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Southcott, Joanna

SOUTHCOTT, JOANNA (1750-1814), English religious fanatic, was .born at Gittisham in Devonshire. Her father was a farmer and she herself was for a considerable time a domestic servant. She was originally a Methodist, but about 1792, becoming persuaded that she possessed supernatural gifts, she wrote and dictated prophecies in rhyme, and then announced herself as the woman spoken of in Rev. xii. Coming to London at the request of William Sharp (1749-1824), the engraver, she began to " seal " the 144,000 elect at a charge varying from twelve shillings to a guinea. When over sixty she affirmed that she would be delivered of Shiloh on the 19th of October 1814, but Shiloh failed to appear, and it was given out that she was in a trance. She died of brain disease on the 29th of the same month Her followers are said to have numbered over 100,000, and only became extinct at the end of the 19th century.

Among her sixty publications, all equally incoherent in thought and grammar, may be mentioned: Strange Effects of Faith (1801-1802), Free Exposition of the Bible (1804), The Book of Wonders (1813-1814), and Prophecies announcing the Birth of the Prince of Peace (1814). A lady named Essam left large sums of money for printing and publishing the Sacred Writings of Joanna Southcott. The will was disputed by a niece on the ground that the writings were blasphemous, but the court of chancery sustained it.

See D. Roberts, Observations on the Divine Mission of Joanna Southcott (1807) ; R. Reece, Correct Statement of the Circumstances attending the Death of Joanna Southcott (1815).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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