Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

The Sideboard


As for the sideboard, since Mme. Coulomb claimed that all Shrine-phenomena occurring "during the last [1883] Anniversary were performed through this channel" (71), Hodgson had to show it had been situated then exactly as when found at the "exposure".

1. In trying, he resorted to such ambiguous terms as "in its position," "remained there," "in that place," "against the wall," etc.  He reported no firsthand testimony (aside from Coulombs') that, before H.P.B. left in 1884, it had been at the precise location illustrated in his Plan.

2. Instead, Hodgson claimed Mrs. Morgan gave "explicit testimony that it was placed in its position [?] before the anniversary," and this was "confirmed by the statements" of Hartmann, S. Row, P. S. Row, Rathnavelu, and by "testimony" of Ramaswamier and C. Iyer (331).  But his reported interview with Mrs. Morgan (325-26) contains no such "explicit testimony" (she only testifies that it "remained in that place [the bedroom?] during the time of the anniversary"); neither is it "confirmed" by any quotation from five of the six additional witnesses named!

3. Aside from the Coulombs, and against Damodar's denial (337) and his self-supporting citation of another demurring witness, C. S. Chetty (327), whose testimony Hodgson consistently suppressed,  [27] only one witness, Subba Row, said the sideboard came before the anniversary (327).  If Hodgson ascertained that Mr. Row here spoke as an eye-witness, he does not say so --- a pity, since Hodgson confessed to being misled in a similar situation (329).

4. Dr. Hodgson declared, "Mr. Damodar states that the sideboard did not come into existence till January, 1884, when the phenomena were no longer produced in the Shrine" (230).  But what Damodar said was that, "It was only in January, 1884, when Madame Blavatsky began to dine in the room next to the Occult Room, that the cupboard was put to the wall, so that dishes, plates, &c., might be put in it.  But this piece of furniture came into existence after the phenomena were no longer produced in the Shrine" (337).

5. Evidently, the sideboard appeared "during the anniversary" but after the date (December 28  [28] ) of the last Shrine-phenomenon attributed by Mme. Coulomb (73) to "this channel," though Hodgson pretended that these phenomena continued into 1884 until about the date (223) when, it was claimed, Mons. Coulomb removed the alleged half-panel from the Shrine (76).  As if to prevent recognition of this possibility, Hodgson represented "the anniversary" of 1883 as being confined to "December 27th" (230, 327), whereas that "anniversary" was December 27-30. [29]

6. What Hodgson did not prove was that the sideboard was on hand before the anniversary; and what neither he nor Mme. Coulomb claimed was that it was ready to conceal an entranceway to the recess when Shrine-phenomena occurred December 26th, 25th, and earlier, as testified to by S. Subramania Iyer, High Court Vakil, Madura, [30]  by Col. Olcott (376), or by Dr. Hartmann. [31]

7. While omitting to say the sideboard in 1884 was found nailed to the wall --- he says only that in 1883 it was "close against" the wall (222) ---, and while suppressing Mme. Coulomb's claim (71) this was done lest some skeptic should "want to remove it and inspect the back" (as though finding it nailed down would not be enough to excite curiosity!), Hodgson joins the Coulombs in silence on the question of examining the sideboard's interior.  What did H.P.B.'s dinner servants (326) say about it holding "dishes, plates, etc."?  Did it originally have shelves, preventing bodily entrance?  Whatever Hodgson learned here he kept to himself and let Damodar's account of its use go unchallenged.

8. Mme. Coulomb claimed "the back" of the sideboard "was taken out, and turned into a door" (71); and Hodgson gives a report that, "The carpenters say that Coulomb told them only to glue the back" (329).  Hodgson himself describes it as a "movable back" (327).  Despite all this, it was not the back that moved (as advance design would dictate for convenience in case of trickery), but only a "hinged panel" later inserted "in the back" (222-23), and of different thickness of wood, if Hodgson's Plan is credited (see Plate II).

9. Nowhere did Hodgson give evidence his inspection of this panel [32]  in any way contradicted previously published testimony by Hartmann and Judge that it appeared to have been made hastily and slipshod.

10. No evidence is given that in December, 1883, the part described as "the back" had stood against any wall.  Mrs. Morgan testified that, together with "a shelf," the sideboard was made "as a resting place for the dishes which might be passed through the upper part of a closed door" between bedroom and north terrace (326).  How could a servant, outside the serving-door, place dishes on the sideboard if it had been as Hodgson showed it, five feet away at the nearest corner (see Plate II)?

11. Mme. Coulomb (in a passage Hodgson suppressed) admitted that the sideboard was built as "a corner buffet" (71), but in Hodgson's Plan it was no corner buffet at all, being situated nearer to the center-point of the wall behind than to the corner.

12. By May 18, 1884, Coulomb had moved it down along the wall, evidently removing the shelf (since it appears in neither the Hartmann nor Hodgson plans).  Re-orientated and relocated at what must have been its intended position, together with suggested shelf area, the position and peculiar shape of the sideboard fully accords with Mme. Coulomb's designation, i.e., "a corner buffet" (see Figure C in Plate I).  Note especially the position of its original (front) door, and back (consisting of two sides).

13. Hodgson did not say when the serving-door was prepared, nor when the shelf was added.  Hence the assumption that, though the sideboard was finished before 1884, the shelf and special door were delayed, so that Damodar was right and it was "only in January, 1884" that (all parts of the combination being ready) "the cupboard was put to the wall" for use --- in the corner for which it was designed.



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