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Massey, Gerald (1828-1907)

Massey, Gerald (1828-1907)

British poet born May 29, 1828, in Hertfordshire, England. He grew up in poverty, earned a living by working in a factory from the age of eight, and learned to read at a penny school. Massey became a socialist and edited a radical journal, and he also wrote poems, which were favorably noticed by established poets such as Browning and Tennyson. His first wife, Rosina Knowles, was a Spiritualist medium.

Massey based one volume of his poetry, A Tale of Eternity (1870), on personal experience of a haunted house. He soon lost some of his early popularity, however, when he was said to have gone over to the Spiritualists. In response he confessed:

"For the truth's sake I ought to explain that the spiritualism to be found in my poetry is no delusive idealism, derived from hereditary belief in a resurrection of the dead. My faith in the future life is founded upon facts in nature and realities of my own personal experience. These facts have been more or less known to me personally during forty years of familiar face-to-face acquaintanceship, therefore my certitude is not premature; they have given me proof palpable that our very own human identity and intelligence do persist after the blind of darkness has been drawn down in death."

In 1872 Massey presided at the meeting in London marking the departure of Emma Hardinge Britten to Australia. His address with some additions was later printed under the title Concerning Spiritualism.

In his later years he published four large volumes in which he tried to trace the origin of language, symbols, myths, and religions. The work was reminiscent of Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833). His final product was not well received during his lifetime, the idea of Africa as the birthplace of mankind being quite unacceptable in Victorian England. Thus A Book of the Beginnings (1881) and his other texts were largely ignored or ridiculed until later archaeological discoveries provided more solid evidence in support of Massey's themes.

He died on October 12, 1907.


Massey, Gerald. Ancient Egypt. 2 vols. London, 1907. Reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970.

. A Book of the Beginnings. 2 vols. London, 1881. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1974.

. The Natural Genesis. 2 vols. London: n.p., 1883.

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