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Darwin Correspondence Project

From M. C. Stanley   4 June 1872

23. St. James’s Square. | S.W.

June 4/72

Dear Mr. Darwin

Sackville would be extremely pleased to be allowed to be present with Mr Galton at a Séance of Mr Crookes’.—tho’ he doubts being able to form any opinion without going thoroughly into the Evidence, & this,—with the work he has in hand would not be possible.1

But the truth is I am very eager Sackville should be at one of Mr Crooke’s séances, & if you think it likely Mr C. wd. allow him to go with Mr. Galton—wd. it be asking too much of you to try to arrange it? Sackville is very sceptical on the point but very curious— I am all ready to hear of a new force & very curious indeed.2

Alas’ nothing tempts Mr Alexander— he is determined to come to Holwood next June.3

Believe me | Yrs very sincerely | M C Derby4


Sackville Arthur Cecil, Stanley’s son, was an employee of the Great Eastern Railway Company (Stevenson 1969, p. 128). Francis Galton and William Crookes had been attending séances to investigate the powers claimed by mediums; Galton had offered to arrange for CD to be present (see letter from Francis Galton, 19 April 1872, and letter to Francis Galton, 21 April [1872]).
Crookes was devising experiments to test for the existence of a psychic force (see the letter from Francis Galton, 19 April 1872 and n. 5). For more on the investigation of the powers claimed by mediums at this period, including those undertaken by Crookes, see Noakes 2007.
Stanley and her husband, Edward Henry Stanley, rented Holwood House in Beckenham, close to Down, from Robert Alexander; he had given them notice in April that he intended to occupy the house himself from the following year (Vincent ed. 1994, p. 104).
Stanley was countess of Derby.


Noakes, Richard. 2007. Cromwell Varley FRS, electrical discharge and Victorian spiritualism. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 61: 5–21.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. 1969. Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin; and, A family of engineers. With a preface by Rae Jeffs. London: Heron.


Sackville Cecil would like to be present with Francis Galton at one of William Crookes’s séances. Can CD arrange it?

Letter details

Letter no.
Mary Catherine Sackville-West, countess of Derby/Mary Catherine Gascoyne-Cecil, countess of Derby/Mary Catherine Stanley, countess of Derby
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St James’s Square, 23
Source of text
DAR 162: 165
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8369,” accessed on 1 December 2023,

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