Wednesday, 3 September 2014

3rd September 1814: 'Some Account of Joanna Southcott, the Pretended Propehtess'

This 'Passport to Heaven' from 1803 was sold at Bonhams in 2007 for £2520

From the Leeds Mercury of Saturday 3rd September 1814:


In the following summary of the prophetic origin and history of Joanna Southcott, it is not only my intention to submit any other information than what is to be found in writing.

In the year 1790 she was employed as a work-woman at an upholsterer’s shop in Exeter. The shopkeeper being a methodist, his shop was frequently visited by ministers of the same persuasion; and Joanna Southcott, possessing what they termed a serious turn of mind, did not pass unnoticed. She had frequent discussions in the shop with these ministers, and was regarded as a prodigy. Indeed, so much was she sensible of her own importance and superiority, that, with the aid of a few dreams, and some extraordinary visions, she began to self to think herself inspired. But what confirmed her in this belief was, the realization of a circumstance which she had been forewarned of in a vision—it was the miraculous seal. One morning, in sweeping out the shop (it is not stated whether or not she had a miraculous broom), she found a seal, with the initials J.S.; this could not possibly mean any other person than Joanna Southcott. From this moment she bid adieu to the shop, and commenced a prophetess. In a first prophecies she states, that in 1792 she was visited by the Lord, who promised to enter into an everlasting covenant with her, and told her that a vision would be shewn to her in the night. It accordingly appeared, sometimes like a cup, then like a cat, which she kicked to pieces, but was very uneasy, until she was told it was nothing more than the tricks of Satan, with a view to torment her. On the appearance of her first prophecies, the methodist preachers, already adverted to, endeavoured to convince her of the diabolical nature of her attempts; and attributed their origin to Satan himself. She then appointed an interview with as many as might choose to attend, in order to put the question to rest. The day arrived; the discussion was warm; and she adopted the argumentum ad hominem with such effect, that it terminated in the following valuable document, subscribed to by all parties present:—

“I, Joanna Southcott, am clearly convinced that my calling is of God, and my writings are indicted by his spirit, as it is impossible for any spirit, but an all-wise God, that is wondrous in working, wondrous in wisdom, wondrous in power, wondrous in truth, could have brought round such mysteries, so full of truth, as in my writings; so I am clear in whom I have believed, that all my writings come from the spirit of the most High God.


Signed in the presence of 58 persons (including the Methodist Preachers) who assented to the truth of the statement.

From this period her converts increased surprisingly, so that she could not furnish seals sufficient to answer all demands. The sealed papers contain a text of scripture (not uniformly the same) promissory of beatitude hereafter, stamped with the seal found in the upholsterer’s shop. The sealed person is forbidden to open the paper, lest the charm should be destroyed. That money has been given for these passports to Heaven I do positively assert, but that they are publicly or openly sold, I am not prepared to affirm. Those who would wish to inform an opinion of Joanna Southcott from her writings, need only purchase a 1s. 6d. number from Mr. Sharp the engraver, or Mr. Tozer, (one of her preachers), of the Westminster-road.

The three leading preachers were, Mr. Carpenter, (who preaches at the ‘House of God,’ Newington Butts), Mr. S.P. Foley (said to be a relation of Lord Foley), and Mr. Tozer; the former (Mr. Carpenter) has seceded from his Mistress, and afterwards employed a young man to see visions for him on his own account, but provided for by one of his flock. The two latter preachers still hold forth in Johanna’s interest, at a church near the Obelisk in Westminster-road.

With regard to the doctrines of Joanna Southcott, it is no very easy matter to arrive at a knowledge of them. They are not to be found in her works; for they are all of a prophetic, mysterious, ambiguous, blasphemous, or illiterate description. All that I have been able to collect from her preachers or admirers, relates to a second redemption of mankind through the medium of her writings and deeds; that her coming is called the Second Advent; that when the number of her followers amounts to (we believe) 300,000, then the objects of her mission will be for the most part accomplished—then all who admit the truth of her writings will be blessed, and those who deny them condemned to everlasting torment. She also asserts that the salvation of mankind would not be complete without a second redemption wrought in her person.


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