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Servants of the Supernatural: The Night Side of the Victorian Mi

£12.96

Mesmerism, delightfully described by Ambrose Bierce as “hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage and asked incredulity to dinner” was the pseudo-science beloved of many Victorians which gave birth to another Victorian supernatural obsession, the séance. Séances assumed many forms, from entranced parlour maids lecturing their employers on theology to clairvoyants locating stolen property, and from tapped out messages from the “other side” to spectres manifesting themselves in darkened cabinets. Mediums and psychics were investigated by amateur sleuths and renowned scientists such as Darwin and Faraday, their performances were imitated and exposed by stage magicians, denounced by clerics and satirised in the press, but still the popularity of the séance grew, and remains popular even today. In its late-19th century “golden age” the Victorian obsession with science, religious doubt and entertainment saw not only a motley bunch of quacks, bluffers and rogues get on the séance bandwagon, but also respected physicians like Sir John Elliotson and writers as real and rational as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle were to find spiritual succour in its mysteries. Servants of the Supernatural tells the fascinating story of the men and women who catered for those who believed, the believers themselves and those who promoted and decried mesmerism, the séance and other supernatural beliefs of the time. Incredible to think that so much of this “science” was considered irrefutable just a little over a century ago! 290pp with eight pages of b/w plates. Hardback.

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Mesmerism, delightfully described by Ambrose Bierce as “hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage and asked incredulity to dinner” was the pseudo-science beloved of many Victorians which gave birth to another Victorian supernatural obsession, the séance. Séances assumed many forms, from entranced parlour maids lecturing their employers on theology to clairvoyants locating stolen property, and from tapped out messages from the “other side” to spectres manifesting themselves in darkened cabinets. Mediums and psychics were investigated by amateur sleuths and renowned scientists such as Darwin and Faraday, their performances were imitated and exposed by stage magicians, denounced by clerics and satirised in the press, but still the popularity of the séance grew, and remains popular even today. In its late-19th century “golden age” the Victorian obsession with science, religious doubt and entertainment saw not only a motley bunch of quacks, bluffers and rogues get on the séance bandwagon, but also respected physicians like Sir John Elliotson and writers as real and rational as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle were to find spiritual succour in its mysteries. Servants of the Supernatural tells the fascinating story of the men and women who catered for those who believed, the believers themselves and those who promoted and decried mesmerism, the séance and other supernatural beliefs of the time. Incredible to think that so much of this “science” was considered irrefutable just a little over a century ago! 290pp with eight pages of b/w plates. Hardback.

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