Each successive step in the man's life was accompanied by a defilement of the last step from which he had come.
In 1860, in London, Harris's life suddenly assumes a closer interest to Britons, especially to those who have literary affinities. Harris lectured at Steinway Hall, and while there Lady Oliphant listened to his wild eloquence, and was so affected by it that she brought the American preacher into touch with her son, Laurence Oliphant, one of the most brilliant men of his generation. It is difficult to see where the attraction lay, for the teaching of Harris at this stage had nothing uncommon in its matter, save that he seems to have adopted the Father-God and Mother-Nature idea which was thrown out by Davis. Oliphant placed Harris high as a poet, referring to him as "the greatest poet of the age as yet unknown to fame." Oliphant was no mean judge, and yet in an age which included Tennyson, Longfellow, Browning, and so many more, the phrase seems extravagant. The end of the whole episode was that, after delays and vacillations, both mother and son surrendered themselves entirely to Harris, and went forth to manual labour in a new colony at Brocton in New York, where they remained in a condition which was virtual slavery save that it was voluntary. Whether such self-abnegation is saintly or idiotic is a question for the angels. It certainly seems idiotic when we learn that Laurence Oliphant had the greatest difficulty in getting leave to marry, and expressed humble gratitude to the tyrant when he was at last allowed to do so. He was set free to report the Franco-German War of 1870, which he did in the brilliant manner that might be expected of him, and then he returned to his servitude once more, one of his duties being to sell strawberries in baskets to the passing trains, while he was arbitrarily separated from his young wife, she being sent to Southern California and he retained at Brocton. It was not until the year 1882, twenty years from his first entanglement, that Oliphant, his mother being then dead, broke these extraordinary bonds, and after a severe struggle, in the course of which Harris took steps to have him incarcerated in an asylum, rejoined his wife, recovered some of his property, and resumed his normal life. He drew the prophet Harris in his book "Masollam," written in his later years, and the result is so characteristic both of Oliphant's brilliant word-painting and of the extraordinary man whom he painted, that the reader will perhaps be glad to refer to it in the Appendix.
Such developments as Harris and others were only excrescences on the main Spiritualistic movement, which generally speaking was sane and progressive. The freaks stood in the way of its acceptance, however, as the communistic or free love sentiments of some of these wild sects were unscrupulously exploited by the opposition as being typical of the whole.
We have seen that though the spiritual manifestations obtained wide public notice through the Fox girls, they were known long before this. To the pre ceding testimony to this effect we may add that of Judge Edmonds, who says:* "It is about five years since the subject first attracted public attention, though we discover now that for the previous ten or twelve years there had been more or less of it in different parts of the country, but it had been kept concealed, either from fear of ridicule or from ignorance of what it was." This explains the surprising number of mediums who began to be heard of immediately after the publicity obtained through the Fox family. It was no new gift they exhibited, it was only that their courageous action in making it widely known made others come forward and confess that they possessed the same power. Also this universal gift of mediumistic faculties now for the first time began to be freely developed. The result was that mediums were heard of in ever-increasing numbers. In April, 1849, manifestations occurred in the family of the Rev. A. H. Jervis, the Methodist minister of Rochester, in that of Mr.