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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1321, p. 614.

June 24, 1865

...And so Spiritualism is, in the person of Dr. J. B. Ferguson, about to bid us farewell. At the Spiritual Lyceum, a place in Newman-street, formerly a dancing-saloon, but now opened for a free trade in Divinity, with a fresh supply of unlicensed Spirits, the friends of the Doctor did present him with a testimonial and a "purse of gold." That last is a term of indefinite value which sets one thinking. The occasion of this presentation was that the Doctor is going "from our midst," and his mission is "to heal the wounded souls of the Southmen and Northmen, to plead for justice and peace." Alas! the bodies of many of them may want healing too; but even of these souls let us hope that Ferguson may take heed. He was a great institution at the Davenport séances, and always a subject of mild wonder to the present writer, who, having slapped and pinched him in a dark séance, has heard the good Doctor thereafter expatiate on his being touched by "spirit hands." And this gentleman is, it seems, the spiritual, ghostly, or religious adviser of President Johnson. "He was for years an occasional, and often a regular, attendant upon me as one of my parishioners. Him I know, and, knowing, have followed his extraordinary history, and have freely communed with him upon all the great questions the revolution has forced upon our people." They did say that Lincoln was a Spiritualist: here we have direct testimony that Johnson is the intimate and disciple of the ablest and boldest spiritualist. What next, and next?

But Dr. J. B. Ferguson is more. Does anybody remember--does not everybody remember--Mr. Mark Tapley's Eden and the wonderful Scadder, the land-agent? He was a Utopian, he was, and Dr. Ferguson has ideas that way, too. "I trust to be able to show the British capitalist how permanent investments may be made on American soil!" As if the British capitalist did not know that! Shade of Sydney Smith, haunt this doctor! Permanent investments!--permanent is a good word. "Without indulging in any Utopian speculations on the most practical basis, I hope to found a colony in one of the fairest and most fertile regions of that country." Labourers, artisans, and teachers will be needed there, and opportunities for moral, social, and religious reforms, equal if not superior (sic) to any offered in the palmiest days of colonisation." I must now appeal to he spirit of a different Smith--not Sidney, but Joseph. Are we to have a new religion in that fair region? At present, in America, the spiritual mediums do not prosper, one having been arrested by the revenue officers for not taking out a license as a juggler. The Davenports have made an alliance with Mr. Guppy, the author of the celebrated work "Mary Jane," who accounts for all these rapping drawings and prophetic whisperings by a theory of "chemical fluids and phosphoric essence." Guppy has fitted up a château near Paris, and is going to convert the savans of Europe. Well, did not MM. Mesmer and Cagliostro once try to do the same? After this business, ladies and gentlemen adjourned, we are told, to the Lyceum Hall up stairs, where another meeting was held of a "snug and social character."

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