Was Clarence a spiritualist in later life? It was so fashionable in Victorian parlours, was it not? When he gave up his activities in the Anglican Church in 1879, on arrival in Bordighera, he continued to be passionate about religion in general; he had even preached about his eucumenical principles and the need to respect those who worship a different god. I quote from Valerie Lester's biography of Clarence... MARVELS... below.
Now a notebook written by Clarence in 1907 has come to light in the Bicknell collection. The motivation to publish it has come from my cousin Renchi Bicknell who feels many personal links with Clarence and is preparing to talk in Glastonbury on 15th November about Clarence's "other" beliefs. Did his interest in other beliefs extend to spiritualism, the supernatural and to "the other side". Well yes... Giovanni Russo of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera, expert on Clarence's books, has noted several titles written by others, but on these very subjects. The complete list is on this web site (click on The Man, then on Bibliography) and I have listed a few of the more interesting ones below.
In the meantime I have scanned the notebook and am hoping that Renchi will transcribe it so that we can read it more easily on the internet. For the time being you can download the scan in pdf and have a look. Just 17 pages, in pencil; it looks like a notebook he would use when he could not think of anywhere else to write his experiences.
Excerpt from Valerie Lester's MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, page 48, on the moment when Clarence antagonised his congregation with talk of other faiths
"In May, Bordighera was in a frenzy of excitement over the celebration of St Ampelio’s day. (Clarence’s spelling of Ampelio/Ampeglio varies.) A week before the actual anniversary on the 14th, Clarence attended a service in the parish church where the parishioners ‘were keeping a Novena for S. Ampeglio, his arm bone being on the altar in a [case], surrounded by candles . . . a litany sung & hymns & then the kneeling congregation . . . were blessed by the relic . . . I thought it all very horrible & was glad to be out again.’ This revulsion did not dim Clarence’s enthusiasm for the saint. On the Sunday before the anniversary, he gave notice of the feast of S. Ampelio to the congregation of All Saints, ‘to the astonishment of Protestants & Anglicans who are so anti-Roman or so insular that they cannot understand how we can love to rejoice with them that do rejoice, & confess the unity of all without holding to strict doctrines of one kind or another.’
"On 14 May itself, a crucial day in Clarence’s religious journey, he wrote in his diary, ‘S. Ampelio – Hermit of the Thebaid, blacksmith by trade, wafted in his westward wanderings to the Italian shore, to Bordighera where in a cave on the shore he is said to have lived & taught & died – We had our Chapel decorated & H.C. at 8. when I said a few words about the festival & why we sd. keep it right joyously, in order to rejoice with those who rejoiced.’ The celebration of St Ampelio did not sit well with the conservative faction at All Saints."
Copyright © 2018 Valerie Lester. ISBN 978 1 7890 1494 5 hardback
Some books which belonged to Clarence Bicknell and which are now in the Biblioteca Civica Internazionale in Bordighera. With thanks to Giovanni Russo of the Museo Bicknell for his research and the list:
Rêve blanc / Henri Ardel. – Paris : Plon, 1895. – 281 p. ; 18 cm Coll. ARD., BIB 32807. C. Bicknell
The devil in Britain and America / by John Ashton. – York : Ward and Downey, 1896. – x, 363 p. ; 23 cm Coll. 235 ASH, BIL 6809, 13639 barrato. C. Bicknell
The Hebrew prophet / by Loring W. Batten. – London : Methuen & co., 1905. – x, 351 p. ; 20 cm Coll. 296 BAT, BIL 6880, 13734 barrato. C Bicknell 1907
A buddhist catechism : an outline of the doctrine of the Buddha Gotama in the form of question and answer / by Subhadra Bhikshu. – London : Redway, 1890. – 92 p. ; 18 cm Coll. 294 BHI, BIL 6952, 13766. C. Bicknell
Complications sentimentales / Paul Bourget. – Paris : Lemerre, 1898. – 358 p. ; 18 cm. Coll. F. BOU, 32791. C. Bicknell
The manners, customs and condition of the North American indians / by George Catlin. – London : published by the author, 1841. – 2 v. : ill. ; 26 cm 572.9 CAT, BIL 1881-1881, 13747-13748 barrato. C. Bicknell
The supernatural : its origin, nature, and evolution / by John H. King. – London : Williams and Norgate ; New York : Putnam’s sons, 1892. – 2 v. : ill. ; 22 cm. Coll 133 KIN, BIL 6997-6998, barrato 13773-13774. – C Bicknell Photo of the cover embedded in this article
Apparitions and thought-transference: an examination of the evidence for telepathy / by Frank Podmore. – London : Scott, 1894. – xiv, 395 p. ; 18 cm. – The contemporary science series ; 26 Coll. 133 POD, Bil 6869, 13724 barrato. C. Bicknell
Modern spiritualism : a history and criticism / by Frank Podmore. – London : Methuen & co., 1902. – 2 v. ; 23 cm Coll. 133 POD, BIL 1555-1556, 13614-13615 barrato. C. Bicknell 1907