Harriet Martineau's Autobiography

Source: Harriet Martineau (ed. Maria Weston Chapman), Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography vol. 1 (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1877), p. 15

Text: When I was four or five years old, we were taken to a lecture of Mr. Drummond’s, for the sake, no doubt, of the pretty shows we were to see, — the chief of which was the Phantasmagoria of which we had heard, as a fine sort of magic-lantern. I did not like the darkness, to begin with; and when Minerva appeared, in a red dress, at first extremely small, and then approaching, till her owl seemed coming directly upon me, it was so like my nightmare dreams that I shrieked aloud. I remember my own shriek. A pretty lady who sat next us, took me on her lap, and let me hide my face in her bosom, and held me fast. How intensely I loved her, without at all knowing who she was!

Comments: Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a British essayist and sociologist, who enjoyed a considerable reputation as a social analyst in her lifetime. Her posthumously published autobiography goes into great detail about her childhood memories and their significance. The Phantasmagoria was a combination of the magic lantern, back projection, mobile machinery and lighting effects to create ghostly apparitions before an audience. It was presented as a public entertainment in in London in 1801 but Martineau may be referring to a local, less elaborate entertainment (her family lived in Norwich).

Links: Copy at Internet Archive

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