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TABLE OF CONTENTS.
BY THE EDITOR.
In placing before the public a work with such novel and extraordinary demands upon its consideration, a few explanatory words seem appropriate.
Its title and contents will doubtless at first sight cause a smile of incredulity, and will be regarded by many as one of the devices which are sometimes put forward to entrap an unsuspecting public into the perusal of a sensational hoax.
For a number of years past the community has been surprised with accounts of most incredible marvels; and from time to time the press has reported various phenomena in connection with an unrecognized force and intelligence, as occurring in almost every locality throughout the habitable globe.
These phenomena are thought by many to be mere illusions, and by some attributed to peculiar electrical conditions; while others seek their solution in an abnormal state of the brain; and others still believe them dependent on an actual intercourse between mortals and those who have passed beyond the grave.
Having become interested in this mysterious and exciting subject, and finding the means at hand for testing the various phenomena, I resolved to undertake a series of experiments, with the hope of exposing a delusion, if such it were, or perchance, of clearing up a mystery which, by the magnitude and importance it has already assumed, is disturbing the foundations of old beliefs and steadily diffusing its theories and doctrines into the very heart of society.
Among other expedients to attain this end (assuming the hypothesis that spirits of the departed were in a condition to communicate with mortals), I interrogated, through the instrumentality of a clairvoyant gifted with the remarkable power of passing at will into an unconscious or trance state, the spirits of a number of well-known individuals concerning their views and sentiments in their present state of existence.
In response to my questions, an intelligent answer was received from the Countess Ossoli (Margaret Fuller), with the assurance that my desire was apprehended and would receive the hearty co-operation of those to whom it was addressed.
The process by which the papers were given was that of dictation through the clairvoyant while in an abnormal or trance condition and with her eyes closed. The matter was written in pencil as it fell from her lips, and subsequently transcribed for the press.
The difficulties attending the transmission of ideas through the medium of another mind, even under ordi
nary circumstances, must be apparent to all, and the unprejudiced reader may readily perceive obstacles to the literal reproduction of their respective styles and language by the various contributors.
Yet, notwithstanding the impediments to felicity of expression, I feel assured that persons at all familiar with the characteristics of the originals will readily perceive a marked resemblance in style to that of the authors named.
In the delivery of the articles, their composers would usually assume or personate their own individual characteristics; thus, Artemus Ward's conversation and gestures were exceedingly ludicrous. He was the very personification of mirth, occasionally going to the wall and humorously "chalking out" his designs. Archbishop Hughes expressed himself in a quiet, earnest, and eloquent manner. Lady Blessington was full of vivacity, and Margaret Fuller was our Presiding Angel; while Booth would become vehement to an intense degree, and at times would mount some article of furniture in the room, becoming passionately eloquent, as if again upon the "mimic stage of life.".
An intelligent public will perceive the mental effort incident upon the production of a series of articles so unusually varied; embracing the distinctive qualities of Philosophy, Science, Religion, Political Economy, Government, Satire, Humor, Poetry, Fiction, Narrative, Art, Astronomy, etc., etc.; and the query has fitly been advanced, — what mind, in the exercise of its normal func