Since my friend Morris joined me,
we’ve been as busy as Wall street brokers in
a gold panic eyes and ears, and every sense
filled with the novel sights and sounds that greet
us on every side in this most delightful, charming,
incomparably beautiful summer land.
Whom have we not seen, from Napoleon down to the last
I have a memorandum which would reach
from here to Idlewild, filled with the names of notables
and celebrities, whom I have met in the short space
of a year.
We do matters quickly here, among
the celestials. I used to think life sped
fast in the great cities of London, Paris, and New
York, but we live faster here. With every means
of travelling which human ingenuity can invent flying
machines, balloons, the will and the magnet we
fairly outdo thought and light, which you consider
emblems of rapidity on earth.
Morris and I made a point of visiting
Byron, Moore, Hunt, Scott, and that clique. You
must bear in mind that we do not all live on one point
of space here; among so many thousand million,
billion, trillion, quadrillion, sextillion, and countless
illions, there must be some persons who are further
apart than Morris and I, who are side by side!
It is a peculiarity which you Yankees
seldom think of, that Englishmen can’t endure
to live in America. Well, that peculiarity is
just as active after they “shuffle off the mortal
coil.” They must have their little England,
even in the spirit world.
So I telegraphed to that quarter of
the celestial planet that two strangers from the great
emporium of intellect, and civilization, New York
City, were about to visit that locality. We so
arranged our journey as to arrive about a day after
the dispatch had reached them.
It was proposed that we should meet
at the beautiful villa belonging to the Countess of
I can assure you that on arriving
there it was with a slightly palpitating heart I ascended
the noble steps of her residence. The Countess
met us graciously, and by her vivacity and charming
candor dispelled the feeling of modest diffidence
as to our merits, naturally awakened by the thought
of being presented to those illustrious persons who
so long held sway over English literature.
Ere we were aware, we were ushered
into the midst of a hilarious group of authors, who
welcomed us in a most cordial manner.
I did not need to have them introduced
to me by name, as I recognized each readily from likenesses
I had seen on earth.
Lord Byron’s countenance is
much handsomer and more spiritualized in expression
than any portrait of him extant. I noticed that
the deformity of his foot, which had been a severe
affliction to him on earth, was no longer apparent.
Scott looked as good and as jovial
as ever, and Tom Moore, the very pink of perfection
As for the Countess, when I last saw
her on earth I thought her incomparable. But
whether it was through the cosmetic influences of the
spirit air, or from other causes, she had now become
After we had conversed awhile on general
topics and I had answered their questions in regard
to the changes which had occurred in certain terrestrial
localities with which, they were familiar, the Countess
invited us out to survey the landscape from her balcony.
The view from this point was extremely
romantic. Just beyond the spacious park extended
a lovely lake, whose waters were of a rich golden-green
color. Upon its limpid bosom several gondolas
floated, and gay parties waved their handkerchiefs
to us from beneath the silken hangings as they passed.
“Countess,” said I, after
my eye had surveyed the fine landscape and noble residence,
“I am but a wandering Bohemian, and you must
excuse my audacity if I ask how it, is possible that
in this “world of shadows” you have surrounded
yourself by so much that is beautiful and substantial?
You could not bring your title and your lands with
you from earth. Your jewels and costly raiment
you must have left behind; then whence comes all this
wealth and luxury?”
The Countess smiled. “Ah,”
said she, roguishly, “you did not study your
Bible lesson well if you did not learn that you could
’lay up treasures in heaven.’ Why,
all the time I was living on earth I had friends working
for me admirers who had been drawing interest
from my youthful talent and had laid it up to my account.
We go upon the tithe system here, and ’render
unto Cæsar the things that are Caesar’s.”
She told me that works of interest
which are published on earth are reproduced in the
spirit world and the author credited with a tithe of
what accrues from them.
Byron, Scott, and Moore have also
been doing double duty while on earth, and have been
recompensed for their industry in the spirit world.
Byron, she privately informed me,
had been united to the Mary of his early love, and
under her sweet womanly influence had lost much of
the misanthropy which had annoyed his friends in this
As my stay was short, I had only opportunity
to converse with these men of mark on general topics.
On the whole, we spent a very interesting
morning, and, after partaking of refreshments, we
left, having inquired after Count D’Orsay,
whom we learned was then on a trip to earth.
Bidding adieu to the Countess and her friends, we
started for the celebrated island called the “Golden
Nest,” which lies in a south-westerly direction
from the Countess’s villa.
After having travelled some hours
in our own diligence (i.e., driven through the air
by our own will), moving along quite leisurely that
we might survey the country beneath us, we reached
a group of beautiful lakes, reminding me strongly
in size and appearance of lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan,
and Superior, the famed lakes of my own native clime.
In the centre of the largest of these
lakes lay the island we were seeking. We descended
like skilful aeronauts into the centre of a group
of happy children, who were playing like little fairies
amid the flowers blooming profusely everywhere.
Singling out two of the prettiest, we addressed them.
Directly a merry band gathered about
us, answering our questions intelligently and skipping
before us to lead the way to the “Golden Nest,”
as the superb structure was called in which these little
soul-birds were sheltered.
Everywhere, as we advanced, our eyes
lit upon pretty bands of children; some swinging in
the tree-boughs like birds, some waltzing in the air,
others sitting upon the green, chattering and singing,
filling the surrounding air with their melody.
Certainly it was a most enlivening
sight to witness their enjoyment. After having
amused ourselves for a while with their gambols, we
turned our steps toward the Home.
The building was oval in form, and
composed of a golden fleecy incrustation from which
it derived it, name. Within, the “Nest”
was like Aladdin’s palace.
Innumerable compartments, hung with
silks and tissues of tender and. harmonious colors,
and decorated with birds’ plumage of varied hues,
arrested the eye. These spacious alcoves were
each furnished with a domed skylight, adorned with
hanging tassels and glittering ornaments. Ladies
were busy in nearly all of these compartments in instructing
children under their care.
In some that I entered I was shown
new-born babes not an hour old, torn from their mothers’
bosoms on earth, and lying upon fleecy pillows, attended
by lovely women, who looked the angels which they were.
One of these gay baby-nests in which
I lingered was decorated with peculiar tastefulness,
and seemed like a perfect aviary. Singular birds
of splendid plumage were perched on various projections
about the spacious apartment, warbling away like silver
The lady of this chamber was engaged
in teaching a little girl of some two summers to mount
to the skylight by her will.
This lady, I was informed, was the
noble lady R , so famed for her
charity on earth.
She was very gracious and communicative,
and told me that some children exercised their ability
to rise in air more readily than others; that the
difficulties their instructor had to guard against
were the fickle, versatile nature of their wills,
and their inability for continuous thought. Their
wayward minds could not be directed long at one point.
They would wander from the path like the poor little
Babes in the Wood, and on their way to special destinations,
would change their thoughts, unharness their will,
and come suddenly down, sometimes in lonely and unfrequented
Owing to this dereliction, it was
found difficult to make frequent excursions to earth
with them. Those attracted to their terrestrial
homes were attended by ladies who had them in charge,
and who would kindly accompany them, for one or two
weeks, to visit their friends upon earth.
I told her that I had lost a child
some years ago, and had thought till recently to find
it still an infant.
Many cases of this kind, she said,
had occurred under her observation. People did
not view the matter rationally. Ladies had called
at the “Golden Nest” to inquire for children
that had left earth twenty or thirty years ago, and
it was painful to witness the distress they exhibited
when told that their children were grown men and women.
One lady had called there some three
days since, and claimed as her own a little child,
an infant about two months old, who had been brought
from earth three weeks previous, while the child she
had lost had been in the spirit world seventeen years!
But no amount of argument would convince
her that her child had grown up, and that the infant
she selected was not her own.
She was finally permitted to take
the child away, as they knew it would be properly
cared for. Many of the children while young were
“It appears marvellous,”
remarked this noble lady, “that any parent should
wish to cramp the body and soul of his child by keeping
it in a state of infancy, when, if it had remained
on earth, it would necessarily have arrived at years
“Nature does not suspend her
operations in transplanting from earth to heaven!
The soul is formed for expansion, and surely the spirit
world is not the place to suppress unfoldment!”
As I listened to her intelligent conversation,
I blushed to be reminded of my own error in supposing
my own darling, who had reached the spirit world so
long before, would greet me with the prattling talk
Pleased with our visit and the information
we had received, we bade adieu to Lady R. and the
“Golden Nest,” and pursued our flight in
“Do let us next find out,”
said I to Morris, “what they do here with criminals;
there must be many a wicked reprobate who arrives here
from earth fresh from murders and villanies of all
As I spoke, two grave-looking gentlemen,
whom I took to be either doctors or judges, crossed
the path before us, and I proposed to make these inquiries
Who should they prove to be but William
Penn and the omnipresent Benjamin Franklin!
“Yes, yes,” said Penn,
in reply to our questions shaking his head deprecatingly;
“’tis too true; we are obliged to have
what Swedenborg calls “our hells,” for
you send your criminals from earth so hardened that
we are compelled to keep them under guard. Come
with us and we’ll show you how we treat them.”
We were very glad of this opportune
meeting, and followed with alacrity.
Presently, leaving the beautiful country
far behind us, we came upon a desert waste, and as
I am extremely sensitive to conditions, I felt somewhat
like a criminal in passing through it. Having
got safely over, however, there burst upon our sight
a scene of surpassing beauty; as far as the eye could
reach extended a most highly-cultivated district of
Groves of fruit resembling the oranges
and pineapples of our tropics, noble trees like the
palm, the fig, and date, were to be seen in every
quarter, rearing their boughs against the summer sky.
The air was laden with fragrance from tree and vine.
Great bunches of purple grapes like
the fabled fruit of Canaan in the Old Testament, a
single bunch of which required two men to bear it,
drooped heavily from twining vines, while from many
a bough and twig swung golden, crimson, and cream-colored
fruit, which fairly made one’s mouth water.
It was a picture rich enough in color
for a Claude or Turner.
“This is delicious,” said
I to Penn. “Do tell us to what fairy prince
this magnificent land belongs!”
“We will show you the fairy
prince himself, very soon,” said he. “Do
you see the tip of his castle yonder?”
I looked, and as we moved swiftly
in the direction indicated an unexpected spectacle
loomed in sight. It was a building so delicate
and perfect in its structure that it appeared like
Pillars and arches, dome and architrave,
were wrought in a style exquisitely beautiful; the
material of which it was composed seemed like polished
sea-shells, so transparent that you could see through
it the forms of the inmates.
“This,” said William Penn,
“is one of our prisons. Let us enter.”
We followed in amazement, and were
ushered into a hall hung with paintings rich in design
and color, while distributed around in various alcoves
were cases containing books and articles of curious
workmanship, of which I had not yet learned the use.
This hall formed the court within the main building.
From where we stood we could see hundreds
of men in white suits moving about. Some seemed
engaged in conversation, others in sportive games,
and others in various employments.
“You do not mean to tell us
that these men are prisoners,” said I.
“Yes; they have passed for years
on earth a life of evil, yet all the beauty you behold
here is the work of their hands. Idleness is the
mother of crime. We teach them to become industrious,
and surround them with beauty to develop their love
“Ignorance and poverty are supposed
to be the principal causes of evil on earth.
But many fearful offences have been committed in high
places from thwarted love and ambition. We have
many of that character in this prison, but they are
young. This is intended as a place to educate
and restrain men who would return to earth and incite
impressible beings to evil.
“The material of which this
building is composed, though seemingly so fragile,
is a non-conductor of thought, and while detained within
it the inmates gradually free themselves from their
old influences and disorderly desires.
“Cultivating the fruits of the
earth calls into action only their most harmonious
organs. A great mistake made by the legislators
of earth is in employing criminals in stone-cutting,
or placing them in gangs, as they do on the Continent,
to work the rugged road.
“Employment of this kind awakens
the very propensities which should be subdued.
The composing, softening influences induced by tilling
the soil would go far toward converting your evil
men into good citizens.”
I was struck with the truthfulness
of his suggestions, and put them down in my note-book
for the benefit of humanity, and now hand them over
to my readers for consideration.
After leaving this place we paid a
visit to Edgar A. Poe, whose unfortunate life on earth
you are all familiar with. His brilliant imagination
we found as active as of old. He welcomed us
enthusiastically, and eagerly led us into a small theatre
which he had constructed and filled with most marvellous
creations from his own fancy. He inherited from
his father and mother, who were actors, a love for
dramatic effect, and in theatrical impersonations he
found some vent for his exuberant imagination.
“Stand here,” said he,
placing us near the entrance; “I have something
curious to show you.” He then suspended
upon the stage a curtain, whose peculiarity was its
pure, soft blue color, like an Italian sky.
“Watch,” said he, pointing
his uplifted finger to the hanging. Presently
appeared upon it figures like shadows on a phantasmagoria.
One form was that of a female sitting
upon a low chair, apparently reading a book.
“That,” said Poe, “is
Miss D. I can control her and will her to reflect
her figure upon the curtain; and that man is T.L.
Harris. It is my own invention,” said he;
“I studied it out and applied chemicals to my
canvas till it produced this sensitive surface.
All I have to do is to send my thoughts to them, and
will them to appear, and there they are. Coleridge
has a similar curtain, and some few others. But
it requires a peculiar spirit brain to magnetize the
subject sufficiently.” He offered to show
me in the same manner any friend of mine with whom
he could come in rapport.
This proposition delighted Morris
and I, and we spent an agreeable evening in seeing
certain of our friends on earth thus revealed.
Some were busy eating at the time,
the gourmands! Others, more studious,
were poring over books and papers, and one, whose name
I shall not mention, was reproduced in the very act
of making love!
The, dear old faces awakened such
sad memories, and the occupations in which they were
engaged were in the main so ludicrous, that we were
held between tears and laughter till after midnight.
But that is an Irish bull for you must
know that we have no night in the spirit world.
Our diurnal revolutions are so rapid, and the atmosphere
so magnetically luminous, that it is never dark here.
But, however, according to earth’s parlance,
it was midnight before we got through.
I will now bid adieu to my friends
and readers until we meet again.