Mrs Willett (Winifred Margaret Pearce-Serocold)

          Winifred Margaret Pearce-Serocold (for that was her maiden name) was born on November 1, 1874. She was the only child of George Edward Pearce-Serocold by his second wife, Mary Richardson, of Derwen Fawr, near Swansea. The double surname originated in the eighteenth century through the marriage of William Pearce (1744-1890) with Anne Serocold. He was a Cornishman, who in 1789 became Master of Jesus College, Cambridge. She was the eldest child of the Rev. Walter Serocold of Cherryhinton, a village now almost swallowed up in the horrible proliferation of Cambridge. Anne was co-heiress with her brother, Walter Serocold, a captain in the Royal Navy, who fell in action at the siege of Calvi in Corsica, and to whose memory there is a tablet in Cherryhinton church. Her son, Edward Serocold Pearce (1786-1849) changed his surname in 1842 to 'Pearce-Serocold'. He was Mrs. Coombe Tennant's paternal grandfather. There are numerous monuments and tablets to members of the family in the church at Cherryhinton.

Mrs. Coombe Tennant's father, George Pearce-Serocold (1828-1912), joined the Royal Navy at the age of thirteen, and saw service in the first China War. At the signing of the Treaty of Nankin (1842) he, as the youngest midshipman in the Fleet, carried the document on a silver salver to be signed. Later on he served on the West Coast of Africa in the suppression of the slave-trade. Still later he spent ten years sheep-farming in Australia, where Mount Serocold in Central Queensland is named after him.

On December 12, 1896, Winifred Pearce-Serocold married Charles Coombe Tennant of Cadoxton Lodge, Glamorganshire. He was born on July 31, 1852, and was thus twenty-two years older than she. The Tennants of Cadoxton (who are not to be confused with another famous family of that name, to which Margot Asquith and her sister Laura Lyttelton belonged) are of purely English origin. But they had for some generations been settled at Cadoxton, and occupied a very important position in the Vale of Neath. Charles Coombe Tennant was the only son in the family of four children born to Charles Tennant, M.P., of Cadoxton (1796-1873), and his wife Gertrude Barbara Rich Collier (1819-1918). The latter was a most notable personage in her time. She was a descendant of Oliver Cromwell, through his daughter Frances. She had spent the first twenty-four years of her life in France' and had known Flaubert, Gambetta, Renan, and many other eminent Frenchmen. After her marriage she held a salon at her house at Richmond Terrace in London, which was for long a meeting-place for such eminent Victorians as Gladstone, Ruskin, Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, Herbert Spencer, George Eliot, G. F. Watts, and Burne-Jones. She kept her faculties and her interests almost up to her death in 1918 at the age of ninety-nine.

The Tennants sprang originally from the neighbourhood of Dent in Yorkshire, and in the early eighteenth century some of them moved to Lancashire. The first of them to settle in Glamorganshire was Charles Coombe Tennant's paternal grandfather, George, who died in 1832. He was a man of great energy and business ability. He purchased first the Rhydding estate, near Neath, and later the adjoining property of Cadoxton. In the period 1817 to 1824 he constructed the Tennant Canal from Swansea to the Brecon Hills.

Mrs. Coombe Tennant had thus married into a remarkable family. Of her husband's sisters one, Eveleen, married in 1880 F. W. H. Myers (1843-1901), the author of that posthumously published classic of psychical research Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, and one of the founders and the most active early members of the SPR. Another sister, Dorothy, married the explorer, H. M. Stanley.

Cadoxton is named after the sixth-century Welsh saint and martyr Cadoc, who is commemorated in a number of Welsh place-names, e.g., Llangattock. It became the country home of Mrs. Coombe Tennant. She has given a very full description of the house and of its beautiful surroundings in the memoir which she contributed to the book Christopher, compiled by Sir Oliver Lodge with her co-operation, and published by Messrs. Cassell in 1918. This book is a moving biographical tribute to the memory of her eldest child, Christopher, who fell in Flanders on September 3, 1917, shortly before his twentieth birthday. It contains much factual information, and indirectly throws much light on her character, ideals, and beliefs.

Christopher was born at Cadoxton Lodge on October 10, 1897. He was at school at Winchester from 1911 until July, 1916, when he passed into Sandhurst as a prize cadet. He was gazetted to the Welsh Guards and joined that regiment early in May, 1917. He crossed to Flanders with a draft on August 9, 1917, and was killed by a shell in the trenches near Langemark on the morning of September 3 of that year. His letters, his actions, and the many moving tributes paid to him after his death by persons of all ranks of society, show him to have been an extremely fine character, gentle, sensitive, and highly intelligent, yet courageous and spirited, with a deep appreciation of beauty in nature, in human character, in literature, and in art. As with so many of his contemporaries,

Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultra esse sinent ...

The vast majority of the letters in Christopher are between him and his mother. His are generally signed 'Cruff'. It is plain from them that there was an extremely close link between mother and son. The father is very little in the picture, and one might be inclined to infer from the contents and the emphasis of the book that he played a somewhat minor role in a predominantly matriarchal household. Lodge states, however, that Charles Coombe Tennant had much to do with Christopher when the latter was young, and that their relations remained intimate and almost fraternal up to the end. They used to play chess, billiards, and picquet together; and Christopher, who became a devotee of the classics and had intended to pursue his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, was initiated into Greek by his father. Christopher used to call him 'Deedoge'.

In 'The 'Palm Sunday Case' (SPR Proceedings, Vol. 62, Part 189) the Countess of Balfour remarks that 'Mrs. Willett was a lady who had a very strong predilection for maternity'. The birth of Christopher had been difficult, and he himself states that he was born 'almost inanimate' and had to be brought to life by 'judicious flapping with wet towels', on the doctor's orders. Mr. W. H. Salter, in 'The Rose of Sharon' (SPR Proceedings, Vol. 54, Part 194), states that Mrs. Coombe Tennant has recorded that early in 1905, i.e. some eight years after Christopher's birth, she suddenly began, for no discernible reason, to find herself longing for another child. That desire persisted and became a daily thought. She consulted a doctor in August, 1905, and he gave the opinion that there would be no special risk in her having a second child. On January 6 (Epiphany), 1907 she gave birth to her second child and only daughter, Daphne, whose brief life and tragic death were a turning-point in Mrs. Coombe Tennant's spiritual development.

Daphne was born at Cadoxton and christened there. She died in London, after a sudden and short illness, in the early morning of July 21, 1908. During her lifetime she was known in the family as 'The Darling'. Though she lived only one year and seven months, she had clearly become a considerable personality by the time of her death. Lodge writes of her:

'From the testimony of those who knew the infant I judge that nothing less than genius will account for the impression she made'. Her mother wrote and privately printed a memoir of the child in August, 1908, and from this Lodge quotes, among other sentences, '... her one attitude towards outward objects seemed to be love, and her chief desire to express all the love her little heart held ...'

The loss of such a child was naturally a shattering blow to her mother, and it had a profound influence on Christopher, who was nearly eleven years old when Daphne died, and had been devoted to her. I shall describe in the appropriate place below its sequel in Mrs. Coombe Tennant's psychical development. Here it will suffice to say that she became convinced, on what appeared to her adequate personal evidence, of Daphne's survival, and in general, to quote her own words, that death is 'no more than a doorway admitting to a fuller and freer life'. That conviction came to he shared by Christopher, and it led to the following compact between mother and son when he was on leave at Cadoxton shortly before going out to Flanders. They considered together what action should be taken on each of the following alternative possibilities, viz., that he should be wounded, that he should be reported missing, and that he should be killed. Since it was the third of these which was fulfilled, we need consider only what they agreed to do in that event.

As regards Christopher himself, they decided that, if he should find himself suddenly in the next world, he should start with the expectation of meeting Daphne and his uncle by marriage, F. W. H. Myers. If he were not at once to be in touch with them, he was to inquire for them. Thereafter he was to concentrate on getting his bearings in his new and unfamiliar situation. He was to keep constantly in mind that his mother would be all right, that she would know that he was essentially unchanged, and that she would be trying to help him telepathically. As regards Mrs. Coombe Tennant, they agreed that she would try to avoid excessive grief, as a disturbing factor in their relations; that she would hold on to the belief that a period of deeper intimacy between them had now begun; and that she would strive to make Cadoxton 'a happy hunting-ground for him'.

As a result of this, the news of Christopher's death, when it came on the evening of September 6, 1917, though naturally grievous, was not shattering. In a letter written by his mother on the following day she remarks:

'He is to me as if just out of a severe operation - my steady hand in his is what he needs now ... He will soon get his bearings there, and whether he does it happily and easily depends on what telepathic impressions he gets from us - especially from me ...'

Mrs. Coombe Tennant had two other children after Christopher and Daphne. They were Alexander, born in 1909, and Henry, born in 1913. Her husband died on November 6, 1928, in his seventy-seventh year, shortly after Alexander had entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a freshman. Henry came up to Trinity four years later. Their mother long survived her husband, dying in her eighty-third year on August 31, 1956 at her home in London. An obituary notice of her appeared in The Times for Saturday, September 1, 1956. This dealt with her public life and activities. In the SPR Journal (vol. 99, No. 694) for December of next year there appeared the Obituary Notice of Mrs. Coombe Tennant, which made public for the first time her identity with 'Mrs. Willett'.

From these and other published sources one sees something of her public spirit and her energy. She had very early become an enthusiastic supporter of the extension of the suffrage to women, and had worked to that end with Mrs. Fawcett. During the 1914-18 war she was Vice-chairman of the Glamorganshire Women's Agricultural Committee, and from 1917 was Chairman of the Neath and District War-Pensions Committee. In 1920 she was appointed a justice of the Peace, and sat on the Glamorganshire County bench, being the first woman to be a magistrate there. From 1920 to 1931 she was one of the Visiting Justices at Swansea prison. She took that duty very seriously, and was instrumental in effecting some highly sensible and practical reforms in the treatment of prisoners. She was a strong Liberal in politics, and an admirer of Lloyd George, and in 1922 she unsuccessfully stood as Liberal candidate for the Forest of Dean constituency. She shared the high hopes, felt by so many fine spirits immediately after the First World War, in the newly formed League of Nations, and she was the first woman to be appointed by the British Government as a delegate to its Assembly.

As we have seen, Mrs. Coombe Tennant was of Welsh descent on the side of her mother, Mary Richardson of Derwen Fawr. She became a very keen Welsh Nationalist. For many years she played an active part in the 'Gorsedd' or 'Circle of Bards', in the capacity of 'Mistress of the Robes', and she had the official title of 'Mam-o-Nedd' ('Mother of Neath'). She was Chairman of the Arts and Crafts Section of the National Eisteddfod in 1918, and, in recognition of her services, the Arch Druid conferred on her the honorary Eisteddfodic degree of 'Ovate'. She was one of the twenty original members elected in May, 1918 to form an Executive Committee for introducing self-government on federal lines into Wales. For many years she was an active member of the Art Committee of the Swansea Borough Council. Not only was she a discriminating patron of specifically Welsh painting; she had also made for herself a fine collection of modern French pictures.

We may sum up all this side of Mrs. Coombe Tennant's personality and life by remarking that she was one of the many conspicuous counter-instances to the silly popular belief that a person with mystical or mediumistic gifts must eo ipso be 'moony' and incompetent in practical affairs. Other notable counter-instances, within the circle of the SPR, were Mrs. Verrall, her daughter Helen (Mrs. W. H. Salter), and Dame Edith Lyttelton. And, if we care to go further afield and to look higher, we might mention St. Birgitta of Sweden, St. Teresa of Spain, and Florence Nightingale, as women conspicuous for energy, business ability, and outstanding practical achievement, who would have made a very poor showing on the currently accepted tests for bodily and mental normality and psychological integration.

Let us now turn to the mediumistic, or 'Mrs. Willett', aspect of Mrs. Coombe Tennant's complex personality. This is abundantly documented in a number of important articles in the SPR Proceedings. At the centre of these is G. W. Balfour's comprehensive paper: 'A Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs. Willett's Mediumship, and of the Statements of the Communicators concerning Process' (Proceedings, Vol. 40, Part 139; 1935). Mrs. Willett was first introduced in the literature of the subject, so far as I know, in two papers in Proceedings, Vol. 25, Part 63 (1911), viz., Sir Oliver Lodge: 'Evidence of Classical Scholarship and of Cross Correspondence in some new Automatic Writing', and Mrs. Verrall: 'Notes on Mrs. Willett's Scripts'. Then came in fairly quick succession two important papers by Balfour concerning automatic scripts in which Mrs. Willett had played an essential part, viz., 'Some recent Scripts affording Evidence of Personal Survival' (Proceedings, Vol. 97, Part 69; 1914) and 'The Ear of Dionysius' (Proceedings, Vol. 99, Part 73; 1917). After Balfour's paper of 1935, on the psychological aspects of Mrs. Willett's mediumship and on the statements made by the ostensible communicators as to the processes involved, there is a long interval, extending well beyond the date of Mrs. Coombe Tennant's death in 1956. Then, in 1960, comes an important paper by Jean Balfour (the Countess of Balfour) entitled 'The Palm Sunday Case' (Proceedings, Vol. 52, Part 189). This is wholly concerned with certain scripts and trance-utterances of Mrs. Willett, which will be described below. That article was followed in 1963 by W. H. Salter's paper 'The Rose of Sharon' (Proceedings, Vol. 54, Part 194). This is not, indeed, concerned with Mrs. Willett's own scripts, but with certain scripts by Mrs. Verrall, by her daughter Helen, and by members of a Scottish family, known as 'The Macs'. But these, as Mr. Salter argues, appear to contain indubitable references, though in cryptic language, to the forthcoming birth and the early death of Daphne Coombe Tennant, at a time when the writers could have had no normal knowledge about those still future events.

Of the papers enumerated above, those up to and including Balfour's essay of 1935 have become classics in the literature of psychical research, and have been discussed from all angles. It would be out of place to attempt to discuss them in detail here. I think that most competent commentators, who have devoted serious attention to them, would agree that they involve, on the part of Mrs. Willett, knowledge of particular facts and incidents and of highly recondite classical lore, which cannot plausibly be traced to any source normally available to Mrs. Coombe Tennant, and which are often highly characteristic of the interests, the erudition, and the idiosyncrasies of the deceased scholars (e.g., Myers, Verrall, and Butcher) who were ostensibly communicating through her.

In Gerald Balfour's 'Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs. Willett's Mediumship' we learn in great detail what the ostensible communicators (purporting to be the surviving spirits of Myers and of Gurney) told, first to Lodge and later to Balfour, through Mrs. Willett's automatic script or trance-speech, about the use which they claimed to be deliberately making of her, of the methods which they employed, and of the difficulties which they encountered in attempting various kinds of communication through her. These seem to me to be some of the most interesting and the most intellectually impressive products of trance-mediumship of which we have any record. Mrs. Coombe Tennant was undoubtedly a highly intelligent woman, artistically gifted, practically efficient, and of excellent general education which she had never allowed to rust. But she had little interest in, or capacity for, psychological analysis or philosophical speculation. It is no insult to say (what, indeed, she often said herself) that these ostensible communications through her Willett personality were altogether above her head, or, as she once impatiently put it, 'all so much Greek to me'.

In 'The Palm Sunday Case' we have something quite different, but almost equally impressive and much easier for the ordinary reader to appreciate. Here Mrs. Willett, in a long series of automatic scripts and trance-utterances, seems to be referring, cryptically but in the aggregate unmistakably, to a very private and personal matter in the early life of Gerald Balfour's elder brother, the Conservative statesman A. J. Balfour (1848-1930). This was his love for Catherine Mary Lyttelton; her tragic death from typhus on Palm Sunday 1876, before he had declared himself; the very singular action which he took at the time, unknown to the other members of his family, to show his devotion; and certain incidents in his last illness, as a very old man in 1929, which seemed to suggest her continued existence and affection and her active intervention. Mrs. Willett was producing these scripts in sittings which she gave to Gerald Balfour, mostly in 1912, followed by others scattered over the years. 1913-18. According to Jean Balfour, it was not until after a sitting held at A. J. Balfour's London house on June 19, 1916, in his presence, that Gerald Balfour learned, for the first time and from his brother, about the silver box which the latter had had made after 1875 to contain a tress of Mary Lyttelton's beautiful hair, cut off at her death in that year. It was then found that there had been repeated references to this in Mrs. Willett's earlier scripts and trance-utterances, long before the first of her few meetings with A. J. Balfour.

I pass now from this outline of Mrs. Coombe Tennant's main achievements as a medium to a brief account of the development of her mediumship.

It will be remembered that Mrs. Coombe Tennant's sister-in-law, Eveleen Tennant, had married F. W. H. Myers in 1880. Mrs. Coombe Tennant liked, respected, and admired Myers; but a family quarrel developed with his wife. The latter, indeed, would seem, from all accounts that I have ever heard of her, to have been a singularly egotistic and rather unscrupulous person. In partial mitigation of some of her conduct it is fair to say that even a less possessive woman might have resented the facts that she had been preceded in her husband's affections by a lady who had died tragically and to whom he remained passionately devoted; that he had tried repeatedly, and, as he believed, successfully, to get in touch with her surviving spirit; and that he was avowedly looking forward with confident longing to rejoining her on the astral plane immediately after his own death. (For the details of this I would refer the reader to Myers's posthumously published Fragments of Inner Life (SPR Publication, 1961); to Mr. Salter's article 'F. W. H. Myers's Posthumous Message' (SPR Proceedings, Vol. 52, Part 187; 1958); and to Dr. Alan Gauld's letter 'Frederic Myers and "Phyllis"' in the SPR Journal, Vol. 42, No. 720; 1964.)

It was probably through her admiration for Myers that Mrs. Coombe Tennant became an Associate Member of the SPR soon after his death in 1901. She had already met Mrs. Verrall casually in 1896, at the Myers's house in Cambridge, and she had met Mrs. Verrall's daughter Helen once or twice in 1898. She was, however, not greatly interested in psychic matters at that time, and she resigned her associate membership in 1905. It was the death of her daughter Daphne on July 21, 1908, that revived her interest and was the occasion of the beginning of her own mediumship.

On July 28, 1908, i.e., a week after Daphne's death, Mrs. Coombe Tennant wrote to Mrs. Verrall, who was then almost a stranger to her personally, as one whom she knew to have had ostensible communications in automatic script, purporting to come from the deceased F. W. H. Myers. She stated that she had lost her child Daphne a week before, and that she had decided to inform Mrs. Verrall at once, lest any allusion to Daphne that might occur in the latter's script might be overlooked.

In August and September, 1908, Mrs. Coombe Tennant read in the SPR Proceedings a paper by Miss Alice Johnson entitled 'A Report on Mrs. Holland's Script'. (The name 'Mrs. Holland' was a pseudonym for Mrs. Alice Macdonald Fleming, a sister of Rudyard Kipling, living in India, who was producing automatic writing.) On reading this Report Mrs. Coombe Tennant felt an impulse to try for herself. She described these early attempts in a letter of October 8, 1908, to Mrs. Verrall. The scripts purported to come from Myers. She was not much impressed by them, and she destroyed them.

Early in January, 1909, however, she received, in the course of a script ostensibly emanating from Myers, an order to stop writing, to try to apprehend the ideas that would be put into her head, and to record them in ordinary writing either at once or at the earliest convenient later moment. It was stated in the scripts that Edmund Gurney (who had died in 1888) was also involved in the experiments which were about to be made 'from the other side' with Mrs. Coombe Tennant.

The next stage was that the 'Myers-persona' and the 'Gurney-persona' (to use a strictly non-committal phraseology) expressed a wish, in their ostensible communications through Mrs. Willett, that she should sit in the presence of another person and should dictate to him the impressions which she would receive from them. The first person whom they proposed as a sitter was Sir Oliver Lodge, who had been an active member of the SPR from its early days and had known and collaborated with Gurney during the latter's lifetime.

Lodge was at that time a complete stranger to Mrs. Coombe Tennant, though he had once met Charles Coombe Tennant, before the latter's marriage, through an introduction from Myers. After considerable resistance Mrs. Coombe Tennant consented to approach Lodge. He first met her on May 17, 1909, and afterwards had many sittings with her.

Next the Gurney-persona asked that G. W. Balfour should be introduced as a sitter and note-taker. That wish was expressed again and again in ostensible communications purporting to come from Gurney. Balfour had been a close friend of Gurney's, and they had co-operated in psychical research up to the time of the latter's death. He was a man of keen philosophic interest and deeply read in philosophy. So it was highly appropriate that the Gurney-persona should say (as he did) that his reason for wanting Balfour to become a sitter with Mrs. Willett was that Balfour would be interested in the processes involved in communication rather than in the products.

Balfour at that time was a complete stranger to Mrs. Coombe Tennant, and he was a distinguished member of a very distinguished family. She therefore hesitated very much to approach him with this strange request. She must, however, have known of Balfour's sister Norah (Mrs. Henry Sidgwick) through Myers, and she may well have met her occasionally at the Myers's house in Cambridge. Anyhow, Mrs. Coombe Tennant eventually gave her consent, an introduction was effected, and Balfour had his first sitting with her on June 4, 1911. Thereafter Balfour became almost the only sitter with Mrs. Willett, and hundreds of sittings were held in the next twenty years, sometimes at Cadoxton and sometimes at Balfour's house, Fisher's Hill, Woking.

Mrs. Coombe Tennant soon became a close friend of Gerald Balfour and his family. She and her children, and sometimes one or another of the children without her, would often stay at Fisher's Hill. The boys knew Lady Betty Balfour (née Lady Elizabeth Lytton) as 'Aunt Betty'. Christopher spent some of his last days in England there in July, 1917, with 'the beloved "Aunt Betty"' as he calls her in a letter to his mother of July 16.

The community at Fisher's Hill, with which Mrs. Coombe Tennant thus became intimate, was a most remarkable one in the annals of psychical research. Beside Gerald Balfour and his wife and children, there was living there from 1916 onwards his sister Mrs. Sidgwick. She was the widow of Professor Henry Sidgwick, one of the 'founding fathers' of the SPR; was one of the ablest women of her own or of any other time; and herself played a great part in the organization of the SPR and contributed papers of outstanding importance to its Proceedings. Another resident there was Balfour's old friend, Mr. J. G. Piddington ( Smith), who was living at Fisher's Hill from 1919 to 1940. Piddington had been a businessman, and in that capacity he rendered valuable service to the SPR in the conduct of its finances. But he was also, like Balfour, a fine scholar, with immense patience and pertinacity in tracing obscure allusions and unravelling literary puzzles. The two of them together devoted all their skill and learning, and most of the energies of their later years, to a minute study of the immense mass of script material, written by various automatists (including Mrs. Willett.), which seems prima facie to suggest the survival and the deliberate post mortem collaboration of the group of Cambridge friends and contemporaries, Myers, Gurney, Sidgwick, Verrall, and Butcher.

Gerald Balfour died in 1944, at the age of ninety. He had been preceded by his brother Arthur in 1930 at the age of eighty-two, and by his sister Eleanor (Mrs. Sidgwick) in 1936 in her 91st year. He was followed by his friend Piddington in 1952 at the age of eighty-three. With them ended the 'old guard' of the SPR of the next generation, their spiritual heirs, Dame Edith Lyttelton died in 1948, and Mrs. Coombe Tennant (as we have seen) in 1956 at the age of eighty-two. Mrs. Verrall's daughter Helen (Mrs. W. H. Salter) died in her sleep, felix opportunitate mortis, while still in good bodily health and full mental vigour, in 1959 at the age of seventy-six. And, lastly, it should be recorded that Myers's son Leopold, who became a distinguished novelist, died 'by his own hand' (to quote the Dictionary of National Biography) on April 8, 1944, at the age of sixty-three. Of all these, and of all that has been narrated above about their doings and sufferings, we may fairly say, confining ourselves to this life:

Hi motus animorum, atque haec certamina tanta, pulveris exigui iactu compressa quiescunt.

I think it will be useful, at this point, for the reader to have before him, for reference, the following chronological table, which summarizes the main relevant biographical and bibliographical facts up to and including Mrs. Coombe Tennant's death.


Chronological Table up to Mrs. Coomber Tennant's Death
Year Mrs. Coombe Tennant and her Relatives Background Events
1838   Henry Sidgwick born (d. 1900)
1843   F. W. H. Myers born (d. 1901)
1845   Mrs. Sidgwick (née Eleanor Mildred Balfour) born (d. 1936)
Mrs. Annie Eliza Marshall (née Hill), 'Phyllis', born (d. 1878)
1847   Edmund Gurney born (d. 1888)
1848   A. J. Balfour (1st Earl of Balfour) born (d. 1930)
1850   Mary Catherine Lyttelton born (d. Palm Sunday, 1875)
1851   Francis Maitland Balfour, 'The Dark Young Man', born (d. 1882)
A. W. Verrall born (d. 1912)
1852 Charles Coombe Tennant born (d. 1928)  
1854   G. W. Balfour (2nd Earl of Balfour) born (d. 1944)
1855   Oliver Lodge born (d. 1940)
1857   Alfred Lyttelton born (d. 1913)
1859   Mrs. A. W. Verrall (née Merrifield) born (d. 1916)
Henry Sidgwick elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
1865   F. W. H. Myers elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
1866   Anne Eliza Hill ('Phyllis') married Walter James Marshall
J. W. Strutt (3rd Lord Rayleigh) elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
1869   J. G. Piddington (Smith) born (d. 1952)
1872   Edmund Gurney elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
1873   F. W. H. Myers falls in love with Mrs. Annie Marshall ('Phyllis')
1874 Mrs. Coombe Tennant (née Winifred Margaret Pearce-Serocold) born 1/11 (d. 31/8/1956) F. M. Balfour, S. H. Butcher, and A. W. Verrall elected Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge
1875   Mary Catherine Lyttelton died (Palm Sunday, 21/3)
1876   Mrs Annie Marshall ('Phyllis') died by drowning (29/8)
1877   G. W. Balfour elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
1880 Eveleen Tennant married F. W. H. Myers W. H. Salter born
1881 Myers's son L. H. Myers born (d. 1944)  
1882   F. M. Balfour ('The Dark Young Man') killed on the Alps
1883   Mrs. W. H. Salter (née Helen de G. Verrall) born (d. 1959)
1888   Edmund Gurney died
1892   Dame Edith Lyttelton (née Balfour) married Alfred Lyttelton as his second wife
1893   F. W. H. Myers' Fragments of Inner Life, privately printed
1895 W. M. Pearce-Serocold marries Charles Coombe Tennant (12/12)  
1896 Mrs C. T. meets Mrs Verrall for first time at the Myers's house  
1897 George Christopher Serocold Coombe Tennant born (10/10) (d. 3/9/1917)  
1898 Mrs C. T. meets Helen Verrall for first time  
1900   Henry Sidgwick died
1901 Mrs C. T. becomes Associate Member of SPR F. W. H. Myers died
1902   Dame Edith Lyttelton joins SPR
1905 Mrs C. T. ceases to be Associate Member of SPR  
1907 Daphne Coombe Tennant born (6/1)  
1908 Daphne C. T. died (21/7) Mrs C. T. writes to Mrs Verrall for advice  
1909 Alexander John Serocold C. T. born Oliver Lodge first made acquaintance with Mrs C. T. (17/5)
1911 Mrs C. T.'s first contact with Gerald Balfour and with Piddington First published accounts of 'Mrs Willet's' scripts. [SPR Proceedings, Vol. 25 - Lodge: 'Evidence of Classical Scholarship', and Mrs Verrall: 'Notes on Mrs Willet's Scripts'.]
1912   A. W. Verrall died
1913 Augustus Henry Serocold C. T. born (9/4) Alfred Lyttelton died. Dame Edith began automatic writing
1914   SPR Proceedings, Vol. 27 - G. W. Balfour: 'Some recent Scripts affording Evidence of Personal Survival'.
1915 Mrs C. T. becomes a friend of Dame Edith Lyttelton Oliver Lodge's son Raymond killed in action
1916   Mrs Verrall died
Lodge's book Raymond published
1917 George Christopher Serocold killed in action (3/9) SPR Proceedings, Vol. 29 - G. W. Balfour: 'The Ear of Dionysius'
1918 Christopher (by Oliver Lodge) published (Cassell)
Mrs C. T.'s mother-in-law, Gertrude Tennant, died at age of 99
Mrs C. T. chairman of Arts and Crafts Section of National Eisteddfod
1919 American edition of Christopher  
1928 Charles C. T. died (5/11)
A. J. S. C. T. entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as freshman
Dame Edith Lyttelton became member of SPR Council
1930   A. J. Balfour (1st Earl of Balfour) died (19/3)
1932 A. H. S. C. T. entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as freshman  
1935   SPR Proceedings, Vol 43 - G. W. Balfour: 'A Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs Willett's Mediumship'
1936   Mrs Sidgwick died
1937 Eveleen Tennant (Mrs F. W. H. Myers) died (12/3)  
1939   Geraldine Cummins gave one sitting at Fishers Hill, Woking, to Gerald and Lady Betty Balfour
1940   Oliver Lodge died
1942 Mrs C. T. took up residence as a paying guest with a friend (April)  
1944 L. H. Myers (son of F. W. H. M. and Eveleen Tennant) died by his own hand G. W. Balfour (2nd Earl of Balfour) died
1948   Dame Edith Lyttelton died (2/9)
1952   J. G. Piddington died
1955   Geraldine Cummins read extracts from G. W. Balfour's 'Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs. Willett's Mediumship' in a book by Tyrrell and a book by Saltmarsh
1956 Mrs Coombe Tennant died (31/8) Obituary notice of Mrs C. T. in Times (1/9)
1957   Obituary notice of Mrs C. T. in SPR Journal (December)

Articles about Mrs Willett on this website:

The Willett Scripts by Rosalind Heywood

Mrs Willet: Communications Ostensibly Proceeding from the Dead by G. N. M. Tyrrell

The Modus Operandi of the Mediumistic Trance by G. N. M. Tyrrell

Sense-Imagery by G. N. M. Tyrrell

Trance-Personalities by G. N. M. Tyrrell

Source: Foreword by C. D. Broad from "Swan on a Black Sea" by Geraldine Cummins (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965).



Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2004