Recently, when we were, so to say, sitting around the borders of the supernatural late at night, Mandeville related a dream of his which he assured us was true in every particular, and it interested us so much that we asked him to write it out. In doing so he has curtailed it, and to my mind shorn it of some of its more vivid and picturesque features. He might have worked it up with more art, and given it a finish which the narration now lacks, but I think best to insert it in its simplicity. It seems to me that it may properly be called,
A NEW “VISION OF SIN”
In the winter of 1850 I was a member of one of the leading colleges of this country. I was in moderate circumstances pecuniarily, though I was perhaps better furnished with less fleeting riches than many others. I was an incessant and indiscriminate reader of books. For the solid sciences I had no particular fancy, but with mental modes and habits, and especially with the eccentric and fantastic in the intellectual and spiritual operations, I was tolerably familiar. All the literature of the supernatural was as real to me as the laboratory of the chemist, where I saw the continual struggle of material substances to evolve themselves into more volatile, less palpable and coarse forms. My imagination, naturally vivid, stimulated by such repasts, nearly mastered me. At times I could scarcely tell where the material ceased and the immaterial began (if I may so express it); so that once and again I walked, as it seemed, from the solid earth onward upon an impalpable plain, where I heard the same voices, I think, that Joan of Arc heard call to her in the garden at Domremy. She was inspired, however, while I only lacked exercise. I do not mean this in any literal sense; I only describe a state of mind. I was at this time of spare habit, and nervous, excitable temperament. I was ambitious, proud, and extremely sensitive. I cannot deny that I had seen something of the world, and had contracted about the average bad habits of young men who have the sole care of themselves, and rather bungle the matter. It is necessary to this relation to admit that I had seen a trifle more of what is called life than a young man ought to see, but at this period I was not only sick of my experience, but my habits were as correct as those of any Pharisee in our college, and we had some very favorable specimens of that ancient sect.
Nor can I deny that at this period of my life I was in a peculiar mental condition. I well remember an illustration of it. I sat writing late one night, copying a prize essay,—a merely manual task, leaving my thoughts free. It was in June, a sultry night, and about midnight a wind arose, pouring in through the open windows, full of mournful reminiscence, not of this, but of other summers,—the same wind that De Quincey heard at noonday in midsummer blowing through the room where he stood, a mere boy,