Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Charges Against Mr. Eglinton

By Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick.

[Reprinted from the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
(London), November 1886, pp. 467-469.]

[The first part of this article has not been reprinted.  We reproduce only the second
portion of Mrs. Sidgwick's article dealing with her analysis of Mr. William Eglinton's
involvement with Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophists.---BA Editor.]

This online edition is reprinted with permission
of the Society for Psychical Research, London.

. . . . I now turn to what is known as the Vega incident, which affords strong presumptive evidence that he [Eglinton] was still producing sham phenomena in 1882.

I observe that when Mr. Eglinton has occasion to refer to the Vega incident he ignores the fact that his letter was alleged to have gone round by Bombay, where Madame Blavatsky was, and the very important and suspicious part played by her in the transaction.  Yet this confederacy with Madame Blavatsky (and I may observe that it is quite unnecessary --- Mr. Eglinton’s suggestion to the contrary notwithstanding --- to suppose confederacy in the matter between him and any one but Madame Blavatsky) is in itself almost enough to discredit the whole phenomenon.  When to this is added the equally suspicious nature of Mr. Eglinton’s own proceedings in substituting for the envelope marked by Mrs. B[oughton] one differently marked by himself, we can hardly say that there remains any room for doubt.  Mr. Eglinton tries to persuade us that the chances were millions to one against the lady on the Vega, Mrs. B[oughton], making the mark he wanted, and that it is therefore absurd to suppose that on the hypothesis of pre-arrangement he would have applied to her at all.  But that this is not so is shown by what actually occurred.  The mark required, to make the letter shown on the Vega apparently correspond with those which fell at Bombay and at Howrah, was three crosses in a row on the flap of the envelope.  Mr. Eglinton made one cross before asking Mrs. B[oughton] to make a mark.  This first cross was not, as it seems to me, at all unlikely to suggest to Mrs. B[oughton] to make another near it, and I am confirmed in this view by the fact that she actually did make another.  If, instead of making it on the top of Mr. Eglinton’s, she had made it at the side, he need only have added a third in her presence to produce a test which, though careful investigation would have revealed its weakness, would probably have appeared flawless to nine readers out of ten.  But it did not much matter to Mr. Eglinton whether Mrs. B[oughton] made the right mark or not.  To ask her to make one was the easiest way of satisfying Mrs. Gordon, and he must by experience have known Spiritualists well enough to be aware that he was playing a game in which he might win, and could not materially lose, so far as their support was concerned.  If he was honestly desirous that the envelope should be marked according to Mrs. B[oughton]’s independent wish, why, after he had destroyed the one marked by her --- a proceeding for which inconsistent reasons have been given, --- did he not at least mark the second in the same way in which she had marked the first?  “Incapacity to understand the important element of test conditions” has been urged on his behalf; but I cannot myself think his intelligence is as much below the average as this would imply in the case of such simple test conditions as are here involved.

Mr. Eglinton only appeals further to the absence of assignable motive to induce him to arrange a phenomenon of the kind.  It scarcely needs pointing out that if the prospect of obtaining with Spiritualists and Theosophists the credit which he actually did obtain were too feeble a motive, Madame Blavatsky may well have had the means of supplementing it.

I have returned to this subject, and brought out these various points, because it seems to me very important; that on the one hand, charges of imposture should never be made against mediums without evidence independent of the marvellous nature of the alleged phenomena; and that on the other hand, when there is evidence of imposture, it should be made widely known.  If there have ever been genuine physical mediumistic phenomena, Spiritualists have done immense injury to their cause by hushing up cases of exposed deception, and thus, as well as by lax methods of investigation, encouraging its repetition.

I may, in conclusion, remark that I have read with care the evidence brought forward by Mr. Eglinton about his slate-writing.  None of it appears to me to differ in essential characteristics from that which was printed in the Journal for June; and no more than that, therefore, does it exclude the hypothesis of conjuring.


[See also Mrs. Sidgwick's article titled Mr. Eglinton.---BAO Editor.]