The Rise of Victorian Spiritualism

Leah and Maggie Fox or “The Fox Sisters”, 1851

Spiritualism began as a fad that spread throughout America and England during the 1850s. The religion first made its appearance in New York in April of 1848, introduced by The Fox Sisters. Although the Victorian era is highly associated with the rise of industrialization and scientific progression, the Victorian people were taken by ideas of the supernatural and the occult. Spiritualism rooted itself in Europe when it appeared in the northern industrial side of England in 1852, where a strong sense of disagreement with religion was already underway. The increasing doubt and questioning of faith during the nineteenth century, began to make it more difficult for educated people to accept the bible as the singular truth. The overtaking of Spiritualism in Victorian literature converted many authors and poets; famously, Arthur Conan Doyle as an example. Alfred Tennyson was one of the remaining faithful poets who held onto Anglican beliefs. However, Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” proves to have certain connections to Spiritualist ideologies. Some specific topics that circulated during this time were mesmerism, clairvoyance, and crystal-gazing to name a few. Clairvoyance and crystal-gazing are the more promising reflections of Spiritualism in the poem, especially in William Holman Hunt’s illustrations.


Luckhurst, Roger. “The Victorian Supernatural.” British Library, 15 May 2014, 

Diniejko, Andrzej. “Victorian Spiritualism.” The Victorian Web,

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

1 Apr 1848