«AUTHOR'S PREFACE [Page 5] THE first edition of this book, published in 1886, was issued during Madame Blavatsky's lifetime as an indirect protest ...»
Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky by A.P. Sinnett
Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky
by A.P. Sinnett
Compiled from information supplied by her relatives and friends
The Theosophical Publishing House, London 1913
[Page 5] THE first edition of this book, published in 1886, was issued during Madame Blavatsky's lifetime
as an indirect protest against the cruel and slanderous attack on her embodied in the Report to the Committee of the Psychical Research Society appointed to investigate the phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society. This Report was very effectually answered at the time, and the passages in my original book especially relating to it are hardly worth reproduction now. But the facts relating to Madame Blavatsky's life which it then dealt with are more interesting now than ever, in view of the gigantic development of the Theosophical Society; and the original edition having been long out of print, the present edition is prepared to meet a widespread desire.
I need not now reproduce dissertations which the original edition contained in deprecation of the incredulity that still held sway twenty-five years ago in reference to the reality of occult phenomena. A great change in this respect has come over cultivated thinking within that period, and appeals for tolerance on behalf of those who give testimony concerning occult super-psychical phenomena of which they may have been witness are no longer necessary.[Page 6] For the rest, the book is now republished as written, no attempt having been made to recast its language to suit the present time, when the subject of the memoir is no longer with us; but I have added some notes where later events or experience have seemed to claim them.
Page 1 Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky by A.P. Sinnett
CONTENTSChapter Page AUTHOR'S PREFACE 5 1 CHILDHOOD 9 2 MARRIAGE AND TRAVEL 39 3 AT HOME IN RUSSIA, 1858 57 4 MM DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE 66
MM. DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE5 87
MM. DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE -6 105 (CONTINUED) 7 FROM APPRENTICESHIP TO DUTY 121 8 RESIDENCE IN AMERICA 132 9 ESTABLISHED IN INDIA 169 10 A VISIT TO EUROPE 205
[Page 9] QUOTING the authoritative statement of her late uncle, General Fadeef, made at my request in 1881, at a time when he was Joint-Secretary of State in the Home Department at St Petersburg, Mme. H.
P. Blavatsky (Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, to give the name at full length) “ is, from her father's side, the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn, and granddaughter of General Alexis Hahn von Rottenstern Hahn (a noble family of Mecklenburg, Germany, settled in Russia); and she is, from her mother's side, the daughter of Helene Fadeef, and granddaughter of Privy Councillor Andrew Fadeef and of the Princess Helene Dolgorouky. She is the widow of the Councillor of State, Nicephore Blavatsky, late Vice-Governor of the Province of Erivan, Caucasus.” Mademoiselle Hahn, to use her family name in referring to her childhood, was born at Ekaterinoslaw, in the south of Russia, in 1831. Von Hahn would be the proper German form of the name, and in French writing or conversation the name, as used by Russians, would be De Hahn, but in its strictly Russian form the prefix was generally dropped.[Page 10] For the following particulars concerning the family I am indebted to some of its present representatives who have taken an interest in the preparation of these memoirs.
The Von Hahn family is well known in Germany and Russia. The Counts Von Hahn belong to an old Mecklenburg stock. Mme. Blavatsky's grandfather was a cousin of Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn, the famous authoress, with whose writings England is well acquainted. Settling in Russia, he died in its service a full general. He was married to the Countess Proêbstin, who, after his death, married Nicholas Wassiltchikof, the brother of the famous Prince of that name. Mme. Blavatsky's father left the military service with the rank of a colonel after the death of his first wife. He had been married en premières noces to Mademoiselle H. Fadeew, known in the literary world between 1830 and 1840 as an authoress — the first novel-writer that had ever appeared in Russia — under the nom de plume of Zenaida R..., and who, although dying before she was twenty-five, left some dozen novels of the romantic school, most of which have been translated into the German language. In 1846 Colonel Hahn married his second wife — a Baroness Von Lange, by whom he had a daughter referred to by Mme. Jelihowsky as ' little Lisa' in the extracts here given from her writings, published in St Petersburg. On her mother's side Mme. Blavatsky is the granddaughter of Princess Dolgorouky, with whose death the elder line of that family became extinct in Russia. Thus her maternal ancestors belong to the oldest families of the empire, since they are the direct descendants of the Prince or Grand Duke Rurik, the first ruler called to govern Russia. Several ladies of that family belonged to the Imperial house, becoming Czarinas (Czaritiza) by marriage. For a Princess Dolgorouky (Maria Nikitishna) had been married to the grandfather of Peter the Great, the Czar Michael Fedorovitch, the first reigning Romanof; another, the Princess Catherine Alexeévna, was on the [Page 11] eve of her marriage with Czar Peter the II when he died suddenly before the ceremony.
A strange fatality seems always to have persecuted this family in connection with England; and its greatest vicissitudes have been in some way associated with that country. Several of its members died,
and others fell into political disgrace, as they were on their way to London. The last and most interesting of all is the tragedy connected with the Prince Sergeéy Gregoreevitch Dolgorouky, Mme. Blavatsky's grandmother's grandfather, who was ambassador in Poland. At the advent of the Archduchess Anne of Courlang to the throne of Russia, owing to their opposition to her favourite of infamous memory, the Chancellor Biron, many of the highest families were imprisoned or exiled; others put to death and their wealth confiscated. Among these, such fate befell the Prince Sergèey Dolgorouky. He was sent in exile to Berezof (Siberia) without any explanation, and his private fortune, that consisted of 200,000 serfs, was confiscated. His two little sons were, the elder placed with a village smith as an apprentice, the younger condemned to become a simple soldier, and sent to Azof. Eight years later the Empress Anne laxnovna recalled the exiled father, pardoned him, and sent him as ambassador to London. Knowing Biron well, however, the prince sent to the Bank of England 100,000 roubles to be left untouched for a century, capital and accumulated interest, to be distributed after that period to his direct descendants. His presentiment proved correct. He had not yet reached Novgorod, on his way to England, when he was seized and put to death by 'quartering' (cut in four). When the Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great's daughter, came to the throne next, her first care was to undo the great wrongs perpetrated by her predecessor through her cruel and crafty favourite Biron. Among other exiles the two sons and heirs of Prince Sergeéy were recalled, their title restored, and their property ordered to be given back. This, however, instead of being 200,000 serfs, had dwindled down to only 8000. The younger son, after a youth of extreme misery and [Page 12] hardship, became a monk, and died young. The elder married a Princess Romadanovsky; and his son, Prince Paul, Mme. Blavatsky's great-grandfather, named while yet in his cradle a Colonel of the Guards by the Emperor, married a Countess du Plessy, the daughter of a noble French Huguenot family, emigrated from France to Russia. Her father had found service at the Court of the Empress Catherine II where her mother was the favourite dame d'honneur.
The receipt of the Bank of England for the sum of 100,000 roubles, a sum that at the end of the term of one hundred years had grown to immense proportions, had been handed by a friend of the politically murdered prince to the grandson of the latter, the Prince Paul Dolgorouky. It was preserved by him with other family documents at Marfovka, a large family property in the government of Penja, where the old prince lived and died in 1837. But the document was vainly searched for by the heirs after his death ; it was nowhere to be found. To their great horror further research brought to light the fact that it must have been burnt, together with the residence, in a great fire that had some time previous destroyed nearly the whole village. Having lost his sight in a paralytic stroke some years previous to his demise, the octogenarian prince, old and ill, had been kept in ignorance of the loss of the most important of his family documents. This was a crushing misfortune, that left the heirs bereft of their contemplated millions. Many were the attempts made to come to some compromise with the bank, but to no purpose. It was ascertained that the deposit had been received at the bank, but some mistake in the name had been made, and then the bank demanded very naturally the receipt delivered about the middle of the last century. In short, the millions disappeared for the Russian heirs. Mme. Blavatsky has thus in her veins the blood of three nations — the Slavonian, the German, and the French."
The year of Mademoiselle Hahn's birth, 1831, was fatal for Russia, as for all Europe, owing to the first visit of the cholera, that terrible plague that decimated from [Page 13] 1830 to 1832 in turn nearly every town of the continent, and carried away a large part of its populations. Her birth was quickened by several deaths in the house. She was ushered into the world amid coffins and desolation. The following narrative is composed from the family records :— Page 4 Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky by A.P. Sinnett Her father was then in the army, intervals of peace after Russia's war with Turkey in 1829 being filled with preparations for new fights. The baby was born on the night between July 30 and 31 — weak and apparently no denizen of this world. A hurried baptism had to be resorted to, therefore, lest the child died with the burden of original sin on her soul. The ceremony of baptism in 'orthodox' Russia is attended with all the paraphernalia of lighted tapers, and 'pairs' of godmothers and godfathers, every one of the spectators and actors being furnished with consecrated wax candles during the whole proceedings.
Moreover, everyone has to stand during the baptismal rite, no one being allowed to sit in the Greek religion — as they do in Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches — during the church and religious service. The room selected for the ceremony in the family mansion was large, but the crowd of devotees eager to witness it was still larger. Behind the priest officiating in the centre of the room, with his assistants, in their golden robes and long hair, stood the three pairs of sponsors and the whole household of vassals and serfs. The child-aunt of the baby — only a few years older than her niece aged twenty-four hours, — placed as ' proxy ' for an absent relative, was in the first row immediately behind the venerable protopope. Feeling nervous and tired of standing still for nearly an hour, the child settled on the floor, unperceived by the elders, and became probably drowsy in the overcrowded room on that hot July day. The ceremony was nearing its close. The sponsors were just in the act of renouncing the Evil One and his deeds, a renunciation emphasised in the Greek Church by thrice spitting upon the invisible enemy, when the little lady, toying with her lighted taper at the feet of the crowd, [Page 14] inadvertently set fire to the long flowing robes of the priest, no one remarking the accident until it was too late. The result was an immediate conflagration, during which several persons — chiefly the old priest — were severely burnt. That was another bad omen, according to the superstitious beliefs of orthodox Russia; and the innocent cause of it — the future Mme. Blavatsky — was doomed from that day in the eyes of all the town to an eventful life, full of vicissitude and trouble.