The Book of Dreams and Ghosts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 292 pages of information about The Book of Dreams and Ghosts.

Out of seven versions, a bird, or a fluttering noise as of a bird (a common feature in ghost stories), {130a} with a woman following or accompanying, occurs in six.  The phenomena are almost equally ascribed to dreaming and to waking hallucination, but the common-sense of the eighteenth century called all ghosts “dreams”.  In the Westcote narrative (1780) Lyttelton explains the dream by his having lately been in a room with a lady, Mrs. Dawson, when a robin flew in.  Yet, in the same narrative, Lyttelton says on Saturday morning “that he was very well, and believed he should bilk the ghost”.  He was certainly in bed at the time of the experience, and probably could not be sure whether he was awake or asleep. {130b}

Considering the remoteness of time, the story is very well recorded.  It is chronicled by Mrs. Thrale before the news of Lyttelton’s death reached her, and by Lady Mary Coke two days later, by Walpole on the day after the peer’s decease, of which he had heard.  Lord Lyttelton’s health had for some time been bad; he had made his will a few weeks before, and his nights were horror-haunted.  A little boy, his nephew, to whom he was kind, used to find the wicked lord sitting by his bed at night, because he dared not be alone.  So Lockhart writes to his daughter, Mrs. Hope Scott. {131} He had strange dreams of being in hell with the cruel murderess, Mrs. Brownrigg, who “whipped three female ’prentices to death and hid them in the coal-hole”.  Such a man might have strange fancies, and a belief in approaching death might bring its own fulfilment.  The hypothesis of a premeditated suicide, with the story of the ghost as a last practical joke, has no corroboration.  It occurred to Horace Walpole at once, but he laid no stress on it.

Such is a plain, dry, statistical account of the most extraordinary event that happened in Dr. Johnson’s day.

However, the story does not end here.  On the fatal night, 27th November, 1779, Mr. Andrews, M.P., a friend of Lyttelton’s was awakened by finding Lord Lyttelton drawing his curtains.  Suspecting a practical joke, he hunted for his lordship both in his house and in the garden.  Of course he never found him.  The event was promptly recorded in the next number of the Scots Magazine, December, 1779. {132}

CHAPTER VII More Ghosts With A Purpose

The Slaying of Sergeant Davies in 1749.  The Trial.  Scott’s Theory.  Curious recent Corroboration of Sir Walter’s Hypothesis.  Other Trials involving Ghostly Evidence.  Their Want of Authenticity.  “Fisher’s Ghost” criticised.  The Aylesbury Murder.  The Dog o’ Mause.  The Ghosts of Dogs.  Peter’s Ghost.

Much later in time than the ghost of Sir George Villiers is the ghost of Sergeant Davies, of Guise’s regiment.  His purpose was, first, to get his body buried; next, to bring his murderers to justice.  In this latter desire he totally failed.

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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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