Automatic misfile

Cynthia, wife of the 6th Baron Sandys was for many years a well-known “amateur” Medium, channelling letters from deceased family members and acquaintances. However, going through the “6th Baron” boxes in order to prepare fragments no. 8 (to reflect the material within the Sandys Ombersley archive from the era of Cynthia and her husband Arthur), a notebook has come to light that reveals spiritualist activity taking place in the Sandys family in an earlier age also.

The “misfiling” consists of gathered transcripts of the supposed utterings of deceased relations of Augusta née Des Voeux, wife of Augustus Frederick (“A.F.”), 4th Baron Sandys. This “automatic writing” dates from around 1880, and with the aid of entries in the Ombersley Court visitors book some sense can be made of it.

Augusta (known as “Gussie”), her two sisters and one brother, Fred, were the children of their father’s 2nd marriage, to Lady Cecilia Paulet. Fred, the youngest, became Sir Frederick Assheton Des Voeux 4th Bart. following his half-brother’s death. Having died unmarried in his early 20s, his is one of the spirit “voices” speaking to the Medium for the writing now discovered: that Medium is one Laura Beale, and Fred appears to have been her lover. 

A second “voice” is that of Lady Sophia Catherine Des Voeux (formerly Gresley, née Coventry), who died in 1875, her husband being another of Gussie’s half-brothers.

The names of flowers are used to indicate specific people in the automatic writing: by no means all are identifiable even after detective work, but we can be reasonably sure that the Red Rose is Gussie; our cherished Carnation, her husband A.F.; the White Rose, Gussie’s sister Mary, Lady Stracey, and the Lily, Laura Beale herself.

Two loose sheets on Ombersley letterhead inserted in the book (see the illustration) seem to be parts of messages as first written down, the remainder no doubt burnt in accordance with the voices’ instructions, after being fair copied by Gussie.

The book opens with lines that reveal the strong Christian flavour of many of the entries. The God of love bless and direct you. Tell Gussie it is best she should not practice spiritualism but to cherish the thought that one who was very dear to her is sent by God in his great love to watch over her and guard her from evil

A running theme of the book is health, and it is clear Gussie is anxious to conceive children. Bad news is “voiced” to her, not in English, but coyly in German: er ist nicht stark genug Kindern zu haben (the 4th Baron is impotent). A previous blog post shows the error of this particular pronouncement from the beyond.

A Sandys archive publication entitled Three little mice relates events at Ombersley in the year 1814. Now, some three-quarters of a century later, according to the automatic writing, the Court is infested with rats: We hate Gussie to be surrounded with them as she is at present, even in this room at this present moment there are 10 or more round you in the walls and Gussie’s dressing room swarms with them. We always find it easier to approach when the atmosphere is pure, this is the reason we prefer writing in the billiard-room and here. There are not half so many but there are some, but not in this room. Our love rest upon you…

Altogether, a rum business, and necessitating some revision of fragments no. 6 in due course!