From John Gage 19 October 1870
Vineland New Jersey
Two years sinse I read with much interest your origin of species.1 The evidences produced were so clear to my mind that when I had finished the reading, I accepted the theory and felt the better for it, & it has been a text book for me sinse. Two months ago I was in the office of my friend Henry T Child MD, of Philadelphia,2 talking about your work Origin of Species, & he says I have another work of Darwins that you will be pleased to read, his voyage in the Beagle.3 I borrowed it & have read it with much interest, & I want to say to you that I found many things in both works, that made me wish I was where I could call on you & ask questions; & there is one on page 250 second Vol. of Voyage, in Harpers publication,4 that has caused me to write this communication. It is as follows.
“After dinner we stayed to see a curious half superstitious scene, acted by the Malay women. A large wooden spoon dressed in garments, and which had been carried to the grave of a dead man, they pretend becomes inspired at the full of the moon, and will dance & jump about. After the proper preperations, the spoon, held by two women, became convulsed, and danced in good time to the song of the surrounding children & women. It was a most foolish spectacle; but Mr Liesk maintained that many of the Malays believed in its spiritual movements.”5
How I wish you had written out all the minutiæ of this scene, & any others that you may have witnessed amongst this race of men,6 whose common parent with our white race, or the original Adam if there was one who was father to us all, must have been far back & low down in the scale of being, & possibly so low as not to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good & evil. I want to know what this race of men know, or even what they believe, of Spirit manifestations
I have been a student of this spirit intercourse for twenty two years, & have allowed no good opportunity of examining its facts to escape me; & have been well situated for observing the facts amongst the Anglo Saxon race.
Will you do me the favor to write to me all the particulars of this seance, relative to its claims to spirit origin, both for & against.
Did the spoon stand erect?
Did not the women make it dance?
How did the women hold the spoon?
Did the women & children form a circle around the spoon?
Were you so situated as to detect any deception?
If you saw any other manifestations amongst these races that gave evidence of spirit power, or presence; & will communicate them to me you will much oblige. | Your Friend. | John Gage
Convinced by CD’s Origin.
As a "student of spirit intercourse", he asks CD for more details about the scene of the dancing spoon in Journal of researches [p. 546].
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7347,” accessed on 22 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7347