Massey, Gerald (1828–1907)
British poet born May 29, 1828, in Hertfordshire, England.
He grew up in poverty, earned a living by working in a factory
from the age of eight, and learned to read at a penny school.
Massey became a socialist and edited a radical journal, and he
also wrote poems, which were favorably noticed by established
poets such as Browning and Tennyson. His first wife, Rosina
Knowles, was a Spiritualist medium.
Massey based one volume of his poetry, A Tale of Eternity
(1870), on personal experience of a haunted house. He soon
lost some of his early popularity, however, when he was said to
have gone over to the Spiritualists. In response he confessed
‘‘For the truth’s sake I ought to explain that the spiritualism
to be found in my poetry is no delusive idealism, derived from
hereditary belief in a resurrection of the dead. My faith in the
future life is founded upon facts in nature and realities of my
own personal experience. These facts have been more or less
known to me personally during forty years of familiar face-toface
acquaintanceship, therefore my certitude is not premature;
they have given me proof palpable that our very own
human identity and intelligence do persist after the blind of
darkness has been drawn down in death.’’
In 1872 Massey presided at the meeting in London marking
the departure of Emma Hardinge Britten to Australia. His address
with some additions was later printed under the title Concerning
In his later years he published four large volumes in which
he tried to trace the origin of language, symbols, myths, and religions.
The work was reminiscent of Godfrey Higgins
(1772–1833). His final product was not well received during his
lifetime, the idea of Africa as the birthplace of mankind being
quite unacceptable in Victorian England. Thus A Book of the Beginnings
(1881) and his other texts were largely ignored or ridiculed
until later archaeological discoveries provided more solid
evidence in support of Massey’s themes.
He died on October 12, 1907.
Massey, Gerald. Ancient Egypt. 2 vols. London, 1907. Reprint,
New York Samuel Weiser, 1970.
———. A Book of the Beginnings. 2 vols. London, 1881. Reprint,
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1974.
———. The Natural Genesis. 2 vols. London n.p., 1883.

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