Britten, Emma Floyd Hardinge

Britten, Emma Floyd Hardinge (1823–1899)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Known among Spiritualists as “The Silver-Tongued Lecturer,” Emma Hardinge Britten was a medium, writer, and lecturer. She was the daughter of a sailor, Captain Floyd, and as a child she showed gifts of music and elocution. As a young woman she worked under contract by a theatrical company and by the age of thirty-four, she traveled to America to play the part of Mrs. Bracebridge in the Broadway play The Tragedy Queen. While in America, Britten experienced séances with Ada Hoyt and subsequently converted to Spiritualism. She went on to develop her own mediumistic powers and even sat publicly for the Society for the Diffusion of Spiritual Knowledge of New York.

In trance, Britten was the channel for Philip Smith, a crew member of the mail steamer Pacific. The Pacific was the ship on which Britten and her mother had originally traveled to America. They had gotten to know several members of the crew, including Smith. The spirit of Smith claimed that the ship had sunk on the high seas, saying, “My dear Emma, I have come to tell you that I am dead. The ship Pacific is lost, and all on board have perished; she and her crew will never be heard from more.” When Britten disclosed this tragedy the owners of the vessel threatened to prosecute her. But it turned out that the facts presented by the spirit through Emma Britten were true; the Pacific had indeed sunk. This was one of the best attested cases of early spirit return.

Britten was adept at automatic writing, healing, prophecy, psychometry, and inspirational speaking. She gained an international reputation as a speaker. Her extemporaneous talks were delivered on subjects chosen by a member of the audience. In 1870, she married Dr. William Britten, a passionate Spiritualist, and joined him as a missionary for the religion. They travelled throughout the United States as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Britain, enthusing about Spiritualism. She was among the founders of the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875. In 1887, she founded the Spiritualist magazine Two Worlds (which is still published today) and edited it for five years. According to Stemman she was also the founder, in 1890, of the Spiritualists’ National Union in Britain. Her books include Modern American Spiritualism (1870), Art Magic (1876), Ghost Land (1876), Nineteenth Century Miracles (1884), and Faith, Fact, and Fraud of Religious History (1906).


Awtry-Smith, Marilyn: “They” Paved the Way. New York: Spiritualism & More, nd
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Stemman, Roy: The Supernatural: Spirits and Spirit Worlds. London: Aldus, 1975
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