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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Galton   19 April 1872

42 Rutland Gate

April 19/72

My dear Darwin

I have only had one séance, since I wrote, but that was with Home in full gas light.1 The playing of the accordion, held by its base by one hand under the table & again, away from the table & behind the chair was extraordinary. The playing was remarkably good & sweet. It played, in Sergeant Cox’s2 hands, but not in mine although it shoved itself, or was shoved, under the table, into them. There were other things nearly as extraordinary

What surprises me, is the perfect apparent openness both of Miss Fox3 & Home. They let you do whatever you like, within certain reasonable limits. These limits not interfering with adequate investigation. I really believe the truth of what they allege, that people who come as men of science are usually so disagreable, opinionated and obstructive & have so little patience, that the séances rarely succeeed with them. It is curious to observe, the entire absence of excitement or tension about people at a séance   Familiarity has bred contempt of the strange things witnessed, & the people find it as pleasant a way of passing an idle evening, by sitting round a table and wondering what will turn up, as in any other way. Crookes I am sure, so far as it is just for me to give an opinion, is thoroughly scientific in his proceedure.4 I am convinced, the affair is no matter of vulgar legerdemain & believe it well worth going into, on the understanding that a first rate medium (& I hear there are only 3 such) puts himself at your disposal.

Now, considering that the evenings really involve no strain, but are a repose—like the smallest of occasional gossip.— Considering that there is much possibility of the affair being in many strange respects true.— Considering that Home will, bonâ fide, put himself at our disposal for a sufficient time (I assume this from Crooke’s letter & believe it, because it wd. be bad for Home’s reputation, if, after offering, he drew back. But of course, this must be made clear)

Considering I say, all these things, will you go in for it? & allow me to join? Home is a restless man, as regards his movements & cd. be induced to go to- & fro— I am sure I could,—if I could ensure a dozen seances, at which only our two selves & Home were together. (Others might be in the room if you liked, but, I shd. say, not present within reach)

It is impossible, I see, to prearrange experiments   One must take what comes, & seize upon momentary means of checking results— Home encourages going under the table & peering everywhere. (I did so & held his feet while the table moved) So I am sure, you need not feel like a spectator in the boxes while a conjuror is performing on the stage.

He & Miss Fox just want civil treatment & a show of interest. Of course, while one is civil & obliging it is perfectly easy to be wary.

Pray tell me what you think of the proposal in Crooke’s letter5 | Very sincerely yrs. | F. Galton


See letter from Francis Galton, 31 March 1872. Galton was investigating phenomena associated with spiritualism. Daniel Dunglas Home was a well-known medium.
Edward William Cox was a serjeant-at-law (a barrister of the highest rank).
William Crookes had investigated and tested Home in 1870, and concluded that Home possessed a psychic force that could be used to modify gravity and produce musical effects (ODNB; see also letter from Francis Galton, 28 March 1872).
The letter from Crookes has not been found, but may have described an apparatus for testing psychic abilities (see letter to Francis Galton, 21 April [1872]).


ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Has attended one more séance, which he describes; tells of the freedom investigators have to check, although they cannot prearrange, experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Galton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Rutland Gate, 42
Source of text
DAR 105: A53–6
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8293,” accessed on 21 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20