Saturday, 27 December 2014

27th December 1814: The death of Joanna Southcott

Joanna Southcott, as depicted by William Sharp in a print of an engraving from 1812. Sharp was a former radical turned millenarian convert & disciple of Southcott, one or her 'elect' or inner circle.

The death of Joanna Southcott was publicly announced in several newspapers, one of the earliest being the Morning Chronicle of Wednesday 28th December 1814. Their article was picked up by the Leeds Mercury of 31st December, and that version is published below:


"SIR—As you desired to be present at Mrs. Southcott’s accouchment, had it taken place, as was then expected; the friends consider it as their duty to inform you and all the medical gentlemen who had that intention, that to all appearance she died this morning exactly as the clock struck four.

"Care is taken to preserve warmth in the body as she directed; and it is the wish of the friends that you will see her in her present state.


"38, Manchester-street, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 1814.

"To Dr. R. Reece."


"SIR—Agreeably to your request, I send a messenger to acquaint you that Joanna Southcott died this morning, precisely at four o'clock. The believers in her mission, supposing that the vital functions are only suspended for a few days, will not permit me to open the body until some symptom appears which may destroy all hopes of resuscitation.―I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


"Piccadilly, Dec. 27, 1814."

As Mrs. Southcott’s believers are of opinion she has only gone into a trance (which she predicted twenty years ago), and that she will be delivered of Shiloh in four days, we shall (says The Sunday Monitor) on Sunday next be able to communicate further particulars.

Messrs. Wetherall, Adams, and Kent, were present when she breathed her last, as were Miss Townley, Ann Underwood, the housekeeper and Mr. Smith, one of those she determined her seven elect. The last words she was heard distinctly to utter were, "Oh England! England!"

The faith of the believers is now stretched to its utmost capacity. To imagine that a living virgin at sixty five would produce a son was pretty well! but to believe, firmly and steadfastly, that a dead virgin, beyond the grand climacteric, will return to life to become the mother of a living Shiloh, implies a stretch of credulity that stands unparalleled in the annals of fanatical delusion!

Number 38 Manchester Street, Marylebone in June 2014 (from Google Street View). The address at which Southcott lived up until her death.

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