Friday, 26 December 2014

26th December 1814: A report about the ailing Joanna Southcott

The Leeds Intelligencer of Monday 26 December 1814 published an update on the ailing Joanna Southcott:


The extravagant and degrading folly of Joanna Southcott’s tribe is likely to be soon at an end, so far as such fools can be cured of their absurdity. The Priestess herself is about, as we understand, to drop her trade. Shiloh has not come, and no period could be chosen more suitable than the present one of disappointment for a general closing of the Firm. The report is, that the miserable old Woman herself is dying. We are yet unacquainted whether this be true, or whether it is not a new trick to smooth over the deception in a way, which leaving the imposture sufficiently undecided, for at least the vulgar roguery of her followers, may give room for new visions, and new practices on the public credulity. The whole business has been eminently disgusting, and we think, serious blame attaches to those in whose province the protection of public order naturally falls, for suffering this indecency and crime to go so far. We live in a Christian country; the spirit of the Religion is deeply mingled with the whole frame of our Civil Society; the law is made strong as well for the protection of feebleness and ignorance against low delusion, as against the more palpable violences that may derange the general system. We have a provision of Law expressly directed against impostures on our Religion. Why were they not put in force while such vagrants as Mr. Towzer and his coadjutors were holding forth in the face of the Police. It is a mere evasion to say, that the delusion would come to an end. It was not the less culpable and those who permitted it to take a single step towards the diffusion which it obtained. Why is the law put in force against the impostor who tricks a silly chambermaid out of sixpence for selling her fortune? And yet a delusion, so palpably gross and revolting as not to allow a moment’s doubt in any rational mind of its being a legitimate object of prevention and punishment, was suffered to spread to its full extent, and is now likely to be restrained only by the death of the wretched creature who lent herself to its vileness. Joanna Southcott's whole system was one continued course of grievous blasphemy, scarcely less guilty in those who allowed, than in those to whom it was made a source of profit. The profit was however immense, and the Magistracy would not do unwisely to clear their name of the possible imputation.

The above we have extracted from a respectable London print. The Believers here, however, are all on the alert. Mr. George Turner, (who is, we fancy, the High Priest, at Leeds,) received the following letter on Friday, from the Secretary of Joanna Southcott:

"I have the satisfaction to inform you, that our dear Joanna began to revive on Monday: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she appeared dying; her pulse at 8, and Dr. Reece said she could not live over Monday, therefore he was very much surprised to find on that day her pulse rose, and otherways better. Yesterday she said, "What will the Doctor say now?" Mr. Westerhill said she had pains that indicated approaching labour, but he could draw no judgement how soon. The life of the child is strong. I have no time to add more, than kind love to yourself, Mr Hurst, sen. and all friends, and remain your’s faithfully in the work of the Lord;


Dec. 21, 1814.
Numerous Christmas presents too, were sent by the Union Coach, from this place, on Thursday, so as to arrive in town for Joanna's Christmas-Day Dinner.

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