“The Gem” and Blavatsky


Bertram Keightly, H.P. Blavatsky’s proof reader for her magazine “Lucifer” wrote of an uncanny example of what appears to have been Blavatsky’s ability to accurately read the astral light. The poem below was used to lead off her occult story “Karmic Visions.” The following account is taken from the Blavatsky Collected Writings, volume IX:

Oh sad No More! Oh sweet No More!
……Oh strange No More!
By a mossed brookbank on a stone I smelt a wildweed-flower alone;
There was a ringing in my ears,
And both my eyes gushed out with tears,
Surely all pleasant things had gone before,
Lowburied fathom deep beneath with thee, No More!
– Tennyson (The Gem, 1831)

There is an interesting story connected with this particular poem. According to Bertram Keightly … H.P.B. always wrote her Lucifer editorials herself, “and she had a fancy for very often heading (them) with some quotation, and it used to be one of my troubles that she very seldom gave a reference for these, so that I had much work, and even visits to the British Museum Reading Room, in order to verify and check them, even when I did manage, with much entreaty, and after being most heartily ‘cussed,’ to extract some reference from her.

“One day she handed me as usual the copy of her contribution, a story for the next issue headed with a couple of four line stanzas. I went and plagued her for a reference and would not be satisfied without one. She took the manuscript and when I came back for it, I found she had just written ‘Alfred Tennyson’ under the verses. Seeing this I was at a loss for I knew my Tennyson pretty well and was certain that I had never read these lines in any poem of his, nor were they at all in his style. I hunted up my Tennyson, could not find them; consulted everyone I could get at – also in vain. Then back I went to H.P.B. and told her all this and said that I was sure these lines could not be Tennyson’s, and I dared not print them with his name attached, unless I could give an exact reference. H.P.B. just damned me and told me to get out and go to Hell. It happened that the Lucifer copy must go to the printers that same day. So I just told her that I should strike out Tennyson’s name when I went, unless she gave me a reference before I started. Just on starting I went to her again, and she handed me a scrap of paper on which were written the words: “The Gem – 1831.” ‘Well, H.P.B.,’ I said, ‘this is worse than ever; for I am dead certain that Tennyson has never written any poem called “The Gem.”‘ All H.P. B. said was just: ‘Go out and be off.’

“So I went to the British Museum Reading Room and consulted the folk there, but they could give me no help and they one and all agreed that the verse’s could not be, and were not Tennyson’s. As a last resort, I asked to see Mr. Richard Garnett, the famous Head of the Reading Room in those days, and was taken to him. I explained to him the situation and he also agreed in feeling sure the verses were not Tennyson’s. But after thinking quite a while, he asked me if I had consulted the Catalogue of Periodical Publications’. I said no, and asked where that came in. ‘Well,” said Mr. Garnett, ‘I have a dim recollection that, there was once a brief-lived magazine called the “Gem.” It might be worth your looking it up.’ I did so, and in the volume for the year given in H.P.B’s note, I found a poem of a few stanzas signed ‘Alfred Tennyson’ and containing the two stanzas quoted by H.P.B. verbatim as she had written them down. And anyone can now read them in the second volume of “Lucifer”; but I have never found them even in the supposedly most complete and perfect edition of Tennyson’s Works.”

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