Robert James Lees


 

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An objective investigation and assessment of the life and work of author, journalist, social reformer and spiritualist, Robert James Lees

 

   

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Robert James Lees


Robert James Lees
1849-1931

 


"I can see you start – almost catch the emphatic exclamation with which you are tempted to throw the book aside and read no more. But … I am not mad … but speak the words of truth and soberness"




Robert James Lees was a journalist, philanthropist, novelist and medium. In the latter role he anticipated that later researchers would treat his exploits with a degree of scepticism. It was inevitable that those with a knowledge of the fraudulent aspects of Victorian Spiritualism would choose to discount many of Lees’ claims, together with those of his family and friends, regarding them as mere stories or legend invented to support the spiritualists’ dogma. Moreover, Lees’ decision to place himself outside the main tradition of Victorian spiritualism and to align himself with the Christian free churches created for him, many enemies who were always available to denounce him.

Throughout his life, even in his retirement years, it seems that Lees consciously courted controversy. The knowledge that he preached a unique message led him to give the title of The Heretic to his only autobiographical work. Hence those words of caution which he chose for the preface to The Life Elysian, the second novel of his trilogy about the afterlife. After his own death, the claims of his followers, particularly those recounted by his daughter Eva, became even more exceptional and unbelievable.

Lees believed that his psychic experiences began before his third birthday, at a stage of mental development when children are still discovering the basic properties of the physical world. These experiences were to invade his waking and sleeping hours for the rest of his life. It is claimed that Queen Victoria confided in Lees when he was just fourteen years old when she attempted to contact the spirit of the late Prince Albert. It is also claimed that Lees later helped Scotland Yard to confound several American-Fenian bomb attacks planned for Central London during the last two decades of the 19th century. There is also the well-known story of Lees’ alleged involvement in the search for Jack the Ripper.

Lees is the man who, despite having virtually no formal education, wrote complex and puzzling works of fiction which continued to sell many years after his death, and who allegedly walked and talked with the rich and famous including philosophers, theologians and Prime Ministers. He claimed, for instance, to have been present when Edison first experimented with recording sound. He, with many other like-minded philanthropists, worked to lift the dispossessed of one of London’s poorest areas towards self-respect and self-determination through imaginative socialist concepts. He was also a newspaper editor, an evangelist, a tourist guide and, according to the Metropolitan Police, “a lunatic and a fool”.

This site aims to investigate the life and times of Robert James Lees and his associations with Victorian philanthropists, 19th century journalism, spiritualism and the Jack the Ripper investigations.

 

     
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The History of the English Woodford(e) family of Wiltshire
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Research into the life and activities of the Leicestershire-born
spiritualist author and journalist Robert James Lees

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© Stephen Butt 2005-2010
Updated
24/01/10