« EelmineJätka »
out the character of a most considerate person.
I find, by one part of his will, he obliged his heir to consume a certain quantity of alé among his neighbours, on the day he was born; and by another, left a ring of bells to the church adjoining to his garden. It looks as if the old gentleman had not only an aversion to much reflection in himself, but endeavoured to provide against it in succeeding generations. I have heard that he sometimes boasted that he was a distant relation of Şir Roger de Coverly.
AN OPINION OF GHOSTS. It is remarkable how much the belief of ghosts and apparitions of persons departed, has lost ground within these fifty years. This may perhaps be explained by the general growth of knowledge; and by the consequent decay of superstition, even in those kingdoms where it is most essentially interwoven with religion. The same credulity, which disposed the mind to believe the miracles of a popish saint, set aside at once the interposition of reason; and produced a fondness for the marvellous, which it was the priest's advantage to promote. It may be natural enough to suppose that a belief of this kind might spread in the days of popish infatuation. A belief, as much supported by ignorance, as the ghosts themselves were indebted to the night. But whence comes it, that narratives of this kind have at any time been given, by persons of veracity, of judgment, and of learning? men neither liable to be deceived themselyes, nor to be suspected of an inclination to deceive others, tho' it were their interest; nor who could be supposed to have any interest in it, even tho' it were their inclination? Here seems a further explanation wanting than what can be drawn from superstition.
I go on a supposition, that the relations themselves were false. For as to the arguments sometimes used in this case, that had there been no true shilling there had been no counterfeit, it seems wholly a piece of sophistry. The true shilling here should mean the living person; and the counterfeit resemblance, the posthumous figure of him, that either strikes our senses or our imagination.
Supposing no ghost then ever appeared, is it a consequence that no man could ever imagine that they saw the figure of a person deceased ? Surely those, who say this, little know the force, the caprice, or the defects, of the imagination.
Persons after a debauch of liquor, or under the influence of terror, or in the deliria of a fever, or in a fit of lunacy, or even walking in their sleep, have had their brain as deeply impressed with chimerical representations as they could possibly have been, had these representations struck their senses. I have mentioned but a few instances, wherein the brain is primarily affected. Others may be given, perhaps not quite so common, where the stronger passions either acute or chronical, have impressed their object upon the brain ; and this in so lively a manner, as to leave the visionary no room to doubt of their real presence.
How difficult then must it be to undeceive a person as to objects thus imprinted? imprinted absolutely with the same force as their eyes themselves could have pour-trayed them! and how many persons must there needs be, who could never be undeceived at all! Some of these causes might not improbably have given rise to the notion of apparitions: and when the notion had been once promulgated, it had a natural tendency to produce more instances. The gloom of night, that was productive of terror, would be naturally productive of apparitions. The event confirmed it. The passion of grief for a departed friend, of horror for a murdered enemy, of remorse for a wronged testator, of love for a mistress killed by inconstancy, of gratitude to a wife of long fidelity, of desire to be reconciled to one who died at variance, of impatience to vindicate what was falsely construed, of propensity to consult with an adviser that is lost. The more faint as well as the more powerful passions, when bearing relation to a person deceased, have often, I fancy, with concurrent circumstances, been sufficient to exhibit the dead to the living. But, what is more, there seems no other account that is adequate to the case as I have stated it. Allow this, and you have, at once, a reason, why the most upright may have published a falsehood, and the most judicious confirmed an absurdity.
Supposing then that apparitions of this kind may have some real use in God's moral government: is not any moral purpose, for which they may be employed, as effectually answered on my supposition, as the other? for surely it cannot be of any importance, by what means the brajn receives these images. The effect, the conviction, and the resolution consequent, may be just the same in either of the cases.
Such appears to me, at least, to be the true existence of apparitions. The reasons against any external ap
parition, among others that may be brought, are these that follow.
They are, I think, never seen by day; and darkness being the season of terror and uncertainty, and the imagination less restrained, they are never visible to more than one person: which had more probably been the case, were not the vision internal.
They have not been reported to have appeared these twenty years. What cause can be assigned, were their existence real, for so great a change as their discontinuance? The cause of superstition has lost ground for this last century: the notion of ghosts has been, altogether exploded : a reason why the imagination should be less prone to conceive them ; but not a reason why they themselves should cease. Most of those, who relate that these spectres have appeared to them, have been persons either deeply superstitious in other respects; of enthusiastic imaginations, or strong passions, which are the consequence; or else have allowedly felt some perturbation at the time. Some few instances may be supposed, where the ca"price of imagination, so very remarkable in dreams, may have presented fantasms to those that waked. I believe there are few but can recollect some, wherein it has wrought mistakes, at least equal to that of a white horse for a winding-sheet.
To conclude. As my hypothesis supposes the chimera la give terror equal to the reality, our best means of avoiding it, is to keep a strict guard over our passions.—To avoid intemperance as we would a charnel-house; and by making frequent appeals to cool reason and common sense, secure to ourselves the property of a well-regulated imagination.
certain persons famous for their taste, their learning and refinement: but, as ill-luck would have it, two fellows, duller than the rest, had contrived to put themselves on a level, by introducing a game at cards. • It is a sign,' said he, 'the world is far gone in absurdity, or surely the fashion of cards would be accounted no small one. Is it not surprising that men of sense should submit to join in this idle custom, which appears originally invented to supply it's deficiency? But such is the fatality! im. perfections give rise to fashions! and are folļowed by those who do not labour under the defects that introduced them. Nor is the hoop the only instance of a fashion invented by those who found their account in it; and afterwards countenanced by others to whose figure it was prejudicial.
How can men, who value theniselves on their reflections, give encouragement to a practice, which puts an end to thinking?' I intimated the old allusion of the bow, that acquires fresh vigour by a temporary reJaxation. He answered, this might be applicable, provided I could shew, that cards did not require the pain of thinking; and merely exclude from it, the profit and the pleasure. Cards, if one may guess from their first appearance, seem invented for the use of children ; and, among the toys peculiar tó infancy, the bells, the whistle, the rattle, and the hobby-horse, deserved their share of commendation. By degrees men, wbo came nearest to