Blog Emma Hardinge Britten

Nineteenth Century Miracles on aristocrats’ pseudonyms

One of the many enjoyable aspects of looking anew at Ghost Land is seeing it in terms of the sequence of the author’s works.  Its predecessor, Modern American Spiritualism, is crucial in identifying parallel passages in Book II of Ghost Land, set mainly in America. This volume, never seen in book form, details Chevalier Louis de B–‘s adventures in America after the European and English occult odyssey depicted in Part I and the Indian melodrama of Part II. But for most of Ghost Land, the crucial parallel work is Nineteenth Century Miracles (1884). Here, on pp. 90-91, is found what seems to be an expression of regret about the mysterious circumstances under which Art Magic and Ghost Land were published:

In America, where the sources of popular power are derived from the people, Spiritualism may be found more generally represented by the rank and file of Society, than among the wealthier classes.

In Europe on the contrary, where the governing power centres in an hereditary and influential aristocracy, the people derive their opinions as they do their laws and fashions, from the ruling classes, and it is chiefly among these that Spiritualism flourishes.

It is not claimed that this wonderful movement is confined to any class in either hemisphere. It will be found in the hut, and the palace; in the mining camp, and the halls of legislation. Nevertheless its greatest prevalence is ever with the ruling power. Since then Spiritualism in Europe takes the deepest hold of those whose rank and station induces them to shrink from subjecting their personal experiences to public criticism, the author too frequently becomes the recipient of valuable testimony which cannot be made available, because the communicants insist on withholding their true names and addresses. “Miss E.” and “Mrs. D.;” “Captain A.” and “My Lord X,Y.Z.” are impersonals, whom no one places any confidence in. There is no satisfaction in offering such shadowy testimony to those who are asked to believe in occurrences of an unprecedented and often startling character. Resolving as we have done, not to demand credence for phenomenal incidents upon any testimony open to the charge of unreliability, we feel obliged to relegate an immense mass of interesting matter of this kind to the obscurity which unauthorized statements justly incur.


This is quite an 1884 about-face from the 1876 promoter of Chevalier Louis de B– and his [spoiler alert] father-in-law John Cavendish Dudley in two books. In addition to blowback from the Louis character and claims on his behalf, Emma is undoubtedly here reacting to the behavior of her former colleagues Olcott and Blavatsky in India. The former enthusiast of adeptic pseudonyms sounds very disillusioned about the practice here, written the year of the Emma Coulomb revelations. But in 1892 she is once again writing on behalf of Chevalier Louis, so has apparently had third thoughts about the practice after the second thoughts revealed in this 1884 book.

Ghost Land shows evidence of familiarity with British occultism and American Spiritualism, both of which could be claimed by Britten. But it also includes settings and characters in India, Russia, and Germany; all countries unknown to Emma by personal experience.  The search for Ghost Land influences among the Russian nobility must start with her colleague Blavatsky, but also includes a mutual acquaintance of Britten and Blavatsky who will be the topic of a future blog post.