Verrall, Margaret - Has a prophetic insight via automatic writing
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Future and Beyond – H F Saltmarsh
This case is taken from Proc., XX, 331.
Mrs. Verrall, writing automatically on 11th December, 1901, had the following in her script:
'Frost and a candle in the dim light. Marmontel. He was reading on a sofa or in bed - there was only a candle's light. She will surely remember this. The book was lent, not his own – he talked about it.'
On 17th December she again wrote:
‘Marmontel is right. It was a French book, a memoir, I think. Passy may help, Souvenirs de Passy or Fleury. Marmontel was not on the cover - the book was bound and was lent - two volumes in old-fashioned binding and print. It is not in any papers - it is an attempt to make someone remember - an incident’.
On 1st March, 1902, a Mr. Marsh mentioned to Mrs. Verrall at dinner that he had been reading Marmontel’s Memoir. Being interested on account of the references in the script, she asked him for particulars about his reading. He said that he had borrowed the books from the London Library and had taken the first volume with him to Paris, where he had read it on the evening of 20th February and again on 2Ist. On each occasion he read by the light of a candle, on the 20th he was in bed, on the 21st he was lying on two chairs. The weather was very cold but there was no frost. The books were bound, as are most of the books in the London Library, not in modern binding, but the name Marmontel was on the back. The edition is in three volumes but at the time of his visit to Mrs. Verrall he had read only two.
Asked whether 'Passy' or 'Fleury' would help, he replied that Fleury's name certainly occurred in the book, but was not sure about Passy.
On returning to town Mr. Marsh wrote to Mrs. Verrall saying that on 21st February, while lying on the two chairs, he had read in the first volume of Marmontel's Memoirs a chapter describing the finding at Passy of a panel, etc., connected with a story in which Fleury plays an important part.
It will be seen that the description given in the script was in the main accurate. The only errors were that there was no frost, though the weather was cold, that the book was in three volumes, though Mr. Marsh had read only two, and that the name Marmontel was on the back.
In spite of these discrepancies it seems to me that the coincidences between the statement in the script and the account given by Mr. Marsh are far too many and too detailed to be ascribable to chance. It is only on account of these errors that I have hesitated to claim perfection for this case. I do not think that any attention need be paid to the fact that the concluding words of the scripts seemed to imply that an incident in the past was being described [sic]. From the evidential point of view the case is unassailable [sic].
The actual scripts were sent by Mrs. Verrall before the 1st March, when she met Mr. Marsh, to one of the investigators of the Cross Correspondences, which were occurring about this time. There is, therefore, completely satisfactory documentary evidence for the precognition, while, as for the truth of Mr. Marsh's account of the event, no one in their senses would venture to question it [sic]. The only alternative is the obviously absurd one of collusion between Mrs. Verrall and Mr. Marsh.
as quoted in Tyrrell, G N M - The Personality of Man
Now we come to a case of a different kind. …. an interesting case of precognition, amongst a few which were recorded by Mrs. Verrall in the course of a critical study of the development of her own automatic writing. She discovered that some of her scripts contained apparent references to future events. The following is one of them. On 11th December, 1901, her script wrote:
"Nothing too mean the trivial helps gives confidence. Hence this. Frost and a candle in the dim light Marmontel-he was reading on a sofa or in bed there was only a candle's light. She will surely remember this. The book was lent not his own-he talked about it."
Mrs. Verrall did not understand this. After referring to something else, the script did, however, attempt to write the name "Sidgwick." Accordingly she wrote and asked Mrs. Sidgwick if the allusion to Marmontel meant anything to her. The latter said it did not, but she would look out to see if it was mentioned in some MSS. she was then reading. Mrs. Verrall's next script wrote:
"I wanted to write Marmontel is right. It was a French book, a Memoir I think. Passy may help Souvenirs de Passy or Fleury. Marmontel was not on the cover-the book was bound and was lent-two volumes in old-fashioned binding and print. It is not in any paper-it is an attempt to make someone remember-an incident."
Mrs. Verrall adds:
"Soon after my return to Cambridge, about December 25th, 1901, I was looking through a list of books-which I had glanced at before December 11th-and found an advertisement of 'Marmontel, Moral Tales, Selected and Translated by G. Saintsbury.' This, strange though such an admission may seem, was, as far as I could remember, my first conscious knowledge of Marmontel as a French writer."
ln January, 1902, Mrs. Verrall wrote asking a friend, a Mr. Marsh, to come on a week-end visit, having had no other communication with him since June, 1901. He came on the 1st March and mentioned, during dinner, that he had been reading Marmontel, and that it was the Memoir and not the Moral Tales. In reply to a request for more particulars, Mr. March said
"that he got the book from the London Library and took the first volume to Paris with him, where he read it on the evening of February 20th and again on February 2lst. On each occasion he read by the light of a candle, on the 20th he was in bed, on the 21st lying on two chairs. He talked .about the book to the friends with whom he was staying in Paris. The weather was cold, but there was, he said, no frost. The London Library copy is bound, as most of their books are, not in modern binding, but the name 'Marmontel is on the back of the volume. The edition has three volumes; in Paris Mr. Marsh had only one volume, but at the time of his visit to us he had read the second also.
"I asked him whether 'Passy' or 'Fleury' would help and he replied that Fleury's name certainly occurred in the book, in a note; he was not sure about Passy, but undertook to look it up on his return to town, and to ascertain, as he could by reference to the book, what part of the first volume he had been reading in Paris. He is in the habit of reading in bed, but has electric light in his bedroom at home, so that he had not read 'in bed or on a sofa by candle light' for months till he read Marmontel in Paris."
On his return to town Mr. Marsh wrote to me (March 4th, 1902) that on February 21st, while lying on two chairs, he read a chapter in the first volume of Marmontel's Memoirs, describing the finding at Passy of a panel, etc., connected with a story in which Fleury plays an important part. It will thus be noted that the script in December, 1901, describes (as past) an incident which actually occurred two and a half months later, in February, 1902-an incident which, at the time of writing, was not likely to have been foreseen by anyone.
No reasonable case can be made out for chance as an explanation of these coincidences. There is no mass of scripts referring to detailed incidents of this kind which have not corresponded with facts, such as there would have to be in order to provide a case for chance-coincidence. Nearly all cases of paranormal material contain errors or non-veridical matter. So it is in this case. Mrs. Verrall says:
"... though the weather was cold it does not seem to have been actually freezing on either of the two nights in question; the book was not in two volumes only, as seems implied, though only two volumes had been read when the incident was related to me; the name Marmontel was on the back of the book, though not on the face of the cover; the binding, though not modern, can hardly be described as old-fashioned. But the reference to Passy and Fleury-names which, so far as I can discover, are not together in any passage of Marmontel's Memoirs except that read by Mr. Marsh on February 21st-is a precise and, I think, remarkable coincidence."