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Record number: WCP5013

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Vaughan Jenkins
26 June 1888

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming to Vaughan Jenkins [none given] on 26 June 1888.

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06 February 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Anon. (1888). Correspondence. Nellie Morris. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 3(55): 312-318.

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[[1]]1,2 [p. 313]

Mr. A. R. Wallace's Reply

Firth Hill, Godalming.

June 26th, 1888.

E. Vaughan Jenkins, Esq.

Dear Sir,--You have evidently formed erroneous ideas of what "materialisation" is. No Spiritualist believes it to be "the real body" of [[2]] [p. 314] the individual, or even "a real body" in one sense of the term. It is something temporarily material for purposes of identification; but what exactly no one can tell. All the information we can get shows that it is formed partly (often chiefly) from the body of the medium, partly from the bodies of the persons present, or from their "atmosphere" or emanations and that the likeness to any individual is produced by an effort which is not always successful, since, during the same evening, the same spirit-form sometimes appears in very different degrees of likeness to his mortal body; sometimes more like the medium, hence many of the accusations of imposture. A little book called Materialised Apparitions, by Mr. E. Brackett, published at Boston, and which you can probably get from Burns, Southampton-row, will give you much information on the nature and peculiarities of these forms and the conditions under which they appear. I met Mr. Brackett in Boston, and can testify to the honesty, ability, and earnestness of the man and of his book. The permanent materialisation of hair and portions of garment is very extraordinary. Sometimes such things do vanish away, either rapidly or gradually, but in other cases both remain. The hair I had here, but have now returned it to General Lippitt. All we can at present do is to make sure of the facts. The laws of the phenomena we may never know till we are spirits ourselves, and not, perhaps, even then. Can we tell, really, how we move our hands and fingers to write and express our thoughts? Spirits do not appear to be able to tell us how they materialise. It is a faculty exercised by the will-power of some spirits, and is probably quite as rare and remarkable and inexplicable among them as physical mediumship is among us.--Believe me, yours faithfully,

Alfred R. Wallace.

P.S.--The appearance of the double of any living person, sometimes to two or more witnesses, seems analogous to materialisation, and the person whose double appears has no conception how it is done. Neither have the spirits who materialise, except that it seems to be more directly a matter of will with them. See Phantasms of the Living.--A. R. W.


1. Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Second of seven letters exchanged among Wallace, E. Vaughan Jenkins, and Eleanor M. Sidgwick (Mrs. Henry Sidgwick) on the "spirit entity" Nellie Morris. Printed in the October 1888 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

2. Editor’s note on page 312 preceding the printed letters: "(The following correspondence has been placed in my hands by Mr. Vaughan Jenkins (Associate of the S.P.R.), with a view to its being printed here. It relates to the case of Nellie Morris, communicated to the June number of this Journal by Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace. I am unable to find room for the whole correspondence, but I have thought it best to print Mr. Wallace's letters in full,--partly on account of his scientific eminence, partly because I disagree with his arguments and conclusions, and should therefore be afraid of not doing justice to the former, if I attempted to abridge them. Of the other letters only portions are printed.--Ed.)"


This transcript originates from Charles H. Smith’s The Alfred Russel Wallace Page website (http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm): See http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S411.htm

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