Special Collections & Archives

 

Catherine Crowe Collection

A collection of novels and papers by and about the Victorian spiritualist and writer Catherine Crowe, collected by Geoffrey Larken in the course of his research for a book on Crowe between 1970 and 1990. The collection was given to the University of Kent in two parts, the first after the death of Geoffrey Larken, the second after the death of his fellow researcher Winifred Bergess.

Catherine Crowe, 1790-1872

Catherine Ann Crowe, née Stevens, was born in Borough Green in Kent, where she spent most of her childhood. Little is known of her early life until she married Lt Col John Crowe. She was an early advocate of women's educational rights and included figures such as Harriet Martineau among her correspondents. Her other associates reflect Edinburgh and London society in the mid nineteenth century and include Hans Christian Anderson, the artist Jane Loudon, the publisher James T. Fields and his wife Annie Adams, and many more authors, artists and photographers. She was also deeply interested in the supernatural, in particular spiritualism and the occult. She is mentioned as a prominent spiritualist in the 1871 Yearbook of Spiritualism.

Crowe wrote a series of novels and articles relating to the supernatural and in 1848 published The Night Side of Nature. This book includes topics such as mesmerism, parapsychology, poltergeists and phrenology. The popularity of the book is attested by the fact that it went through three editions in five years. Catherine Crowe described herself as the 'disciple' of George Combe, a prominent phrenologist. In 1854, in Edinburgh, she suffered a widely publicized mental breakdown (documented by Charles Dickens, among others), which resulted in a brief period of hospitalization at Hanwell Asylum. After her illness she wrote very little.

The collection

Geoffrey Larken became interested in Catherine Crowe after seeing her name included in Thackeray's party given for Charlotte Bronte. Crowe was described as a 'ghost fancier'. Although Larken collected a great deal of material relating to Catherine Crowe, he was unable to find a publisher.

The material consists of a large number of manuscript notes by Larken as well as photocopies of relevant articles. There are a number of scrapbooks which hold images that were, in some way, connected with Catherine Crowe. Larken also provides copies of letters written by, to or about her.

The collection also includes a number of copies of Crowe's published books which are on LibrarySearch.

Collection in brief

Contents: books, research notes, correspondence, images
Period: 18th-19th century
Subjects: literature, biography, spiritualism

Catalogued: yes

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Last Updated: 25/06/2018