Answer to Historical Research Puzzle #1
Jan 18, 1995 06:58 PM
Answer to Historical Research Puzzle #1
Having received no correct answer to Historical Research Puzzle
#1, I will at this point give the correct solution. First I will
post the original posting:
In the Chronological Survey (p. xxv) of Vol. VII of H.P.B.'s
COLLECTED WRITINGS, the following item is listed under the date
of Jan. or Feb. :
"Sinnetts visit H.P.B. at Wurzburg. Stay three weeks; they are
there at the same time as Nadyezhda A. de Fadeyev and `the
Soloviovs.' Sinnett goes over dates, etc. for his INCIDENTS;
they agree on the title (ED., 83-84) Apparently Sinnett leaves
first; Mrs. S. stays longer. H.P.B. completes a considerable
portion of Vol. I of S.D., and plans to send it to Adyar (ODL,
Can you consult the sources mentioned and verify (or falsify) the
Jan. or Feb., 1886 date? etc. etc.
The answer is as follows: Don't take what I say on faith. You
can confirm what follows by carefully going over the original
No such event happened either in Jan. or Feb. 1886. Two events
are confused into this non-existent event. One event happened in
late Sept., 1885 and the other event in early August, 1886.
(1) Upon consulting THE EARLY DAYS OF THEOSOHY IN EUROPE, pp.
83-84, you will find that Sinnett writes: "My wife and I went to
see her [HPB] at Wurzburg in the course of our autumn tour in
1885. . . .Madame Fadeef... was staying with her at the time
and also `the Soloviofs.'" Notice the phrase "our autumn tour in
1885." This is confirmed in AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALFRED PERCY
SINNETT, p. 32 where Sinnett writes: "We stayed at Wurtemburg
from the 21st of September till the 1st of October . . .
." Sinnett says that on this trip: ". . . Some of her Russian
relatives and acquaintances were also at Wurtemburg, among them
(2) There is no mention in EARLY DAYS or in AUTOBIOGRAPHY or in
THE LETTERS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY TO A.P. SINNETT of Sinnett and
his wife going to Wurzburg and staying 3 weeks either in Jan. or
Feb. 1886. Consult Neff and Conger chronologies of HPB letters
to A.P. Sinnett and read letters of this time period.
(3) ODL, Vol. III, p. 366 is cited as giving evidence that
Sinnett had left Wurzburg and Mrs.Sinnett had remained for ten
days more. In the latest reprint of ODL, Vol. III, the page
number for this is p. 379. In this letter from HPB, Col.
Olcott quotes: "Sinnett has left, after stopping with me for
three weeks, and Mrs. . . .remains for ten days more. She is
very kind and copies for me *The Secret Doctrine." As you will
notice, Col. Olcott does not mention Mrs. Sinnett but says
"Mrs. S...." In other words, Olcott deletes the real name of
Mrs. S. Why if this is Mrs. S.?
(4) When was this HPB letter written? The clue is to be found on
p. 370 (original ed) and p. 383 in the most recent reprint of
volume III of OLD DIARY LEAVES where Olcott tells the reader that
the HPB letter quoted above is referred to as : "with what she
writes me as having occurred at Ostende." HPB came to Ostende in
July, 1886 and Mr. Sinnett came to visit her soon thereafter.
Mrs. Sinnett did not come on this trip but Mrs. Bates (the
future wife of Elliott Coues) was there. No doubt, Mrs. S. in
ODL is Mrs. Bates.
There are several other pieces of evidence that support this
interpretation. All of this has been given to John Cooper who is
editing HPB's Letters for publication.
The above example illustrates the need for authors writing on
Theosophical history to carefully consult original source
documents and to be very careful in reconstructing supposed
events. In future puzzles this same principle will be
illustrated time after time.
For those interested in answering Historical Research Puzzle #2
which was embodied in my brief review of Paul Johnson's new book,
please note that the deadline for the answer will be Feb. 1,
Methods of research can clarify not only historical events but
even be helpful in understanding Theosophical teachings. We hope
to illustrate this in forthcoming PUZZLES.
Daniel H. Caldwell
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application