Article Selections from the N.Y. Sunday Mercury | Reply by H.P.B.

[Note: for a slightly re-worded and longer version of the first article “Heroic Women,” which H.P.B. is here replying to, see the National Republican, December 12, 1874; parts of this latter article have been added here in {} brackets.]

[Note: the following, including H.P.B.’s reply, demonstrates some of the liberties the early newspapers took with the story of her life; embellishing, misrepresenting, and, according to H.P.B., inserting lies.]

Heroic Women

A Petticoated Staff Officer of Garibaldi—Strange and Striking Career—A Former Companion Whose History Reads Like Romance.

It is not often that two heroines appear at the same time before the public, yet Helen P. Blavatsky and Clementine Gerebko have entered the legal arena in order to have a slight business misunderstanding settled by Judge Pratt of the Supreme Court, Brooklyn. Both of these ladies possess a romantic and remarkable record.

Helena P. Blavatsky, who is about forty years of age, at the age of seventeen married a Russian nobleman {and Counselor of State}, then in his seventy-third year. For many years they resided together at Odessa, and finally a legal separation was affected {between them}. The husband died recently in his ninety-seventh year. The widow is now a resident of the City of New York, and is highly accomplished. {As a musician she has few superiors}. She converses and writes fluently in Russian, Polish, Romaic, Low Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English. She has translated the works of Darwin and the Treatise of Buckle on Civilization in England into the Russian language. She is thoroughly versed in Darwinian theory, {and embraces its doctrine in her creed. She} is a firm believer in Wallace’s Scientific Spiritualism, and is a member of the Order of Rosicrucians, {the medal of which she wears}. {A Wonderful Record.}

Her life has been one of many vicissitudes, and the area of her experiences is bounded only by the world. It is said that {soon after she entered her teens,} she visited this country with a party of tourists, {hunted the moose in the forests of Maine, lassooed the buffalo on the Western prairies, rode through the gorges of the Rocky Mountains, and camped with the gold seekers of California}. On her return to Europe she married and in the struggle for liberty, {donned the helmet and the gauntlets, mounted the fiery charger and} fought {side by side with the heroes who ranged themselves} under the victorious standard of Garibaldi. She won renown for unflinching bravery in many hard fought battles, and was elevated to a high position on the staff of the great general. She still bears the scars of many wounds she received in the conflict, {for where the fight waged fiercest there the young heroine was ever to be found}. Twice her horse was shot under her, and she escaped hasty death only by her coolness and matchless skill. Altogether Madame Blavatsky is an astonishing woman, {and despite the life of excitement she has led, and the scenes of danger and hardship through which she has passed, is still feminine in her tastes, ladylike in her deportment, and fascinating in her person and address. One vice only—and, if it can be called a vice, a very mild one—she acquired in camp, and that she retains to this day—she smokes. But she does it in so distinguished a manner, and is so perfect an expert in the choice of the fragrant weed, that the habit seems to lend a charm to her presence, and to give just that spice of eccentricity to her character, which suits one with such a history as her’s. Added to all this, she is wealthy, generous and independent, and, therefore, can do very much as she pleases without exciting envious comment and slanderous jealousy.

[Here followed an account of Madame Clementine Gerebko, the defendant in the suit brought against her by H.P.B.]

{It is now necessary to explain the circumstances under which the suit referred to at the outset was begun. Madame Blavatsky first met Madame Gerebko at the residence of the Russian Consul in New York. A warm friendship was the result. Madame Blavatsky was a frequent visitor at Madame Gerebko’s villa, at Northport. The latter was passionately fond of flowers, and was desirous of laying out magnificent terrace gardens. Madame Blavatsky, it is alleged, offered to advance money to enable her friend to carry out her project, and furnished $1,000. Since this a misunderstanding has arisen between the ladies, and Madame Blavatsky avers that she advanced the one thousand dollars on condition that Madame Gerebko gave her a mortgage to secure it. Madame Gerebko denies this, and the suit has been begun to compel her to specifically perform the contract by executing a mortgage. Application was made by Counselor A Marks, for the defendant, to compel her to give security for the costs, on the grounds that she was about to quit the country. The application was opposed by Major J. H. Bergen, who appeared for Madame Blavatsky.}

A Card from the Countess1 Blavatsky

To the Editors of the N. Y. Sunday Mercury.

In last Sunday’s issue I read an article headed “Heroic Women,” and find that I figure therein as the primary heroine. My name is H. P. Blavatsky. I decline the honor of a comparison with “the latter heroine” C. Gerebko, and proceed to explain some of the statements of the said article. If I married a Russian “nobleman” I never resided with him anywhere; for three weeks after the sacrifice I left him for reasons plausible enough in my eyes, as in those of the “puritan” world. I do not know if he died at the advanced age of ninety-seven as for the last twelve years this noble patriarch has entirely vanished out of my sight and memory.2 But I beg leave to say that I never was married again, for this one solitary case of “conjugal love” has proved too much for me. I did not get acquainted with Mrs. Gerebko at the residence of the Russian consul; I never had the honor of visiting this gentleman, but upon business in his office. I know Mr. G.’s family in Odessa, and he never rose above the rank of a captain of a private steamer belonging to Prince Worontzoff. I was residing at Tiflis when Mrs. Gerebko came there in 1866 from Teheran (Persia), and heard of her as well as others did daily for about two months. She married Gerebko at Kutais. When they arrived in this country, a year ago, they did not purchase a beautiful residence, but simply bought a farm of six acres of land at Northport for the modest sum of $1,000. My unlucky star brought me in contact with her about the latter part of June last. She represented to me her farm as giving a revenue of nearly $2,000 yearly, and induced me to go into partnership with her on the following terms: I had to give her $1,000 and pay half of the expenses that might occur, for which sum I bought of her the right on the half of the yearly profit of everything. We made the contract for three years, and it was recorded. I paid the money, and went to live with them. The first month I spent nearly $500 for buildings and otherwise; at the expiration of which month she prayed to be released of the contract, as she was ready to pay me my money back. I consented, and gave her permission to sell at auction all we had except the farm land and buildings, and we both came to New York in view of settlement. She was to give me a promissory note or a mortgage on the property to the amount of the sum due by her, and that immediately after our coming to New York. Alas! three days after we had taken lodging in common, on one fine afternoon, upon my returning home, I found that the fair countess had left the place, neglecting to pay me back her little bill of $1,000. I am now waiting patiently for the opinion of an American Jury.

H. P. Blavatsky,
124 East Sixteenth Street

1. [Note: H.P.B. had crossed out these words in her copy of the article.]

2. [Note: H.P.B. had apparently written a longer letter than what is printed here. On her copy of the article, she commented the following in regard to these sentences: “Answered a long letter but they inserted but this paragraph and added LIES.”]