010 - There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat: Spirits On Stage... Alive & Kicking!

 Florence Marryat On Stage

Florence Marryat (1833-1899) was a British novelist, playwright, spiritualist, revue singer and actress in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. She was the daughter of the famous author Captain Frederick Marryat and was particularly well known for her involvement with the spiritual movement – and mediums – of the late 19th century. Florence Marryat wrote about 90 novels, adapted some of them for the stage and even took a role in a drama she had written. Her most notable work is There Is No Death (1891) - this book is being fully published here on GhostWritings. You can read a short biography of Florence Marryat here.

A Spirit Alive in the Stalls

When I first joined Mr. d’Oyley Carte’s Patience Company in the provinces, to play the part of Lady Jane, I understood I was to have four days rehearsal. However, the lady whom I succeeded, hearing I had arrived, took herself off, and the manager requested I would appear the same night of my arrival. This was rather an ordeal to an artist who had never sung on the operatic stage before, and who was not note perfect. But as a matter of obligation and although I was very nervous about it, I consented to do my best.

At the end of the second act, during the balloting scene. Lady Jane has to appear suddenly on the stage, with the word “Away!” – I forget at this distance of time whether I made a mistake in pitching the note a third higher or lower. I know it was not out of harmony, but it was sufficiently wrong to send the chorus astray, and bring my heart up into my mouth. It never occurred after the first night, but I never stood at the wings again waiting for that particular entrance, “girded my loins together”, without a kind of dread lest I should repeat the error.

After a while I perceived a good deal of whispering about me in the company, and I asked poor Federici (who played the colonel) the reason of it, particularly as he had previously asked me to stand as far from him as I could upon the stage, because I magnetized him so strongly that he couldn’t sing if I was near him.

“Well!... Do you know,” he said to me in answer, “that a very strange thing occurs occasionally with reference to you, Miss Marryat? While you are standing on the stage sometimes, you appear seated in the stalls. Several people have seen it beside myself. I assure you it is true.”

“And when do you see me then?” I enquired with amazement.

“It’s always at the same time,” he answered, “just before you run on at the end of the second act. Of course it’s only an appearance, but it’s very queer."

I told him then of the strange feelings of distrust of myself I experienced each night at that very moment, when my spirit seems to have preceded myself upon the stage…

The Spirit in the Green Riding Habit

Being subject to “optical illusions”, I naturally had several with regard to my spirit child, “Florence”, and she always came to me clothed in a white dress. One night, however, when I was living alone in the Regent’s Park, I saw “Florence” (as I imagined) standing in the centre of the room, dressed in a green riding habit slashed with orange color, with a cavalier hat of grey felt on her head, ornamented with a long green feather and a gold buckle. She stood with her back to me, but I could see her profile as she looked over her shoulder, with the skirt of her habit in her hand. This being a most extraordinary attire in which to see “Florence”, I felt curious on the subject, and the next day I questioned her about it.

Florence!” I said. “Why did you come to me last night in a green riding habit?”

“I did not come to you last night, mother! It was my sister Eva.”

“Good heavens!” I exclaimed. “Is anything wrong with her?”

"No, she is quite well.”

“How could she come to me then?”

“She did not come in reality, but her thoughts were much with you, and so you saw her spirit clairvoyantly.”

My daughter Eva, who was on the stage, was at that time fulfilling a stock engagement in Glasgow, and very much employed. I had not heard from her for a fortnight, which was a most unusual occurrence, and I had begun to feel uneasy. This vision made me more so, and I wrote at once to ask her if all was as it should be. Her answer was to this effect: “I am so sorry I have had no time to write to you this week, but I have been so awfully busy. We play “The Colleen Bawn” here next week, and I have had to get my dress ready for “Anne Chute”. It’s so effective. I wish you could see it. A green habit slashed with orange, and a grey felt hat with a long green feather and a big gold buckle. I tried it on the other night, and it looked so nice!”

Well, my darling girl had had her wish, and I had seen it.

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