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The Deathbed

Categories: Dream
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

Miss C., a lady of excellent sense, religious but not bigoted, lived

before her marriage in the house of her uncle D., a celebrated

physician, and member of the Institute. Her mother at this time was

seriously ill in the country. One night the girl dreamed that she saw

her mother, pale and dying, and especially grieved at the absence of

two of her children: one a cure in Spain, the other--herself--in

Paris. Next sh
heard her own Christian name called, "Charlotte!"

and, in her dream, saw the people about her mother bring in her own

little niece and god-child Charlotte from the next room. The patient

intimated by a sign that she did not want _this_ Charlotte, but her

daughter in Paris. She displayed the deepest regret; her countenance

changed, she fell back, and died.

Next day the melancholy of Mademoiselle C. attracted the attention of

her uncle. She told him her dream; he pressed her to his heart, and

admitted that her mother was dead.

Some months later Mademoiselle C., when her uncle was absent, arranged

his papers, which he did not like any one to touch. Among these was a

letter containing the story of her mother's death, with all the

details of her own dream, which D. had kept concealed lest they should

impress her too painfully.

Boismont is staggered by this circumstance, and inclined to account

for it by "still unknown relations in the moral and physical world".

"Mental telegraphy," of course, would explain all, and even chance

coincidence is perfectly conceivable.

The most commonly known of dreams prior to, or simultaneous with an

historical occurrence represented in the vision, is Mr. Williams's

dream of the murder of Mr. Perceval in the lobby of the House of

Commons, May 11, 1812. Mr. Williams, of Scorrier House, near Redruth,

in Cornwall, lived till 1841. He was interested in mines, and a man

of substance. Unluckily the versions of his dream are full of

discrepancies. It was first published, apparently, in The Times

during the "silly season" of 1828 (August 28). According to The

Times, whose account is very minute, Mr. Williams dreamed of the

murder thrice before 2 a.m. on the night of May 11. He told Mrs.

Williams, and was so disturbed that he rose and dressed at two in the

morning. He went to Falmouth next day (May 12), and told the tale to

every one he knew. On the evening of the 13th he told it to Mr. and

Mrs. Tucker (his married daughter) of Tremanton Castle. Mr. Williams

only knew that the _chancellor_ was shot; Mr. Tucker said it must be

the Chancellor of the Exchequer. From the description he recognised

Mr. Perceval, with whom he was at enmity. Mr. Williams had never been

inside the House of Commons. As they talked, Mr. William's son

galloped up from Truro with news of the murder, got from a traveller

by coach. Six weeks later, Mr. Williams went to town, and in the

House of Commons walked up to and recognised the scene of the various

incidents in the murder.

So far The Times, in 1828. But two forms of a version of 1832 exist,

one in a note to Mr. Walpole's Life of Perceval (1874), "an attested

statement, drawn up and signed by Mr. Williams in the presence of the

Rev. Thomas Fisher and Mr. Charles Prideaux Brune". Mr. Brune gave it

to Mr. Walpole. With only verbal differences this variant corresponds

to another signed by Mr. Williams and given by him to his grandson,

who gave it to Mr. Perceval's great-niece, by whom it was lent to the

Society for Psychical Research.

These accounts differ toto coelo from that in The Times of 1828. The

dream is _not_ of May 11, but "about" May 2 or 3. Mr. Williams is

_not_ a stranger to the House of Commons; it is "a place well known to

me". He is _not_ ignorant of the name of the victim, but "understood

that it was Mr. Perceval". He thinks of going to town to give

warning. We hear nothing of Mr. Tucker. Mr. Williams does _not_

verify his dream in the House, but from a drawing. A Mr. C. R. Fox,

son of one to whom the dream was told _before_ the event, was then a

boy of fourteen, and sixty-one years later was sure that he himself

heard of Mr. Williams's dream _before_ the news of the murder arrived.

After sixty years, however, the memory cannot be relied upon.

One very curious circumstance in connection with the assassination of

Mr. Perceval has never been noticed. A rumour or report of the deed

reached Bude Kirk, a village near Annan, on the night of Sunday, May

10, a day before the crime was committed! This was stated in the

Dumfries and Galloway Courier, and copied in The Times of May 25. On

May 28, the Perth Courier quotes the Dumfries paper, and adds that

"the Rev. Mr. Yorstoun, minister of Hoddam (ob. 1833), has visited

Bude Kirk and has obtained the most satisfactory proof of the rumour

having existed" on May 10, but the rumour cannot be traced to its

source. Mr. Yorstoun authorises the mention of his name. The Times

of June 2 says that "the report is without foundation". If Williams

talked everywhere of his dream, on May 3, some garbled shape of it may

conceivably have floated to Bude Kirk by May 10, and originated the

rumour. Whoever started it would keep quiet when the real news

arrived for fear of being implicated in a conspiracy as accessory

before the fact. No trace of Mr. Williams's dream occurs in the

contemporary London papers.

The best version of the dream to follow is probably that signed by Mr.

Williams himself in 1832. {39a}

It may, of course, be argued by people who accept Mr. Williams's dream

as a revelation of the future that it reached his mind from the

_purpose_ conceived in Bellingham's mind, by way of "mental

telegraphy". {39b}