, than of Bennett, who is criticised
in greater detail and of whose writing we know far less. Again, in
speaking to me at the ouija board of Shaw, Galsworthy, Hardy, Meredith
and Moore, if this is sub-conscious criticism direct from my mind, the
submerged portion of me must hold entirely different opinions from my
consciousness. Joyce, I had not read. I had glanced at a few pages at the
beginning of his book, but felt the task beyond my powers and resigned
myself to being one of the persons who had not succeeded with "Ulysses."
I admit, of course, that in some indirect way, I might have gathered that
Philpotts wrote about Dartmoor. If so, I have absolutely no recollection
of the fact. Mr. V. was as much at sea about this allusion to Devonshire
as I was. I admit also that my sub-conscious mind may be the direct
opposite of my conscious mind. It is a fact which no one can prove or
disprove. If so, the literary criticism of my sub-consciousness in its
opposition to my consciousness is singularly accurate, except in the case
of Galsworthy, where in a sense I agree with Wilde. Then there arises
that interesting point, which could not possibly have come from me,
consciously or subconsciously. On those three or four different
occasions, always through the ouija board, Wilde speaks of the "fluid
state of his mind at the other side." I have referred to this incident in
a previous chapter and pointed out that at the seance after Wilde's death
he has described his condition in almost the same words as in my script;
the IDEA is exactly the same. How did this idea reach me? It does not
strengthen the sub-conscious theory.

In the last message that came through the automatic writing-which
consists of a series of tattered memories-Wilde says: "I was M. Sebastian
MELNOTTE in those days." This was quoted to me as definite proof that the
subconscious memory had supplied the word, as MELMOTH was the name which
Wilde took after he left prison. On looking again at the original
automatic script, I found that the name was first spelt Melnotte and
afterwards Melmoth. Strangely enough, some weeks later I saw in The Times
a notice of a sale of Oscar Wilde's letters. In it was mention of several
of these being signed "Sebastian Melmoth," and further, there was one in
which Wilde asked that the reply should be addressed M. Sebastian
Melnotte. He says in that letter that he will explain the change later
on. These facts cannot have arisen from either Mr. V.'s mind or mine.
Neither of us knew consciously the name Wilde had taken and certainly we
did not know that he had used two different versions of that name.

Again, in the script in which the planets are mentioned, some knowledge
of astronomy is displayed which might come from Mr. V's brain. He, being
a mathematician, is naturally conversant with this subject. This can be
used as a prop for the sub-conscious case. It seems, however, to be
expected that the communicator will make use of what is in the brain of
the medium; these references to the history of astronomy are selected by
Wilde merely to illustrate his own argument; possibly the literary
criticisms may have been helped by the material in mine, though, of
course, that is less probable, as Wilde was distinguished in literature.
I therefore ask my readers to pause and consider a while before they
decide that the script contained in this book is merely sub-conscious
plagiarism from the medium or mediums as the case may be. I am quite
willing to admit the possibility that it may arise mainly from the
subconsciousness; but before deciding I would ask that these who take it
seriously would weigh what evidence there is, and would consider whether
this evidence covers all the ground. To my mind the completeness of these
results show some more subtle cause. I feel that the handwriting is the
point that almost decides me against this hypothesis. Sceptics are often
more credulous than persons who allow their imagination to carry them
away in a different direction, who admit that there may be a larger
reality outside themselves.

Apropos of the unbelievers I am glad to find in Professor Richet's new
book that he sets aside the argument, so often repeated to me, that every
medium is a fraud; that the professional medium has taken pains to become
so expert a conjuror that he or she might well make an easier living on
the music hall stage; or that a private "Scotland Yard" is employed by
the average clairvoyante in order to discover facts about every client
who knocks at his or her door. It seems, on the face of it, rather absurd
to imagine that the very moderate fee offered to the professional medium
could cover such heavy expenses. These however, are the arguments put
forward by highly intelligent and sceptical persons deeply interested in
Psychical Research, perhaps because they suffer the pain which Professor
Richet speaks of, the pain which comes from belief being wrung from us in
what we hoped was the impossible. I can say with perfect sincerity that I
believe in my sub-conscious mind. No one who has worked for so long at
experiments under various degrees of hypnosis could deny the fact for a
moment. What I doubt is, that as definite an entity as the Oscar Wilde of
these scripts can be dramatised by Mr. V. or myself. Possibly there is a
mingled condition here. The subconscious may supply a part and under
these conditions cryptesthetic power may also come into play. We are
dealing largely with words. "The sub-conscious" and "cryptesthesia"
express ideas that serve us for a time, and will surely be superseded by
others as our knowledge increases. We may, in fact, be coming towards the
time when we shall all be forced to admit the presence of an external
influence in cases such as this. We may even be reduced to the stage of
believing some of the statements of their identity which our
communicators make to us. I admit that in many instances they lead us
astray, but I think the best results are obtained by taking them at their
face value. That, of course, is the medium's point of view while
experimenting. The medium should produce as much evidence as possible,
should ask no questions until he has arrived at the limit of production,
and then add his criticism to that of the scientists. For, as in some
ways the actor is the best and most intimate critic of drama, the medium,
who has instinctively FELT results, can explain them from a point of view
arrived at by no other person. We, however, want many opinions on cases
such as this. I feel that, when possible, it is a duty to offer such
material to the public in order that its value may be thoroughly sifted.



LET us now consider this case from Professor Richet's point of view and
see how far it will lead us towards solving the problem of Oscar Wilde's
unexpected appearance. Let us set aside the suggestion that he may
possibly be speaking to us from some unknown region, the conditions of
which we are unable to understand, and assume that our script has risen
entirely through the medium's clairvoyante or cryptesthetic powers.

To express it simply. Professor Richet's theory is that science has
proved, under conditions which cannot be definitely defined, that it is
possible to develop "cryptesthesia," a supernormal power by which we
become aware of facts unknown to us in either the present, past or
future. We have therefore no proof of survival and none is possible.

Such a hypothesis can carry us over all the ground if we are ready to
accept it. In my first chapter I have already spoken of this solution of
the difficulties that beset the student of Psychic Science. I shall not
say that I am wholly convinced by it, but I am quite ready to admit that
it is entirely logical and would probably be entirely satisfactory to
certain types of mind. In fact to these persons it will be an immense
relief to shake off all the difficulties of proving survival and rest on
a basis which seems natural and conceivable.

As I continued to read "Thirty Years of Psychical Research "I grew more
and more interested. We progress from telepathy to monitions and
premonitions to the problem of psychometry, which seems insoluble to
ordinary mortals, to pre-vision, an even more impossible puzzle, and we
finish with hauntings. There we call a halt; for, so far,
materialisations and "telekenesis,"* etc., though scientific facts,
cannot be explained; cryptesthesia does not take us quite the whole way.

*The levitation of objects without contact with the medium.

We must not be alarmed in discussing Professor Richet's theories by the
fact that the strain on our imagination will be more severe than if we
admit the possibility of survival. Through countless ages we have been
taught to look forward to a life beyond the grave where reward or
punishment awaits us according to our deserts. This belief is so embedded
in our nature that it requires less effort to entertain it than to accept
a series of ideas dealing purely with what is intangible; which involves
faith in a power, the possession of which has been hitherto discredited
by many of our scientists. For cryptesthesia is practically what we used
to call clairvoyance. It is more extended in its application; it is the
power of "seeing more clearly" than the ordinary mortal, seeing in many
directions to which the "clairvoyante" vision was not supposed to extend.
What amazes me most in reading Professor Richet's book is that he accepts
more than many of us, provided the case fits in with his central idea.
Trifles, which seem hardly worth recording, present themselves to him as
fresh evidence of his hypothesis. We recognise that with Professor Richet
cryptesthesia fills all the cracks; we must preserve a critical attitude
and not permit ourselves to be carried away too far by his enthusiasm,

Let us now analyse the case of Oscar Wilde from Professor Richet's point
of view.

In speaking of Mrs. Piper's phenomena, Richet says: "When these entities
manifest, they make mistakes, trifle so childishly, forget so much and
show such reticences that it is impossible to believe that the spirit of
a deceased person has returned." That is a very sweeping statement. Even
I, with a very limited experience, and that without the help of any
professional trance medium, deny that communication purporting to be from
the dead is, as a rule, childish and futile; I agree that my
communicators seem to have forgotten most facts connected with their
earth life, and, more strangely still, they sometimes seem to have
forgotten their own names and the names of their friends, but I do not
often get what could be called "childish" messages from them. In another
passage Professor Richet says: "The poor spiritist personality is not in
any way incoherent, it is simply low grade, and very low grade, being
with few exceptions much below average intelligence." I have usually five
to seven sittings in the week at the ouija board and my results vary
considerably. I find, if intelligent questions are asked, intelligent
answers are given. In fact I should say that, far from being low grade,
the spirit personality I come across is extremely interesting so long as
it is speaking of conditions on the other side; the difficulty as a rule
is that its memory of earth life is dim, it forgets names and details,
which may be accounted for by its distance from the earth atmosphere. We,
however, look naturally for clear and distinct proofs of an earth
existence, and if what we get deals chiefly with the future state we
attribute the communication to the subconsciousness of the medium, and
possibly we are right.

We must, however, for the moment, adopt Professor Richet's explanation of
the appearance of Oscar Wilde. We must assume that when we had that first
sitting for automatic writing, at which he professed to speak, Mr. V. and
I brought our cryptesthetic powers into play, we impersonated Oscar Wilde
and, playing up to the impersonation, through our sub-conscious minds, we
made use of the submerged memories of Wilde's works and personality,
which we possessed from reading his books. A very remarkable feat-at a
first sitting for automatic writing. The imitation of style, Professor
Richet would say, is "parody, not authorship. It is clever literary work,
but it does not come from a Beyond. The human intelligence that composes
this prose is in no way beyond human powers." I believe that there have
been a good many cases in which distinguished persons have purported to
speak from "Beyond." Most of these have, in reality, been parodies. The
style is a dim reflection of that of the author who is supposed to be
writing; I have not personally come across a case where a clever
imitation of style was combined with a clever imitation of handwriting.

What is Professor Richet's explanation of the handwriting? "The
similitude of handwriting need not trouble us," he says, "for there is
nothing to show that cryptesthesia may not extend even to that. Helen
Smith sees before her the signature of Burnier by her cryptesthesia, and
then she imagines herself to be Burnier in virtue of the natural tendency
of mediums to impersonate." My only objection to this last contention is
that, even if Helen Smith sees Burnier's signature through her
cryptesthesia (a signature that includes only a few of the letters of the
alphabet), will it leave a sufficiently enduring impression to carry her
through hundreds of pages of MS. without any alteration in the
handwriting? Perhaps; but we must admit that a great stretch of
imagination is required to suppose so; and that at least the Oscar Wilde
script is a remarkable case.

I have said that I did not think the explanation of sub-conscious
plagiarism covered the ground. I feel sure, however, that cryptesthesia
covers it completely if we accept this hypothesis, because, once
awakened, that power can develop cognition of facts unknown to the
sitters. Therefore, Professor Richet contends it is impossible to prove
survival. He also contends that the existence of cryptesthesia is a fact,
which is demonstrated by hundreds of instances which he quotes. I agree
with Professor Richet that, in a sense, it is impossible to prove
survival. Proofs on a subject so much outside human experience are, at
best, only partially convincing; but in defining "metapsychical facts,"
he says, "they seem due to unknown but intelligent forces, including
among these unknown intelligences the astonishing phenomena of our
subconsciousness"; and he defines cryptesthesia further on as "a
sensibility whose nature escapes us. If so, if we are dealing with
"unknown" intelligences, we are not in a position to assert that Oscar
Wilde is or is not an extension of our own faculties. This "unknown
intelligence" may surely be the discarnate mind of Oscar Wilde himself.
Professor Richet says, speaking of "Raymond," "Cryptesthesia is always
partial, defective, symbolical and so mixed with errors and puerilities
that it is difficult to believe that the consciousness of a deceased
person can be limited to such a degree." Does that criticism apply to the
series of scripts now before us? Symbolism is, I think, ruled out in this
case, and, even if the facts in the scripts which were unknown to us are
few, they are not "errors" or "puerilities." Therefore, accepting
Professor Richet's own statements, this is not a typical case of

Taking the scripts one by one, we must suppose that the first was largely
due to the subconscious. The two mediums had a certain content of Wilde's
writing in their minds, and from those memories they built up an essay
which had many sentences in it containing ideas from Wilde's published
works, sometimes even the words being almost identical with phrases from
"De Profundis," "Dorian Gray," etc. The handwriting must have been due to
the fact that Mr. V. or I had glanced at an autograph or fac-simile of
Wilde's handwriting at some time, now forgotten. In the state of
"semi-somnambulism" induced by automatism, the cryptesthetic powers of
one or both mediums was aroused, hence the address in Tite Street,
unknown to either of us. It seems strange, under these circumstances,
that the address in Dublin was not given. Mr. V. knew neither it nor
"Speranza," Lady Wilde's nom de plume. I knew both. At the second
sitting, at which Mr. Dingwall was present, HE gave the suggestion to the
sub-conscious minds of the mediums, and the essay on the Society for
Psychical Research was the result. Cryptesthesia was not evident here
except in supplying the name of Mrs. Chan Toon, who was unknown to
either, medium.

The second essay on that afternoon, in which Wells, Bennett and Philpotts
are spoken of, was, of course, due to the sub-conscious minds of both
sitters, except in the case of Philpotts, where cryptesthesia may have
accounted for the allusion to Dartmoor. Of course some casual glance at a
volume in a book shop or a review of one of Philpotts' novels may have
dropped that memory into the sub-conscious mind of either or both

Then comes that question of Wilde's references to his fluid state of mind
and "cloaque of souls" of the seance at Andre Gide's, which finds an echo
in the ouija script. "The shades are really too tumultuous. They are
overcrowded and we get confused by seeing into each other's thoughts." I
must have, through my cryptesthesia, got at the fact that Wilde had
professed to speak through automatic writing before and have gathered the
ideas that were communicated on that occasion.

Again, in the ouija script, dealing with his prison life, I seem to
follow the actual state of Wilde's mind, so far as we can judge from what
Sherard, who frequently visited him in gaol, has told us. First, despair
seems to have seized him; he, however, rose from this, and, pressing from
fury and despair to resignation, made use of the resources of the prison,
and before he left, through his good conduct, his life became more
tolerable, and he was permitted to have abundant books and periodicals to
read. This particular script, I have no doubt, would be relegated by
Professor Richet as an entirely sub-conscious production.

Now, taking the last section, which came through in automatic writing,
partly through Mr. V. and myself, and partly through him with my
daughter's hand resting on his, we find a number of ragged bits of memory
giving us some interesting points which I have been able to verify and
some which are of such a trivial nature that it would be impossible to
get evidence for their truth or the reverse. I cannot, so far, verify
that a story was spread by Wilde about Pater's wishing to kiss his hand.
I have verified the fact, unknown to me when the writing came through,
that Pater was a very silent person in company. The next memory,
recalling a little farm at Glencree, was interesting. Wilde makes two
shots at the name: "McCree-Cree-no, that's not the name-Glencree." I
knew; Mr. V. could not have known, as he has never been in Ireland, that,
high up in the mountains twelve miles from Dublin, there is a lonely
valley called Glencree. Wilde speaks of staying there with "Willie and
Iso." Of course, I knew Willie must be his brother, but I had never heard
he had a sister. I find now that Oscar was very much attached to his only
sister, "Isola," who died when she was eight years old.

He speaks of an old priest, "Father Prid*-Prideau," who gave them lessons
there. I wrote to Glencree reformatory school and, through the courtesy
of Father Foley, ascertained that sixty years ago Father Prideau Fox was
manager of that school, at Glencree.

* This information I now find I could have obtained had I seen Donahoe's
Magazine (Boston, Mass., USA) for April 1905. Father Lawrence Charles
Prideau Fox states in an article he contributed to that magazine that he
knew Lady Wilde and baptised Oscar.

We then come to the passage where the village of Bernaval is mentioned.
At that time my daughter had her hand on Mr. V's; she knew nothing
whatever about Wilde's life, neither did Mr. V. nor I know that Wilde
stayed at Bernaval when he left prison. Then comes the point about the
name Melmoth or Melnotte, to which I referred previously. The little
story about Whistler is so trifling that I hardly hope to confirm it.
Here therefore, in this one small section, we have evidence in several
instances of the cryptesthetic power of the mediums.

In another short script, speaking of work, Wilde says: "I once trundled
the barrow for poor old John Ruskin." This referred to his Oxford days
when Ruskin used to invite his students to work in the garden. When the
writing came through the fact was unknown to us.

In his final chapter Professor Richet says:

Every phenomena of cryptesthesia must be preceded by an exterior energy
that has started it; some unknown vibration, that has set in motion the
latent energies of our human mind, unaware of its powers." Therefore even
mental mediumship must be in a sense objective, if we allow that it is
due originally to an "exterior energy." Strange that any energy or
vibration should start two uninterested persons, quite unpremeditatively,
on these long plagiarisms of Oscar Wilde, unless that vibration comes
from something that was once the Oscar Wilde we knew. In another passage
Professor Richet says: "In certain cases, rare indeed, but whose
significance I do not disguise, there are, apparently at least,
intelligent and reasoned intentions, forces and wills in the phenomena
produced." I cannot help feeling that Richet has almost admitted that an
external influence is responsible in some cases at least. He mentions
that Geley, who no doubt would prefer to attribute all phenomena to the
sub-conscious, states that "the high and complex phenomena of mediumship
seem to show external direction and intention that cannot be referred to
the medium or the experimenters."

I have tried, as far as is in my power, to put the case fairly to my
readers. I feel, personally, that it may well be attributed to
cryptesthesia in conjunction with the sub-conscious. The original
suggestion puzzles me, however. I fail to see what started us so
unexpectedly on this line, if we leave out the spirit hypothesis. In
judging these scripts, the greatest weight should be given to the
theories of Professor Richet, who is undoubtedly, one of the most
important living thinkers on this subject. He is so frank and definite in
his statements that we know exactly where we are with him. He has
admitted far more than I should have dared to expect, and he has placed
at our disposal a very logical explanation of the most difficult points
in Psychical Research. He has found an argument to clear up the mystery
of psychometry, that power by which through unknown means the history of
an inanimate object may be gathered by certain persons. I incline to
disagree with him that the presence of an object is not a necessity, and
I speak from extended experience. My point is that the suggestion should
be there to awake this super-normal power. Again, Richet recognises it as
a demonstrated fact that under similar conditions we can see future
events. "There are premonitions," he says. He explains this as cognition
of future events through cryptesthesia; how these suggestions reach the
clairvoyante he cannot conjecture. With respect and gratitude to
Professor Richet, I feel that his theory is too incomplete to warrant our
accepting it in its entirety yet awhile. Myers, who admitted the survival
of personality as an explanation of our messages and visions, asked less
of our imagination than Richet does. Although we know how important is
the part which the sub-conscious plays in our work, we naturally look for
some raison d'etre for visitations like this of Oscar Wilde. If Professor
Richet could explain why and from where the original suggestion came, we
should listen to the rest of his argument with more conviction. In
reading his concluding chapter, I felt that on one very important point
he and I take different roads. He speaks most reasonably when he says:
"Why should there not be intelligent and puissant beings distinct from
those perceptible by our senses? By what right should we dare to affirm,
on the basis of our limited senses, our defective intellect and our
scientific past, as yet hardly three centuries old, that in the vast
Cosmos man is the sole intelligent being and that all mental reality
always depends upon nerve cells irrigated with oxygenated blood?"...He
speaks again of "mysterious beings, angels, or demons, existences devoid
of form, or spirits which now and then seek to intervene in our lives,
who can by means entirely unknown mould matter at will...and who, to make
themselves known (which they could not otherwise do) assume the bodily
and psychological aspect of vanished personalities-all this is a simple
manner of expressing and understanding the greater part of metapsychic

Now here Professor Richet and I part company. I am as ready as he is to
believe in the existence of angels and demons and mysterious beings, but
that it should be supposed more conceivable that a case such as the one
we are dealing with is an impersonation by an angel or demon, rather than
a communication from the discarnate mind of Oscar Wilde, is quite
unreasonable to my thinking and simply complicates our difficulties. I am
ready to admit that in the early stages of the development of mediumship,
impersonations are common. These, however, can be easily recognised by
any experienced sitter, and seem to me, if I may speculate, to be of the
poltergeist order. The messages are vague and foolish and lead nowhere.
The case we are considering is of a different nature.

I believe therefore that, if we are ready to accept Professor Richet's
theory in its entirety, we may regard the Oscar Wilde script as a very
notable case of cryptesthesia aroused in both the mediums.



IT may be well now, as we have discussed two possible explanations of
Oscar Wilde's appearance, to consider a third. It may be Wilde himself
who is speaking to us again. It is the obvious and simple explanation,
but many of us set it aside; perhaps because, in accepting it, our
imagination is not sufficiently excited. Why are our scientists so slow
to admit the possibility that we survive death? Professor Richet's theory
of cryptesthesia is difficult. I do not agree with him that it is proved
as yet; it does not cover all the phenomena which he admits are genuine.
In arriving at this stage he has suffered actual "pain" as each fresh
proof forced itself on him; and yet he states that he considers belief in
survival superfluous when applied to the hundreds of cases he quotes. I
can follow his argument, and I believe he will go further. In my long
course of slow, humble experiments I have experienced no "pain" in
advancing towards faith in survival. I HAVE found very great difficulty
in believing that, through my pencil or the ouija board, I am actually in
communication with the dead. It has taken me twelve years to arrive at a
stage when, reviewing my own work, I can see that it is of some real
value. Until a mass of evidence has been piled up, there is little or no
use in applying criticism to any psychic subject. A few cases teach us
nothing and prove as little.

Those who believe in annihilation are among the credulous; they have
fixed a dogma for themselves on very slight grounds, so far as we can
see, and every day, I think, will lessen their numbers. I was never one
of them, so naturally I fail to understand their attitude. Neither can I
understand the attitude of those who accept all the vapid messages we get
from what they call the other side." Professor Richet says that we cannot
PROVE survival, and I think he is right. What we can do is to review our
evidence fairly and without prejudice; thus each of us can come to his
own conclusions. This is demanding a great deal, for prejudices are
deeply rooted complexes in the sub-consciousness, which have such a firm
hold that we cannot consciously shake them off. Granting that we have a
mass of evidence before us, how should we deal with it? The only really
satisfactory method is to MAKE our own results; in other words, to arrive
at them through our own experiments. We cannot all do this; many of us
must take the word of those who have had the power to act as mediums,
even in a small way, and who have devoted a great deal of time for a
number of years in order to evolve some theory on the subject.

Proof of survival varies with the minds of individuals. I meet a great
many people who are most anxious to get in touch with the dead; the
proofs they desire might be placed roughly into two classes. They demand
either messages of an emotional nature, or a number of small and
unimportant details connected with the supposed communicator's earth
life. Few are interested in allowing an entire personality to reconstruct
itself slowly through the medium. Of course the ideal should be to
combine an accurate memory, of the earth life with the mentality that we
were familiar with and through a number of sittings to heap up evidence
that the personality survives. These ideal proofs, however, are very
rare; we generally get a few small details of the earth life or a number
of rather vapid messages of a consoling order from our mediums. Now, if I
may express an opinion on such an entirely metaphysical point as to the
value of these messages, I should say that the recollection of small
details of the existence on earth constitutes, by itself, but a very
imperfect proof of continued personality. Still less does evidence such
as The Times "tests," which, though of enormous value as proving
Professor Richet's theory of cryptesthesia and of very great interest,
seem to me to be ludicrous as evidence of an after life. In Professor
Richet's words, I feel that spirit intervention is superfluous here,
unless it is ascribed to the mysterious entity which we call the "spirit
guide." If I were at the telephone, anxiously trying to prove my identity
to some near friend or relative, I would scarcely be inclined to tell him
that the shop window round the corner was broken or that in The Times of
to-morrow morning he would see on the third column, near the bottom of
the page, the name of some place where he and I had stayed, or of some
person we had met. It seems to me, looking at it from the rational point
of view, that this would be outside probability. Neither do I take it as
a proof of survival that the dead are supposed to be occupied in
superintending the business affairs of the living. It is inconceivable
that a discarnate mind can trouble itself about the investment of money,
the terms of a lease, the taking of a house, etc. Indeed, accuracy in
giving names of people and places is no proof either. These can all come
through super-normal cognition of the medium or through the "guide." Yet
these are the results which convince many persons. To me, even the
emotional or sentimental message, if characteristic, is worth more than
this. All these cases to which I have alluded are of more value to the
student of psychology than any evidence of the after life which we can
offer him, and he will do well to devote time and trouble to the study of
such surprising phenomena; but, to my thinking, he need not connect this
type of evidence with the discarnate spirit of any dead person.

If I were asked, then, to state what I consider proof of an after life, I
should reply reconstruction of personality. If we ever really attain to
this it cannot be ascribed to cryptesthesia from the medium. If, in
twelve sittings with X., I am satisfied that I have been in touch with my
father's personality, if his train of thought and ideas have been
reconstructed and the style of his conversation preserved, I have a more
definite proof that his mind is still alive, than if he told me I ought
to invest 100, which I happen to have at hand, in war bonds, or that I
should see a sentence in a certain position, on a certain date in The
Times, in which the word "cork" would occur, which is the name of the
town in which he was born. The reconstruction of personality coming
through a medium, who had not known my father, would require powers quite
beyond the scope of Professor Richet's cryptesthesia. It would require
sustained powers, lasting through many sittings, if the subtleties of the
human mind were revealed. The proof we demand is that MIND survives;
small details could at best be merely an indication that somehow a memory
remained. If, however, we believe that inanimate objects retain memories,
which I consider an indisputable fact, as I have proved it through dozens
of experiments, then it seems possible that any person who retains
memories may convey them to the medium telepathically, or that
cryptesthesia may be aroused. Trifling details do not necessarily
indicate that a discarnate personality is there.

Sir Hugh Lane spoke to Mr. Lennox Robinson and me on the evening on which
the news of the loss of the Lusitania reached Dublin, and before either
of us knew he was on board the wrecked vessel. That message was, in a
sense, very convincing, although some of the details given were
incorrect. I confess it did not convince me. A good deal of what came
through was personal and could have been constructed by our subconscious
minds. The subsequent sittings, however, shook my faith in the
worthlessness of this first message. At every sitting for months
afterwards, Sir Hugh came pressing through impetuously with messages
about the return of his pictures (now in the London National Gallery) to
Dublin. Again, I could have constructed the matter, but the manner of the
communication and the character were so definitely Sir Hugh's that I have
now no doubt that he survives, somewhere, somehow!

I have tried to explain what I consider the only logical method of
criticising evidence of human survival, and if we analyse the cases which
have been made public we shall find that very few of them are
reconstructions of personality, and of course much of the evidence is of
such a private and personal nature that the public is unable to follow
it. Some communications from celebrated persons have a tinge of what we
might expect, but I have not come across anything really valuable in this
line. And yet it should be very much easier to reconstruct a public
character if the sub-conscious mind is capable of reproducing
personality. In Professor Richet's book he quotes several extracts from
communications of supposed celebrities, and in reading them I felt he was
justified in attributing them to the sub-conscious mind. They seemed
hardly more than conscious plagiarism.

The case of Oscar Wilde differs, I think, from those quoted by Professor
Richet. Our script is long and continuous; the same personality is there
from beginning to end; a personality which is unmistakable, with which we
are familiar to an unusual extent because of the strange vicissitudes of
his career. We have three separate proofs in this script of the identity
of our communicator. First, similar handwriting; secondly, his style, or
rather his two styles, and thirdly, his ideas; his mind, in other words.

If we had this handwriting alone, it would be very curious and
interesting, because here, many of the characteristics of Oscar Wilde's
writing are to be found, and his was no ordinary hand which could easily
be imitated. It has all the flow and irregularity characteristic of the
artist. Of course if this had been our only proof it should of necessity
be attributed to sub-conscious memory. Even if a vague resemblance of
style were added, we should still reject it as a proof of survival. What
we demand is that, added to this handwriting, there should be the style
of Wilde's writings, and, above all, the mind behind it. Now, if we
analyse these scripts I think we shall find that we have one of the rare
cases where evidence can be said to be complete. Let us imagine that in
the Unseen, Oscar Wilde is making an attempt to convince us that he is
still alive. He seizes the pencil from another writer at the mention of
the word Lily and proceeds to give us a proof of his existence by an
essay, in which he continually inserts passages which might remind us of
his work. He is naturally rather annoyed with me when I interrupt him and
ask questions; he is only experimenting with his mediums and finds them
clumsy tools at first. He is not thinking of reproducing his style at its
best, he is anxious to force his identity on us.

At the second sitting, he has realised how difficult it is to convince
those who are still alive; he therefore finds in the Society for
Psychical Research, that society of "magnificent doubters," a fine
opportunity. He is in the same position over there as we are here; why
should he not found a "Society of Superannuated Shades" for the
investigation of the living. Who but Oscar Wilde could have written this
little message; he cannot be said to have lost his sense of humour in the
twilight. In the literary talks, again we have all the characteristics of
Wilde's mind. His play of words on the ideas of others is a game which he
finds irresistible. He shoots out his remarks without any feeling of
veneration for his literary brethren; these impish phrases trip off his
tongue, grazing the surf ace of things; even here he is not occupied so
much with the writers he is criticising as with his power to dock them
off with a few well-selected words.

The spiritist should be interested by some ideas in the ouija script of
the life beyond, which are, I think, unusual. I have not come across them
myself before. The nakedness of mind, of which I have previously spoken,
is new to me, also the fluid mental conditions, which Wilde does not
explain, are unlike what we meet with in the usual automatic message. On
what plane or sphere are we cast into twilight, shut away from light and
beauty and given dull and monotonous tasks to perform? We may well ask
why this further punishment has been inflicted on a soul who has suffered
so deeply in his earth life. We can only speculate. Perhaps through his
too highly developed senses, Wilde failed to reach his spiritual part
except during those dreadful years in prison when he realised for the
first time what the beauty of sorrow meant. His spirit may have found
expression for the first time within the walls of his cell; it may have
owed its birth to misfortune. Two years are a short time out of prison, a
long time there. The spirit of Oscar Wilde left Reading Gaol an infant;
an infant proud and glad of its birth, if we are to take "De Profundis"
as a sincere expression of Wilde's feelings. It left its sterile nursery
to face a bitter wind of scorn and disappointment and to realise the
supreme misery of mental impotence. Poverty of mind, added to poverty of
the material things that had made life a too heavily scented garden,
drove poor Wilde towards a new weakness, the drowning of mental sterility
with the anaesthetic of drink. He felt instinctively that he had come to
the end of everything; his wife and children, social position, property,
good name and most of his friends were gone. When the door of his prison
opened for him at last, he looked forward to shelter from the few
faithful friends who had still the courage to be seen in his company; and
he believed that a fresh spring of literary work, growing out of the
birth of the spirit, which had come to him through his fall, was to be
his. He found the bread he had to earn, "salt" indeed; the earning of it
more irksome when he discovered that an intellectual winter was upon him.
The infant spirit shivered and sank away once more.

We, who are human, can hardly blame poor Wilde because weakness overtook
him a second time; the moral strength was not there, that was all. We
make our own fate perhaps, or perhaps it is shaped for us through our
degree of spiritual development. If Wilde had arrived at a surer
realisation of his spirit, a glimpse of which he caught in Reading Gaol,
he might have passed into a more serene light than most of us, when he
put off the garment of his body. As it is he has been cast again into
twilight and it is infinitely pathetic to find that he still cries for
objective beauty.

He speaks of the wonderful revelation that came to him in prison; there
he was able to throw off his body and set his mind free, now there is no
body to escape from; he is fluid mind and nothing more. He knows his term
of dimness will be long, but he will rise again as the "wheel" revolves;
that certainty is given him that he may endure. In his earth life he
experienced more good and evil than the average human being; more evil
than good, unfortunately. Now he must complete that experience and pierce
to the innermost retreats of good and evil. The dimness in which he
withers is not the dimness of his cell) for now he has the power of
"knowledge such as all the justice that has tortured the poor world since
it was born cannot attain."

If we are to believe in the sincerity of the Wilde of "De Profundis," we
may recall what he says of humility. "Humility in the artist is the frank
acceptance of all experiences, just as love in the artist is simply the
sense of beauty that reveals to the world its body and soul." I fear the
Wilde of these scripts has scarcely attained to humility in the sense he
uses the word here. All through, even in speaking his spiritual
revelations in prison, there is a loud note of egoism and hauteur. He has
not "frankly accepted experiences," they have been forced upon him; he
has revolted against them and still is revolting. He is not meekly
accepting his place of dimness. "Pity Oscar Wilde," he says, "one who in
the world was a king of life. Bound to Ixion's wheel of thought I must
complete forever the circle of my experience." He uses the same simile
when in, "De Profundis," he speaks of sorrow: "Before sorrow had made my
days her own and bound me to her wheel, etc." "justice," he says, "is the
completion of experience, nothing more." Human justice, according to
Wilde, is merely the storing up of remorse which is anguish more acute
than human beings can attain to. To torture your fellows as a benediction
secures you this remorse at the other side.

We cannot hope that the author of "De Profundis" has remained even on the
shoulder of the mountain to which he had climbed towards the end of his
time in gaol. It is twenty-three years since he died in sordid poverty
and degraded by drink, and he still bemoans his condition. He knows his
term will be long; perhaps he has not realised humility or love as he has
explained them in his moment of vision.

Through this chapter I have spoken as if I were entirely convinced of
human survival. I can say sincerely that no case I have come across has
done so much for my belief in the spiritist theory, as this of Oscar
Wilde. Hitherto I have felt, and indeed I still feel, that the work of
Mr. Bligh Bond at Glastonbury is the most interesting page in the book of
Psychical Research. We cannot, however, take the Glastonbury scripts as a
proof of human survival. We might describe them better as the most
overwhelming cases of cryptesthesia in existence and further,
cryptesthesia in four different persons, wholly unconnected with each
other, concerning the same subject. It certainly proves the survival of
memories, but it can scarcely be described as proving the survival of

This case appeals to me because of its completeness. My critics will no
doubt attack it from the literary standpoint and prove again that the
dead Wilde is vastly inferior to the living Wilde. These literary critics
will not take our difficulties into consideration; they will probably be
prejudiced in spite of themselves against the improbability of my tale.
The spiritualists and students of metapsychics will merely differ in
their explanations of results. The script should appeal to all who take
any interest in psychic phenomena.

If Oscar Wilde from the twilight realises that he is the subject of
discussion once more it must afford him some amusement that he, who is
now a fluid mind, can still make his bow to the public. He will no doubt
find entertainment if he can "leap into the minds" of my critics; and, if
I give him a sitting at the ouija board, I am sure he will be ready to
answer them. For I am almost tempted to believe that the soul and mind of
Oscar Wilde still live and will continue to develop, until, having
pierced to the innermost retreats of good and evil, he rises again to



IT is time that I drop the role of lecturer on psychic phenomena and put
myself into the position of those to whom the terms automatic writing,
ouija board, sub-conscious and cryptesthesia mean little or nothing, but
in whom the fact that we seem to be talking again to so prominent a
figure as Oscar Wilde is an adventure which arouses surprise and
interest. When portions of these scripts appeared in the Daily News, the
Occult Review, etc., I was infinitely amused at the diversity of
criticism which they brought forth. Our first critic, Mr. John
Drinkwater, who "was interviewed" by the Weekly Despatch, frankly
confessed that he was entirely out of touch with the psychic side of the
matter, but from the literary standpoint he did not consider the style
convincing. He cited various expressions which were "not like" Wilde,
notably the cruel manner in which he describes the modern woman as "a
wart on the nose of an inebriate" and dismisses the writings of the
Sitwells by stating that he does not spend his "precious hours in
catching tadpoles." These expressions, Mr. Drinkwater says, are "crude."
He cites Wilde's horror of anything unpleasant; the horror with which he
was inspired by seeing a man with toothache for instance. He suggests
that the real Oscar would be incapable of speaking of anything as painful
as a wart. I admit that this case is so surprising that if one is
suddenly "interviewed" it is probably very difficult to criticise the
writings of a discarnate spirit who is speaking from the "twilight." My
reply is that Wilde's feeling for what is ugly and painful altered after
his prison experience. He probably had not prepared these discourses,
and, even in his best period, it is possible that a crude expression may
have escaped him now and then, especially in conversation. For instance,
being tapped on the shoulder by an acquaintance, with the remark, "Wilde,
you are getting fatter and fatter," his retort was: "Yes, and you are
getting ruder and ruder." Would Mr. Drinkwater consider that a very
subtle reply? Other critics have expressed the opinion that Wilde "has
not improved in the process of dying," as he says of his mother, Lady
Wilde. His wit is "tarnished" since he "passed over." Do we then expect
our shades to "smarten up" in the Beyond? The pathetic part of it is that
poor Oscar agrees with these critics; he moans over his mouldy state and
cites Hamlet's remarks to his father, when he calls him "old mole," as a
case in which the Society for Psychical Research should take an interest.
In one rather long article we are accused of raising a "dreary" shade.
Now why are we expected to provide a jovial ghost, when we consider poor
Oscar Wilde's career? It is suggested that we should let the dead rest,
that having been exhumed was bad enough for the poor poet and that I add
insult to injury by hauling him back from Hades. The fact, however, is
that poor Oscar forced his company on Mr. V. and myself. He seized the
pencil from another communicator and has held on firmly to it ever since.
He has insisted on speaking to the world again. It seems to afford him a
little relaxation; why should I refuse it? If it relieves him to let fly
his bitter shafts of wit once more, I feel, in mere courtesy, I must
permit him to relieve his mind.

That first little essay, written probably to convince his mediums, is
almost the only case in which Wilde has indulged in what are practically
quotations from his works. If he has failed to select his words as
happily as he used, we must allow for distinctly trying circumstances. He
pushes in on our sitting, I am taken by surprise and I continually
interrupt his flow of language with annoying questions. He even complains
of finding unsuitable words in his medium's mind; the only simile he can
seize on to describe the moon is a "great golden cheese." He can't bear
this and writes, "stop, stop, stop, stop, you write like a successful
grocer, etc."

The next time we sat Wilde was determined to let fly at something. He
dropped his pathetic tone and used the Society for Psychical Research as
a means of expressing his indignation at my having questioned his
identity. Really this script cannot be described as the work of a dreary
ghost. Are there many persons in the literary world to-day who could
improve on the discarnate Wilde's wit when he speaks of the "Society of
Superannuated Shades"?

Then, quite uninvited, he begins to criticise modern authors. He prefaces
his first criticism by another appeal to our pity. There is real pathos
in his description of the chances that offered themselves to him from
time to time to see the world again. It is a fantastic idea and quite
characteristic of its supposed author, I think. He says: "In this way I
have dipped into the works of some of your modern novelists." These
criticisms are all written, it must be remembered, from the standpoint of
thirty-five years ago, for, though Wilde may have tasted modern
literature, he can hardly be expected to have moved with the times. This
"age of rasp" is a positive pain to the Apostle of Beauty, he is glad to
have escaped it. "In your time the main endeavour of the so-called artist
is to torture the senses.... Pain is the only quality which is essential
to any literary work of the present day."...It is from that angle he
speaks of Wells, Bennett, Philpotts, and Joyce. His other criticisms are
levelled at Shaw, Hardy, Meredith, George Moore and Galsworthy. The
latter is the only author who escapes lightly. All the others, even those
who were practically his contemporaries, come in for a share of pepper
from Wilde's caustic tongue. The note of a colossal egotism is prominent
in all these scripts, it never varies. When he speaks of his prison life
it is positively shameless: "I was a fallen God, a fallen King," etc. He
views his brothers in literature with a certain jealousy, I fear. His
fall and the bitter and cruel misery of his last years appear to have
sent him on to further miseries. His literary career stopped dead three
years before he died himself; it was short, and fame has come to him, as
to many others, after he passed into twilight. He speaks of "having
conquered London, partly by his 'supposed crime.'" Wilde was not a great
writer and his work might possibly have attracted less attention if he
had gone down to posterity as a fashionable poseur. It is true that his
life in prison brought out a side of him which otherwise would probably
never have seen the light. In fact the discipline of gaol held down his
baser nature for a time and gave us "De Profundis" afterwards and the
"Ballad of Reading Gaol."

I feel it is quite natural that Wilde should be revolted by a work like
"Ulysses." It is entirely out of harmony with his time and ideas. He
might easily fail to see what the admirers of Joyce call the "vastness of
the book." It is completely ugly; that is enough. His horror of probing
into the "inside" of a human being would naturally be aroused by a book
which, I believe, practically deals with nothing else.

I am not altogether surprised that Galsworthy appeals to Wilde. There is
little real kinship between these two, but it is true that Galsworthy, in
a different sense from Wilde, deals with the surface of social life; that
his feeling for form is fine and that his sense of selection is often
exquisite. Galsworthy, however, uses the surf ace of society as a medium
through which he expresses intense emotions, emotions which sometimes
tend to become sentimental. Wilde never rouses our emotions, he certainly
cannot be accused of being a sentimental writer, he never gets the full
value out of a moving situation, he is too deeply interested in the
"human pattern," as he calls it, to worry about such futilities as joys
and sorrows.

The gibes thrown at George Meredith were surely flung off in an airy
fashion. Oscar Wilde was in reality a great admirer of Meredith, and if
he cracks a joke at his involved sentences he has the later works in
mind, which perhaps deserve chastisement. No one can deny that in "One of
Our Conquerors" words are inclined to occupy the reader so fully that
ideas do perhaps retreat into the distance. The effort to unwind the
"plait" certainly requires strenuous effort.

In his criticism of George Moore, Wilde dwells on the even flow of his
prose, suggesting that Moore holds his readers rather through style than
through the clear-cut personality of his characters. It is true that
Wilde and Moore are opposites, both perhaps more fully occupied in using
the English language than in introducing us to a fresh series of
acquaintances. Wilde must, of necessity, feel Moore dim; their mediums of
expression are far apart. The pastel artist produces his effects less
emphatically than the painter who uses colour boldly.

In several of the ouija scripts, Wilde speaks to us about his own
"play-making." He dwells on the idea of "pattern," a pattern woven, not
from words as in his poems, but from humanity as it presented itself on
the surface of London society. "It seemed to me we used to get more from
each other by accepting the outside than by probing the intestines." It
is interesting to compare this determination to remain on the surface of
things with his change of thought in "De Profundis." "The external things
of life seem to me now of no importance at all. Nothing seems to me of
the smallest value except what one gets out of oneself." In speaking of
his own plays in the script he says again: "I had a different thought
from my fellows when my plays were shaped and consequently I cannot
absorb their attitude to the stage." And further: "I have never swerved
from my ideas. I have served the theatre in my own way and from my own
standpoint I succeeded."

We pass on to Wilde's memories of his sufferings in prison. I rather
hesitated to ask him about that time, but to my surprise he seemed eager
and willing to talk of it. In reading this script it must be borne in
mind that I had not read "De Profundis" for over twenty years. Wilde as
he was when he left prison was not the Wilde who played with the "surface
of society," the" flaneur," as he calls himself. He had learnt the value
of humility and love, and was, as he says, a richer man after he had come
to realise the sacredness of sorrow. His life, after he left gaol, was
more tragic perhaps than while he was there. His present condition seems
a continued tragedy. It is painful to feel that after twenty-three years
he is still without the beauty and sunlight for which he thirsts. Yet he
has the certainty, which few of us have here, that his state is
temporary; that he will achieve again all and more than he possessed in
his earth life.

In criticising these writings it must be remembered that between the
Wilde of the nineties and the Wilde of 1923, two great gulfs are fixed.
The gulf of his imprisonment and the gulf of his death. It cannot
reasonably be expected that he is unchanged since he wrote "Intentions"
and "The Importance of Being Earnest." In his letter to Robert Ross with
instructions regarding the publication of "De Profundis," Wilde says: "Of
course I need not remind you how fluid a thing thought is with me-with us
all-and of what an evanescent substance are our emotions made." Here
again we find the idea of "fluid mind," which came through at the sitting
at Andre Gide's and again to me several times at the ouija board, before
I knew he had used the expression before.

In the automatic writing which followed on the script about his prison
life, Wilde begins with a quotation from "De Profundis," "Society sent me
to prison," and again he quotes from it when he says, speaking of the
bread he was forced to earn, "like Dante, how salt the bread when I found
it." This script is completely clear and logical from beginning to end.
The astronomical knowledge displayed here is merely used as illustration
and does not in any way detract from the characteristic turn of the
sentence or the application of ideas, which are more in the style of "De
Profundis" than his earlier works.

Let us for a moment try to imagine the present position of Oscar Wilde,
allowing it is he who writes these messages. He has suddenly found a
means of speaking to the world again after twenty-three years' silence.
His mediums are, of course, a matter of indifference to him, he merely
wants to make use of any possible instrument. It would be futile to
speculate as to how or why he discovered us. The word Lily is written;
Wilde seizes the pencil; the emblem of the aesthetic movement gives him
his opportunity. "No, the lily is mine, not his," he writes. When I have
identified him he quotes from "De Profundis." "Twilight in my cell and
twilight in my heart." As he goes on he reminds us of "Intentions" and
"De Profundis." In "Intentions" we have "The white feet of the Muses
brushed the dew from the anemones in the morning." In our first script,
"Her white feet brush the dew from the cowslips in the morning." In "De
Profundis" the passage occurs: "There is not a single colour hidden away
in the chalice of a flower or the curve of a shell to which, by some
subtle sympathy with the very soul of things my nature does not answer."
In the automatic writing we find, "There was not a blood stripe on a
tulip or a-curve on a shell or a tone on the sea, but had for me its
meaning and its mystery and its appeal to the imagination."

If any of us had spent twenty-three years in a distant country, and,
during that time, had neither visited nor written to our own land, we
could scarcely be expected to preserve our memories of it intact, nor
could our friends expect us to return completely unchanged and as we were
in our prime. Oscar says he is more alive than we are, in spite of the
fact that he is confined in a dim Hades. I disagree with one of our
critics, who says that the first script is the ghost of Oscar's style as
well as of his personality. I quite understand the difficulty presented
to the lay mind by phenomena professing to come from the dead. To them
the dead are dead in every sense. There may be a vague religious faith in
the hereafter deep in the sub-conscious mind, but when it comes to
accepting an actual personality which does not approach us with any of
the orthodox ideas of the Beyond it seems too preposterous and our
criticism of evidence is, very naturally, highly prejudiced. Yet, in all
the notices of our script, it is admitted that these communications are
not of the order which is generally offered us from the other side. No
one can deny that this discarnate Wilde has preserved his sense of
humour. He regards his present state as in some ways inconvenient and
amusing. Poor Wilde, who loved his outward appearance; to whom costume
meant so much; suffered intensely from the hideous garb he was forced to
wear in gaol. He speaks of the grotesqueness of his garments more than
once in "De Profundis," especially on that most degrading occasion when,
for half an hour, he stood on the platform at Clapham junction in prison
dress and handcuffed, the target of a jeering crowd. Now he speaks with
regret of that garment which we call a body. It served, whether foul or
fair, to fix certain reserves between us and our fellows. He is bored by
the continual sight of the ideas of other persons. "They grow stale and
one tires of them," he says. I admit this is an appalling suggestion. It
would rob us of half the mystery and adventure of life if we could take
the entire measure of every human being we met. Wilde's boredom continues
apparently. Probably the only part of his life in which there was no
boredom was his time in prison. There his soul must have been so racked
with surprise, remorse, despair and indignation, so vitalised that he can
hardly have felt ennui which always hung about him in his days of
freedom. If we are to take any of the information which reaches us from
the "Beyond" seriously, what seems to delay progress here, and there
also, is a clinging to material things; worship of beauty in the sense
that Wilde worshipped it. There the beauty which is given outwards from
the spirit is of supreme value, what is received through the senses seems
actually to drive the spirit backwards. The author of "De Profundis," had
he died in gaol, would perhaps have escaped the twilight in which he
suffers now.

I should like to make it quite clear that the speed of both the writing
and ouija communications was tremendous. I already mentioned that in one
instance 700 words were written in about an hour and a quarter. This
essay is a long and logical argument. As regards the ouija board
messages, it was difficult to keep up with them even in shorthand; the
traveller flew from letter to letter with lightning speed at the rate of
60 to 70 words per minute. If we regard the scripts as a case of
sub-conscious imitation, it is interesting to note that style and
handwriting were sustained through hundreds of pages at this pace.

All things considered, I feel we may discuss the authorship of these
writing from any point of view without being considered absurd. In most
cases it is very difficult to present automatic script to the public, but
here, when to the style and humour we add the handwriting, there seems
reasonable ground to admit the possibility that we are again in touch
with Oscar Wilde. We find traces of the author of "De Profundis" and also
of "The Importance of Being Ernest," we find the egoism, the cynical
smile, even the paradox in which he delighted.

I am sorry that the subjects spoken of are so scattered. In the automatic
writing, Wilde chose them himself. At the first two sittings he seemed to
exhaust the power in his mediums very rapidly. There was a pause, and
when the pencil moved again an entirely different theme was chosen. The
later writings have been longer and more continuous. In the ouija work, I
suggested subjects, as a rule. I asked a question and it was promptly
followed up.

I value the opinions of those who are not conversant with psychic
subjects, also those of persons who, like myself, have studied mental
mediumship. Both can help us from entirely different standpoints. The
literary critics must make allowance for the difficulties in automatic
communication and also for the fact that Oscar Wilde has passed on to new
conditions. They must not demand exactly the mind they are familiar with.
From the psychic point of view these scripts must be of value whether
they are considered to arise from the sub-conscious or to be a proof of
survival. Their value from the literary point of view is quite another
matter. I sincerely hope that no prejudice against the method by which
they came will injure their chances of having a fair hearing.

A literary ghost is, I think, a new departure in the psychic world.
Messages from the dead are usually very vague as to work and interests on
the other side. Oscar Wilde may be occupying his time with "what is
little better than picking oakum in gaol," but his keen enjoyment of
ideas seems the same as ever. He is certainly less changed by the
"process of dying" than any other ghost I have come across so far.

I have endeavoured to analyse these writings honestly. I am convinced
that they are worthy of investigation. They are certainly so to those who
are interested in proof or disproof of survival, and they may be useful
also to the faithful: those who have accepted the gospel of annihilation.
For them Oscar Wilde's return can be regarded as a fresh proof of the
credulity of even intelligent persons. The theosophist will fall in with
us, I think, for here we have evidence of the punishment that awaits our
astral part. The spiritualist will add a very important addition to what
confirms his faith; he can hardly produce a more definite instance of
continued personality than what is before us.

I hope that Oscar, in his state of twilight, may be comforted if he
realises that some of us are conscious he still exists. He may give us
further evidence that he is still a living mind. If so, I shall publish a
sequel to this book. He is still quite willing to talk and write. He has
suggested that he is in a position to resume some of his literary work
again; but, knowing as I do the difficulties and uncertainty of
automatism, I dare not promise anything definite.

Appendix I

These communications came through from time to time since the first batch
of scripts went into press. I add them, although they are slight, as I
think the ideas very characteristic of Wilde. The criticism of the
production of "The Importance of Being Earnest," at the Haymarket, is
reprinted from The Sunday Express.

[missing illustration]


Appendix II


Mrs. T.S.-Is that Oscar Wilde?

O.W.-Yes; why doubt my identity, dear lady, before I have spoken even a
doubtful word?

Mrs. T.S.-Did you come with me to the Haymarket Theatre to see "The
Importance of Being Earnest" last Thursday?

O.W.-It was a most amusing experience. I looked through your eyes and saw
my children again, and realised for the first time that they were merely
marionettes, not human beings. You, who have an idea of what the value of
humour is, could hardly grasp, as I could, the attitude of the audience
that night. I was pleased to note in their laughter a feeling that, after
all, although he had made mistakes in his life, he could still entertain.
I could see a slightly contemptuous colour in these minds. They felt that
he was a shade demode, but they looked on him as a curio worthy of a dark
corner in the drawing-room.

The spectacle presented to me through your eyes was very different from
the productions of my time. I had, of course, to superintend my own
rehearsals, more especially because the balance of my plays was so
delicate. And even in those days, when my ideas had all their reality and
freshness, there was difficulty in impressing the players with my own
conception of these characters. For, although as I said, they seemed to
me to have the quality of marionettes, I intended them to represent the
actual outward surface, slightly magnified, of the various ingredients
that made up the social pattern of my time. Here, I fear, I was mistaken.
In "The Importance of Being Earnest" I had intended to overstep all
possible limits and present an entirely unreal problem to the public, but
I never intended my play to be taken as a farce.

That night I saw the producer's thought. He had evidently the conception
that the play should be smartened for the modern stage, and he has my
entire sympathy here. For my presentation was probably too preposterous
for an age of realism. He has done his work competently, no doubt. But I
must speak to the players singly, and ask them to remodel their work a
little, in deference to the author's wishes.

First, please ask Mr. Worthing to step up to me and listen to my
criticisms of his performance. Worthing takes himself perfectly
seriously, of course, but he does not try to force that feeling on his
audience. He does not fill the centre of the stage with solemn pomposity;
rather, he imbues the public with his own inward sincerity. Ask the
gentleman who plays Worthing to FEEL the part a little, not to act it
quite so arduously.

For Algenon I have a sincere admiration, but let him take into
consideration the fact that he is not a mere lay figure. He utters his
words as if he were the doll used by a ventriloquist. Ask him, please, to
modify his voice a little, and also to modify his general behaviour. He
seems to me to move on hinges.

Gwendolen is fairly satisfactory. She gives me the impression of having
played the first act with great care and precision, but as she goes on, a
delicate diminuendo brings her to total blankness at the end. Urge the
lady to keep her mentality on the alert until the play is ended.

Mrs. T.S.-What about Lady Bracknell?

O.W.-She is not exactly the dame of the 'nineties. The dame of that
period certainly might have had some mannerisms, but what really
entertained us in her was her complete faith in her own sincerity. Now
this lady who plays her, is absolutely convinced of her own insincerity.
This is so obvious that it fails to amuse me. I should be amused by the
child of my own brain; but hers is only a pose which is feeble in the
interpretation of this part of my pattern.

To continue, I think our little Cicely is excellent. I liked her, and
more especially her intonation. She need not speak so definitely to the
audience. That seems to me, even from my own demode standpoint, a
mistake. For your young girl should hold all her impudence of mind with a
certain hypocrisy which is only seemly in a maiden.

I think my pleasant rector was not a horny person. He was, on the
contrary, smooth and well liking. I feel that the right note has not been
struck here. He is far too angular. It is just the smoothness of skimmed
milk that is required in him. He does not achieve it.

Miss Prism was quite agreeable to me. I think she got my idea better than
the others. I felt she had been memorising my lines with an inward
appreciation of my intentions. I should like to tell the lady this, for I
feel grateful to her. One is so seldom taken with understanding.

The costumes do not matter much. I should certainly like my own period
better. But undoubtedly that is a prejudice with which it would be
foolish to comply.

The author is very grateful to the management and cast for putting his
poor ideas again before the public. He finds it difficult to enter into
the present time. But so far as he is permitted to see the Haymarket
production, it is smartened beyond his powers and given to the present
day with a sauce which should make it palatable to all.

He feels that the ingredients of his entremets have been carefully
weighed; and the result is an agreeable flavour without any undue spicing
which might make it difficult of digestion. He wishes to convey to all
those concerned his pleasure in having attended a performance in the
theatre once again....

I have already spoken to each of the players personally, and now I should
like to repeat what I said before. Let them all and the producer also, be
assured of my surprise at seeing their own complete misapprehension of my

It is delightful at any time to stand in an ecstasy of observation before
what is absolutely perfect; the complete whole, as it were. Here I beheld
my own child, and almost failed to recognise it. Its new gown and its new
attitude were so unfamiliar.

I do not wish to cavil at the present age, but the Haymarket company and
its producer must forgive me if I am surprised rather than enchanted by
what they have accomplished.

Art, after all, has many aspects, and this entire perversion of a
literary effort is so adequately accomplished that it may be regarded as
a striving towards perfection. It has the quality of the exquisitely
curved Greek vase-absolutely without life, but perfect, in its entire
abstraction from the intention of the author.

Perhaps you would teach me something about the present time. It seems to
me to be so far removed from mine. The world of London looks as if it had
cast off all its beautiful clothing and adopted the grimy garments of the
artisan. That is how it strikes me. The whole theatre wore a "useful"
aspect that night when I saw it through your eyes. There was no illusion
nor any glamour thrown out from the audience to the stage. It was all in
keeping, and all presented a practical and tradesman-like appearance. In
my time the actors were helped and inspired by the perfumed and gowned
attendants at their work. Now they gain no inspiration to carry them
through. The plaudits of the house that evening were pale and gave me the
impression that they were there, merely to carry the evening on to its
conclusion. This is evidently not an age of leisure. The leisured age is
the age which gives the dramatist his opportunity.

I feel now that it would be futile to write a comedy. My own little play
is so totally away from its own element that I should like to cover up
the poor little nursling and lead it away from the footlights. They make
its colours pale and dim. A sad little effort this, to revive the
feelings of a different age.

Mrs. T.S.-Will you go on with the new play.

O.W.-I have been considering it, and it is certain it will be written,
and in a manner different from my poor little "Earnest."

Appendix III

December 14th, 1923, 11.45 p.m. Present-Mr. Bligh Bond, Miss G., Miss
Cummins. The medium was Mrs. Travers Smith.

Oscar Wilde. I have been summoned here. May I ask why such an honour is
done me?

(Mrs. T.S.-We want you to communicate an interesting message to us next
Sunday, when we are having a special sitting.)

I assure you, dear lady, the garland of my thoughts is withered; the
scarlet exotic does not stand a long period in the Arctic winter. I
wither because my thoughts are broken on the stem. (The traveller was
pointed towards Mr. Bligh Bond.) A curious restoration this. Here I find
a mind in whose intricacies I should like to plunge. Permit me, sir, to
probe your ideas.... This is a strange construction. Here I find the
mediaeval mind, and on it is perched, like a pert bird, the spirit of the
twentieth century. A poet could indeed make sport of you, but I have
other feelings. For my deep pity is excited-that this intricacy of mind
is placed in this dim age of toilsome work. Sir, will you permit me to
discourse with you.... It would give a shade, who shuns the light, great
pleasure to share ideas of twenty years ago with you.

(Mr. Bond-Surely the glimpses of the world you obtain through this medium
must be helpful and refreshing to you?)

It is as if a rose had opened in my path; for what can such as I, find in
a world of shadows and of dimness. This is not punishment, as you
believe, but a portion of my experience, which floats by me like a grey
cloud, and which will consummate the full expansion of my soul.

I know that ecstasy is mine. But here I am confined and the rich day is
hidden from me. Never can I gaze again upon the blue waters of the sea,
or feel the wind come whispering by me in the dim evening light. I am a
shadow and the life here, the shadow of a shadow. Can you imagine what I

(Mr. Bond made some further remarks.)

No, my dear sir; not for a mind like yours the dimness and confinement.
Yours is a nature which has not spent its richness in the world.... (Mr.
B. made a remark about the eternal life.) Here the eternal life spreads
out before us like a silken stuff shaded from grey to gold.

(But you obtain glimpses of the world at times?)

A sunbeam dying on the clouds, a rift within a deep abyss. This is what
comes to me from looking once again at the fair world whose beauty was a
rich intoxication for my senses. And for this ecstasy of joy, joy in the
day, joy in the night, joy in the paleness of the dawn and the grey
twilight and the sound of words and company of my fellows, for this I am
confined in a dim place of shadows.

(Mr. Bond-But there is hope for you and for all?)

Hope, my dear sir, is simply breath; the power of breathing comes from
hope, hope that the next breath follows on the present. But hope grows
pale with waiting. I know that this will come again-this richness and
this joy. I feel as if I, a worm, had burrowed in the earth and the damp
soil had filled the eyes, the mouth, and all I am. I believed on earth,
and now, I believe in eternal joy. This is my consolation.

(Mrs. T.S.-I am publishing your messages. I have written a book about

Pray spare me. These little moths that flew from out my lips are scarcely
worth recording.

Appendix IV

Copy of a Communication received at the Ouija Board through Mrs. Travers
Smith's hand, July 19th, 1923.

(Mrs. T.S.-How do you study the work of the modems?)

I can look into their minds and gather collectively what is worth
recording in their work.

(Talk to us about painting and its connection with literature.)

Dear lady, pause a moment. Let your imagination strain itself a little.
Take one word and let its sound sink deep into your mind and conjure up
at the same time a deep and richly coloured tone. Take the word purple.
Let the infinite depths of that rich colour penetrate your being and
listen to the word and let its music bring to your mind the depths of
tone that comes from perfumed violets till word and colour merge into
each other. This gives you some idea of how my work was wrought and
fashioned, of how my music sprang from word and colour both. For as I
wrote I held the picture ever in my mind, of pattern wrought from colour
and from sound. And as I wove the web I added richness as I went by, ever
fashioning, moulding and forming, until a perfect shape rose from me.
This was my own particular form of art-an art which gave me life, which
has not vanished with my good name and all that fame the false world
heaped upon me. For my art had sprung direct from nature, nature was the
force that gave it being. I was the priest who fashioned from it the
thing created, perfecting the form with care and infinite pain, until the
children of my being had grown to their full stature and like stately
swans had floated out upon the waters and escaped from me into the
infinite, where they shall never perish.


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