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Southcott, Joanna (1750-1814)

Southcott, Joanna (1750-1814)

British prophetess of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who announced that she had a divine pregnancy. She was born on April 25, 1750, one of the daughters of a farmer in the village of Gittisham, East Devon, England. She grew up in a devout religious atmosphere, being obliged to read a chapter of the Bible daily and discuss it with her father. She became a sturdy, vivacious, self-reliant young woman.

When she was 21, her father because ill, obliging her to take charge of the farm, which she managed admirably for a couple of years until her father recovered. Southcott left the farm and went into domestic service for five years at the house of an upholsterer in Exeter, where she also became skilled in the trade. She next went to work as a maid for a couple named Taylor.

For 42 years Joanna had lived a normal life, but in 1792, at the time of her menopause, she began to have strange experiences.

Southcott's Prophetic Career

These were apocalyptic times. In France, revolutionary mobs had stormed the king's palace, and the houses of noble-men were in flames. Radical propagandists sought to foment revolution in Britain. Tom Paine's The Rights of Man had just been published. Several extreme religious movements had appeared.

Among the prophetic voices was that of a young naval officer, Richard Brothers. Brothers immersed himself in Bible study and preached powerful sermons on his apocalyptic visions, with warnings of the Day of Doom. He believed that the time had come for the Jews to regain Palestine, that the British were a lost tribe of Israel, and that the Second Coming of the Lord was at hand. Brothers was eventually arrested and charged with "maliciously publishing fantastical prophecies with intent to cause disturbances," certified as insane, and sent to a mental asylum, where he stayed for 11 years.

About this time Southcott also began to have similar apocalyptic dreams and visions. She was visited by a "voice," which told her,"The Lord is awakened out of sleep. He will terribly shake the earth." At first, Southcott thought she was being deluded by Satan, but the voice began to make amazingly accurate prophecies about events, both great and small.

Asked for a sign, the voice knocked three times on the bedsteadan early precursor of the raps at nineteenth-century Spiritualist séances. Then she suddenly found her hand writing messages without conscious guidance. She stated, "The writing comes extremely fast, much faster than I could keep up by voluntary effort. I have to turn over the pages and guard the lines of writing from running into each other; but, except for this, I need not look at the paper. I can talk on other subjects while writing. The mass of the writings consists in teachings on Religion. Some messages, however, deal with earthly matters." Many of the writings were in simple verse form.

When her prophecies on domestic affairs began to be vindicated, Southcott became confident that the voice was a true guide, and she attempted to interest religious authorities in her messages. A Methodist preacher listened to her, then pronounced, "This is from Satan to disturb your peace." She approached the Dissenters, but their minister stated that her revelations were unscriptural. She then turned to the established Church and wrote to a preacher named Joseph Pomeroy, vicar of St. Kew in Cornwall, who had himself warned of perilous times to come.

Pomeroy received her kindly and said he saw nothing diabolical in the messages, but he told her mistress, Mrs. Taylor, "She will be out of her mind soon." On a subsequent visit, Southcott spoke to Pomeroy of impending events of an apocalyptical nature, and he said, "You have advanced things that make me shudder. It is bordering on blasphemy." At a loss to refute her sincerity, he suggested that she have her writings examined by a jury of clergymen.

Thereupon Southcott sent Pomeroy a number of prophecies that were fulfilled. She predicted that the bishop of Exeter, then in good health, would not live until Christmas of that year. He died on December 12. In 1796 Lord Malmesbury went on a peace mission to Paris. Southcott foretold that it would fail, and so it did. At that time it would have seemed unreasonable to believe that the French revolutionary armies would conquer Italy, as predicted by Southcott, but young Bonaparte's success brought this to pass. Southcott was sincerely convinced that her messages were from God.

In 1797, Southcott left the service of the Taylors and went to work for several Exeter tradesmen in upholstering. She was a good worker, and her income helped to support her father, who was ill again. She also saved some money for her eventual retirement.

All this time her messages continued. Joanna introduced an early feminist view into her messages, claiming that when the time was right, God would use a woman to fulfill divine purpose. She stated, "Is it a new thing for a woman to deliver her people? Did not Esther do it? And Judith? Was it not a woman that nailed Sisera to the ground?" She became convinced that she herself was the destined "Bride of the Lamb," "woman clothed with the sun" in Revelation (12:1). In 1794, her voice had stated, "Now I'll tell thee who thou art, The true and faithful Bride."

Southcott alarmed Pomeroy with what seemed to him a blasphemous claim, as well as with more prophecies. She demanded that her messages be considered by a panel of clergymen. She wrote to the bishop, the archdeacon, and the chancellor, urging them to visit Pomeroy and test her teaching. On January 5, 1801, she wrote again to five clergymen, asking them to prove within seven days that the messages were not divine revelations. After a week she heard nothing, so she took her messages to an Exeter printer, paying him £100 she had saved for her old age.

In February of that year, The Strange Effects of Faith appeared as a 48-page, nine-penny pamphlet describing how the messages had come to Southcott and how she had sought to get clerical recognition of them. The following month she published Second Part. By now, her life savings were exhausted, so she borrowed from a moneylender to sponsor publication of further parts.

Rev. T. P. Foley, fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, an intelligent, educated man and a former follower of the unfortunate fanatic Richard Brothers, saw these modest pamphlets and was immediately impressed with them. He consulted other friends, including the engraver William Sharp (who had also been a follower of Brothers's), and they attempted to interest clergymen in forming a jury to consider Southcott's writings. Afterward, many of the prophecies and other papers were put in a box fastened with cords and sealed with seven seals. Sharp had charge of this. The sealed box was later to become a central point in controversies over the writings.

When some of Southcott's followers printed her letters, Pomeroy was alarmed to find his name frequently quoted, and in a weak moment threw her papers on the fire. Almost immediately he had a letter from Southcott demanding their return, and thereafter his life was made miserable by scores of letters from her and her followers, denouncing him as a second Johoiakim who burned the roll of the prophet and threatening him with divine and diabolical justice.

The Seals

As Southcott's followers increased, she devised a strange sign of her mission, her famous "seal." Years earlier, when working in the shop of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, she had found a seal with the initials "I. C." and two stars. One day she formed the idea that these were the initials of Jesus Christ ("I" and "J" were then interchangeable as initials) and marked her prophecies with this seal. Now the idea came to her that this also indicated the sealing of believers as well as prophetic writings, as cited in Rev. 7:3: "Hurt not the earth till we have sealed the servants of our God."

She cut paper into squares and marked a circle on each square, writing inside, "The Seal of the Lord, the Elect and Precious, Man's Redemption to Inherit the Tree of Life, to be made Heirs of God and Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ." Her followers received one of these squares after signing it, and it was folded up like an envelope and marked with the "I. C." seal.

Within a year she had issued several thousand of these "seals." Unfortunately she was accused of selling them and making a handsome income, although she claimed the seals were freely issued without any charge. (It is possible that middlemen asked money for them, since many people regarded them as lucky charms or passports to heaven.)

The Ministry Prospers

From time to time, Southcott was genuinely tortured by doubts as to whether her inner voice was a delusion of Satan, and she toyed with the idea of giving up her mission and going back to the upholstery trade. Some of her prophecies had failed. After one period of depression, she published her doubts in a pamphlet titled "A Dispute between the Woman and the Powers of Darkness." It seemed to be an honest work by a sincere woman, caught up in a strange mission that she had never sought.

But after 18 months her mission grew rapidly, with followers in London and the provinces, and she soon enrolled more than eight thousand disciples. She continued to demand that the bishops examine her claims and prophecies and agreed to abide by their decision, but the church dignitaries were unwilling to become involved.

Her mission continued to grow in spite of various unfortunate setbacks. One of these was the case of the infamous Mary Bateman, thief and abortionist, who had obtained a seal from Southcott and claimed that her hens were laying eggs with an inscription announcing the coming of Christ. Mary Bateman was executed for the murder of Rebecca Perigo, whom she had unmercifully fleeced for years by selling her charms against evil. For a time this scandalous episode of one of the "sealed followers" caused much embarrassment to the movement.

But Southcott's writings sold well, and many people who had followed the unfortunate Richard Brothers now came to join her mission. In 1812 a legacy from a disciple gave her financial independence. During 1813 her ecstasies increased and she felt surrounded by angels.

Shiloh

Southcott was 64 years old when her "voice" commanded, "Order twelve gowns for thy wedding." She was greatly disconcerted by this, as she had no desire for matrimony, but in early 1814 the voice added, "This year in the sixty-fifth year of thy age thou shalt bear a son by the power of the Most High." Back in 1794, she had already declared her conviction that she was "the Bride of the Lamb," but now the full significance of this dawned on her. The Virgin Mary had born a divine son. South-cott's child would have a divine destiny.

In Genesis (49:10) Jacob says that the scepter will not depart from Judah "until Shiloh come." This passage has confused and comforted many religious prophets, including Richard Brothers, who had declared at one point, "I am Shiloh." South-cott believed Brothers misunderstood the passage; Shiloh was to arise in the Last Days. In March 1814 she declared her belief that Shiloh was her unborn child. By then she showed every sign of pregnancy, and astonishingly enough this was confirmed by a leading surgeon and no fewer than 20 other medical practitioners.

The followers received the news of the coming divine virgin birth with great joy, and gifts flowed in. A satinwood cradle for the baby was prepared at a cost of £200. A superbly bound Bible was presented, and dozens of christening mugs and pap spoons. Recalling her message to Pomeroy (the Cornwall vicar) that she was the bride mentioned in Scripture, Southcott concluded that she must make an earthly marriage so that Shiloh would have a foster father, as with Joseph and the child Jesus. Accordingly on November 12 she was married in her bedroom to John Smith, steward of the earl of Darnley.

Southcott expected the divine birth in July, but as late as September nothing had happened. During November, painful doubts began to manifest in her mind, and once again she began to wonder if her voice had misled her. She called her close friends to her bedside and confessed despairingly, "Now it all appears delusion." She grew weaker, and by December 16 the symptoms of pregnancy had vanished. She told her doctor she was gradually dying, and requested that after her presumed death her body be kept warm for four days, in case she was only in a trance. She died early in the morning on December 27.

After the four days had elapsed, her doctor and 14 other medical practitioners examined the body and found no organic disease beyond a condition of dropsy, which may have enhanced the false pregnancy. It is probable that Southcott suffered a deep depression and no longer wished to live after her final disillusionment with her divine mission.

Just before her death she had made a will in which she sadly claimed that she had been deceived by the Devil and directed that all the gifts intended for the coming Shiloh be returned to their donors. She was buried in Marylebone Cemetery, London, on January 2, 1815, and her tombstone, evidently supplied by a follower, predicted great wonders yet to come but inaccurately stated her age as 60 instead of 64. The tombstone was shattered in a gunpowder explosion at Regent's Park in 1874.

The Successors of Joanna Southcott

Her death and recantation left her thousands of followers in great confusion. A large number refused to believe that her mission had been a delusion. Others formed splinter groups. Among these was a group led by George Turner, "Herald of Shiloh," who claimed to be Southcott's successor. He explained that Shiloh had been taken from Southcott's womb into Paradise until the appointed time.

Turner's demented "Proclamation of the Final Days" was to be delivered in Palace Yard, London. It denounced "the Treasury, Horse Guards, Carlton House, the Playhouses, Churches and Chapels, the Tower, Somerset House, and other public places. The Angel of the Lord shall sink all by earthquake." His radical manifesto dictated, "The whole United Kingdom is to be divided to the People on the Roll. Those who are not worth a penny now must be lords of the land. No rents must be paid. No postage for letters. No turnpikes. No taxes. Porter a gallon for one half-penny. Ale the same. The dead must be carried in carts three miles from the city and put into deep pits covered with pigs' flesh."

Confined to a Quaker asylum for the insane, Turner continued with fantastic directions for his faithful followers. Shiloh's palace must have walls of pure gold adorned with precious stones. "There must be in attendance 70,000 men that play musical instruments and 70,000 singing women. He must have 500,000 servants, and his carriages must be of pure gold." Turner himself was to have 300,000 servants and accommodations similar to those of Shiloh.

In 1820 Turner was declared cured of insanity, and his followers petitioned the lord chancellor for his release, granted a few months later. After an extravagant "marriage supper," Turner promised that Shiloh would appear in London on October 14, being born as a boy already six years old. When the date passed uneventfully, the faithful took it as merely a divine test of their love. Turner's own "voice" ordered him to marry, so that Shiloh might have a foster mother. Accordingly Turner chose a wife, and a new date of April 10, 1821, was pronounced for the birth of Shiloh. When nothing happened, some followers were disillusioned; others followed rival leaders.

Visions came to a wool comber named John Wroe, another Southcott follower, who came into prominence when he challenged Turner's original prophecy of October 14, 1820, as the date of birth of Shiloh. Wroe now assumed control of Turner's group, and his followers proclaimed themselves Christian Israelites. Wroe dictated new laws for the Final Days. Males were to be circumcised, and everyone was to eat only kosher meat. Men had to wear dark, broad-brimmed hats and special clothing; even the sober dress for women was stipulated in great detail. Men were also to give up shaving and wear beards. Everyone was to give up snuff, tobacco, and alcohol. Those who transgressed these laws were to be severely beaten.

One child died after circumcision and the man performing the operation was charged with manslaughter. He was acquitted after Jewish leaders pressured the government, fearing that their own legitimate rite would be prohibited.

Eventually the movement renounced Wroe after persistent debaucheries on his part, but he emigrated to the United States and then to Australia, where his mission continued to have followers. He died in 1863. The Christian Israelite church continues in Australia, and there was one congregation in the United States as of the mid-1990s.

Meanwhile another large group of Southcott believers had followed John Ward, a pauper Irish shoemaker. He had been a disciple of George Turner's before his faith in Southcott was shaken when he read an attack on the New Testament account of Christ by the freethinker Richard Carlile. Eventually he concluded that the Scriptures were not history but prophecies, foretelling future events, and that the accounts of the birth of Jesus were allegorical. He had visions of Southcott, who told him, "Thou art Shiloh."

Ward eventually decided that he himself was the Jesus foretold in the Gospels, in part because he had been born on Christmas Day and his mother's name was Mary. Even more fantastic was Ward's belief that he was Satan before becoming Christ, and that the Devil was now the Son of God. All the Scriptures implicated him in a multiplicity of roles. He was Adam, Judah, and Elijah. He claimed, "There is no name in Scripture which I may not with propriety apply to myself." Because of the many texts using the name Zion, he chose this designation for himself, becoming known as "Zion Ward."

Ward escaped from the poorhouse where he had been confined and talked followers into supporting his mission by publishing literature and handbills. He roamed the country preaching his unique variety of messianism, which included attacks on landlords, the government, and the established Church. He was a remarkable orator and obtained considerable support for his mission. Eventually his health broke down, and he died of a stroke on March 12, 1837. Faithful followers continued to support him long after his death, and as late as 1921 one supporter published his book The Shilohites' Bible. By then there was no public mission, and a handful of the faithful simply read his books and meditated on his message.

In 1875, the Southcott followers were given a new direction by another prophet, a soldier named James White, whose friends called him "The Stranger." Like Southcott, he was inspired by a mysterious voice that ordered him to regroup the faithful. He adopted the name James Jershom Jezreel. "Jershom" was a misspelling of "Gershom," the name of the first child of Moses. "Jezreel" came from Hosea: "Then shall the children of Israel and the children of Judah be gathered together and appoint themselves one Head, for great shall be the day of Jezreel."

White published a book, titled The Flying Roll (derived from the book of Zechariah), outlining his new creed. In Rev. 8:2, seven angels are given seven trumpets to sound before the Day of Doom. According to White, these angels were seven prophets. The first five were Richard Brothers, Southcott, George Turner, a man named Shaw (another Southcott successor), and John Wroe. White was the sixth angel. One more prophet would arise, then Shiloh would come.

One of Jezreel's important converts was a girl of 15 named Clarissa Rogers. She too heard a mystical voice, which called on her to preach in the United States. Her beauty and eloquence converted many Americans, some of whom returned with her to Gillingham, Kent, where Jezreel had become established. Jezreel married her, and they both toured America in 1880 with six wagons, a large tent, and a hundred benches.

They collected enough financial support to enable them to buy a 20-acre site in Gillingham, where they built a housing estate for their followers, with shops and bakeries so that they could pursue a trade. They ran a successful delivery service in Gillingham and Chatham with their carts, selling bread, meat, produce, and other provisions. The Jezreel estate also had the International College for boys and girls, with special emphasis on harp playing and study of Jezreel's writings.

In 1884, after a successful tour in Australia, Jezreel returned with ambitious plans for a temple, cubic in shape, 100 feet high, 100 feet wide, and 100 feet long. It was to house printing presses, offices, and an assembly hall seating six thousand people. The walls were to be reinforced with steel girders and cement used instead of mortar, and it was to last for a thousand years. After six months' building, Jezreel died in March 1885.

His wife, who had adopted the name Esther, continued to develop the movement effectively, opening Jezreel chapels in many areas and employing hawkers to carry the movement's literature all over the country. There were Jezreel followers in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Esther was accepted as the seventh angel with a trumpet, to be followed by Shiloh. She died in 1888, only three years after her husband. The great temple remained unfinished.

After her death, quarrels and schisms arose in the movement. One branch followed Michael Keyfor Mills, who organized a Jezreel community in Detroit, Michigan, but it soon broke up. In 1903 Benjamin Purnell, who had been expelled from the Detroit community, founded his own colony, the House of David, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Things went well for several years, and their orchestra and baseball team became famous.

Problems began in 1926, when the community had nine hundred colonists. Four years earlier, Purnell had stopped making public appearances and disappeared from public sight, but in 1926 he was arrested during a police raid on the community. A lengthy investigation and court proceeding followed. In 1927 the colony was declared a public nuisance and moved into receivership. Purnell and his wife, Mary, were excluded from further association with the colony. Purnell died on December 16. Mary Purnell began a lengthy fight for the return of the colony's property, and in 1930 a settlement was reached. Assets were divided between her and H. T. Dewhist, who had assumed control of the House of David following Purnell's arrest.

The House of David continues on its original land. Mary Purnell and her followers established a second community a short distance away. Both continue to the present time. An Australian branch of the House of David also survives.

The Panacea Society

The final phase of the Southcott movement commenced in 1907 and involved four ladies who became skillful propagandists for the movement. They were Alice Seymour, who edited editions of Southcott's books; Rachel Fox, a Quaker; her friend Helen Exeter, who received Spiritualistic messages about Joanna Southcott's sealed box; and Mabel Barltrop, widow of an Anglican curate, who was a godchild of the poet Coventry Pat-more.

Mabel Barltrop pestered innumerable clergymen and bishops, demanding that they open Southcott's box. She joined forces with Helen Exeter, whose spirit messages through automatic writing informed her that she would be the mother of Shiloh. Exeter, who was to be the eighth prophet, adopted the name Octavia.

Octavia established a settlement at Bedford, and many supporters of the emerging suffragette movement joined her. She continued to badger the bishops to open Southcott's box and study the writings and prophecies it contained. For 20 years she propagandized with handbills, posters, and petitions.

In 1918 the bishop of Lambeth stated that he had the consent of 24 bishops to receive the box and open it on March 7 or 8. But Octavia's followers were not satisfied unless all the bishops were prepared to spend a whole week studying the contents. Not surprisingly, Bishop Carpenter could not agree, and the matter was dropped. It was the nearest the famous box ever came to being officially examined as Southcott had always desired.

By this time Octavia had been declared to be Shiloh by her followers. By 1920 she had a team of 36 residents at Bedford and a large following in Britain, Australia, and America.

In 1923 the movement took a new direction. One night Octavia tried to swallow a pill, but it slipped away and rolled under a cupboard. Accordingly she took the glass of water and prayed that it would serve the purpose of the pill. When it did, her voice proclaimed that she had been given healing powers. Thereafter the community prepared small linen squares "with the breath of prayer." These were to be dipped in water, which was to be drunk or poured onto wounds. The community adopted the name The Panacea Society, convinced that they had a universal remedy for all ills.

Octavia herself died in 1934, notwithstanding the universal remedy, but her movement continues.

The Opening of the Southcott Box

For decades, quaint notices continued to appear in British newspapers stating, "War, disease, crime and banditry will increase until the Bishops open Joanna Southcott's box."

In 1927 an attempt to resolve this persistent controversy was undertaken by the British psychical researcher Harry Price, who had a great flair for publicity. On April 28, 1927, he arrived at his National Laboratory of Psychical Research to be greeted by his secretary with the news "Joanna Southcott's box has arrived!" According to Price, it had been sent by the employer of two servants who were descendants of Mrs. Rebecca Morgan (née Pengarth), said to have been the sole companion of Southcott between 1798 and 1814. The cover letter stated that the Morgans had become custodians of Southcott's box, which had been earlier entrusted to Rebecca, and that the National Laboratory of Psychical Research should arrange for a formal opening of the box because the writer was moving to the United States.

This account has been challenged by Trevor H. Hall in his book The Search for Harry Price (1978), which suggests that the letter was a forgery by Price to obtain publicity for the box. It is true that there is no mention of Rebecca Pengarth as a companion to Southcott in histories of the movement, although the box itself appeared to be a genuine Southcott relic, however Price came into possession of it. It was a strongly built casket of walnut, stained with age, with a heavy lid with a mother-of-pearl plate bearing the engraved initials "I. S." (i.e., J. S.). The casket was secured by two rusty steel bands and by strong silk tapes secured in five places with large black seals bearing a profile of George III.

Price invited eight psychics, a psychologist, and a dowser to inspect the box and give their impressions of its contents. Most of the psychometric impressions proved reasonably accurate. When Price later x-rayed the box in his laboratory he identified the following objects: an old horse pistol, a dice box, a fob purse with coins in it, a bone puzzle with rings, some blocks (one with metal clasps), a framed painting or miniature, a pair of earrings, and a cameo or engraved pebble.

Price secured much publicity for the box, and sensational stories were published that it might contain a boobytrap bomb intended to kill the bishops. Price wrote to three archbishops and 80 bishops stating his intention to make a formal opening of the box, and asking if they would consent to be present to honor Southcott's wishes and perhaps to end the persistent superstition surrounding the box.

Some replies were noncommittal. The bishop of Derby hoped that Price could get a quorum for the opening in order to "lay to rest the Joanna Southcott legend." The bishop of Lincoln strongly advised opening the box "with or without the presence of bishops." The bishop of Liverpool wrote: "I join you in hoping that the Southcott myth will be exploded." In contrast, the bishop of Kensington was unsympathetic, saying that he did not wish to be a party to providing amusement for a public that would like nothing better than to see a company of bishops the victims of a hoax, even if it had been arranged one hundred years earlier.

However, the bishop of Chichester wrote that he would be glad if the Southcott myth could be exploded and would be willing to be present, if in London at the time. The bishop of London replied that he would try to be present. The bishop of Carlisle replied that he would be present if the archbishop of Canterbury "should be satisfied as to the propriety of bishops being present at the opening of the box."

The archbishop of Canterbury replied that his correspondence over Southcott's box had been voluminous and extended over many years. He was not sympathetic to the idea, "partly profane and partly comic," that 24 bishops representing the 24 elders in Revelation should sit around the box. He believed the box should be opened speedily, but also thought that as soon as it was opened a rival box would be found. Other bishops expressed interest in being present if in London, or if given permission by the archbishop of Canterbury.

The opening of the box took place before a large audience at the Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House, Westminster, London, on July 11, 1927. For the event, only the bishop of Grantham turned up, but the bishop of Crediton was represented by his son, the Reverend Trefusis.

As already mentioned, the psychometric impressions given by the psychics contained many accurate statements. Not surprisingly, the X-rays of the solid objects were also correct. Among the 56 objects in the box, the pamphlets and books included: The Surprises of Love, Exemplified in the Romance of a Day (1765), with annotations; Rider's British Merlin (1715); Calendier de la Cour (1773); and Ovid's Metamorphoses (1794). There was a paper souvenir "printed on the River Thames, Feb. 3rd, 1814," and a lottery ticket for 1796. Among the objects were a fob purse (containing silver and copper coins and tokens), a horse pistol, a miniature case, an ivory dice cup, a bone puzzle, a woman's embroidered nightcap, and a set of brass money weights.

Naturally the loyal Southcottians did not accept that these pathetic souvenirs were the contents of the right box, and the appeals to bishops to attend the opening of the true box continued, although it was by no means clear where this box might be. Certainly one would have expected the real Southcott box to contain voluminous prophecies, correspondence, and religious pamphlets.

The incredible story of Joanna Southcott and her prophecies has continued over nearly two centuries and is still not wholly extinct. The Southcott literature is voluminous. She herself published some 65 books and pamphlets, while her followers in the various groups added a flood of additional communications.

Sources:

Adkin, Clare E. Brother Benjamin: A History of the Israelite House of David. Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1990.

Balleine, G. R. Past Finding Out: The Tragic Story of Joanna Southcott and Her Successors. London: SPCK, 1956.

Lane, C. Life and Bibliography of Joanna Southcott. London, 1912.

Matthews, Ronald. English Messiahs. London: Methuen, 1936.

Octavia. [Helen Exeter]. Healing for All: The "Joanna Southcott Healing." London: Panacea Society, 1925.

Panacea Society. Transactions of the Panacea Society with the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England with Reference to Joanna Southcott. London: Panacea Society, 1935.

Pullen, Philip. Index to the Divine and Spiritual Writings of Joanna Southcott. Ashford, England: Clock House Press, 1921.

Reece, Richard. A Correct Statement of the Circumstances that Attended the Last Illness and Death of Mrs. Southcott. London, 1815.

Southcott, J. The Book of Wonders, Marvelous and True. 5 parts. London, 1813-14.

. The Divine Writings of Joanna Southcott. 2 vols. Bolton, England, 1931.

. Prophecies: A Warning to the Whole World from the Sealed Prophecies of Joanna Southcott. 2 parts. London, 1803.

. The Strange Effects of Faith; with Remarkable Prophecies. 2 parts. Exeter, England, 1801-2. With three "Continuations. " 1802-3.

"Xenes." Joanna Southcott and Her Box. London: W. Foul-sham, 1927.

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Southcott, Joanna

Southcott, Joanna (1750–1814). A religious fanatic, of Devon farming stock, Joanna was in domestic service in Exeter. Originally called to methodism (1791), she soon had religious experiences and started ‘sealing’ her writings. She visited Bristol (1798), published The Strange Effects of Faith (1801), and moved to London (1802), where she began the practice of ‘sealing the faithful’ who, according to the Book of Revelation, were to be 144,000. She claimed to be ‘the Lamb's wife’ (Rev. 12) who would give birth to ‘the second Christ’ in 1814; instead she died of brain disease. Her bizarre following, surviving into the 20th cent., believed she would rise again. She left a box, directed to be opened after 100 years with 24 bishops present (cf. Rev. 4: 4). When opened (1927), with one bishop present, it contained merely a night-cap, book, lottery ticket, dicebox, and some coins.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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JOHN CANNON. "Southcott, Joanna." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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JOHN CANNON. "Southcott, Joanna." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Retrieved July 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O110-SouthcottJoanna.html

Southcott, Joanna

Joanna Southcott (south´kət), 1750–1814, English religious visionary. Uneducated, even illiterate, she spent her earlier years in domestic service. She began c.1792 to claim the gift of prophecy; her "revelations" attracted many followers. Later she announced that, as the woman in Revelation 12, she would be the mother of the coming Messiah. Soon after the time she had set for the birth of the "second Shiloh," she died of brain disease, at the age of 64. Her followers continued to study the 60 or more tracts and books of her writing; the sect never completely died out. She left a locked box with instructions that it be opened only in the presence of all the bishops at a time of national crisis. In 1928, a box alleged to be hers was opened when one bishop agreed to be present; it revealed nothing of interest. Among her books is The Strange Effects of Faith (2 vol., 1801–2).

See G. R. Balleine, Past Finding Out (1956).

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