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Dream Of Mr Perceval's Murder






"SUNDHILL, December, 1832.

"[Some account of a dream which occurred to John Williams, Esq., of
Scorrier House, in the county of Cornwall, in the year 1812. Taken
from his own mouth, and narrated by him at various times to several of
his friends.]

"Being desired to write out the particulars of a remarkable dream
which I had in the year 1812, before I do so I think it may be proper
for me to say that at that time my attention was fully occupied with
affairs of my own--the superintendence of some very extensive mines in
Cornwall being entrusted to me. Thus I had no leisure to pay any
attention to political matters, and hardly knew at that time who
formed the administration of the country. It was, therefore, scarcely
possible that my own interest in the subject should have had any share
in suggesting the circumstances which presented themselves to my
imagination. It was, in truth, a subject which never occurred to my
waking thoughts.

"My dream was as follows:--

"About the second or third day of May, 1812, I dreamed that I was in
the lobby of the House of Commons (a place well known to me). A small
man, dressed in a blue coat and a white waistcoat, entered, and
immediately I saw a person whom I had observed on my first entrance,
dressed in a snuff-coloured coat with metal buttons, take a pistol
from under his coat and present it at the little man above-mentioned.
The pistol was discharged, and the ball entered under the left breast
of the person at whom it was directed. I saw the blood issue from the
place where the ball had struck him, his countenance instantly
altered, and he fell to the ground. Upon inquiry who the sufferer
might be, I was informed that he was the chancellor. I understood him
to be Mr. Perceval, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I further
saw the murderer laid hold of by several of the gentlemen in the room.
Upon waking I told the particulars above related to my wife; she
treated the matter lightly, and desired me to go to sleep, saying it
was only a dream. I soon fell asleep again, and again the dream
presented itself with precisely the same circumstances. After waking
a second time and stating the matter again to my wife, she only
repeated her request that I would compose myself and dismiss the
subject from my mind. Upon my falling asleep the third time, the same
dream without any alteration was repeated, and I awoke, as on the
former occasions, in great agitation. So much alarmed and impressed
was I with the circumstances above related, that I felt much doubt
whether it was not my duty to take a journey to London and communicate
upon the subject with the party principally concerned. Upon this
point I consulted with some friends whom I met on business at the
Godolphin mine on the following day. After having stated to them the
particulars of the dream itself and what were my own feelings in
relation to it, they dissuaded me from my purpose, saying I might
expose myself to contempt and vexation, or be taken up as a fanatic.
Upon this I said no more, but anxiously watched the newspapers every
evening as the post arrived.

"On the evening of the 13th of May (as far as I recollect) no account
of Mr. Perceval's death was in the newspapers, but my second son,
returning from Truro, came in a hurried manner into the room where I
was sitting and exclaimed: 'O father, your dream has come true! Mr.
Perceval has been shot in the lobby of the House of Commons; there is
an account come from London to Truro written after the newspapers were
printed.'

"The fact was Mr. Percival was assassinated on the evening of the
11th.

"Some business soon after called me to London, and in one of the
print-shops I saw a drawing for sale, representing the place and the
circumstances which attended Mr. Perceval's death. I purchased it,
and upon a careful examination I found it to coincide in all respects
with the scene which had passed through my imagination in the dream.
The colours of the dresses, the buttons of the assassin's coat, the
white waistcoat of Mr. Perceval, the spot of blood upon it, the
countenances and attitudes of the parties present were exactly what I
had dreamed.

"The singularity of the case, when mentioned among my friends and
acquaintances, naturally made it the subject of conversation in
London, and in consequence my friend, the late Mr. Rennie, was
requested by some of the commissioners of the navy that they might be
permitted to hear the circumstances from myself. Two of them
accordingly met me at Mr. Rennie's house, and to them I detailed at
the time the particulars, then fresh in my memory, which form the
subject of the above statement.

"I forbear to make any comment on the above narrative, further than to
declare solemnly that it is a faithful account of facts as they
actually occurred.

(Signed) "JOHN WILLIAMS." {42}

When we come to dreams of the future, great historical examples are
scarce indeed, that is, dreams respectably authenticated. We have to
put up with curious trivialities. One has an odd feature.





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Previous: The Deathbed



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