Fragments of Inner Life
FREDERIC W. H. MYERS
THE SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
1 Adam and Eve Mews, London W.8
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Note to the Digital Edition
This edition of Fragments of Inner Life is based on the 1961 reprint edition and has been professionally captured and edited. The only silent alterations to the text are font and space changes for legibility and consistency, modernization of spacing around punctuation, and creation of a table of contents to accommodate a digital format.
It is clear from the first sentence of the Prefatory Note that Frederic Myers intended the following sketch to be published in its entirety some years after his death. Parts of it have already been published in Fragments of Prose and Poetry (Longmans, 1904) and in Collected Poems (Macmillan, 1921), but it has not previously been published in full. Sixty years have now elapsed since the author died, and those who desire to see that his wishes are carried out consider that the time has come to make available to the public the full text of this document. This edition is a reproduction of the text of an original copy, privately printed at the author’s expense in 1893. The expense of this first public edition has been met by a few private subscribers. All receipts from sales will go to the Society for Psychical Research.
Privately printed July 1893
First edition 1961
I desire that the following sketch should someday be published in its entirety; but it may probably be well to reserve at least part of it until some years after my death. To avert accidents, therefore, I now propose to get these pages privately printed, and to send a sealed copy to each of the following intimate friends: Professor Henry Sidgwick, Cambridge; Professor Oliver Lodge, Liverpool; Professor William James, Harvard; Dr. R. Hodgson, Boston; Sir R. H. Collins, K.C.B., Claremont; Mr. R. W. Raper, Oxford. I shall desire these friends to open the packet after my death, and I shall be grateful if any of them, in the order in which their names are mentioned, will act as my literary executors, using their discretion as to the publication both of this privately printed matter and of matter already given to the world; but not publishing in my Wife’s lifetime anything to whose publication she may object. I request each recipient to hand on at his own death the copy sent to him, if still unpublished, to some trustworthy person, who may succeed to his own authority in the matter.
Twenty-five numbered copies are to be printed, of which six are to be sent to friends as aforesaid, four are to be set apart for my Wife and children, and the rest are to remain for the present in my study. Inquiry should be made before publication for any copy which I may have revised or extended.
By entitling the pages which follow “Fragments of Inner Life” I wish to make it clear that they do not constitute a complete autobiography, but dwell only on facts and feelings which may be of interest in a few special ways. I omit much that has been of deep importance to myself; and especially I touch but briefly on my happiness with a Wife and children whose love and goodness to me have been all that heart could desire.|4| |5|
FRAGMENTS OF INNER LIFE.
parentage and education.
I believe that we live after earthly death; and that some of those who read these posthumous confidences may be among my companions in an unseen world. It is for this reason that I now address them. I wish to attract their attention and sympathy; I wish to lead men and women of like interests but of higher nature than my own to regard me as a friend whose companionship they will seek when they too have made their journey to the unknown home. I am tempted, of course, to try to make myself appear worthy of love and respect. But I am kept in check by another belief. I hold that all things thought and felt, as well as all things done, are somehow photographed imperishably upon the Universe, and that my whole past will probably lie open to those with whom I have to do. Repugnant though this thought is to me, I am bound to face it. I realise that a too great discrepancy between my account of myself and the actual facts would, when detected, provoke disgust and contempt. This unusual check, I say, I strongly feel; but my readers must estimate for themselves how far even such a check can be relied upon to counteract man’s tendency to paint himself in too bright a hue.
In one minor point, at least, I can be sincere, at the cost of exciting the distaste of severer critics. I can tell my story in my own style; I can give my impressions as they veritably come to me, without translating them into the language of a scientific memoir. The reader need not suppose that I expect his admiration. But if he on his part be psychologically minded he will prefer that idiosyncrasy should not be concealed. If he is to be interested at all, it must be in the spectacle of a man of sensuous and emotional temperament urged and driven by his own personal passions into undertaking a scientific enterprise, which aims at the common weal of men. This fusion of a minor poet and an amateur savant may not sound promising; but new crises make new needs; and what has been accomplished |6| did in fact demand,—among many nobler qualities contributed by better men,—that importunate and overmastering impulse which none can more fiercely feel than I.
For it has been my lot to be concerned in a work more important and more successful than anything in my own capacity or character could have led me to expect. I have been one of the central group concerned in a great endeavour; the endeavour to pierce, by scientific methods, the world-old, never-penetrated veil. The movement which took overt shape in 1882, with the formation of the Society for Psychical Research, was aided indeed by help from other quarters, but in its essential character was the conception of a few minds, and was piloted through its early dangers by a small group of intimate friends. With this endeavour to learn the actual truth as to the destiny of man I have from the very first been identified and, so to say, incorporate. Edmund Gurney worked at the task with more conscientious energy; the Sidgwicks with more unselfish wisdom; but no one more unreservedly than myself has staked his all upon that distant and growing hope.
I must begin,—if only as a psychologist,—with a few words on my descent. My paternal grandfather, Thomas Myers LL.D.—author of two ponderous folios on Geography,—was the son of Robert Myers, of Hovingham, near York. The name is old-established in the West Riding of Yorkshire; and there is no reason to suppose that it indicates Jewish descent. My paternal grandmother, Anna Maria Hale, was of good Irish family;—her fifth ancestor, a certain Sir W. Gilbert, of Kilminchy, who died in 1654 and left a large family, enlivening her pedigree with very varied alliances. Her great-grandfather was the Rev. Dr. John Hale, “Rector, Chancellor, and Treasurer of Dromore.” My father, the Rev. Frederic Myers, was the second son of Thomas Myers, his elder brother Thomas being also in orders.
My maternal grandfather, John Marshall, of Headingley, Leeds, and of Hallsteads, Cumberland, M.P. for Yorkshire before the Reform Bill of 1832, and founder of the flax-manufacture at Leeds, was a man of high character and of much note in his day. He, as well as my maternal grandmother, a Pollard, was descended from Yorkshire families of old standing, but varied fortunes. Jeremiah Marshall purchased Low Hall, near Halifax, in 1684,—just about the time when William Pollard inherited an estate at Wyke, near Bradford; and the two families, (already interlinked through Leaches and Garths), met in 1795 in a happy marriage, from which were born five sons and six daughters. Three of the sons sat in Parliament; of the daughters one died unmarried; the others married the first Lord Monteagle, Dr. Whewell, (Master of Trinity College, Cambridge), Colonel Temple, the Rev. Henry Venn Elliott, and the Rev. Frederic Myers.|7|