A seminal event was his passionate, though platonic, relationship with Annie Marshall, who was married to a cousin of his, and who committed suicide in 1876.
In 1880 Myers married Eveleen Tennant, a much admired beauty and the daughter of the society hostess Gertrude Tennant.4 They had three children, and Eveleen herself became a distinguished photographer of her family and celebrity friends.
6 Third, he was encouraged by Sidgwick’s interest in the field to probe deeper.7 He paid a heart-felt tribute at his mentor’s death in 1900: ‘In a starlight walk which I shall not forget ...
I asked him almost trembling, whether he thought that when tradition, intuition, metaphysics had failed to resolve the riddle of the universe there was still a chance that from any actual observable phenomena –ghosts, spirits, whatsoever there might be – some valid knowledge might be drawn as to a world unseen.’ Sidgwick’s cautious encouragement carried particular weight: he had been collecting accounts of ghosts for years and Myers had huge respect for his intellectual integrity.8 He also grew to admire Sidgwick’s future wife Eleanor for the clarity of her judgement and her calm approach to psychical research, a contrast to Myers’s fits of exuberance.
His mother was a member of the wealthy Marshall family, owners of flax mills2; his father was the curate of St John’s, Keswick.
After his father’s early death his mother moved with her sons Frederic, Ernest and Arthur to Cheltenham, where Myers distinguished himself academically at Cheltenham College, as he also did when he went up to Trinity College Cambridge, aged seventeen.By the time Myers was twenty-two he had achieved two first class degrees, in classics and moral science, as well as a glittering array of university prizes and a fellowship at his college.He was obliged to return one of the prizes, the Camden medal, following accusations of plagiarism, although it has since been argued that these were based on a misinterpretation of his motives.3 In the 1860s and 1870s Myers gained some reputation as a man of letters and poet, but held no illusions about possessing real talent.He took a particular interest in automatic writing, which he considered in relation to Gurney’s work in hypnosis and also to French experiments in the same field.He quickly came to postulate telepathy as having an important underpinning role, believing its existence to be highly likely on the basis of the SPR’s experiments with the Creery family, Blackburn and Smith, Guthrie and Lodge, and the accounts of spontaneous experiences that had been published in the SPR .He stated later that before the SPR was founded he already had three hundred and sixty seven séances recorded in his notebook.12 Though made temporarily despondent by these inconclusive results, he was encouraged by experiments in thought-transference conducted by the physicist William Barrett in Ireland.He became a permanent inspector of schools in 1872, holding the post until shortly before his death.In 1882, he joined the Society for Psychical Research along with his close friends and fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, the philosopher Henry Sidgwick and Edmund Gurney.Along with Dawson Rogers, a leading Spiritualist, Barrett urged that a concerted effort be made to examine these matters in a consistent, scientific and balanced way.This led directly to the founding of the SPR in 188213 – Myers and Gurney only joining if Sidgwick would agree to be President.14 Meeting and falling in love with Annie Marshall had a profound impact on Myers’s emotional life; and her tragic death added depth and impetus to his survival researches.15 They met at irregular intervals over the years in London, where she attended several séances with him; also in the Lake District, where they walked in the grounds of the Marshall family homes at Hallsteads and Old Church.