I obtained this book from my correspondent Michael Osler in exchange for my copy of Peter Blobbs. It was published anonymously in 1911; as yet I have been unable to determine its true author. I have seen it attributed to Nell St. John Montague, but I believe this is probably an error of confusion: she did publish a book called Revelations of a Society Clairvoyante in 1926 but her title would imply a female protagonist, whereas the current work's narrator is a man, one 'Mr S.'.
Mr S.'s gift of clairvoyancy first comes to light when as a child in France he dreams of some silver bells buried in a garden near to his house; amazingly, during the revolution some such bells belonging to a local church had been hidden, but their whereabouts were no longer known. The location he identifies is tried and wonderfully - there are the bells! Hooray!
This happy episode is probably the last time in Mr S.'s career that he brings good luck. Once he embarks on his professional career, he becomes a veritable Jonah. His clients and their relatives suffer disease, death, unhappy marriages and murder. Yet despite this trail of disaster he is very successful and is consulted by royalty. To achieve such popularity he must be adept at disguising his true feelings about certain of his clients:-
Another class of person sometimes visits me, but I am thankful to say not often. I allude to those whose secret vices come from evil and pander to evil. Furtive eyed, decadent, poisonous growths emanating from the swamp of unspeakable sin, they consult me over mere trivialities, but all the time they hug to themselves the knowledge of their dreadful pleasures, and I can hear them saying inwardly, “Does he suspect me? Does he know?”
With time his real talent emerges, as a catty gossip: Mrs A. and her friends the D.'s were taken in by a bogus Baron; Mrs W. has had numerous affairs and was caught 'at it' with a young naval officer; Dolly R. was carrying on with a rich young chap and milking him for money; 'The Countess' deceived her husband with a young foreigner then after her divorce she married a “globe-trotting aide-de-camp” in the West Indies.
He likes to show off his acquaintance with royalty, too, whose collective weakness we are informed is possession by a superstitious dread: the Czarina of Russia believes in dreams; the Kaiser does not like the number thirteen; the Emperor of Austria has “peculiar forebodings”; the ex-Queen Sophia of Naples “anticipates meeting as violent a death as that of her two sisters”.
Of course in 1911 the heads of European states did have plenty of reason for anxiety; what a shame then that Mr S. omitted to tell us about the Russian Revolution and the First World War, which events must surely have repeatedly appeared in his crystal ball at the time. But let us be generous and assume that he did not mention them because they might have upset his readers. For myself, I believe him as gifted as any clairvoyant there ever has been, and his book as true as it could be.
Scribbled by Alfred Armstrong 15 years 2 weeks ago