Channelling Burns

Posted on 29th April 2014 by simonbeattie

Mina S. Seymour is probably not someone you have heard of before.  I certainly hadn’t when I came across the following book recently:

Privately printed, it contains over 150 poems ‘by’ Robert Burns, as received by Seymour, an American medium at the end of nineteenth century.  Lily Dale was a spiritualist community in south-western New York State.

Carol McGuirk, writing on Burns in America in the nineteenth century, notes: ‘The first oddity to strike me as I began research on this essay was the frequency with which nineteenth-century Americans imagine, wish, or even roundly assert that Robert Burns is not dead.  As with Elvis Presley sightings in our time, this is most likely a sign that mere celebrity has been transcended and cult status achieved.  The cult of Burns included prominent Scottish-Americans such as Andrew Carnegie but also marginal persons as Mina S. Seymour, a psychic who in 1900 published a book said to be “transmitted” or channelled directly from the mind of Burns.  An introductory “poem” in Seymour’s deranged little volume lists some of the distinguished company which Burns keeps in the spirit world, to which Thomas Edison  (d.1931) is evidently making an informal early visit: “Wallace, Bruce, Dante, men of history, / Washington, LaFayette, Paine, / Lincoln, Gladstone, the warlock Edison, aye! / Passive instruments of unseen powers, / Frien’s, ye’ll understand it bye an’ bye”’ (Carol McGuirk, ‘Haunted by authority: nineteenth-century American constructions of Robert Burns and Scotland’, Robert Burns and Cultural Authority (1997), pp. 136–158).

Here is a page, to give you a flavour:

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3 responses to “Channelling Burns”

  1. sally richards says:

    Hi Simon – I too just came upon this book via the Internet Archive. Lily Dale still exists and thrives. This is indeed an interesting bit of information for me, as it shows many of the early visitors and apparently Robert Burns opinion of them. Many of the books written by mediums in those days until the ’40s were claimed to have been channeled. The dedication to the Psychical Research Society from Burns was most probably meant as a dig, as it is he coming back from the dead to prove the afterlife exists. Lots of history there with this org and Lily Dale’s residents. Thank you for your notes on Burns, I had no idea who he was. Check out my FB page Cheers 🙂

  2. Wyatt Brumfield says:

    I too have this book only mine is a presentation copy signed by both Mina and a poem by her spirit guide Robert Burns. I was able to authenticate the signature through an acquaintance in Lily Dale who lives there and is a 4th generation. His great grandmother bought Mina’s house and he has many letters of hers. Mina had a lot more to do with the foundation of Lily Dale than most people know about.

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