Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Home, Daniel Dunglas

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HOME, DANIEL DUNGLAS (1833–1886), spiritualist medium, born near Edinburgh on 20 March 1833, was son of William Home, by Elizabeth McNeill, who came of a family supposed to be gifted with second sight. His father was a natural son of Alexander, tenth earl of Home. His surname was pronounced Hume. He was taken when about nine years old to Greeneville, Connecticut, by an aunt, Mrs. McNeill Cook, who had adopted him. He was a delicate, nervous, sensitive child, and a seer of visions. Soon after his mother's death, of which she is said to have had a presentiment, and he ‘telepathic’ warning, mysterious ‘raps’ were heard in his aunt's house. She called in the local clergy of all denominations to exorcise the supposed evil spirits, and, their prayers failing to put an end to the noises, turned Home, whom she suspected to be responsible for them, out of the house. The raps accompanied him. He found friends, however, who welcomed both him and the raps, and for the pleasure of hearing ‘messages’ spelt out of them by calling over the alphabet, and seeing their furniture move as if alive, gave him board and lodging. He soon became famous, and his séances were attended by Bryant the poet, Professor Wells of Harvard, Professor Hare of Philadelphia, and Judge Edmonds of the United States Supreme Court, all of whom publicly attested his good faith and the phenomena. Only once while in America, at the house of Ward Cheney, near Hartford, Connecticut, in 1852, is Home said to have been ‘levitated,’ i.e. raised in the air by some unknown force. Guitar-playing without hands, and autograph-writing and hand-shaking by a hand without a body, are said to have been observed at another séance at Hartford on 15 March 1855. In the following April Home landed in England, and Lord Brougham and Sir David Brewster held an informal séance at his hotel, Cox's, in Jermyn Street, London. Brougham kept silence as to what occurred, but Brewster admitted in the columns of the ‘Morning Advertiser’ that he had heard unaccountable rappings, and that ‘the table actually rose, as appeared to me, from the ground.’ Home held other séances at the houses of Dr. Garth Wilkinson and Mr. Rymer, a solicitor at Ealing, which were attended by (among others) Sir Edward Bulwer (afterwards Lord) Lytton and Robert Browning and his wife. Mrs. Browning is said to have believed; her husband disbelieved, and wrote ‘Sludge the Medium’ (first published in 1864). Some of the phenomena at these séances, in particular the shuddering, tilting, and turning of the chairs and tables, the articles on the latter keeping their place nevertheless, the playing of tunes on an accordion held by Home bottom upwards with one hand only, the levitation of the tables, the receipt of messages by raps, and so forth, were minutely described by Dr. Wilkinson in a letter to the ‘Morning Advertiser’ signed ‘Verax’ (reprinted in Home's Incidents in my Life, pp. 70 et seq.). Home wintered in Florence, where he held many séances at an old villa, reputed to be haunted, then the residence of Mrs. Georgina Baker, a well-known member of the English colony. Only very fragmentary records of these séances have been preserved. On 5 Dec. 1855 his life was attempted as he was returning to his rooms late at night. He escaped, however, with a slight wound. For a year he abandoned holding séances, visited Naples and Rome, was received into the church of Rome, and had an audience of the pope. During 1857–8 he held séances before the emperor and empress of the French at the Tuileries, Fontainebleau, and Biarritz, at Baden-Baden before the king of Prussia, and at the Hague before the queen of Holland. The scene of the first recorded instance of his levitation on European soil is placed at a château near Bordeaux, belonging to Madame Ducos, wife of an ex-minister of marine. At Rome in March 1858 he became engaged to Alexandrina, youngest daughter of the Count de Kroll, a general in the Russian service, and goddaughter to the Czar Nicholas; he married her at St. Petersburg on 1 Aug. (N. S.), Alexander II giving a diamond ring as a wedding present, to which he added another valuable ring on the birth of a son in May 1859. At London during 1860–1 Home held séances at the house of Thomas Milner Gibson [q. v.], president of the board of trade, whose wife he had met and converted on the continent. They were largely attended by the fashionable world, and described by Robert Bell in an article entitled ‘Stranger than Fiction’ in the ‘Cornhill Magazine’ for August 1860. Other séances were held at Home's house in Sloane Street, at William Howitt's house at Hampstead, at Lord Lytton's in Park Lane, and elsewhere.

Home was now at the zenith of his fame. Among his converts were Dr. Robert Chambers [q. v.], author of the ‘Vestiges of Creation,’ Dr. Lockhart Robertson [q. v.], editor of the ‘Journal of Mental Science,’ John Elliotson [q. v.], the eminent physiologist, and Dr. James Manby Gully [q. v.] In February 1862 Home took his wife to the south of France for the benefit of her health, which had long been failing. She died on 3 July 1862 at Château Laroche, near Périgueux, in the Dordogne, then the residence of her brother-in-law, Count Koucheleff-Besborodka. For six months before her death she is said to have been constantly attended by ‘a veiled female spirit.’ In 1863 Home published an autobiographical fragment, entitled ‘Incidents in my Life,’ London, 8vo, to which Dr. Robert Chambers contributed an introduction and an appendix on the ‘Connexion of Mr. Home's Experiences with those of Former Times,’ and Mrs. Howitt a memoir of Mrs. Home. The bulk of the work was written by Mr. W. M. Wilkinson, solicitor, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, from information furnished by Home. A second edition, with a preface by Mr. Wilkinson, followed in 1864. It also appeared in French as ‘Révélations sur ma Vie Surnaturelle,’ Paris, 1863, 12mo. In America it ran through five editions, New York, 1864, 8vo. In January 1864 Home was summarily expelled from Rome as a sorcerer, though he was not holding séances. He returned to England, appealed to government for redress, and Roebuck advocated his cause in the House of Commons. The ministry, however, declined to interfere. In the autumn he gave a series of public readings in America. In May 1865 he returned to Europe, and held séances at the Tuileries, Peterhoff, and Strelna, the residence of the Grand Duke Constantine. A lawsuit with Count Koucheleff-Besborodka about his late wife's property caused him pecuniary embarrassment, and he returned to England, where he lectured on spiritualism at Willis's Rooms (15 Feb. 1866), and founded, in conjunction with Dr. Elliotson and S. C. Hall, the Spiritual Athenæum, a society for the propagation of spiritualism. Home received a small salary as secretary, and lived at the rooms of the society, 22 Sloane Street. Soon afterwards a wealthy widow named Jane Lyon, of no social position, adopted him as her son, and assigned to him 60,000l. stock by irrevocable deed of gift, upon which he assumed the name of Lyon-Home. Mrs. Lyon, however, repented of her bargain, and instituted a chancery suit for restitution of the gift, alleging that Home had obtained it by ‘spiritual’ influence. Her specific allegations broke down on cross-examination, but Vice-chancellor Giffard decided in her favour, on the ground that Home's repute as a medium laid on him the burden of supporting the gift, and that he had failed to do so. The Spiritual Athenæum soon died a natural death. Before the London Dialectical Society in 1869 Lord Lindsay, afterwards Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, F.R.S. [see Lindsay, Alexander William Crawford, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, 1812–1880], and Lord Adare, now Earl of Dunraven, attested several instances of Home's levitation, and of his handling fire with the naked hand without being burned. The latter phenomenon is also attested by Mrs. S. C. Hall in a letter to Lord Dunraven (cf. Home, His Life and Mission, p. 784). During 1869–70 Home was much in the provinces, giving public readings. He is said to have read poetry with great spirit. On a visit to Edinburgh in one of these years he gave a séance at the house of Dr. Doun (cf. P. P. Alexander, Spiritualism; a Narrative with a Discussion, Edinburgh, 1871, 8vo). In the autumn Home followed the German army from Sedan to Versailles, where he was publicly recognised by the king of Prussia. In the spring of 1871 he held séances before the emperor of Russia at the winter palace, St. Petersburg, and other séances in the presence of Professor Von Boutlerow of the Academy of Science, and Dr. Karpovitch, an eminent medical man, both of whom attested the phenomena. He also lectured on spiritualism. On his betrothal to a lady of the noble family of Aksakoff the emperor gave him a magnificent sapphire ring set in diamonds. On his return to England in March he submitted at the house of Mr. Crookes, F.R.S., to a series of experiments designed to test his pretensions. The experiments were conducted in full light. Mr. Crookes was convinced of their genuineness, and published accounts of them in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Science’ for 1871 and 1874, reprinted as ‘Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism,’ London, 1874, 8vo. Home's second marriage took place at Paris in October 1871. After a brief visit to England he returned with Madame Home to St. Petersburg, where Professor Von Boutlerow conducted a series of experiments confirming the results reached by Mr. Crookes. An article descriptive of two of Home's London séances appeared under the heading ‘Spiritualism and Science’ in the ‘Times’ of 20 Dec. 1872, and led to a long correspondence. The same year Home published a second volume of ‘Incidents in my Life,’ bringing the materials for his biography down to the close of the Lyon case.

His health began to fail in 1872. His last years were spent abroad, chiefly at Nice and Switzerland. In 1877 he published ‘Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism,’ London, 8vo, a work partly historical, partly expository, and partly polemical, in which Howitt collaborated. He died at Auteuil on 21 June 1886, and was buried at St. Germain-en-Laye. Home had issue by his first wife a son, by his second a daughter, who died in infancy. In person he was tall and slim, with somewhat irregular features and blue eyes. Home was not a professional medium, and scrupulously abstained from taking money for his séances. His history presents a curious and as yet unsolved problem.

[Home's Incidents in my Life, London, 1863, 8vo, 2nd ser. London, 1872, 8vo; Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism, London, 1877, 8vo; Madame Home's D. D. Home; his Life and Mission, London, 1888, 8vo, and the Gift of D. D. Home, London, 1890, 8vo; Quarterly Review, October 1871.]

J. M. R.