The Leslie Flint Educational Trust

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Lilian Mary Baylis

1874 - 1937

The Lilian Baylis séance


Recorded: June 17th 1963


“I called upon the powers of spirit and it never failed me.”


Lilian Baylis became manager of 'The Old Vic',
an historic theatre in London,
after the death of her aunt, Emma Cons, in 1912.

Presenting performances to wide social audiences at 'The Vic'
became Lilian's personal crusade, until her death in 1937.

Twenty-six years later,
and two days after The Old Vic Theatre Company’s final performance,
Lilian Baylis returned to speak with George Woods and Betty Greene.

Lilian regrets that The Vic did not become a school for students,
but shares her hopes for London's new 'National Theatre'.

Lilian talks about life in the spirit world and describes
the opportunities available for actors and playwrights in the afterlife
- then Lilian talks about meeting William Shakespeare!

 

Note: After the séance was over, George Woods called the office of the Psychic News to tell editor Maurice Barbanell
about this communication from Lilian Baylis - and promised to send him a tape of the séance. 
Read Mr Barbanell's original article at the bottom of the page.



In August 2007 an extract of this séance was played on the BBC Radio 4 series
 'Great Lives', in a biographical episode about Lilian Baylis.

 

Note: This 60 year old séance audio is enhanced from a degraded original.

 
 
 

Please read the full transcript below...




Present: George Woods, Betty Greene, Leslie Flint.

Communicators: Lilian Baylis, Mickey.




Baylis:

It’s a very long time since I came to speak. I’m not quite sure now if you can hear me? I’m trying my best to talk to you through this box.


Woods:

We can hear you very well indeed.


Greene:

You’re very plain.


Woods:

Very clear.


Baylis:

My name is Baylis.


Woods:

Baylis? Oh yes.


Baylis:

Lilian Baylis.


Woods:

Lilian Baylis?


Greene:

Oh, are you the lady who had the Old Vic?


Baylis:
I did.


Woods:
Oh, I’m so pleased you’ve come through.


Greene:
Yes.


Baylis:
I’ve come for a very special reason...

[Short pause]


Greene:
Come along Miss Baylis…


Woods:
Come along Miss Baylis, you’re very clear.


[Short pause]


Baylis:
One cannot but feel a little disappointed to know that there will not be an Old Vic any longer. And yet at the same time I am very thrilled and very pleased to know that there is going to be, at last, a National Theatre. And I suppose, in a sense, I can be pleased because it is really, directly through the influence and the work that’s been done in the past by the Old Vic.


I’m sorry to lose the name, the title, which for so long has upheld the brilliant drama in this country. But nevertheless, I am grateful to all those who had made the endeavour for so long to bring into being this National Theatre, which I feel for so long the Vic has held for itself that title.


I’m disappointed because I feel that an effort could have been made to have kept the Old Vic as a monument. Not only to the past, but to the future. Where students could have been trained and productions could have been put on. It could have been, in a sense, a wonderful training school - from every aspect and every angle.


The only regret I have in this is, that the Vic itself could not have been kept as the memorial to the past and also as something very precious and definite. Inasmuch that it could have been a training school, from the point of view of study and production. It would have been a great asset in that state. It could have been a wonderful training school.


I think the Vic had always been a training school and it could have been kept on, I feel sure, by efforts made so that it could have been used for that purpose and the name could have been kept and the students could have then - as they have always done in the past - entered, not only the commercial theatre, but the National Theatre.


But I suppose I should not complain. In a sense, I suppose I have seen, over the years, a wonderful transition has taken place on that place which I first occupied and took upon myself to mould, became a highly respected theatre in which many famous people have developed their talents and have gone on to wider fields. Now the National Theatre, which I always felt the Old Vic was symbolic.


Well I suppose I should not complain and I wouldn’t like anyone to think that I am complaining. It’s just the feeling that perhaps some effort would have made… been made to keep the Old Vic standing on its site and being used in an active state for training.


Nevertheless, I am grateful for all the effort and all the work that has been done there, all the splendid and wonderful people who have made it the living thing that it has become. And it will not die, of that I am quite sure. The memory will survive, the wonderful productions that have taken place there over the years, all that it entailed, all that it implied, will go into the future.


Woods:

Yes, I quite agree with you.


Baylis:

But I am disappointed. I am only human. I suppose that I’m disappointed to see that at last it has come down, after a hundred years, practically. Not that I was there a hundred years, some people probably thought I was nearly a hundred!

But the point is that I took it ... as it was, and made it into something that was admired and respected throughout the whole civilised English-speaking world.


It was a sad day. I was there, I was listening to all that was being said and in many respects I fully agree, it’s just that to see the curtain come down for the last time and to know that it will never go up again on a production, even a student production. It seems to me so sad. I do feel it could have been kept - not as a memorial to me! I don’t mean that at all!


But it could have been kept and used and it would have been a wonderful training ground. Perhaps I’m being sentimental and yet I’m not a sentimentalist. I don’t think I ever was.


Greene:

Miss Baylis, can you tell us, um, how you passed over and your life on the other side, how you...


Baylis:

Oh, my life is very active here. I’m still tremendously interested in the theatre and I think I know a lot more about it now.


Greene: [Laughing]


Baylis:

And not only that, I was always very keen, when I was on your side, not just to bring education to the people, but I was keen to see the influence of good, brought into the lives of innumerable people through the plays of Shakespeare and others. ‘To hold a mirror up to nature’ - that is the art of the theatre and over here, in a sense, that is equally true. We do ‘hold up a mirror’ to souls, particularly those on the lower spheres, the lower planes, so that they shall be given the opportunity to see themselves truly.


That’s where the theatre plays a very important part here. There are groups of actors and actresses who take plays to the different spheres and put on productions and interpret lives of individuals, which helps tremendously to make people think more seriously and deeply about themselves and, in consequence, change their outlook and their way of thought and, in consequence, they are elevated and helped to a higher plane by that very sort of work which is so important.


An actor or an actress - a true actor or an actress - is equally useful and serviceable over here, in the higher sense, not just for sheer entertainment, as such. I was interested in entertainment to a point, but always behind all my efforts was the desire to uplift humanity, to educate, to make people see what was good and what was right and to follow it and to, in consequence, see in the evil of some of the characters that were portrayed themselves, so that they would in themselves desire to cast that aspect of themselves away.


Greene:

Mmm…


Baylis:

And that of course still goes on here. I was there on Saturday night with Emma Con… Cons* and quite a number of other souls, many of whom were associated with that theatre. It was a most extraordinary evening, [which brought] a mixture of sadness and at the same time pride. Pride in the realisation of what had been done and that it was to be, as it were, the very foundation of the… what I’d always hoped for; a National Theatre.

* Emma Cons = Lilian's aunt


Greene:

Mmm…


Baylis:

But I am just disappointed that the theatre itself has got to come down.


Woods:

Did you know Sybil Thorndike?


Baylis:

Very well. I’ve known of course many in the profession. You might say well practically everybody has worked for me. Of course a lot of them would say that they didn’t only work for me, but they gave their services. But it was a struggle and they learned their trade, their business in the Vic and I feel that this is so important to the theatre. And it seems such a sad thing that it’s got to be pulled down.


I was hoping it would be left as a training ground for the young, a school where they could have learned their art, where they could have put on their productions and it would have been a wonderful groundwork, a wonderful theatre for the groundwork that’s so essential to an actors development and progress. Still I suppose that will go on at the National Theatre, and yet I suppose… oh perhaps I mustn’t be carping, we must wait and see.


Greene:

Miss Baylis, um, may I ask you to describe how you found yourself when you passed over please?


Baylis:

Oh I found myself, I didn’t even lose myself, but I don’t know about having found myself!


Greene: [Laughing]


Baylis:

I was always in full possession of my faculties and as far as I was concerned I was no longer… no sooner dead than I was alive! I was very much aware of what was going on and I didn’t find it an unpleasant experience at all. I found myself very much in life as soon I was out of it and there were crowds of souls that I had known came flooding to greet me initially. There wasn’t a dull moment all along the line.


Greene:

Yes.


Baylis:

Oh I’ve changed, as we all change. I see things differently to what I used to. I realise the importance of a religious life, when it is a religious life in the true sense. I don't mean a narrow one, which some people thought I had, but I was not the bigoted narrow-minded person that a lot of people thought I was.


In fact, I was far more deeply concerned with every aspect of human life, than people gave me credit for. I was not the type of person that some people thought I was. I believed in the resurrection, I believed in the teachings of Christ of course, but not in such a narrow sense as some people thought. I respected all people and all religions - when they were sincere, but I had no time for fools or hypocrites.


You two strike me as a very sincere couple. From what I've heard about you, you are doing what you can to spread truth under adverse conditions that are difficult for one. But my experience has always been that when you are sincere and you do everything in your power to forward truth, a way is found.


Greene:
Mmm...

Baylis:
It was found for me, in my particular sphere of life and it'll be found for you. Besides, you have the knowledge which I didn't possess. It's true that I had a realisation of this power of spirit agency, I wouldn't have called it Spiritualism...


Greene:
No.

Baylis:
But I realised the power of spirit was very much around me and many a time when I was desperate and uncertain as to what step I should take or what I should do, I called upon the powers of spirit and it neverfailed me. It won't fail either of you, be assured of that.


And you have the advantage, that you have a means of communication which was denied me - and which I wouldn't have accepted if it had been presented to me of course. I'd heard about Spiritualism, but it was not my 'cup of tea'*. But anyway it's yours and it's a very good 'cup' too! It isn't necessarily sweet, sometimes if you take this truth, as you know it to be, and accept it as your 'cup of tea', you'll find it's a little bitter at times.


*cup of tea = expression, describing something you might like or dislike.


But that's not your fault, it's the fault of conditions in your world and people. Never mind, carry on, do the work. You are on the right track. What were you saying, sir?


Woods:
Have you met many of the actors [over there]?

Baylis:
Oh, I've met everybody - and I should say, everybody's met me! I made quite sure about that too.


Woods:
What are your theatres like on that side?

Baylis:
Magnificent.

Woods:
They are? Yes?

Baylis:
There are all types.

Woods:
Open air theatres?


Baylis:
Of course.

Woods:
Yes?


Baylis:
Most of them, but the... oh, of course it's impossible to depict or describe to you, because there are no words and ways in which one can do it. There is no possible way in which one can depict all this to you.

Greene:
Yes.

Baylis:
It's completely beyond language. Language which played such an important part in my life, inasmuch that I was constantly concerned with it, I find now is absolutely useless when it comes to depict or describe things appertaining to life here.


Woods:
Have you met Shakespeare?

Baylis:
Of course I've met Shakespeare - and what a different person he turned out to be!

Greene: [Laughing]

Woods:
Oh! Yes?

Baylis:
A very, very interesting character indeed and a very charming person. And he doesn't speak in old English. In any case, we don't necessarily speak. We are able to communicate entirely by thought.


Woods:
Do you?

Baylis:
Of course his plays were hacked about. I always thought that when I was on your side and I tried to do a bit of hacking myself! But there's no doubt about it, there were many changes made over the years. A lot of changes were made in the eighteenth century.


Woods:
Does he still produce plays or...?

Baylis:
He does. He does. And it would be a wonderful thing if you find some sort of a medium or whatever you call it, where he could come and work through and get some of the work over to the Earth. It would be very illuminating, but that will come.


Woods:
What is your scenery like, is it a natural scenery or is it a...


Baylis:
Sometimes it's natural, though I suppose I could say it is all natural, because there's nothing unnatural here. But everything here is according to the thoughts. If you want to depict an interior and you have an outside production, it's done purely by the thoughts of the actors and the producer, and the audience see what they have concentrated their thoughts as it should be. The power of thought, of course is tremendous. Our whole lives consists... is really created by the power of thought.

Anyway you two must come and talk to me again, I must go.

Greene:
Um...

Baylis:
Yes?

Greene:
Miss Baylis...

Baylis:
And don't let this thing lie idle, take it to some paper and let them publish it.

Greene / Woods:
We will try...

Baylis:
You have have a magazine or something haven't you, that does this sort of thing? Well I should do something about it because it will be of great interest and I'd very much like people to know what I am thinking, particularly at this moment.
What were you saying?

Greene:
Miss Baylis, is anybody particularly in the acting profession you would like to hear this tape? Could you put a name on the tape could you?

Baylis:
Well naturally I'd like everyone to hear it, but I'm wondering how many would be prepared to listen to it or even accept it. But anyway, if they did I'd be very, very pleased and I hope it would have some effect on them, because...

Greene:
Is there anybody you can think might listen to it?

Baylis:
Oh I don't know... I suppose a lot of them would listen out of interest, out of curiosity. Some will accept it and some will reject it, as is human nature. I leave that entirely to you.

Greene:
Well would Sir Lawrence Oliver listen to it?

Baylis:
Goodness knows, he might. Everybody's a sir nowadays...

Woods / Greene:[Laughing]

Baylis:
Or a dame. Even I became... it's extraordinary. In my day and age you know, the beginning of my years it was not considered quite the thing to be concerned to the extent of acting or producing in the theatre - not that I was ever an actress.


Although some of the actresses that I saw on the stage, I'm sure I could have done a darn sight better myself! And in fact a lot of people who worked with me thought I was a very good actress - the way I could put on an act, so they said, to keep their salaries down.


Greene: [Laughing]

Woods:

Did you hear what Dame Sybil...

Baylis:
What did you say, sir?

Woods:
Did you hear what Dame Sybil Thorndike...


Baylis:
Oh I was there, of course I was there. Do you think I'd be miles away on the last night of the Old Vic? It was a sad night and yet a very proud night for me. And I'm sure that the National Theatre will be a great success. I feel it must be, because it's roots were in the Vic and those roots were strong and powerful and I'm sure it will bring forth something very worthwhile in the future. I give my blessings to it and to all my friends who helped to make it possible. I say thank you for all that you did for the Vic - not for me, for the Vic.

Woods:
Have you met Henry VIII?

Baylis:
Oh goodness, what questions this man never asks!

Greene: [Laughing]

Baylis:
I've seen many, including Laughton!

Flint: [Laughing]

Woods:
Wasn't there a play with Henry VIII?

Greene:
Wasn't it Charles Laughton?

Woods:
Yes, Charles Laughton.

Baylis:
Of course, I'm talking about Laughton. I knew who you meant. You said Henry VIII and I knew you didn't really mean Henry VIII, you meant Laughton.

Woods:
Yes, I know.

Baylis:
Yes, of course I've met Laughton and he's thinned down a bit too!

Woods:
Yes.

Baylis:
Oh, he's a good chap. Well, I must go, I'm so sorry.
Goodnight or goodbye - not goodnight it's daytime isn't it?

Greene:
Yes.

Baylis:
I don't know, it's so puzzling to me. Anyway, goodbye!

Woods:
Thank you so much.

Baylis:
And don't forget to do something with this tape or whatever you call it.

Greene:
Thank you very much.

Baylis:
I wish I'd had those things in my day. Goodbye.

Greene:
Cheerio.

Woods:
Thank you very much.

Mickey:
Bye-bye...



END OF RECORDING



 


   Maurice Barbanell - Psychic News editor


Psychic News - June 22nd 1963


Actress is right


When Sybil Thorndike, speaking on Saturday after the final performance at the Old Vic - it will be pulled down to make way for the new National Theatre - said she was convinced of the spirit presence of Lilian Baylis, who put it on the map, she was expressing a fact.


On Monday morning a [Psychic News] reader telephoned at the end of a Leslie Flint voice séance to say that Lilian Baylis had given an evidential communication in which she referred to being at the Old Vic final performance and expressed dismay at its closing. He promised to send the tape recording he made so that I can listen to her comments.


Saved by voice


It is not generally known that a spirit voice told Lilian Baylis, soon after she became the Old Vic manager, to produce Shakespeare there. It had been run by her aunt, Emma Cons, as a people’s theatre, After she died it came into Lilian Baylis’ hands.


Perplexed as to what policy she should adopt, she heard in the middle of the night, a voice say, “Put on Shakespeare!” Being an Anglo-Catholic, she thought the voice was ‘divine’, but it was much more likely to have been that of her aunt.


She followed the spirit advice, despite the fact that every London theatre manager, with whom she discussed her idea, was opposed to it. Her policy of presenting Shakespeare’s plays at popular prices made the Old Vic famous all over the world.



These transcripts and additional information were provided for the Trust by K.Jackson-Barnes - July 2020


With thanks to Psychic News