Page images
PDF
EPUB

Since this deplorable action, there has been no what to think of this ; there were the two circumjudicial interference in Scotland on account of witch- stances deemed of old essential and sufficient to the craft, unless to prevent explosions of popular enmity crime of witchcraft- Damnum minatum, et malum against people suspected of such a crime, of which secutum.-Scarce knowing what to believe, he hastsome instances could be produced. The remains of ened to consult the Sheriff of the county, as a friend the superstition sometimes occur ; there can be no rather than a magistrate, upon a case so extraordidoubt that the vulgar are still addicted to the custom nary. The official person showed him that the laws of scoring above the breath* (as it is termed,) and against witchcraft were abrogated, and had little other counter-spells, evincing that the belief in witch- difficulty to bring him to regard the matter in its craft is only asleep, and might in remote corners be true light of an accident. awakened to deeds of blood. An instance or two It is strange, but true, that the accused herself may be quoted, chiefly as facts known to the author was not to be reconciled to the sheriff's doctrine so himself.

easily. He reminded her, that if she used her In a remote part of the Highlands, an ignorant tongue with so much license, she must expose herand malignant woman seems really to have medi- self to suspicions, and that should coincidences haptated the destruction of her neighbour's property, by pen to irritate her neighbours, she might suffer harm placing in a cowhouse, or byre, as we call it, a pot at a time when there was no one to protect her. of baked clay, containing locks of hair, parings of He therefore requested her to be more cautious in nails, and other trumpery. This precious spell was her language for her own sake, professing, at the discovered, the design conjectured, and the witch same time, his belief that her words and intentions would have been torn to pieces, had not a high-spi- were perfectly harmless, and that he had no apprerited and excellent lady in the neighbourhood ga- hension of being hurt by her, let her wish her worst thered some of her people, (though these were not to him. She was rather more angry than pleased very fond of the service,) and by main force taken at the well-meaning

sheriff's skepticism. “I would the unfortunate creature out of the hands of the be laith to wish ony ill either to you or yours, sir,” populace. The formidable spell is now in my pos- she said; "for I kenna how it is, but something aye session.

comes after my words when I am ill-guided, and About two years since, as they were taking down speak ower fast." In short, she was obstinate in the walls of a building formerly used as a feeding- claiming an influence over the destiny of others by house for catile, in the town of Dalkeith, there was words and wishes, which might have in other times found below the threshold-stone the withered heart conveyed her to the stake; for which her expresof some animal, stuck full of many scores of pins; sions, their consequences, and her disposition to -a counter-charm, according to tradition, against insist upon their efficacy, would certainly of old the operations of witchcraft on the cattle which are have made her a fit victim. At present, the story is kept within. Among the almost innumerable droves scarcely worth mentioning, but as it contains mateof bullocks which come down every year from the rials resembling those out of which many tragic inHighlands for the south, there is scarce one but has cidents have arisen. a curious knot upon his tail, which is also a precau- So low, in short, is now the belief in witchcraft, tion, lest an evil eye, or an evil spell, may do the that, perhaps it is only received by those half-crazy animal harm,

individuals who feel a species of consequence derived The last Scottish story with which I will trouble from accidental coincidences, which, were they reyou, happened in or shortly after the year 1800, and ceived by the community in general, would go near, the whole circumstances are well known to me. as on former occasions, to cost the lives of those The dearth of the years in the end of the eighteenth, who make their boast of them. At least, one hyand beginning of this century, was inconvenient to pochondriac patient is known to the author, who all, but distressing to the poor. A solitary old wo believes himself the victim of a gang of witches, and man, in a wild and lonely district, subsisted chiefly ascribes his illness to their charms, so that he wants by rearing chickens, an operation requiring so much nothing but an indulgent judge to awake again the care and attention, that the gentry, and even the old ideas of sorcery. farmers' wives, often find it better to buy poultry at a certain age, than to undertake the trouble of bringing them up. As the old woman, in the present in

LETTER X. stance, fought her way through life better than her neighbours, envy stigmatized her as having some un. Other mystic Arts independent of Witchcraft-Astrology-Its Inlawful mode of increasing the gains of her little

fluence during the 16th and 17th Centuries-- Base Ignorance of

those who practised it-Lilly's History of his Life and Timestrade, and apparently she did not take much alarm

Astrologer's Society-Dr. Lamb-Dr. Forman-Establishment at the accusation. But she felt, like others, the of the Royal Society-Partridge--Connexion of Astrologers dearth of the years alluded to, and chiefly because with elementary Spirits- Dr. Dun--Irish Superstition of the the farmers were unwilling to sell grain in the very

Bansbie-Similar Superstition in the Highlands-Brownicmoderate quantities which she was able to purchase,

Ghosts-Belief of ancient Philosophers on that subject--Inquiry

into the Respect due to such Tales in niodern Times-Evidence and without which, her little stock of poultry must of a Ghost against a Murderer--Ghost of Sir George Villiershave been inevitably starved. In distress on this Story of Earl St. Vincent--of a British General Officer of an account, the dame went to a neighbouring farmer, a

Apparition in France-of the second Lord Lyttelton-of Bill

Jones-of Jarvis Matcham-Trial of two Highlanders for the very good-natured, sensible, honest man, and re- Murder of Sergeant Davis, discovered by a Ghost-Disturbances quested him, as a favour, to sell her a peck of oats at Woodstock, Anno 1619-Imposture called the Stockwell at any price. “Good neighbour," he said, "I am

Ghost-Similar Case in Scotland--Ghost appearing to an Exsorry to be obliged to refuse you, but my corn is

ciseman--story of a disturbed House discovered by the Firm

ness of the Proprietor- Apparition at Plymouth-A Club of Phimeasured out for Dalkeith market; my carts are losophers--Ghost Adventure of a Farmer-Trick upon a veteran loaded to get out, and to open these sacks again, and Boldier-Ghost Stories recommended by the skill of the Aufor so small a quantity, would cast my accounts

thors who compose thom--Mrs. Veal's Ghost-Dunton's Appa

rition Evidence-Effect of appropriate Scenery to encourage a loose, and create much trouble and disadvantage;

Tendency to Superstition-Ditfers at distant Periods of LifeI dare say you will get all you want at such a place Night at Glammis Castle about 1791 - Visit to Dunvegan in 1814. or such a place." Ön receiving this answer, the old woman's temper gave way. She scolded the wealthy While the vulgar endeavoured to obtain a glance farmer, and wished evil io his property, which was into the darkness of futurity by consulting the witch just seiting off for the market. They parted, after or fortune-teller, the great were supposed to have a some angry language on both sides; and sure royal path of their own, commanding a view from enough, as the carts crossed the ford of the river a loftier quarter of the same terra incognita. This beneath the farm-house, off came the wheel from was represented as accessible by several routes. one of them, and five or six sacks of corn were da- Physiognomy, Chiromancy, and other fantastic arts maged by the water. The good farmer hardly knew of prediction, afforded each its mystical assistance * Drawing blood, that is, hy two cuts in the form of a crogs on

and guidance. But the road most flattering to huthe witch's forehead, confided in throughout all Scotland as the I seductive to human credulity, was that of Astrology,

man vanity, while it was at the same time most most powerful counter charm.

the queen of mystic sciences, who flattered those on one side, with the Parliamentary leaders on the who confided in her, that the planets and stars in other, were both equally curious to know, and eager their spheres figure forth and influence the fate of to believe, what Lilly, Wharton, or Gadbury, had the creatures of mortality, and that a sage acquaint discovered from the heavens, touching the fortune ed with her lore could predict, with some approach of the strife. Lilly was a prudent person, contriving to certainty, the events of any man's career, his with some address to shift the sails of his prophetic chance of success in life or in marriage, his advance bark, so as to suit the current of the time, and the in favour of the great, or answer any other horary gale of fortune. No person could better discover questions, as they were termed, which he might be from various omens the course of Charles's misanxious to propound, provided always he could sup- fortunes, so soon as they had come to pass. In the ply the exact moment of his birth. This, in the time of the Commonwealth, he foresaw the persixteenth, and greater part of the seventeenth cen- petual destruction of the monarchy, and in 1660, turies, was all ihat was necessary to enable the as- ihis did not prevent his foreseeing the restoration of trologer to erect a scheme of the position of the King Charles II. He maintained some credit even heavenly bodies, which should disclose the life of among the better classes, for Aubrey and Ashmole the interrogator, or Native, as he was called, with both called themselves his friends, being persons all its changes, past, present, and to come. extremely credulous doubtless respecting the mysuc

Imagination was dazzled by a prospect so splen- arts. Once a-year, too, the astrologers had a public did; and we find that, in the sixteenth century, the dinner or feast, where the knaves were patronized cultivation of this fantastic science was the serious by the company of such fools as claimed the title of object of men whose understandings and acquire Philomaths; that is, lovers of the mathematics, by ments admit of no question. Bacon himself allow- which name were still distinguished those who ened the truth which might be found in a well-regu- couraged the pursuit of mystical prescience, the lated astrology, making thus a distinction between most opposite possible to exact science. Elias Ashthe art as commonly practised, and the manner in mole, the most honourable Esquire" to whom which it might, as he conceived, be made a proper Lilly's Life is dedicated, seldom failed to attend; use of. But a grave or sober use of this science, if nay, several men of sense and knowledge honoured even Bacon could have taught such moderation, this rendezvous. Congreve's picture of a man like would not have suited the temper of those who, in- Foresight, the dupe of Astrology and its sister arts, famed by hopes of temporal aggrandizement, pre- was then common in society. But the astrologers tended to understand and explain to others the lan- of the 17th century did not confine themselves to guage of the stars. Almost all the other paths of the stars. There was no province of fraud which mystic knowledge led to poverty ; even the alchy- they did not practice; they were scandalous as mist, though talking loud and high of the endless panders, and as quacks sold potions for the most treasures his art was to produce, lived from day to unworthy purposes. For such reasons the common day, and from year to year, upon hopes as unsub- people detested the astrologers of the great, as corstantial as the smoke of his furnace. But the pur- dially as they did the more vulgar witches of their suits of the astrologer were such as called for in- own sphere. stant remuneration. He became rich by the eager Dr. Lamb, patronised by the Duke of Bucking. hopes and fond credulity of those who consulted ham, who, like other overgrown favourites, was inhim, and that artist lived by duping others, instead clined to cherish astrology, was, in 1640, pulled to of starving, like others, by duping himself. The pieces in the city of London by the enraged popuwisest men have been cheated by the idea that some lace, and his maid-servant, thirteen years afterward, supernatural infuence upheld and guided them; hanged as a witch at Salisbury. In the villanous and from the time of Wallenstein to that of Buona- transaction of the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overparte, ambition and success have placed confidence bury, in King James's time, much mention was in the species of fataliom inspired by a belief of the made of the art and skill of Dr. Forman, another influence of their own star. Such being the case, professor of the same sort with Lamb, who was the science was little pursued by those who, faithful consulted by the Countess of Essex on the best in their remarks and reports, must soon have dis- mode of conducting her guilty intrigue with the Earl covered its delusive vanity through the splendour of of Somerset. He was dead before the affair broke its professions; and the place of such calm and out, which might otherwise have cost him the gibdisinterested pursuers of iruth was occupied by a bet, as it did all others concerned, with the excepset of men, sometimes ingenious, always forward tion only of the principal parties, the atrocious auand assuming, whose knowledge was imposition, thors of the crime. When the cause was tried, whose responses were, like the oracles of yore, some little puppets were produced in court, which gronnded on the desire of deceit, and who, if some- were viewed by one party with borror, as representtimes they were elevated into rank and fortune, ing the most horrid spells. It was even said that were more frequently found classed with rogues and the Devil was about to pull down the court-house vagabonds. This was the more apt to be the case,

on their being discovered. Others of the audience that a sufficient stock of impudence, and some only saw in them the baby figures on which dressknowledge by rote of the terms of art, were all the makers then, as now, were accustomed to expose store of information necessary for establishing a new fashions. conjurer. The natural consequence of the degraded The erection of the Royal Society, dedicated to character of the professors, was the degradation of far different purposes than the pursuits of astrology, the art itself. Lilly, who wrote the History of his had a natural operation in bringing the latter into own Life and Times, notices in that curious volume discredit; and although the credulity of the ignorant the most distinguished persons of his day, who and uninformed continued to support some premade pretensions to astrology, and almost without tenders to that science, the name of Philomath asexception describes them as profligate, worthless, sumed by these persons and their clients began to sharking cheats, abandoned to vice, and imposing, sink under ridicule and contempt. When Sir by the grossest frauds, upon the silly fools who con- Richard Steele set up the paper called the Guardian, sulted ihem. From what we learn of his own his he chose, under the title of Nestor Ironside, to as. tory, Lilly himself, a low-born, ignorant man, with sume the character of an astrologer, and issued presome gloomy shades of fanaticism in his tempera- dictions accordingly, one of which, announcing the ment, was sufficiently fitted to dupe others, and death of a person called Partridge, once a shoeperhaps cheated himself, merely by perusing, at an maker, but at the time the conductor of an Astroloadvanced period of life, some of the astrological gical Almanack, led to a controversy, which was tracts devised by men of less cunning, though per- supported with great humour by Swift and other haps more pretence to science, than he himself wags. I believe you will find that this, with Swift's might boast. Yet the public still continued to Elegy on the saine person, is one of the last occaswallow these gross impositions, though coming sions in which astrology has afforded even a jest to from such unworthy authority: The astrologers em- the good people of England. braced different sides of the Civil War, and the king This dishonoured science has some right to be mentioned in a treatise on Demonology, because the it at all times safe to reject Brownie's assistance. earlier astrologers, though denying the use of all Thus, we are informed by Brand, that a young man necromancy, that is, unlawful or black magic, pre- in the Orkneys used to brew, and sometimes read tended always to a correspondence with the various upon his Bible; to whom an old woman in the spirits of the clements, on the principles of the Rosi-l house said, that Brownie was displeased with that crucian philosophy. 'They affirmed they could bind book he read upon, whichi, if he continued to do, to their service, and imprison in a ring, a mirror, or they would get no more service of Brownie; but he a stone, some fairy, sylph, or salamander, and com- being better instructed from that book, which was pel it to appear when called, and render answers to Brownie's eye-sore, and the object of his wrath, such questions as the viewer should propose. It is when he brewed, would not suffer any sacrifice to be remarkable that the sage himself did not pretend to given to Brownie : whereupon the first and second sec the spirit; but the task of viewer, or reader, was brewings were spoiled, and for no use; for thoughi intrusted to a third party, a boy or girl usually un the wort wrought well, yet in a little time it lett off der the years of puberiy. Dr. Dee, an excellent working, and grew cold; but of the third broust, or mathematician, had a stone of this kind, and is said brewing, he had ale very good, though he would to have been imposed upon concerning the spirits not give any sacrifice to Brownic, with whom afterattached to it, their actions and answers, by the re- ward they were no more troubled.” Another story port of one Kelly, who acted as his viewer. The of the same kind is told of a lady in Uist, who reunfortunate Dee was ruined by his associates both fused, on religious grounds, the usual sacrifice to in fortune and reputation. His show-stone, or mir- this domestic spirit. The first and second brewings ror, is still preserved, among other curiosities, in the failed, but the third succeeded; and thus, when British Museum. Some superstition of the same Brownie lost the perquisite to which he had been so kind was introduced by the celebrated Count Cag- long accustomed, he abandoned the inhospitable liostro, during the course of the intrigue respecting house, where his services had so long been faithfully the diamond necklace, in which the late Maria An- rendered. The last place in the south of Scotland toinette was so unfortunately implicated.

supposed to have been honoured, or benefited, by Dismissing this general class of impostors, who the residence of a Brownie, was Bodsbeck, in Mofare now seldom heard of, we come now briefly to fatdale, which has been the subjeci of an entertainmention some leading superstitions, once, perhaps, ing iale by Mr. James Hogg, the self-instructed gecommon to all the countries of Europe, but now re- nius of Ettrick Forest. stricted to those which continue to be inhabited by These particular superstitions, however, are too an undisturbed and native race. Of these, one of limited, and too much obliterated from recollection, the most beautiful is the Irish fiction, which assigns to call for special discussion. The general faith in to certain families of ancient descent and distin- fairies has already undergone our consideration ; but guished rank the privilege of a banshie, as she is something remains to be said upon another species called, or household fairy, whose office it is to ap- of superstition, so general, that it may be called pear, seemingly mourning while she announces the proper to mankind in every climate; so deeply rootapproaching death of some one of the destined race. ed also in huinan belief, that it is found to survive The subject has been so lately and beautifully inves, in states of society during which all other fictions tigated and illustrated by Mr. Crofton Croker, and of the same order are entirely dismissed from influothers, that I may dispense with being very particu- ence. Mr. Crabbe, with his usual felicity, has calllar regarding it. If I am rightly informed, ihe dis- ed the belief in ghosts "the last lingering fiction of tinction of a banshie is only allowed to families of the brain." the pure Milesian stock, and is never ascribed to Nothing appears more simple at the first view of any descendant of the proudest Norman or boldest the subject, ihan that human memory should recall Saxon who followed the banner of Earl Strong and bring back to the eye of the imagination, in bow, much less to adventurers of later date who perfect similitude, even the very form and features have obtained settlements in the Green Isle. of a person with whom we have been long conver

Several families of the Highlands of Scotland an- sant, or which have been imprinted in our minds ciently laid claim to the distinction of an attendant with indelible strength, by some striking circumspirit, who performed the office of the Irish banshie. stances touching our meeting in life. The son does Among them, however, the functions of this attend- not easily forget the aspect of an affectionate father ; ant genius, whose form and appearance differed in and, for reasons opposite, but equally powerful, the different cases, were not limited to announcing the countenance of a murdered person is engraved upon dissolution of those whose days were numbered. the recollection of his slayer. A thousand additional The Highlanders contrived to exact from them circumstances, far too obvious to require recapitulaother points of service, sometimes as warding off' tion, render the supposed apparition of the dead the dangers of battle; at others, as guarding and pro- most ordinary spectral phenomenon which is ever tecting the infant heir through the dangers of child- believed to occur among the living. All that we hood; and sometimes as condescending to interfere have formerly said respecting supernatural appeareven in the sports of the chieftain, and point out the ances in general, applies with peculiar force to the fittest move io be made at chess, or the best card to belief of ghosts; for whether the cause of delusion be played at any other game. Among those spirits exists in an excited imagination or a disordered orwho have deigned to vouch their existence by ap- ganic system, it is in this way that it cominonly expearance of late years, is that of an ancestor of the hibits itself. Hence Lucretius himself, the most family of MacLean of Lochbuy. Before the death absolute of skeptics, considers the existence of of any of his race, the phantom-chief gallops along ghosts, and their frequent apparition, as facts so unthe sea-beach, near to the castle, announcing the deniable, that he endeavours to account for them at event by cries and lamentations. The spectre is the expense of assenting to a class of phenomena said to have rode his rounds and uttered his death. very irreconcilable to his general system. As he cries within these few years, in consequence of will not allow of the existence of the human soul, which, the family and clan, though much shocked, and at the same time cannot venture to question the were in no way surprised, to hear, by next accounts, phenomena supposed to haunt the repositories of that their gallant chief was dead at Lisbon, where the dead, he is obliged to adopt the belief that the le served under Lord Wellington.

body consists of several coats like those of an onion, Of a meaner origin and occupation was the Scot- and that the outmost and thinnest, being detached tish Brownie--already mentioned, as somewhat re- by death, continues to wander near the place of sembling Robin Goodfellow in the frolicsome days sepulture, in the exact resemblance of the person of Old England. This spirit was easily banished, while alive. or, as it was styled, hired away, by the offer of We have said there are many ghost stories which clothes or food; but many of the simple inhabitants we do not feel at liberty to challenge as impostures, could liqtle see the prudence of parting with such a because we are confident that those who relate them useful domestic dradge, who served faithfully, with on their own authority actually believe what they out fee and reward, food or raiment. Neither was assert, and may have good reason for doing so,

stories.

though there is no real phantom after all. We are cannot rise in all things above the general ignorance far, iherefore, from a verring that such tales are ne- of their age. Upon the evidence of such historians, cessarily false. It is easy to suppose the visionary we might as well believe the portents of ancient, or has been imposed upon by a lively dream, a waking the miracles of modern, Rome. For example, we read revery, the excitation of a powerful imagination, or in Clarendon, of the apparition of the ghost of Sir the misrepresentation of a diseased organ of sight; George Villiers to an ancient dependant. This is, no and, in one or other of these causes, to say notlung doubi, a story told by a grave author, at a time when of a system of deception which may in many in such stories were believed by all the world; but does stances be probable, we apprehend a solution will it follow that our reason must acquiesce in a statebe found for all cases of what are called real ghost ment so positively contradicted by the voice of Na.

ture, through all her works? The miracle of raising In truth, the evidence with respect to such appa- a dead man was positively refused by our Saviour 10 ritions is very seldom accurately or distinctly ques- the Jews, who demanded it as a proof of his mistioned. A supernatural tale is, in most cases, re- sion; because they had already sufficient grounds ceived as an agreeable mode of amusing society, and of conviction, and, as they believed them not, it was he would be rather accounted a sturdy moralist than irresistibly argued by the Divine Person whom they an entertaining companion, who should employ tempted, ihat neither would they believe if one arose himself in assailing its credibility. It would indeed from the dead. Shall we suppose that a miracle rebe a solecism in manners, something like that of fused for the conversion of God's chosen people, was impeaching the genuine value of the antiquities ex- sent on a vain errand, to save the life of a profligate hibited by a good-natured collector, for the gratifi- spendthrift? I lay aside, you observe, entirely, the cation of his guests. This difficulty will appear not unreasonable supposition that Towers, or whalgreater, should a company have the rare good for- ever was the ghost-seer's name, desirous to make an iune to meet the person who himself witnessed the impression upon Buckingham, as an old servant of wonders which he tells; a well-bred or prudent his house, might be tempted to give him his advice, man will, under such circumstances, abstain from of which we are not told the import, in the character using the rules of cross-examination practised in a of his father's spirit, and authenticate the tale by the court of justice; and if in any case he presumes to mention of some token known to him as a former do so, he is in danger of receiving answers, even retainer of the family. The Duke was superstitious, from the most candid and honourable persons, which and the ready dupe of asírologers and soothsayers, are rather fitted to support the credit of the story The manner in which he had provoked the fury of which they stand committed to maintain, than to the people, must have warned every reflecting perthe pure service of unadorned truth. The narrator son of his approaching fate; and, the age consider is asked, for example, some unimportant question ed, it was not unnatural that a faithful friend should with respect to the apparition; he answers it on the take this mode of calling his attention to his perilous hasty suggestion of his own imagination, tinged as situation. Or, if we suppose that the incident was it is with belief of the general fact, and by doing so, not a mere pretext to obtain access to the Duke's often gives a feature of minute evidence which was ear, the messenger may have been imposed upon by before wanting, and this with perfect unconscious- an idle dream-in a word, numberless conjectures ness on his own part. It is a rare occurrence, in- might be formed for accounting for the event in a nadeed, to find an opportunity of dealing with an rural way, the most exưavagant of which is more actual ghost-seer: such instances, however, I have probable, than that the laws of nature were broken certainly myself met with, and that in the case of through in order to give a vain and fruitless warning able, wise, candid, and resolute persons, of whose to an ambitious minion. veracity I had every reason to be confident. But in It is the same with all those that are called accresuch instances, shades of mental aberration have dited ghost stories usually told at the fireside. They afterward occurred, which sufficiently accounied for want evidence. It is true, that the general wish to the supposed apparitions, and will incline me al- believe, rather than power of believing, has given some ways to feel alarmed in behalf of the continued such stories a certain currency in society. I may menhealth of a friend, who should conceive himself to tion, as one of the class of tales I mean, that of the have witnessed such a visitation.

late Earl St. Vincent, who watched with a friend, it The nearest approximation which can be generally is said, a whole night, in order to detect the cause of made to exact evidence in this case, is the word of certain nocturnal disturbances which took place in some individual who has had the story, it may be, a certain mansion. The house was under lease to from the person to whom it has happened, but most Mrs. Rickets, his sister. The result of his lordship's likely from his family, or some friend of the family. vigil is said to have been, that he heard the noises, Farmore commonly, the narrator possesses no better without being able to detect the causes, and insisted means of knowledge than that of dwelling in the on his sister giving up the house. This is told as a country, where the thing happened, or being well ac- real story, with a thousand different circumstances. quainted with the outside of the mansion in the inside But who has heard or seen an authentic account from of which the ghost appeared.

Earl St. Vincent, or from his “companion of the In every point, the evidence of such a second-hand watch," or from his lordship's sister? And as in any retailer of ihe mystic story must fall under the ad- other case, such sure species of direct evidence would judged case in an English court. The judge stopped be necessary to prove the facts, it seems unreasonable a witness who was about to give an account of the to believe such a story on slighter terms. When the murder, upon trial, as it was narrated to him by the particulars are precisely fixed and known, it night lordship; "the ghost is an excellent witness, and his the other eminent qualities of a first-rate seaman, evidence the best possible; but he cannot be heard might not be in some degree tinged with their tenby proxy in this court. Summon him hither, and I'll dency to superstition; and still farther, whether, hahear him in person; but your communication is mere ving ascertained the existence of disturbances not hearsay, which my office compels me to reject." Yet immediately or easily detected, his lordship might not it is upon the credit of one man, who pledges it upon advise his sister rather to remove, than to remain in that of three or four persons who have told it suc- a house so haunted, though he might believe that cessively to each other, that we are often expected poachers or smugglers were the worst ghosts by to believe an incident inconsistent with the laws of whom it was disturbed. nature, however agreeable to our love of the wonder- The story of two highly respectable officers in the ful and the horrible.

British army, who are supposed to have seen the In estimating the truth or falschood of such stories, spectre of the brother of one of them in a hut, or it is evident we can derive no proofs from that period barrack, in America, is also one of those accredited of society, when inen affirmed boldly, and believed ghost tales, which attain a sort of brevet rank as stoutly, all the wonders which could be coined or true, fron the mention of respectable names as the fancied. That such stories are believed and told by parties who witnessed the vision. But we are left grave historians, only shows that the wisest men without a glimpse when, how, and in what terms this story obtained its currency; as also by whoin, such anguries. "And if I do," said the sailor, "I and in what manner, it was first circulated; and may have my own reasons for doing so ;"and he among the numbers by whom it has been quoted, spoke this in a deep and serious manner, implying although all agree in the general event, scarcely two, that he felt deeply what he was saying. On being even of those who pretend to the best information, further urged, he confessed that, if he could believe tell the story in the same way.

his own eyes, there was one ghost at least which he Another such story, in which the name of a lady had seen repeatedly. He then told his story as I now of condition is made use of as having seen an appa- relate it. rition in a country-seat in France, is so far better Our mariner had, in his youth, gone mate of a slave borne out than those I have mentioned, that I have vessel from Liverpool, of which town he seemed to scen a narrative of the circumstances, attested by be a native. The captain of the vessel was a man of the party principally concerned. That the house was a variable temper, sometimes kind and courteous to disturbed seems to be certain, but the circumstances his men, but subject to fits of humour, dislike, and (though very remarkable) did not, in my mind, by passion, during which he was very violent, tyranniany means exclude the probability that the distur- cal, and cruel. He took a particular dislike at one bance and appearances were occasioned by the dex: sailor aboard, an elderly man, called Bill Jones, or terous management of some mischievously disposed some such name. He seldom spoke to this person persons.

without threats and abuse, which ihe old man, with The remarkable circumstance of Thomas, the se- the license which sailor's take in merchant vessels, cond Lord Lyttleton, prophesying his own death was very apt to return. Onone oçcasion, Bill Jones within a few minutes, upon the information of an appeared slow in getting out on the yard to hand a apparition, has been always quoted as a true story. sail. The captain, according to custom, abused the Bui of late it has been said and published, that the seaman as a lubberly rascal, who got fat by leaving unfortunate nobleman had previously determined to his duty to other people. The man made a saucy take poison, and of course had it in his own power answer, almost amounting to munity, on which, in a to ascertain the execution of the prediction. It was towering passion, the captain ran down to his cabin, no doubt singular that a man, who meditated his and returned with a blunderbuss loaded with slugs, exit from the world, should have chosen to play such with which he took deliberate aim at the supposed a trick on his friends. But it is still more credible mutineer, fired, and mortally wounded him. The that a whimsical man should do so wild a thing, than man was handed down from the yard, and stretched that a messenger should be sent from the dead, to on the deck, evidently dying. He fixed his eyes on tell a libertine at what precise hour he should expire. the captain, and said, “Sir, you have done for me,

To this list, other stories of the same class might but I will nerer leave you." The captain, in return, be added. But it is sufficient to show that such sto- swore at him for a fat lubber, and said he would ries as these, having gained a certain degree of cur- have him thrown into the slave-kettle, where they rency in the world, and bearing creditable names on made food for the negroes, and see how much fat he their front, walk through society unchallenged, like had got. The man died; his body was actually bills through a bank, when they bear respectable en- thrown into the slave-kettle, and the narrator obdorsations, although, it may be, the signatures are served, with a naiveti which confirmed the extent of forged after all. There is, indeed, an unwillingness his own belies in the truth of what he told, “There very closely to examine such subjects, for the secret was not much fat about him after all." fund of superstition in every man's bosom, is gratified The captain told the crew they must keep absoby believing them to be true, or at least induces him lule silence on the subject of what had passed ; and to abstain from challenging them as false. And no as the mate was not willing to give an explicit and doubt it must happen that the transpiring of incidents, absolute promise, he ordered him to be contined bein which men have actually seen, or conceived that low. After a day or two, he came to the mate, and they saw, apparitions which were invisible to others, I demarded if he had an intention to deliver him up contributes to the increase of such stories -- which for trial when the vessel got home. The mate, who do accordingly sometimes meet us in a shape of ve- was tired of close confinement in that suliry climate, racity difficult to question.

spoke his commander fair, and obtained his liberty. The following story was narrated to me by my When he mmgled among the crew once more, he friend, Mr. William Clerk, chief clerk to the Jury found them impressed with the idea, not unnatural Court, Edinburgh, when he first learned it, now in their situation, that the ghost of the dead man apnearly thirty years ago, from a passenger in the mail peared among them when they had a spell of duty, coach. With Mr. Clerk's consent, I gave the story especially if a sail was to be handed, on which occaat that time to poor Mat Lewis, who published it sion the spectre was sure to be out upon the yard with a ghost-ballad which he adjusted on the same before any of the crew. The narrator had seen this theme. From the minuteness of the original detail, apparition himself repeatedly-he believed the caphowever, the narrative is better calenlated for prose tain saw it also, but he took no notice of it for some than verse; and more especially, as the friend to whom time, and the crew, terrified at the violent temper of it was originally communicated, is one of the most the man, durst not call his attention to it. Thus, accurate, intelligent, and acute persons whom I have they held on their course homeward, with great fear known in the course of my life, I am willing to pre- and anxiety. serve the precise story in this place.

At length, the captain invited the mate, who was It was about the eventful year 1800, when the Em- now in a sort of favour, to go down to the cabin and peror Paul laid his ill-judged embargo on British take a glass of grog with him. In this interview, he trade, that my friend, Mr. William Clerk, on a jour- assumed a very grave and anxious aspect. “I need ney to London, found himself in company, in the not tell you, Jack,” he said, “what sort of hand we mail-coach, with a seafaring man of middle age and have got on board with us. He told me he would respectable appearance, who announced himself as never leave me, and he has kept his word. You only master of a vessel in the Baltic trade, and a sufferer see him now and then, but he is always by my side, by the embargo. In the course of the desultory con- and never out of my sight. At this very moment I versation which takes place on such occasions, the see him-I am determined to bear it no longer, and seaman observed, in compliance with a common su- I have resolved to leave you." perstition, “I wish we may have good luck on our The mate replied, that his leaving the vessel while journey there is a magpie."_" And why should that out of the sight of any land was impossible. Headbe unlucky ?" said my friend.-"I cannot tell you vised, that if the capiain apprehended any bad conthat,” replied the sailor; "hut all the world agrees sequences from what had happened, he should run that one magpie bodes bad luck-two are not so bad, for the west of France or Ireland, and there go but three are ihe Devil. I never saw three magpies ashore, and leave him, the mate, to carry the vessel but twice, and once I had near lost my vessel, and into Liverpool. The captain only shook his head the second I fell from a horse, and was hurt." This gloomily, and reiterated his determination to leave conversation led Mr. Clerk to observe, that he sup, the ship. At this moment, the mate was called to posed he believed also in ghosts, since he credited the deck for some purpose or other, and the instant

« PreviousContinue »