Psychical Research

Lang was president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1911, and he is therefore often associated with it. He certainly argued that there was value in some of the Society’s research, and he was particularly keen to make connections between psychical research, which focused on the present, and folk-lore, which studied supernatural phenomena as recounted historically.

Nonetheless, Lang was in many cases very much a skeptic regarding the Society’s work, especially early on. In a brief June 1893 review of F. W. H. Myers’s Science the Future Life (within Lang’s recurring New Review article, “Literature and the Drama”), Lang writes,

“It is an age of minds almost indecently ‘open,’ and therefore conversions are so common as hardly to excite a passing comment. . . . Among so many momentous alterations of belief, I do not mind confessing that I feel myself gradually going over to the Psychical Society. Almost (but not quite) they persuade me to be a Psychicist. For years, in a humble way, I have been rather like Saul, before he became Paul, pursuing the brethren with chaff. . . . Mr. Myers’ Science and the Future Life shows that his Society has not been wholly beating the air. . . . I have always been of Hamlet’s opinion about Horatio’s philosophy and that of Professor Huxley. There is more in Heaven and earth than these critics take into account, and Mr. Myers’ argument in favour of applying scientific methods to the abnormal is really unanswerable” (710–11).

In 1893, Lang published an edition of Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies: A Study in Folk-Lore & Psychical Research. The Text by Robert Kirk, M. A., Minister of Aberfoyle, A.D. 1691. The Comment by Andrew Lang, M.A. A.D. 1893 (Nutt, 1893)

In 1894, Andrew Lang published his book that was most especially devoted to psychical research, Cock Lane and Common-Sense (Longman’s, Green, and Co., 1894). [William Blackwood III was also interested in this book (many of Lang’s Blackwood’s articles deal with the supernatural), but Lang had already promised it to Longmans. See Blackwood Papers, National Library of Scotland, MS 30,380, fols. 132–33 and MS 4618, fol. 37.]

In 1895, The Voices of Jeanne D’Arc (1895), was published, according to WorldCat. However, I have not yet been able to trace what sort of publication this was (private? pirated?). WorldCat does not identify the place of publication or the publisher. A strangely unattributed version appears to be available on a short stories website, though Lang’s work is not a short story.

In 1897, Lang published A Book of Dreams and Ghosts (Longmans, Green) and translated The Miracles of Madame Saint Katherine of Fierbois (Chicago: Way and Williams; London: David Nutt, 1897). In the preface, Lang writes that he has omitted “one or two very dull narratives” and has “added an essay on Fierbois and the Maid’s connection with the shrine”.

In 1908, Lang published The Maid of France, being the story of the life and death of Jeanne d’Arc (Longmans, Green, 1908) [The Internet Archive scan is of the 1922 new edition, with a preface by Leonora Blanche Lang.]

In 1911, the Presidential Addresses to the Society for Psychical Research, 1882–1911 . were published. This book includes addresses by Henry Sidgwick (president 1882–84, 1888–92); Balfour Stewart (1885–87); Arthur James Balfour (1893); William James (1894–95); Sir William Crookes (1896–99); Frederic W. H. Myers (1900); Sir Oliver Lodge (1901–03); Sir William Barrett (1904); Charles Richet (1905); Gerald William Balfour Balfour, Earl of (1906–07); Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick (1908–09); Henry Arthur Smith (1910); Andrew Lang (1911)] (Glasgow: Robert Maclehose, 1911. See WorldCat.

Lang’s interest in psychical research is also seen in many of his periodical articles, and his work on folklore, mythology, and the science of religion. He also showed his interest in a number of the prefaces and introductions he wrote to the works of others, including the following: