The Christmas Letter of 1886
Following the publication (in Theosophical History Vol. XVIII/1-2) of H. P. Blavatsky’s thirty-six page letter to James Ralston Skinner, dated February 17, 1887, it came to my attention that another letter, known only to a small number of researchers and apparently at one time located in the Andover-Harvard Divinity Library’s collection of the J. Ralston Skinner Papers (bMS 516), predated the February letter by two months. This is important because the February letter is the earliest of the six Blavatsky letters in this collection. In reviewing the provenance of the letter, it gradually became clear from correspondence dating from the 1990s that an earlier letter composed by Blavatsky and addressed to Skinner, dated December 25, 1886 and originating from Ostend, may have been part of the collection. If it were included in the Skinner Papers, it inexplicably disappeared from the Library without any evidence that it ever existed. Not surprisingly, it is completely unknown to the current Library staff. We know of its existence only through Xeroxed copies of the original. This presentation will review the letter’s troubling provenance, uncited passages that were reproduced in a small number of publications, and selected contents of the fourteen-page letter.