Sophron. We have need, again and again, to remind ourselves, as we pursue this discussion, that what has been superstitiously exaggerated may, nevertheless, be credibly believed. Nothing more ludicrous, nothing more vulgar, nothing more pitiable, than the credit which some attach to omens; and verily I believe that Satan is sometimes permitted to verify one or two, that the sin of believing in such kind of signs may bring its own punishment.
Eupeithes. I think so too: there are well authenticated stories of the most absurd omens having been proved true by the event, in a way which can hardly be the effect of chance, but which, may thus be very plausibly, if not probably, explained.
Sophron. I will give you an instance. Who can suppose that the vulgar ideas of the appearance of certain birds portending certain events, is any thing more than gross superstition, and, as such (unless through invincible ignorance,) a mortal sin? Yet I knew a gentleman to whom a most remarkable example of a fulfilled omen occurred. He was out with his wife on their wedding tour, when, behold! [42/43] six magpies appeared together. "Well," said my friend, smiling, We know the old saw--
"'One for sorrow, two for mirth,
Three for a funeral, four for a birth.'
"So, on that principle, we ought to hear of two funerals." "I suppose we ought," continued the lady, and nothing more was said on the subject; but they had not driven on more than a few moments, when a man rode towards them at full speed, and reined in his horse as he approached the chaise. "What's the matter?" demanded my friend. "A most shocking thing has just occurred," replied the man.
"Two of Mr.------'s sons (who live over there,") and he pointed to the place, "have just been drowned in a pond in the park; they are using all the means to bring them round, and I am riding to------for the surgeon." With which he struck spurs into his horse, and galloped on. And as my friend was accustomed, very justly, to observe, not the least wonderful part of the story is, that a perfect stranger should, apparently without any definite cause, have stopped to relate the accident then.
Eupeithes. We ought to regard such an event as a trial of the faith of the person to whom it happened. And no doubt your friend was bound, if ever he again saw six or sixty magpies, to look on the appearance as perfectly meaningless and harmless; and in this way to make good the cause of faith against superstition, no less its deadly foe than scepticism.
Theodora. You do not class with this story such remarkable accounts as those given by Lord Clarendon about the death of the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Pembroke?
Eupeithes. Assuredly not. We have good evidence for them: and I ask only for such evidence as would warrant my believing any tale against which an antecedent improbability lay.
Eusebia. But what are the accounts? I do not remember them.
Sophron. I will read you that given by Mr. Douch with respect to Sir George Villiers, rather than Clarendon's, because it seems more exact; and you can look at the [43/44] other at your leisure any day. "Some few days before the duke's going to Portsmouth, where he was stabbed by Pelton, the ghost of his father, Sir George Villiers, appeared to one Parker, formerly his own servant, but then servant to the duke, in his morning gown, charging Parker to tell his son that he should decline that employment and design he was going upon, or else he would certainly be murdered. Parker promised the apparition to do it, but neglected it. The duke making preparations for his expedition to Rochelle, the apparition came again to Parker, taxing him very severely for his breach of promise, and required him not to delay the acquainting of his son of the danger he was in. Then Parker the next day tells the duke that his father's ghost had twice appeared to him, and had commanded him to give him that warning. The duke slighted it, and told him he was an old doting fool. That night the apparition came to Parker a third time, saying, 'Parker, thou hast done well in warning my son of his danger; but, though he will not yet believe thee, go to him once more however, and tell him by such a token, 'naming a private token,' which nobody knows but only he and I, that if he will not decline this voyage, such a knife as this is,' pulling a long knife out from under his gown,' will be his death.' This message Parker also delivered the next day to the duke, who, when he heard the private token, believed that he had it from his father's ghost, yet said that his honour was now at stake, and that he could not go back from what he had undertaken, come life, come death. These three several appearances of the apparition to Mr. Parker were always at midnight, when he was reading some book. This fact Parker, after the duke's murder, communicated to his fellow-servant, Henry Ceeley, who told it to a reverend divine, a neighbour of mine, from whose mouth I have it. This Henry Ceeley has not been dead above twenty years, and his habitation for several years before his death was at North Cerney, in Somersetshire. My friend, the divine aforesaid, was an intimate acquaintance of this Henry Ceeley's, and assures me he was a person of known truth and integrity." That is the story; and the only circumstance which seems suspicious about it is easily to be explained. It would appear that Parker did not [44/45] communicate the apparition to Ceeley till after the duke's murder: but it would also appear that other people had been told of it before. Clarendon, so much used to investigate evidence, was so well convinced of this story as to insert it in his history. It may also be seen at much greater length in "Lilly's Observations on the Life and Death of King Charles I.:" not that this is any testimony to its truth.
Eusebia. And yet how many difficulties arise, unless you make it a mere question of evidence! How much more natural, one should say, how certainly much more effectual, would it have been had Sir George Villiers appeared to his son, rather than to his servant! Strange, too, that if he could foresee his son's death in the event of going, he could not foresee his son's determination to go!
Eupeithes. What are we, that we should presume to decide on the various causes that may operate on the motives, or limit the knowledge of a spiritual visitant? You may reject a great number of historical facts, if you once take to that species of reasoning. The story of Joseph will fall to the ground at once. Why did he not, you may ask, send some one into Canaan to gather intelligence of his family, instead of waiting twenty years and more till Providence brought them to him? And who can answer the question? It does seem, I confess, as if the phantom had taken the least likely means for accomplishing its immediate end: but who shall say that there were not other purposes to be answered by this roundabout method of communication? Certainly the unwillingness of the messenger is a strong proof that he was convinced of the truth of his own tale.
Sophron. In other versions of the story it is added that Sir George Villiers commanded Parker himself to prepare for death, and that he accordingly shortly afterwards did die. The death of the Duke of Buckingham was also foretold by a Scotch seer, and darkly foreshadowed by a dream of the Countess of Denbigh, his sister.
Theodora. The other story is one of a more ordinary kind. I will read it you from Clarendon. "A short story may not be unfitly inserted, it being very frequently mentioned by a person of known integrity, whose character is [45/46] here undertaken to be set down, and who, at that time, being on his way to London, met at Maidenhead some persons of quality, of relation or dependence upon the Earl of Pembroke, Sir Charles Morgan, commonly called General Morgan, who had commanded an army in Germany, and defended Stoad, Dr. Field, then Bishop of S. David's, and Dr. Chafin, the Earl's then chaplain in his house, and much in his favour. At supper one of them drank a health to the lord steward, upon which another of them said, 'That he believed his lord was at that time very merry, for he had now outlived the day which his tutor, Sandford, had prognosticated upon his nativity he would not outlive; but he had done it now, for that was his birthday, which completed his age to fifty years.' The next morning, by the time they came to Colebrook, they met with the news of his death.
Eupeithes. The most fearful of such tales is the well-known apparition to Lord Lyttleton. He, a man of most abandoned life, had retired to his house at Pitt's Place, near Epsom, in the Christmas of 1775, for the purpose of profaning that season with his debaucheries. A number of his companions were in the house with him; and revelry and dissoluteness of every description were indulged and encouraged. One night, Lord Lyttleton had retired to bed earlier than usual, when he was aroused by a sound at-the window as if a dove were flapping its wings against it, and endeavouring to get in. He started up, and to his horror beheld the apparition of an unhappy girl whom he had seduced, and who had committed suicide. She told him that on the third night from that, when the hands of the clock which stood on the chimney-piece pointed to the same place, he would be called to appear before God. Lord Lyttleton was horrified beyond measure: he could not sleep, he could not eat; and at length the unusual depression of his spirits attracted the notice of his companions. After repeated and anxious inquiries from them, he confessed the truth, and they of course treated the impression as the phantom of a deluded imagination. Still they apprehended danger from the entire possession which it had taken of Lord Lyttleton's fancy; and, understanding that the hour named was twelve, they insisted on remaining with him up to that time, while, by a secret arrangement [46/47] with his valet, the clock was put forward an hour. As the hour-hand pointed to midnight, the unhappy nobleman became extremely anxious and distressed; at length the hour struck; and with a shout of exultation that "the devil had lied," he called for a bottle of wine, and gave a toast suitable to the occasion. At length, a few moments before the true midnight, his friends left him to his valet: they had scarcely, however, reached their apartments, when his bell rang violently: they hastened back to his room; he was quite dead, and his face was awfully convulsed. Now, of the facts as I have related them, there can be no manner of doubt: of course, of Lord Lyttleton's tale of the phantom, every one may form his own judgment.
Sophron. It does not look as if he had committed suicide, for more reasons than one. It could not have been easy to foretell to a minute the time of his death: he must have been previously more or less ill; he would not have exhibited such extravagant joy when the fated hour was passed. The difficulty, of course, is, why a lost spirit--for the whole tenor of the story would lead us to assume that it was lost--should interfere for the warning of a mortal.
Eupeithes. We may assign three reasons. It might have been done most unwillingly by the spectre, and only by the express command of Him Who has the absolute ordering of evil as well as of good spirits. It might have been done maliciously by an ill spirit, to enhance misery; the measure of Lord Lyttleton's crimes might have been full, and to warn might only have been to announce destruction. But,--and I rather incline to this opinion,--as just spirits are not perfect till after the consummation of all things, so neither can we suppose evil spirits to be entirely and essentially evil till then. Perhaps the virtue of their baptism yet lingers in them, only to be finally burnt out by the fire that consumes the world. Dives cared for his brethren, and was anxious that they should escape that place of torment; so might it also have been here.
Sophron. Not unlike this is the story of Sir Cashio Burroughes. I will read it to you from Aubrey. "Sir John Burroughes, being sent Envoy to the Emperor by King Charles I., did take his eldest son, Cashio Burroughes, [47/48] along with him; and taking his journey through Italy, left his son at Florence to learn the language: where he, having an intrigue with a beautiful courtezan, mistress of the Great Duke, their familiarity became so public, that it came to the Duke's ear, who took a resolution to have him murdered. But Cashio, having timely notice of the Duke's design by some of the English there, immediately left the city without acquainting his mistress with it, and came to England. Whereupon... his mistress...killed herself. At the same moment that she expired, she did appear to Cashio in his lodgings in London (Colonel Eemes was then in bed with him, who saw her as well as he); giving him an account of her resentment of his ingratitude to her in leaving her so suddenly, and exposing her to the fury of the Duke, not omitting her own tragical exit, adding, withal, that he should be slain in a duel, which accordingly happened. And thus she appeared to him frequently, even when his younger brother, who afterwards was Sir John, was abed with him. As often as she did appear, he would cry out with great shrieking and trembling of his body, in anguish of mind, saying, 'O GOD! here she comes, she comes!' and at this rate she appeared till he was killed. She appeared to him the morning before he was killed. . . . The story was so common, that King Charles I. sent for Cashio Burroughes' father, whom he examined as to the truth of the matter, who did, together with Colonel Remes, aver the matter of fact to be true; so that the King thought it worth his while to send to Florence, to inquire at what time this unhappy lady killed herself. It was found to be the same minute that she first appeared to Cashio."
Eusebia. Here is a different instance of the same thing. At one of Marlborough's battles, I think that of Ramillies, a young officer was engaged who had been intimate with Sir John Friend. I need not remind you that the latter was executed by William of Orange, for adherence to the interests of the exiled family. He assured his friends that he should not survive the battle. At its conclusion, while the allied horse were pursuing the remains of the enemy, a knot of his acquaintance rallied him on his despondency, and congratulated him on his safety. "You speak," he replied, "as you think. I shall die yet." Scarcely had he said the [48/49] words, when the last cannon-ball fired by the vanquished army laid him dead on the spot. In his pocket was found a slip of paper, with these words, after a certain date:--"Dreamed, or------------," (the blank was supposed to be intended for "was told by a spirit,") "that on May 22, 1706, Sir John Friend meets me." On that May 22, the battle of Ramillies was fought.
Eupeithes. To this story, if properly authenticated, no reasonable objection can be offered. It is not often that one has written evidence of a presentiment of this kind.
Sophron. I suppose no one can doubt that simple presentiments--I mean such as could have no reason assigned for them--of death or misfortune, have occurred again and again.
Of great events pass on before the events,
And in to-day already walks to-morrow."
An example of this came under my own knowledge. A lady residing in the north of Sussex had occasion to leave her family for a few days, and to go up to London. One morning she was seized with an unaccountable and most distressing depression of spirits (her bodily health being perfectly-good), which nothing seemed capable of alleviating or diverting. Her friends did all in their power to console her; but she repeated several times, "I am sure that some great misfortune is going to befal me." They persuaded her to join the rest of the family at dinner, and then proposed that she should go to the opera. She was most unwilling to do this, and every hour seemed to increase her agitation. Her friends, however, insisted; and she was going up stairs to dress, when a thundering knock was heard at the hall door. "I told you," she cried, "that I should receive some dreadful intelligence; and there it is." She was right: an express had been sent up to inform her that one of her children had been drowned in a pond in her garden.
Eupeithes. The story I am about to relate comes to me, as you will see, on most undoubted authority. A rich landed proprietor in Jamaica, Mr. T., having grown enormously stout, and being in a bad state of health, was ordered to England. He had no fancy, however, for leaving the luxuries of that climate, and procrastinated his departure from week [49/50] to week. At length he called on an intimate friend, the father of my informant, and said, "Well, I have taken my passage to England in the------brig." "I am very glad of it," replied Mr. B.; "I will come and see you off. When does she sail?" Mr. T. named the day, but added, "I don't much like going, after all; I have a kind of idea that I shall be thrown overboard, if I go." "Why, that would take the whole crew," said Mr. B.; "pooh! pooh! you must go, and there is an end of the matter. The brig is big enough to carry even you, I should think: come, come, you must promise to go. Mr. T. at length consented; but, on the day of sailing being deferred, he again hesitated, and was with the greatest difficulty kept to his purpose. Mr. B. went with him on board; and, when he came home, "Well," said he, "I shall be quite uneasy till I hear of T.'s arrival in England. I never knew a man so miserable about sailing." And every day it was the same thing. "I shall be truly glad when I hear of his arrival." Nearly a fortnight had passed, when one morning, an illegitimate son of Mr. T. earnestly requested an interview with Mr. B. He had come from a considerable distance to inquire if any news had been received of the brig in which his father had sailed; having, he said, a deep persuasion that all was not right. Mr. B. assured him that nothing had been heard of her. While they were talking, a crowd of negroes came hurrying up from Mr. T.'s plantation, at a considerable distance from Mr. B.'s house in an opposite direction. With loud cries and frantic gesticulations they insisted that "Massa was dead." "Nonsense!" cried Mr. B., angrily, "there is no news whatever of the brig. However, to satisfy you, come down with me to the Court House, and let us inquire." No intelligence had been received, and none was received. The brig never reached England; and it was concluded that she had been lost.
Six years afterwards a sailor called on Mr. B.; he said, on the most important business. He informed him that the brig had not been lost; but that, while the captain lived, he had determined never to reveal what had occurred on board. The captain was now dead, and these were the circumstances. I should previously have told you that Mr. T. had distinguished himself in the insurrection by his [50/51] bitterness against the Baptists, by whom it was fomented. The captain of the brig was a Baptist; but of this neither he nor Mr. B. had been aware. The brig reached the Gulf of Florida, where a violent religious dispute began between the captain and Mr. T. They had worked themselves up into a frenzy of rage, when the captain called out, "Who is on my side?" Several of the sailors stepped forward, seized the unhappy proprietor, and threw him overboard. The captain, believing (as many sailors do) that the body would follow in the ship's wake, put about, had the corpse taken up, landed in a solitary part of Florida, staved a rum puncheon, fastened the body in it, and buried it on the shore. He then sailed for France, and subsequently to ports where he was not known. It was the very day of that unhallowed burial that young T. and the negroes had their presentiment of Mr. T.'s death.
Sophron. Such a double, or rather triple, presentiment is very remarkable. I knew a lady who, shortly after her marriage, told her husband that the first time he ever slept away from her he would die. So strong was the impression on her mind, that for many years he always took her about with him; but one day, being unexpectedly called to London, he told her that it was now high time to conquer this folly; that he would return that day if he could, but did not imagine he should be able. Very unwillingly she let him go, and he did not come home that night. Early the next morning, one of the servants came into the room. "You need not tell me what is the matter; your master is dead." And so it was.
Eupeithes. I am intimately acquainted with a lady, who, when engaged, was told by her lover that he should survive their marriage only a few days. He had no desire to defer it, and she disbelieved in the presentiment. They were married. On the fourth day after, he was taken ill, and died in about ten days. I have seen some of this gentleman's letters, in which he alludes to this presentiment.
Eusebia. A gentleman, whom I knew well, has related to me the following anecdote of his father, who then resided at Hull. An intimate friend once called on him, and said, "E., I am convinced that I have not long to live, and I should very much wish to talk over with you the [51/52] arrangements I must make about my family." Mr. R. in vain reasoned against the presentiment: his friend was not to be convinced, and suggested--oddly enough--that they would be able to talk, with a certainty of freedom from interruption, at the top of the tower of Trinity Church. They went up, and discussed the matter at length; and while there, this gentleman caught a cold that verified the presentiment, by ending in his death.
Sophron. A lady, residing at Cambridge, was in the habit of sending out her son, a boy some twelve years old, for a ride every morning; and he enjoyed his pony and his canter as a boy of that age would do. On one particular morning, he begged that he might not go. His mother inquired why? He had no reason; it was simply that he had rather not. Thinking it a childish whim, she insisted on his overcoming it. He entreated, with tears, that she would not compel him to ride; but she would not give way. He set out; but had scarcely ridden half a mile, when he was thrown, and killed on the spot.
Eupeithes. A somewhat similar story is told in connection with the great accident of 1841, on the Brighton Railway. A gentleman in London was about to go by the train to which it occurred. He had two servants, who requested him not to send them by the second class. He laughed at their fears, told them that he was not going to pay for their travelling in the first class, but that he would go with them, and sit between them. They begged him to let them have their way: he was obstinate. They set off; the train ran into that fatal field beyond the Ouse Valley Viaduct; both servants were killed on the spot--the gentleman was unhurt.
Eusebia. Animals, also, seem to have this presentiment.
"A gentleman, then residing in Cornwall, told me that a dog, belonging to his brother, who lived in Gloucestershire, was left in his charge. One night this dog, who had never before done such a thing, howled continuously till morning. On that night, two of the brother's children died of scarlet fever.--I knew also of a gentleman who was sleeping in a room on the ground floor: it had French windows, which opened on to a paddock. One night, his favourite horse, which grazed in that field, could not be driven away from the [52/53] windows, against which it was rubbing and pushing. There it stood; and towards morning the gentleman was seized with a fit, and carried off suddenly.
Sophron. Such presentiments have generally been supposed to occur principally just before death; as if the soul, when about to fling away her earthly trammels, became repossessed of somewhat of her own higher power, and, as Waller so beautifully expresses it,
"The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made."
The ancients held this strongly; none more so than Plato. Just before the death of Socrates, he foretold, says his disciple, that a youth, then possessed of singular innocence and modesty, would end by abandoning himself to all manner of wickedness. And the event proved his words. Posidonius in like manner affirms, that a certain Rhodian, on his death-bed, predicted truly, with regard to six of his friends whose ages were nearly equal, who would be the first, who the second, and so on till the last, to die. These stories at least prove the feeling of the ancients on the subject. The prophecy of Huss is undoubted matter of history, and allowed by Catholics, as well as by writers of his own sect. Just before the fatal pile was kindled (July 8, 1415), "Today," he said, "you are going to burn a goose (so Huss signified in Bohemian); but a hundred years hence a swan will rise amongst you, and will sing you another kind of song; and yet, for all that, ye will let him go." Many persons, as every 'medical man will tell you, have, during their last illness, foretold the exact hour of their departure. Christian of Denmark did so to his physician, Dr. Cornelius. James Sartellari, an astronomer of eminence, and physician to the Emperor Rudolph II., foretold, on the second of December, 1589, that he should die on the tenth; and so it came to pass. Thurneissen, also an astronomer of reputation, foretold his own death at Cologne, and requested to be buried by the side of Albertus Magnus; which was done accordingly. [Kornmannus, de Mirac. Mort. iv. 100.] Lord Herbert, of Cherbury, said, on his death-bed, "An hour hence I shall depart." And so he did. One of the [53/54] most extraordinary instances of such knowledge in modern times was this. Lady Fanshawe's mother was seized with an illness which was believed to be mortal. She was exceedingly anxious to live, for the sake of superintending the education of her family; and several times, referring to the case of Hezekiah, prayed that her life might be spared, as: his was, for fifteen years. She fell into a swoon or trance, which was at first believed to be mortal. On coming to herself she assured her friends that her prayer had been heard, that she should recover, and that her life would be prolonged fifteen--but only fifteen--years. And so it was.
Eupeithes. And so there are certain marks by which approaching death is supposed to be intimated to the friends of the person about to be taken away. One of the most common is the sudden change of a man's personal character, from light-heartedness to gloom; and more frequently still, from gloom and habitual taciturnity, to excessively high and boisterous spirits. Then it is that, according to Scotch belief, a man is said to be "fey;" and in many cases of sudden death, the credence has been strangely verified.
Sophron. That change, whether of personal or physical qualities, is a very wonderful thing, if taken as a warning or intimation of the time when there can be no change. Yet it is a belief as old as the Greek physicians, that sometimes, a few moments before death, the face of the sufferer will assume a likeness to that of some one of his most intimate friends; a thing for which no plausible reason can be given. Other signs there are of approaching death, which at first sight seem to have no connection with it, but which yet admit of a very satisfactory explanation. Such is the pulling and picking of the bedclothes, so well known to be an un-mistakeable sign of dissolution. To an ignorant person this symptom seems quite arbitrary; but it is easily explained, as merely showing that the nervous system is entirely worn out.
Eupeithes. The well-authenticated instances in which a watch has stopped at the moment of, or some few minutes before, its possessor's death, are too numerous to be disbelieved. At Sans Souci, they show the clock of Frederick, the so-called Great, which stopped at the moment of his death, [54/55] twenty minutes before two, and has never been wound up. I once myself witnessed an event of this kind. I was called to see a gentleman whom I knew to be ill of the influenza, but did not imagine to be in danger. I was waiting in the parlour, when I noticed that a mantelpiece clock, a great favourite of his, had stopped. "You must have forgotten to wind it up," I said to one of the family, who was in the room. "No," she replied; "it has been wound up, but it stopped half an hour since, none of us can think why." That night, about six hours later, the owner died.
Eusebia. I think all the mysterious glimpses given us of the other state when it borders on this, like the rim of the dark half of the moon that sometimes makes itself visible, are very solemn. That persons, in the act of departing from this world, do become sensible of the presence of spiritual beings, is surely certain. And I often imagine what a marvellous moment that must be, when a dying man obtains the first faint consciousness of the existence of a world of spirits.
Sophron. Wonderful indeed! And yet perhaps it may be by no forced transition. You go into a room that appears to you perfectly dark; you stay a few moments, and gradually you become sensible to surrounding objects; and finally you see with perfect clearness: and yet at no one moment are you sensible that you are passing from darkness to light. I will give you another example of the faculties of a sick person being supernaturally developed by the approach of death. A young lady, whose friends I knew, was in the last stage of consumption. Two of her sisters had been previously carried off by the same disease. She had also a brother in India, who, by the last accounts received, was well in health and successful in business. Two female relatives were sitting by the dying girl, one on either side of the bed, and each holding one of her pale emaciated hands in their own. Suddenly she raised herself in the bed, and looking towards its foot, exclaimed, her whole face brightening with joy, "Oh, Gertrude, and Jane, (the sisters whom she had lost,) and dear, dear Willie!" (the brother who was in India.) They were the last words she spoke. Shortly afterwards, intelligence arrived from India that the brother in question had also been taken away, and that previously [55/56] to the death of his sister. Now, to my mind, this is one of the most satisfactory stories of the kind that I ever heard. To be sure, your rationalist may account for it easily enough, by hinting that to a dying person, when the mind is beginning to fail, nothing is more natural than that the appearance of some of those whom he has most loved should present itself. But if you look at it in the other light--if you consider that, à priori, there is no unlikelihood in the thought that the spirits of the departed faithful may be allowed to tend the death-beds of departing friends--how simple and how beautiful is the whole!
Eupeithes. Here is an instance which is, in some respects, unique. The family of a merchant, who resided in Leaden-hall-street, had retired, as usual, to bed. About two or three o'clock in the morning, every member of it was awaked by a series of the most confused and terrible noises: guns, trumpets, the shrieks of pain, the shout of excitement,--all seemed to mingle together. The uproar was so great that they all rose; and having satisfied themselves that it was no sound from the city which they heard, they remained together, listening to what struck them all as the progress of a great battle. Gradually it died away, and they went to bed. At that very time the battle of Sobraon was being fought; and in that battle a brother of the family fell.
Sophron. I can tell you another anecdote, also connected both with India and with sound. Two young ladies, who had a brother in the army there, were walking in their park, (it is in Middlesex, and I know it well,) when from a copse of trees they heard a voice shriek out, "Help! help! for the love of God, help!" They both cried at the same instant, "That is Richard's voice!" And at that very moment, as near as they could afterwards learn, their brother had been carried off by a tiger.
Eupeithes. A like circumstance occurred during the Peninsular war. A young lady was sitting in the parlour early on the morning of the 21st of June, 1813, when her brother, an officer under the Duke, entered the room and said, "Mary, you will never see me again; I die to-day at Vittoria:" on which he disappeared. His sister immediately procured the map of Spain; but Vittoria was less known then than it is now, and it was not marked. [56/57] She went to the house of a relation, and there, in a better map, they found the town; and they found, too, that by the latest accounts, the allied armies had been advancing in that direction: the event proved the prophecy. This story comes remarkably under the head of warnings: but it is also a no less clear example of a fetch; for the time in England is, of course, earlier than that in Spain, and the officer fell, I believe, in Cadogan's charge, which took place in the afternoon.
Eusebia. So that here a man actually predicted his own death, without himself being aware of its approach!
Sophron. The nearest approach that man has ever made to the invisible world, is probably in those persons who, having been to all appearance drowned, have been recovered on the use of the proper means. And what is singular is this; by all accounts, after the first short struggle is over, there is entire consciousness, but no pain. It is said that every action of past life is borne in upon a drowning man's mind with perfect clearness; all rush on his memory together, yet each distinctly; and if there be any suffering, it is entirely from the moral pain which may result from that retrospect; for there is no physical anguish. On the contrary, the prevailing sensation is an indescribable calm, accompanied by a pleasant green light, they say, like green fields: the agony begins with the attempt at resuscitation. It is believed that a gentleman, who occupies a distinguished place in scientific literature, and who is said to have been longer under water than any one who has ever been brought back to life, also, in a more remarkable degree than any one else, saw something of those "unspeakable things which it is not lawful for a man to utter." His intention, it is asserted, was to leave some account of them, which should appear as a posthumous work; but his friends, perhaps wisely, dissuaded him from it.
Theodora. I have heard the story. And so, at the very instant of violent deaths, the sympathy between soul and body has sometimes been strongly manifested. Charles XII. of Sweden, when struck by a cannon-ball, at the siege of Frederickshal, must have been a dead man at that infinitesimal point of time at which he felt the blow; yet he was observed to clap his hand on his sword. So, again, at the [57/58] execution of Charlotte Corday, for the murder of Marat, when the headsman lifted up the head by its long hair, and gave it a blow, the face is said to have changed colour, and to have frowned.
Eupeithes. Here is another warning of death, which occurred in a family who are not altogether unknown in the theological world. A young lady, whom we will call Miss A., was watching what was supposed to be the death-bed of her father. Most of the family were assembled in the house; for the physicians had given it as their opinion that Mr. A. had not long to live; but one brother was at Eton. One night, Miss A. dreamed that she was sitting by her father's side, and that all the family, including this absent brother, were in the room. A figure, exactly like the modern representation of death,--a skeleton, with a dart,--entered the room. Seeing Mr. A., it grappled with him; he opposed his spiritual antagonist; and a long and fearful struggle ensued. At length Mr. A. seemed to prevail, and to fling his enemy to the ground. On this, the spectre started up, seized the brother I have mentioned, and after a short contest, brought him down. Prom that night Mr. A. continued to rally, till he was restored to perfect health; and the next post, or next but one, came intelligence that the brother at Eton had been drowned in the Thames near Windsor.
Theodora. How difficult to explain this on the ordinary principle of explaining supernatural occurrences! That Miss A. had been hoping her father might yet recover; had been comforting herself with the recollection of instances in which cases apparently as hopeless had terminated favourably; had been thinking (as, the explainer would say, she very naturally might) of her absent brother; had been recollecting the dangers to which a boy at a public school is liable; and had by an easy confusion, and by means of a somewhat excited imagination, compounded a dream out of all these various thoughts, which dream, by a not unlikely coincidence, was actually true.
Eupeithes. Yes; and the interpreter of this coincidental arrangement would enunciate his discovery with as much gravity as if it were not much harder of belief than the supernaturalism of the original story.
 Sophron. And yet how useless the interference here. Useless, I mean, to our ideas.
Eupeithes. There are, however, accounts of such interferences which have manifestly their use. We know the tale of the German prince, who, in a full career of wickedness, dreamed that an angel appeared to him with a scroll, on which were inscribed the words, AFTER SEVEN. He awoke in horror, thinking that his life was doomed, and that seven days or seven weeks would end it. He set himself in earnest to the work of repentance: seven days passed, and he continued in good health; seven weeks,--still no change; seven months,--and he was perfectly himself: then he thought that seven years must be meant. The seven years passed, and he found himself raised to the Imperial throne. Theodora. The mercy of such an ambiguous warning is here evident. But, in the same way we may explain those in which the prediction has not been fulfilled.
Sophron. Of which, perhaps, the most remarkable instance is that which happened to the late Dr. Isaac Milner. His biographer gives the following account: "Some time before his appointment to the Deanery of Carlisle, Dr. Milner dreamed that he was led by a friend through the different apartments of a large rambling old house, which he was given to understand would shortly belong to himself. After showing him several rooms, his conductor opened a door, which proved to be the entrance to a steep stone staircase,; and desired him to ascend. He did so; and on turning the I corner at the top of this flight of steps, was suddenly arrested by the sight of a tombstone, bearing the inscription,
The Body of
When, happily for himself, he could not discover; for, in the extremity of his eager effort to read the date of the year, which he perceived was given, he awoke. This dream, striking as it was, gradually faded from Dean Milner's mind, and would probably in time have been entirely forgotten, but for a circumstance which strangely and forcibly recalled it to his [59/60] recollection. On going over his deanery for the first time, in company, I think, with Dr. Paley, a door was thrown open which discovered a steep flight of stone steps leading to the tower, and so exactly resembling those which he had seen in his dream, that, as he always declared when induced to mention the circumstance, he absolutely feared to ascend and turn the corner at the top, so strong was the impression that the tombstone would appear. Nor did he ever ascend that staircase with perfect indifference." [Milner's life, p. 101.]
Eupeithes. I know another singular example. A gentleman, whom I will call Mr. B., engaged in a large business in London, dreamed--I will not pretend to give you the exact dates, but only an approximation to them--that his wife would die on the 9th of September in the following year, and he himself on the 11th of October in the year succeeding that. He did not, I believe, pay much attention to the intimation; but towards the end of August his wife was taken ill, and actually died on the fatal 9th of September. Mr. B. now considered his own decease as certain, and sold his business at a great loss; took a cottage in the vicinity of town, and prepared for death. However, the day passed, and he found himself very well. When he had learnt to believe that the prediction would not be verified in him, he was much at a loss what to do in the way of business, having given up all connection with that to which he had been educated.
Eusebia. Izaak Walton has a story of Thomas Wotton, the father of Sir Henry, whose dreams were frequently verified. "He dreamed that the University Treasury was robbed by townsmen and poor scholars; that the number was five; and being that day to write to his son Henry at Oxford, he thought it worth so much pains as by a postscript to make a slight inquiry of it. The letter, which was writ out of Kent, and dated three days before, came to his son's hands the very morning after the night in which the robbery was committed; and when the city and University were both in a perplexed inquest of the thieves, then did Sir Henry Wotton show his father's letter; and by it such light was given of this work of darkness, that the five guilty persons were presently discovered and apprehended."
 Sophron. There are some instances which one can hardly believe to have been more than coincidences. Such is that which Sir Walter Scott relates in his journal of Dubuison, a celebrated dentist of Edinburgh. Dr. Blair, the day before his death, met him, and made use of a peculiar expression to him. Some time after, Lord Melville met him on the same spot, and made use of the same expression. He died the next day. On this Dubuison said--in jest, however--"I shall be the next, I suppose." He went home, was taken suddenly ill, and died almost immediately. Another such is recorded in the parish register of Garthorp church, in Leicestershire. A poor man presented himself for the purpose of being married; but, instead of the words, "I take thee to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward," he could only be prevailed on to say, "to have and to hold till this day fortnight." That day fortnight he died. So Flaxman one day received a work dedicated by its Italian author a l'ombra di Flaxman, under the impression that the sculptor was dead. The writer afterwards discovered his mistake, and forwarded the book with the proper apology. Almost directly after receiving it, Flaxman was seized with his mortal sickness. And a coincidence of another kind occurred at the destruction of the Royal Exchange by fire. At twelve o'clock on that night, the chimes struck up, for the last time,
"There's nae luck about the house,
There's nae luck at a'."
Theodora. This naturally introduces the consideration of those cases where persons, in a nervous state, have fancied themselves to have received such intimations of death, and have actually fallen ill from the terror and anxiety which such imaginary revelations occasioned. And these are not unusual cases; nor are there wanting many instances in which, by the use of opium or some similar method, the fatal hour has been safely passed, while the patient, on awaking, has had no further recollection of the past, than as a horrible dream, gone by for ever.
Eupeithes. There is a Cornish story of a warning of death, which very probably is only a coincidence, but which was at the time and in the place believed to be [61/62] something more than this. A gentleman, in the northern part of that county, had a portrait of himself taken, which he caused to be hung over his dining-room chimney-piece. One day, without any assignable cause, the picture fell down, and the portrait received a blow on one side of the forehead, which tore the canvass. A few hours after, the gentleman in question was riding out, when his horse fell, and threw him; he received a blow on the identical spot of his own forehead, and died almost immediately.
Eusebia. I have read another Cornish tale. When a man, whose whole course of life had been marked by the most flagitious atrocities, was lying on his death-bed, near S. Ives, a black ship, with black sails, was observed to stand in to the bay, into shallows where seamen felt well convinced no ship of that apparent burden could float. At the moment the soul passed from the body, the vessel stood out again; nor was it ever seen more.
Sophron. A mistake made in the Proclamation of Charles I. was afterwards received as an omen. The herald, instead of the "rightful and indubitable," called him the "rightful and dubitable heir" to the crown. In like manner there were, as we all know, believed to be some remarkable warnings attending Archbishop Laud's course. It was the day of the Decollation of S. John the Baptist, as he expressly notes in his diary, that he was chosen Head of S. John's College; and when the Head of S. John's perished by a similar end, the thing was remembered.
Theodora. There have been some historical coincidences, or omens, as you like to take them. Just before the French left Moscow, their Players performed on October 8, 1812, a drama entitled, Les Etourdis: ou les Moris Vivants. When the armament, destined for the conquest of Morocco, was bearing Don Sebastian and Portugal to their destruction, it was afterwards remembered that as, amidst a display of splendour that has scarcely ever been equalled, it swept down the Tagus, a favourite page of the King's was desired to sing; and that he began the old Spanish Romance,
"Ayer fuisteis Rey de España,
Oy no teneis un Castillo."
"Yesterday, thou wert King of Spain: to-day, thou hast not a castle."
 Sophron. Singular enough. But to return to Laud. A short time before his imprisonment, he writes thus: "At night, I dreamed that my father, who died forty-six years since, came to me; and, to my thinking, he was as well and cheerful as ever I saw him. He asked me, What I did here? And after some speech, I asked him, How long he would stay with me? He answered, He would stay till he had me away with him. I am not moved with dreams; yet I thought fit to remember this."
Eupeithes. I do not know whether one can say that Laud was not moved with dreams; at least he has left a great many of his own recorded.
Sophron. Yes; and hardly any, it would appear, attended with important results. We have not spoken of the credibility of dreams, nor is this the place to do so. But, while we are on the subject of fore-warnings of danger, I will relate two dreams, both of which were instrumental in preserving the person to whom they appeared from harm. The first happened at Edinburgh, where the story made some noise. A party had been formed for the purpose of going in a sailing-boat to Inch-Keith, and among those invited was a young man who was staying at the time at the house of his uncle and aunt in the city. The night before the intended expedition, the aunt awoke in terror, and told her husband that she had dreamed of the death of her nephew, who, she said, would be drowned on the morrow's expedition, if he persisted in going. Her husband merely laughed at her, recommended her to put her superstition out of her head, and to go to sleep. She did so; and the same dream presented itself again to her mind. Again she mentioned the thing to her husband; and he, though beginning to think the dream somewhat remarkable, advised her to compose herself. She went to sleep again; and the third time she had the same dream. Now thoroughly terrified, she requested her husband to go to his nephew, and ask him, as a great favour, from her, to stay at home on the next day. The uncle, with many apologies for his wife's timidity, did so; and the young man with some little reluctance consented to stay. Never morning broke more gloriously than the next; and much good humoured banter passed between aunt and nephew at the breakfast table, and [63/63] during the course of the forenoon. But about four o'clock in the afternoon, one of the most violent squalls arose that ever was remembered in Edinburgh; the boat then returning from Inch-Keith went to the bottom, and every soul on board her was lost. No one ever denied the fact of the dream: of course, as to the cause of it,
"Diversé men diversé thingés said,"
as Chaucer speaks. The other tale to which I referred is hardly less remarkable. A married lady of my acquaintance dreamed that she was compelled one Sunday to stay at home, while the rest of her family went to church; that the house was one which she had never seen before; that she heard a knock at the door, and went to open it; that a man of most ill-favoured appearance entered, and began to insult her; on which she awoke in terror. Some time after, she removed temporarily to another house; and it so fell out that one Sunday she stayed at home herself, in order that the rest of her family might be able to go to church. While there alone, she heard a knock at the front door, and there being no one else in the house, went down to open it. When she had reached the hall, the remembrance of her dream flashed in an instant across her mind, yet she had not sufficient faith in it to hesitate about opening the door. She did so; and behold! there stood a man, the exact counterpart of him whom she had seen in her dream. She shut the door in his face, locked and bolted it, and awaited the return of her family in great agitation. The man (whoever he was) could not be found. Now that this was a providential warning of danger it is hardly possible to deny, except by denying the veracity of the narrator. For that a dream should have been accomplished up to a certain point, and that the rest should have proved false, does not seem very likely.
Eusebia. Except, indeed, that just now you gave us an instance of something very much like this, where the merchant dreamed of the death, first of his wife, then of himself; and the first proved true, and the second not so.
Sophron. True; but those were two separate predictions, the failure of one of which did not falsify or stultify the other. But in the present case the dream was so entirely one, that to conceive one part fulfilled, and the other [64/65] part unfulfilled, would be to make the whole, practically speaking, a lie.
Eusebia. A similarly providential interference is commemorated by a sermon annually preached at Newark. An Alderman Clay, during the great Rebellion, twice dreamed that his house was burnt; he removed from it, and it shortly afterwards took fire when the town was bombarded by" Cromwell. In commemoration of this deliverance, the alderman left a sum of money for the purpose I mentioned.
Eupeithes. I have an instance, very similar to your first in its details, but unfortunately very different in its termination. The dream happened to a lady whose husband was a member of the yacht club. She was at the time staying with him at Lulworth, in Dorsetshire; and a regatta was to take place on the following day, in which his yacht was to sail. She dreamed that if he went on board the yacht, he would be drowned; and so earnest were her expostulations with her husband, that to humour her, he promised hot to go on board. "But at least," he said on the following morning, "you will not object to my going in a boat to the yacht, to see that all on board is right." She was very unwilling to consent even to this; but on her receiving his promise not to leave the boat, she gave a reluctant permission. He went accordingly, and finding that some arrangement of the sails was different from that which he intended, gave orders that it should be altered. The men bungled and blundered; in his impatience he went on board, "just for one moment," and stood leaning over the side while the sailors did what he thought necessary. A sudden squall rose; the yacht lurched, and its unfortunate owner fell overboard, and was drowned. This was the more talked of; because he had been compelled to assign a reason for not sailing in his own yacht, and had mentioned his wife's fears as the cause.
Sophron. And this seems an example where, if the dream had not been so fearfully put to the test, it would have been pronounced false; for if neither the yacht nor any of those on board it, except the owner, were hurt, of course, had he been absent, it would have been taken for granted that neither would he have received any injury;
 Theodora. Very probably; and perhaps some supernatural intimations which have accomplished their end, may have been set down as mere fancies on a similar score.
Eusebia. Fox tells us that, in Queen Mary's time, there was one congregation of Protestants in London, consisting of about three hundred members: their Deacon kept a list of the names. One of this congregation dreamed that a Queen's messenger had visited the Deacon's house, and taken the list: he woke, fell asleep, and dreamed the same thing again. On this, with some difficulty, he prevailed on the Deacon to conceal that list. On the following day, an officer searched his house for it, but in vain.
Sophron. It is a curious thing, however, that the greater part of supernatural warnings have been in vain. It is as if God would save men in spite of themselves, but that they refused His mercy. Take an instance from Scottish history. Before the expedition of James V. of Scotland into England, he and his court were attending vespers in the Chapel Royal at Linlithgow. At the conclusion of the service, the King beheld a reverend old man, of a calm, benevolent countenance, and long amber hair, who appeared to be earnestly observing his own motions, and those of the noblemen who stood around him. Some say--but this seems an 'improvement' on the original story--that around his head was a nimbus, like that which is the distinguishing mark of the beatified. He made his way to James, and, without any mark of reverence, warned him not to persist in his then intended expedition; which, if pursued, would certainly terminate in his ruin. He enjoined him also to lead a more moral life, equally threatening destruction to him in case he failed to observe this injunction. The figure, after thus speaking, disappeared so suddenly, that the bystanders affirmed it to have been an angelic messenger, and to have vanished.
For some time the expedition was dropped; but French counsels prevailed, and the King put himself at the head of his army, and advanced to Jedburgh. Here, while banqueting at the Earl of Minto's house, the figure appeared again, though with a less friendly bearing, and warned the unfortunate monarch not to proceed, for that, if he did, he should lose crown and life together. And, as if not waiting for an [66/67] answer, it stepped up to the fireplace, and wrote, on the mantelpiece the following lines:--
"Laeta sit illa dies: nescitur origo secundi:
Sit labor an requies: sic transit gloria mundi."
The issue is well known: the King crossed the border, to fall on Flodden Field.
Eupeithes. The story is liable to one exception. It is well known that the bulk of the Scottish nation were averse from the English war; and such a device for terrifying the King might well be planned in an age credulous of such apparitions.
Sophron. There is something in what you say; yet you should remember that the Bishops and Clergy--that is, well nigh all the intelligence of the nation--were bent on war, and that they would therefore have used every means to discover the imposture, had it been one.
Eupeithes. The greater part of modern warnings have, as you say, been in vain. Admiral Coligni is said to have had three supernatural intimations, that if he wished to preserve his life, he must leave Paris before the Feast of S. Bartholomew; but he resisted these, as obstinately as he did the solicitations of his friends. He stayed, and perished. On the other hand, the Count of Montgomery had a supernatural warning of the same kind; he mounted his horse, rode for his life, and by the extreme swiftness of his steed, preserved himself from the massacre.
Sophron. A story is told,--for the correctness of which I will not vouch,--of a warning being given before the fire of London, and also disregarded. A merchant in the City was in his counting-house, when he was told that a friend of his from the country was in town, and wished to see him. The visitor entered, expressed his pleasure at renewing his acquaintance with the citizen, fell into discourse on the usual topics of the day,--the Dutch war, the King's 'gallantries, the marvellous forgetfulness exhibited of the plague, and the like. Thence he proceeded to the dissolute state of the city; said that God had yet judgments in store for it; predicted that in two months a fire would break out in the heart of London, which would burn east and west, and lay it level with the ground;--and so he left the merchant [67/68] under the impression that his friend had lost his reason, or had turned fanatic. To his infinite surprise, however, he learnt, some time afterwards, that this friend had not visited London, nor left his own house, though he did not discover this till after the conflagration had actually taken place, or doubtless the prediction would have made a deeper impression on his mind. If this story be true, it is an instance of an apparition not being permitted to take sufficient precautions to ensure attention; for who would listen to such a prediction as the destruction of a great city from the mouth of a common friend?
Eupeithes. Strange, too, that one man should be singled out from the whole of that great city for so signal a mercy! Nothing could come more unexpectedly, with more fearful suddenness, than the judgment itself; and a two months' warning might have been an inestimable blessing.
Sophron. Warnings of such a kind, however set on foot, have seldom produced any beneficial effect. Look at the famous instance which so lately occurred at Quebec. A destructive fire breaks out, and after great loss of property, is quenched. A prophecy circulates through the city, and is almost universally believed among the lower orders, that that day month a still more alarming conflagration would burst out, and that the city would be consumed. The fatal night arrives; every precaution is taken; engines and fire brigades are in readiness, lest the prediction should fulfil itself. Just before twelve the alarm is given, he fire spreads resistlessly, the city is well nigh consumed, and, after all, it is clearly proved that the accident originated in the carelessness of a servant.
Eupeithes. So it was, again, in the earthquake of 1750. The February of that year was unnaturally hot; the days were sultry as in the middle of July; vegetation was monstrously forward; it seemed as the seasons had forgotten their appointed changes. On the 8th day of the month, towards sunset, a cloud of a very peculiar shape and colour appeared in the west. It seems to have been triangular, the sides being very long in proportion to the base, and the point downwards; it was of a bright scarlet hue, and so remarkable an object, that the streets were full of spectators; and it was universally called "The Bloody Cloud." From its [68/69] colour and supposed resemblance to a sword, it was imagined to predict war. As twilight deepened, it of course vanished. That night, a slight, but decided shock of an earthquake was felt throughout London, to the intense terror of the populace. Soon after, a report was afloat that on the 8th of March a second shock would occur; and that on the 8th of April, the city would be swallowed up by an earthquake. The 8th of March arrived; the weather continued sultry as before, and towards sunset the Bloody Cloud again made its appearance. Public terror was now strongly excited; it was not thought prudent to sleep, and the early hours of the night were passed in a state of intense excitement. Gradually, as hour after hour went on, and nothing occurred, families retired to rest, and the night passed over without any subject for alarm. But, in the grey of the morning, a very violent shock roused the sleepers from their beds; and, though it was but momentary, the city was looked on as doomed. Business suffered a serious check; the followers of Whitfield and Wesley took advantage of the general consternation--would that the Church had done as much!--to invite men to repentance; even the scoffers of the Court of George II.--witness the letters of Horace Walpole--seem to have felt uncomfortable. As the day approached, the upper classes began to retire from London to their country seats; the lower made preparations for passing the night in the surrounding fields; and "earthquake cloaks" were sold in great numbers. On the afternoon itself, the crowds that poured from the city were innumerable; thousands bivouacked in the fields--on Kennington Common, on Primrose Hill, on Blackheath; and, after all, the dreaded night passed on quietly, and the morning sun rose as brightly, as if there had been no terror when it sank in the west. Now, what are we to say to a warning such as this?--false in its literal signification, most beneficial in its moral influence.
Theodora. What, but that an Omnipotent and All-wise Providence wrought good out of evil, and truth out of falsehood? Whether, in this case of the earthquake, the predictions were not altogether invented and encouraged by the enemies of man, who naturally delight in terror and confusion, may perhaps be doubtful; but in the occurrence at [69/70] Quebec, one can hardly fail to trace a Providential warning; though, whether immediately the work of Providence by a supernatural impression on the minds of the inhabitants, or wrought in the first instance by the ministering of some spiritual being, would be harder to say.
Eupeithes. I know of a case where there can hardly, indeed, be said to have been a distinct warning of death, but which, nevertheless, taken in conjunction with what followed, seems to me extremely curious. A gentleman, whom I will call Mr. A., was confined to his bed with a rheumatic fever; his friend, Mr. B., was walking at no great distance from his house, fully aware that Mr. A. was ill, and unable to move, when, to his infinite surprise, he saw him walking at a short distance before him. Mr. B. quickened his pace; the appearance did the same, and at length turned off the road through a gate into a path. Mr. B. followed so near, as to be close to the gate while it was yet held open by his friend; who, without any ceremony, slammed it in his face, and passed on more rapidly than before. Mr. B. on this went to the house, learned that Mr. A. was still confined to his bed, and likely to do well. So the matter passed off fop the time; but very shortly after Mr. A. was again taken ill, and died; and within a short period, Mr. B. followed him to the grave.
Theodora. We shall see, I think, by and by, that accounts of the appearance of a departed man to his friend in the moment of death, are not only the most numerous, but, generally speaking, the best authenticated of all relations of the appearance of spirits. Your last story borders more nearly on the power of second sight.
Sophron. It is told that, two years after the death of Antonio Vieira, the celebrated Portuguese preacher, he appeared with a smiling countenance to Father Joseph Soares, in the College at Bahia; and laving One hand on his shoulder, with the other seemed to point upwards. On the second day after, Father Soares was taken ill and on the fifteenth, he died.
Eupeithes. I will give you one more instance of a verified dream, which came almost within the sphere of my own knowledge. It took place in the August of 1845. A friend of mine, the rector of a fishing village on the Thames, had a [70/71] servant, a native of the place, whose brother, a steady lad enough, was in the habit of constantly attending both school and Church. This servant, one Saturday night, dreamed that she received intelligence that her brother was drowned; that she went to see the body; that she found it at a particular spot, and in a particular attitude. She told her fellow servant, on waking on the Sunday morning, what she had seen, and added, that she must get her master's leave to go home on the Monday, and warn her brother against going out on the river. But her intended warning was too late. That very Sunday the boy was persuaded to go out on the water: the boat upset; and, on returning from church, his sister received the intelligence that he was drowned. She went to him immediately, and found the body on the spot where, and in the attitude in which, she had dreamed of it.
Eusebia. A sad instance of a neglected warning. And, of course, had not the servant told her dream in the morning, it would, when the event verified it, have been regarded as a mere delusion, or something worse.
Sophron. Another kind of premonition is to be found in the account of the plague that depopulated Some during the pontificate of S. Agatho. We are told that, in the dead of night, a knock, sometimes single, sometimes repeated, was heard at the door of doomed houses, whether at the time infected or not infected; and that as many knocks as were heard in the night, so many deaths followed on the succeeding day.
Eusebia. I think we are bound always to receive the accounts of supernatural appearances in the time of great plagues with caution. The excitement, the prostration of spirit, the prevalence of horrors, the delirium of stricken men,--all these things give rise to reports and fancies which no one cares to contradict, and which spread like wild-fire through the populace. You remember De Foe's account if a fanatic who, during the plague of 1665, stood in one of the London churchyards, and pointed out to a large crowd the motions of a ghost, which, as he affirmed, had stationed itself on one of the tombstones, and was pointing with its fingers first to the crowd around, and then to the churched: as if to signify what would be the end of the greater number of them in that visitation. De Foe looked too, [71/72] and though the mob declared that they beheld the apparition, and could describe its motions, he could see nothing himself, and went away persuaded that there was nothing to be seen.
Eupeithes. A superstition, of a somewhat similar kind, was that as formerly held, about S. Mark's Eve. It was believed that if a person placed himself near the church porch, when twilight was thickening, he would behold the apparitions of those persons in the parish who were to be seized with any severe disease that year, go into the church. If they remained there, it signified their death; if they came out again, it portended their recovery; and the longer or shorter the time that they remained in the building, the severer or less dangerous their illness. Infants, under age to walk, rolled in: a belief quite contrary to the usually received accounts of ghosts, which are universally (and the universality of the belief is somewhat remarkable) said to glide.
Sophron. Next, I will give you, in Lady Fanshawe's words, a remarkable story, which is, perhaps, as nearly connected with the present branch of our subject as with any other. She says, "And here I cannot omit relating the ensuing story, confirmed by Sir Thomas Baber, Sir Arnold Breamer, the Dean of Canterbury, with many more gentlemen and persons of that town. There lived, not far from Canterbury, a gentleman, called Colonel Colepepper, whose mother was wedded unto Lord Strangford. This gentleman had a sister, who lived with him, as the world said, in too much love. She married Mr. Porter. This brother and sister, being both atheists, and living a life according to their profession, went in a frolic unto the vault of their ancestors, where, before their return, they pulled some of their father's and of their mother's hairs. Within a few days after, Mrs. Porter fell sick and died. Her brother kept her body in a coffin set up in his buttery, saying, it would not be long before he died, and then they would both be buried together: but from the night of her death till the time that we were told the story, (which was three months,) they say that a head, as cold as death, with curled hair like his sister's did ever lie by him when he slept, notwithstanding he removed to several places and countries to avoid it; and several persons told us they had felt this apparition." Lady Fanshawe's high character leaves no room for the least hesitation [72/73] in receiving this story, one of the most singular that I know.
Theodora. A similar warning occurred not long ago in the West of England. A poor woman dreamed that her husband, who was absent from home, was drowned; that she went to a certain pond, where they told her that his body was; that there she saw a trout; and on having the water dragged, the corpse was recovered. He did not return. She resolved to go to this pond, which was at some distance from home; saw the trout, exactly as she had dreamed; and there, sure enough, was the body.
Eusebia. We have not yet ended this part of our subject, though we have been talking far longer than usual. Have we enough of it remaining for another night's conversation?
Sophron. Oh yes. We have yet to speak of Second-Sight and Family Warnings. In the mean time, I will end this evening by reading to you (what you, Theodora, have probably never heard before,) the manner in which one of our great poets works up such a warning as those of which we have been speaking. It is in the Lover's Progress, Fletcher's last play, which was finished by Massinger; whose, I take it, is the passage in question. An apparition has promised Cleander to warn him of the immediate approach of death, which he foretells to be near.
"Cleander. Nothing more certain than to die; but when
Is most uncertain. If so, every hour
We should prepare us for the journey, which
Is not to be put off. I must submit
To the Divine decree,--not argue it;
And cheerfully I welcome it: I have
Disposed of my estate, confessed my sins,
And have remission from my ghostly father,
Being at peace too here. The apparition
Proceeded not from fancy: Dorilaus
Saw it and heard it with me. It made answer
To our demands; and promised, if 'twere not
Denied to him by fate, he would forewarn me
Of my approaching end. I feel no symptoms
Of sickness; yet, I know not how, a dullness
Invadeth me all over. Ha!--
Ghost. I come
To keep my promise: and (as far as spirits
Are sensible of sorrow for the living)
 I grieve to tell thee, as a messenger,
Ere many hours are past, thou must resolve
To fill a grave. This night shalt thou be with me.
Oleander. I hear it like a man.
Ghost. It well becomes thee;
It cannot be evaded.
Oleander. Can you discover
By whose means I shall die?
Ghost. That is denied me:
But my prediction is too sure. Prepare
To make thy peace with heav'n; and so farewell!"