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Gerald Massey was born at Gamble Wharf, near Tring, on May
29, 1828. He was the son of a canal boatman, a not very auspicious start in life
as his father had very little education, nor was he a man of distinction
or literary merit. Like Massey himself, he would spend most of his life
impoverished, managing to bring up his large family on a weekly wage of ten shillings,
a pittance in those days. Massey once remarked that really he had no childhood
because he started working at an early age, and received a scanty education at
the national school of Tring, afterwards becoming auto-didactic. He first started working at a silk mill when he
was eight, then became a straw plaiter before moving to London at fifteen as an errand boy. Reading
became his absorbing passion; now free to read more radical works in the
metropolis, he also gradually developed poetical
inclinations, attempting to imitate his beloved poets. During his spare time he studied French, and the works of Thomas
Paine, Volney and Howitt. In 1848 his first volume, Poems and
Chansons, was published by a bookseller at Tring. It sold a modest 250 copies. The revolutionary spirit of the time caught his enthusiasm and joining
the Chartists he applied his pen to the support of their cause. In 1849, at
21, he began editing at Uxbridge a paper written by workingmen and called The
Spirit of Freedom, in collaboration with John Bedford. In 1850 he contributed some
powerful verse to Cooper's Journal. His sympathies veered then to the religious
side of the reforming movement, and he associated himself with the Christian
Socialists under Frederick Denison Maurice; he acted as secretary and wrote verses for
The Christian Socialist. In the same year
he published a second volume of poems, Voices of Freedom and Lyrics of Love. In
the following year he welcomed Kossuth to England in a forceful poem, and later championed
the cause of Italian unity. A third volume of poems, entitled The Ballad of Babe Christobel and Other Poems, published in 1854, fully established his position as
poet of liberty, labour and the people; this work went through five editions in
one year and was reprinted in New York. Noted English writers Tennyson and Ruskin acknowledged his
talent, and a copy of his poems eventually reached the hands of Queen Victoria. Five
more volumes of poetry were to follow.
Massey also sought livelihood in journalism. From 1854 he wrote for the Athenaeum; Charles Dickens accepted poems from him for All the Year Round; the first issue of Good Words, I860, had a poem of his on Garibaldi. In the meantime, Massey had married and found it hard to bring up a family on the proceeds of his pen. He left London for Edinburgh in 1854 where he wrote for Chambers' Journal. He also took to lecturing at literary institutes on poetry, pre-Raphaelite art and Christian socialism, attracting large appreciative audiences. Around 1857 he moved the family to Monk's Green, Hertfordshire, and a little later to Brentwood, Coniston. It was whilst living in Rickmansworth that he found a helpful admirer in Lady Marian Alford. In 1862 her son, Lord Brownlow, provided him with a house on his estate, called Ward's Hurst, near Little Gaddesden, where he remained until 1877. It was during his stay there that he and his wife developed an absorbing interest in psychic phenomena and all things to do with Spiritualism, something of a fad at the time. In 1871 he wrote a book on the subject of Spiritualism, only later to withdraw it.
Again, feeling the pinch, and with another child on the way, he started lecturing abroad, touring in America in 1873-74, in California, then Canada, concentrating chiefly on mesmerism, the mystical interpretation of the Scriptures, and Spiritualism, etc.
In 1883-85 he began another lecture tour throughout Australia and New Zealand. These lectures were met with some success, prompting him to begin a third tour in 1888, only for it to be cut short by news of his daughter's fatal illness.
Some of these lectures were later privately
printed by request from his audience who felt it necessary as they could not
take in all that he said, and wanted to peruse his remarks in their own time.
(See Part Two below)
Another reason for starting to lecture, other than for profit, was to elucidate upon the subjects he had discussed in his first two monumental works, A Book of the Beginnings (published in London by Williams and Norgate in 1881, in 2 volumes) and its follow up, The Natural Genesis (again published in London by Williams and Norgate, in 1883, 2 volumes). Many of his readers had found the material to be dense and in need of explication, understandable as the topics discussed covered a vast array and dealt with the abstruse science of Typology. This tool was the only one available that could be used in a study that had as its aim the bottoming of all truths, an attempt to get to the real facts lying behind man's religious conceptions. As words came later, types were a possible indication of how words, languages, gestures, signs, etc., had evolved, and were a clue to unravelling the mysteries. By the study of types he felt he was able to derive at fundamental levels of intellection and understand how later myths and symbols could have emerged. Massey believed that the human race had evolved out of the inner regions of Africa and flourished once it settled down around the Nile basin, having migrated north along the river's banks. It was here that the first murmurings of intellect became articulate and the first fundamental truths were established. Massey saw the early race of Egyptians as being the most articulate and practical of all thinkers, and the theories derived from their speculations, based on the observation of natural phenomena, would, over time, coalesce in theological doctrines, notably Christianity, which he saw as a corruption of the original truths, and that man had lost his way by misinterpreting the symbolic for the actual. The gnosis pouring out of Egypt for thousands of years eventually became fragmented and partially lost. Massey's work was an attempt to recover the gnosis and restore it in its rightful place.
Having elaborated on certain topics discussed in the previous volumes in his lectures, he felt that a greater expansion of his ideas was needed, and this enterprise would culminate many years later in the last, and final, work to be published shortly before his death, Ancient Egypt the Light of the World (published in London by T. Fisher Unwin in 1907, in 2 volumes). This, along with a selection of his published lectures, and the previous two works, constitutes what is here termed the Masseian Corpus. (See Part Two below)
Gerald Massey died 29th October, 1907, at Redcot, South Norwood Hill, and was buried in Old Southgate Cemetery.
He may have died a very long time ago, but his ideas still permeate many aspects of speculative thought. Not only that, but some of his theories have recently been vindicated by science with the discovery of early hominid remains in Africa, and his theory of astrotheology is taken up more fully by modern writers who are also not convinced that the academic stance and social consensus is right. Too many questions still remain, and yet it is to these works by Massey many turn to find an answer.
For a fuller study of some aspects of Massey's work, see the essays (Part Six below). A rough outline of the Masseian Corpus has been included here (see Part One) along with details of the minor amendments made to the corpus, and a useful bibliography (see Part Three) as this was lacking in the original volumes. A full index to the corpus has also been provided, along with other relevant indices (see Part Four). Various works Massey has consulted, and refers to throughout the corpus, are presented here to serve as a useful adjunct to his thinking, and also to demonstrate the origins of some of his conceptions. More titles that formed part of his intellectual apparatus will be added when and where possible (see Part Five). Originally, it was intended to also include a full biography of the man, but this has proved unnecessary as David Shaw did a worthy job back in 1995 with his slim but profitable biography, Gerald Massey: Chartist, Poet, Radical and Freethinker. It is available as a revised edition in another site dedicated to Massey and his works (mainly poetry, reviews, etc.) and is thoroughly recommended. (See www.gerald-massey.org.uk in general and www.gerald-massey.org.uk/biog_contents for Shaw's biog.) An expanded edition of this work has now been published with additional material and appendices. The book can be ordered directly from the publisher, www.lulu.com, as either a paperback (£14.12) or as a download (£2.90). Other material relevant to Massey's life and his work will be found in Part Seven.
Although we do not engage in correspondence, or have the time to answer all queries, we will however appreciate any helpful comments. So please email us.
Lastly, we would like to thank all those who have supported this site over the last five years and provided hints for improvements. We appreciate your helpful insights.
A BRIEF UPDATE
Two important pages on this site are being overhauled; the Bibliography and the Bibliographical Index, which were in desperate need of revision. As stated in the intro to the Bib, I now consider it to be nearly complete, most of the gaps having been filled in, and some omissions sorted out. As per the Index, that too has been revised in line with the Bib.
All that remains for me to do now is to finish off the references pages, a task I aim to complete over the next three months. I will, of course, be amending the Bib and Bib Index if I come across any titles I may have missed. Then hopefully the site will be complete. And after that, a long, worthwhile break is in order.
My thanks once again to those who have been in contact over the years. Your appreciative comments are always welcome.
MASSEY VINDICATED ONCE AGAIN
This site contains Egyptian hieroglyphics and Coptic characters. Download and install the following fonts:
It also contains his major expository works—totalling over 3400 pages. And the following:
12,000 references, and counting
A bibliography of 2,200 titles
50 major other works
398 minor ones
4 versions of the Ritual
6 essays by the Editor
Over 500 illustrations
With many more to be added ....
Notes on The Masseian Corpus
The Masseian Corpus
A Book of the Beginnings (revised)
The Natural Genesis (revised)
Ancient Egypt, The Light of the World (revised)
Massey's published Lectures (revised)
A Bibliography to the Masseian Corpus
Indices to the Masseian Corpus
A Selection of Massey's Primary Source Material
Relevant to the Masseian Corpus
Other Minor Works Referenced in the Corpus
Essays by the Editor
NOTE: Apart from the first, the other essays are in obvious need of updating; they have been included here as it was thought it would be pertinent as part of a brief examination of some aspects of the Masseian corpus. It is hoped further relevant essays will be added in due course. Contributions are most welcome.
Other Pertinent Material
'For myself, it is enough to know that in despite of many hindrances from straitened circumstances, chronic ailments, and the deepening shadows of encroaching age, my book is printed, and the subject-matter that I cared for most is now entrusted safely to the keeping of John Gutenberg, on this my nine-and-seventieth birthday.'
(Introduction to AE)
South Norwood Hill,
29th May, 1907.
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This page last updated: 10/04/2014