A Victorian seance

While working for a London newspaper in 1874, Florence interviewed a prominent clairvoyant, and that marked the beginning of a lifelong belief in spiritualism. She became a keen participant in seances, claiming to have communicated with her brother Frank, who had died in a shipwreck, and her two dead daughters. Her experiences were chronicled in in the hugely successful There is No Death and its sequel The Spirit World. Her interest also informed her fiction writing in such novels as The Strange Transfiguration of Hannah Stubbs and Open! Sesame!.

Not all of Florence’s friends were supportive of her interest in the Other World. George Grossmith mischievously parodied her in The Diary of a Nobody as Florence Singleyet, author of There is No Birth. The classic seance scene where Mr Pooter taps on the ceiling from above with a hammer was also inspired by what Florence had told him of her experiences.

I am indebted to Lesley Price of Psypioneer, who alerted me to Florence’s involvement with the Marylebone Spiritualist Association. She opened their Hall in 1891, an event chronicled by Leigh Hunt, who referred to her as a “great worker for Spiritualism.”