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Footfalls on the boundary of another world : with narrative illustrations online

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tively decided not to accept the man of their choice ; and
from thenceforward they no longer pressed the matter.

Some time afterward, at a village ball, she recognized
the young traveler, just as he had appeared in hei
dream. She blushed. He was attracted by her appear-
ance, fell in love, as the phrase is, at first sight, and
after a brief interval they were married. Her husband
is M. Emile de la Bedolliere, one of the editors of the
Paris journal the "Sieele;" and, in a letter to J>r.


Macario, dated Paris, 13th December, 1854, he certifies
to the accuracy, in every particular, of the above relation,
adding other details. He states that it was at a sub-
scription ball, held in August, 1833, at the house of a
man named Jacquemart, which he visited in company
with his friend, Eugene Lafaure, that he first saw his
future wife, Angele Bobin; that her emotion on seeing
him was apparent, and that he ascertained from the
lady at whose pension the young girl then was, Made-
moiselle Porcerat by name, that she who afterward be-
came Madame de la Bedolliere had given to her teacher,
long before his own accidental appearance for the first
time at La Charite, an accurate description of his person
and dress.*

In this case, though the coincidence seems remark-
able, we may, as to the matter of personal resemblance,
allow something to chance and something to latitude of
imagination in an enthusiastic young girl. For the
rest, the conscious blush of a village beauty was suffi-
cient to attract the attention and interest the heart of a
young traveler, perhaps of ardent and impressible tem-
perament. It would be presumptuous positively to
assert that these considerations furnish the true expla-
nation. But the possibility is to be conceded that they
may do so.

So in another case, the dream or vision of Sir Charles
Lee's daughter, in which, however, it was death, not
marriage, that was foreshadowed. Though it occurred
nearly two hundred years ago, it is very well authenti-
cated, having been related by Sir Charles Lee himself
to the Bishop of Gloucester, and by the Bishop of Glou-
cester to Beaumont, who published it, soon after he

'* " Du Sommeil, dta RSvet, t du Somnanbulfome," by Dr. M&o&rio, Ex-
iieputy of &e Sardinian Parliament, Lyons, -1867, pp. SO, 81.


heard it, in a postscript to his well-known '' Treatise of
Spirits." Thence I transcribe it.


" Having lately had the honor to hear a relation of
an apparition from the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, and
it being too late for me to insert it in its proper place in
this book, I give it you here by way of postscript, as
follows :

" Sir Charles Lee, by his first lady, had only one
daughter, of which she died in childbirth; and, when
she was dead, her sister, the Lady Everard, desir'd to
have the education of the child ; and she was by
her very well educated till she was marriageable;
and a match was concluded for her with Sir William
Perkins, but was then prevented in an extraordinary
manner. Upon a Thursday night, she, thinking she saw
a light in her chamber after she was in bed, knock'd foi
her maid, who presently came to her; and she asked
why she left a candle burning in her chamber. The
maid said she left none, and there was none but what
she brought with her at that time. Then she said it was
the fire; but that, her maid told her, was quite out, and
said she believed it was only a dream ; whereupon she
said it might be so, and compos'd herself again to sleep.
But about two of the clock she was awaken'd again, and
saw the apparition of a little woman between her cur-
tain and her pillow, who told her she was her mother,
that she was happy, and that by twelve o'clock that
day she should be with her. Whereupon she knock'd
again for her maid, called for her clothes, and, when she
was dress'd, went into her closet, and came not out
again till nine, and then brought out with her a letter
sealed to hei father, brought it to her aunt, the Lady
Everard, told her what had happen'd, and desir'd that,
as soon as she was dead, it might be sent to him. But


the lady thought she was suddenly fall'n mad, and
thereupon sent presently away to Chelmsford for a phy-
sician and surgeon, who both came immediately; but the
physician could discern no indication of what the lady
imagin'd, or of any indisposition of her body. Not-
withstanding, the lady would needs have her let blood,
which was done accordingly. And when the young
woman had patiently let them do what they would with
her, she desir'd that the chaplain might be called to
read prayers; and when the prayers were ended she
took her gittar and psalm-book, and sate down upon a
chair without arms, and play'd and sung so melodiously
and admirably that her musick-master, who was then
there, admired at it. And near the stroke of twelve she
rose, and sate herself down in a great chair with arms,
and presently, fetching a strong breathing or two, imme-
diately expired ; and was so suddenly cold as was much
wondered at by the physician and surgeon. She dyed
at Waltham, in Essex, three miles from Chelmsford;
and the letter was sent to Sir Charles, at his house in
Warwickshire ; but he was so afflicted with the death
of his daughter, that he came not till she was buried ;
but, when he came, caus'd her to be taken up and to be
buried by her mother at Edminton, as she desir'd in her
letter. This was about the year 1662 or 1663. And that
relation the Lord Bishop of Gloucester had from Sir
Charles Lee himself."*

In the case here narrated, though it be doubtless an
extraordinary and unusual thing for any one, not re-
duced by sickness to an extreme state of nervous weak-
ness, to be so overcome by imagination that a confident

* "An Historical, Physiological, and Theological Treatise of Spiritt" bj
John Beaumont, Gent., London, 1705, pp. 393 to 400.


expectation of death at a particular hour should cause
it, even within a few minutes after the patient was, to
all appearance, in good health, yet, as such things may
possibly be, we cannot in this case, any more than in
the preceding example, absolutely deny that the dream
itself may have been instrumental in working out its

There are many other dreams, however, as to the ful-
fillment of which no such explanation can be given. One
of the best known and most celebrated is that of Cal-
phurnia, on the night before the Ides of March. We
read that she almost succeeded in imparting to her hus-
band the alarm which this warning of his death created
in herself, and that Caesar was finally confirmed in his
original intention to proceed to the Senate-chamber by
the ridicule of one of the conspirators, who made light
of the matron's fears.*

Those fears, natural in one whose husband, through a
thousand perils, had reached so dangerous a height,
might, indeed, have suggested the dream ; and its exact
time may possibly have been determined by the predic-
tion of that augur, Spurina, who had bidden the dictator
beware of the Ides' of March. So that here again,
though the dream had no effect in working out its fulfill-
ment, apparent causes may be imagined to account
for it.

A dream of somewhat similar character, occurring in
modern times, is cited in several medical works, and

* Plutarch tells us that the arguments which Calphurnia used, and the
urgent manner in which she expressed herself, moved and alarmed her
husband, especially when he called to mind that he had never before known
in her any thing of the weakness or superstition of her sex ; whereas now
she was afiected in an extraordinary manner, conjuring him not to go to
the Senate that day. And, he adds, had it not been for the suggestions of
Decius Brutus Albinus, one of the conspirators, but a man in whom Caesar
placed much confidence, these arguments would have prevailed.


vouched for, as " entirely authentic," by Abercrombie.*
It is as follows :


Major and Mrs. Griffith, of Edinburgh, then residing in
the Castle, had received into their house their nephew,
Mr. Joseph D'Acre, of Kirklinton, in the county of Cum-
berland, a young gentleman who had come to the
Scottish capital for the purpose of attending college,
and had been specially recommended to his relatives'
care. One afternoon Mr. D'Acre communicated to
them his intention of joining some of his young com-
panions on the morrow in a fishing-party to Inch-Keith ;
and to this no objection was made. During the ensuing
night, however, Mrs. Griffith started from a troubled
dream, exclaiming, in accents of terror, " The boat is
sinking! Oh, save them !" Her husband ascribed it to
apprehension on her part ; but she declared that she had
no uneasiness whatever about the fishing-party, and
indeed had not thought about it. So she again com-
posed herself to sleep. When, however, a similar dream
was thrice repeated in the course of the night, (the last
time presenting the image of the boat lost and the
whole party drowned,) becoming at last seriously alarmed,
she threw on her wrapping-gown and, without waiting
for morning, proceeded to her nephew's room. With
some difficulty she persuaded him to relinquish hia
design, and to send his servant to Leith with an excuse.
The morning was fine, and the party embarked; but
about three o'clock a storm suddenly arose, the boat
foundered, and all on board were lost.f

* "Intellectual Pouters," 15th ed., p. 215. Abercrombie condenses the story
and omits the names,
t Independently of Abercrombie's voucher, this narrative is perfectly


Here it may be alleged, that, as the aunt, in her
waking state, experienced no apprehension for her
nephew's safety, it is not at all likely that alarm on her
part should have suggested the dream. I have shown,
however, from my own experience, that dreams may be
suggested by incidents that have made but trifling im-
pression, and that had ceased to occupy the mind at the
time of going to sleep. And, inasmuch as the risk at-
tending sailing-parties on the Firth of Forth to young
people, careless, probably, and thoughtless of danger, is
considerable, the chances against a fatal result, in any
particular case, cannot be regarded as so overwhelmingly
great that we are precluded from adopting the hypo-
thesis of an accidental coincidence. Cicero says, truly
enough, " What person who aims at a mark all day will
not sometimes hit it ? We sleep every night, and there
are few on which wo do not dream : can we wonder,
then, that what we dream sometimes comes to pass ?"*

Yet, if such examples should be found greatly mul-
tiplied, and particularly if details, as well as the general
result, correspond accurately with the warning, the
probabilities against a chance coincidence increase.

But it is very certain that such instances are much

well authenticated. The late Mary Lady Clerk, of Pennicuik, well known
in Edinburgh during a protracted widowhood, was a daughter of Mr.
D'Acre; and she herself communicated the story to Blackwood's Magazine,
(vol. xix. p. 73,) in a letter dated "Princes Street, May 1, 1826," and
commencing thus : " Being in company the other day when the conversa-
tion turned upon dreams, I related one, of which, as it happened to my
own father, I can answer for the -perfect truth." She concludes thus : "I
often heard the story from my father, who always added, ' It has not made
me superstitious ; but with awful gratitude I never can forget that my life,
under Providence, was saved by a dream/ M. C."

In the Magazine (of which I have followed, but somewhat abridged, the
version) the names are initialized only. Through the kindness of an
Edinburgh friend, I am enabled to fill them up from a copy of the anecdote
in which they were given in full by Lady Clerk in her own handwriting.

* "De Divinatione," lib. ii. 59.


more numerous throughout society than those who have
given slight attention to the subject imagine. MCD
usually relate with reluctance that which exposes them
to the imputation of credulity. It is to an intimate
friend only, or to one known to be seriously examining
the question, that such confidences are commonly made.
In the three or four years last past, during which I have
taken an interest in this and kindred subjects, there
have been communicated to me so many examples of
dreams containing true warnings, or otherwise strangely
fulfilled, that I have become convinced there is a very
considerable proportion of all the persons we meet in
our intercourse with the world, who could relate to us,
if they would, one or more such, as having occurred
either in their own families or to some of their acquaint-
ances. I feel assured that among those who may read
this book there will be few who could not supply evi-
dence in support of the opinion here expressed.

I proceed to furnish, from among the narratives of
this character which have thus recently come to my
knowledge, a few specimens, for the authenticity of
which I can vouch.

In the year 1818, Signer Alessandro Eomano, the
head of an old and highly -respected Neapolitan family,
was at Patu, in the province of Terra d'Otranto, in the
kingdom of Naples. He dreamed one night that the
wife of the Cavaliere Libetta, Counselor of the Supreme
Court, and his friend and legal adviser, who was then in
the city of Naples, was dead. Although Signer Romano
had not heard of the Signora Libetta being ill, or even
indisposed, yet the extreme vividness of the dream pro-
duced a great impression on his mind and spirits; and
the next morning he repeated it to his family, adding
that it had disturbed him greatly, not only on account
of his friendship for the family, but also because the
Cavaliere had then in charge for him a lawsuit of im-


portance, which he feared this domestic affliction might
cause him to neglect.

Patu is two hundred and eighty miles from Naples;
and it was several days before any confirmation or refu-
tation of Signor Romano's fears could be obtained. At
last he received a letter from the Cavaliere Libetta, in-
forming him that he had lost his wife by death ; and, on
comparing dates, it was found that she died on the very
night of Signor Romano's dream.

This fact was communicated to me by my friend Don
Giuseppe Romano,* son of the gentleman above referred
to, who was living in his father's house when the inci-
dent took place, and heard him relate his dream the
morning after it occurred.

Here is another, which was narrated to me, I re-
member, while walking, one beautiful day in June, in
the Villa Reale, (the fashionable park of Naples, having
a magnificent view over the bay,) by a member of the
A legation, one of the most intelligent and agree-
able acquaintances I made in that city.

On the 16th of October, 1850, being then in the city
of Naples, this gentleman dreamed that he was by the
bedside of his father, who appeared to be in the agonies
of death, and that after a time he saw him expire.
He awoke in a state of great excitement, bathed in cold
perspiration ; and the impression on his mind was so
strong that he immediately rose, though it was still
night, dressed himself, and wrote to his father, inquiring
after Ms health. His father was then at Trieste, dis-
tant from Naples, by the nearest route, five days' jour-
ney; and the son had no cause whatever, except
the above dream, to be uneasy about him, seeing that

* On the 25th of April, 1858, at his villa, near Naples. I took notes
of the occurrence at the. time, which ^ere then and there examined ucd
corrected by the narrator.


his age did not exceed fifty, and that no intelligence of
his illness, or even indisposition, had been received. He
waited for a reply with some anxiety for three weeks,
at the end of which time came an official communica-
tion to the chef of the mission, requesting him to inform
the son that it behooved him to take some legal measures
in regard to the property of his father, who had died
at Trieste, after a brief illness, on the sixteenth of October.

it will be observed that in this instance the agitation
of mind in the dreamer was much greater than com-
monly occurs in the case of an ordinary dream. The
gentleman rose, dressed himself in the middle of the
night, and immediately wrote to his father, so great was
his anxiety in regard to that parent's fate. The same
may usually be noticed in the record of cases in which
the dream is fulfilled, even if the person to whom it-
occurs is a skeptic in all such presentiments.

Such a skeptic is Macnish, author of the " Philosophy
of Sleep;"* yet he admits the effect which such a dream,
occurring to himself in the month of August, 1821, pro-
duced upon his spirits. I quote the narrative in his own
words :

"I was then in Caithness, when I dreamed that a
near relation of my own, residing three hundred miles
off, had suddenly died ; and immediately thereafter awoke
in a state of inconceivable terror, similar to that pro-
duced by a paroxysm of nightmare. The same day,
happening to be writing home, I mentioned the circum-
stance in a half-jesting, half-earnest way. To^Jell the
truth, I was afraid to be serious, lest I should be laughed

* Speaking of the hypothesis that dreams may at times give us an in-
sight into futurity, Macnish says, " This opinion is so singularly unphilo-
sophical that I would not have noticed it, were it not advocated by personi
of g.jod sense and education." Philotnphy of Sleep, p. 129.

But, after all, it avails nothing to allege that an opinion is unphilosophica)
if it should happen that fact* attest its truth.


at for putting any faith in dreams. However, in the
interval between writing and receiving an answer I
remained in a state of most unpleasant suspense. I felt
a presentiment that something dreadful had happened
or would happen; and, though I could not help blaming
myself for a childish weakness in so feeling, I was un-
able to get rid of the painful idea which had taken such
rooted possession of my mind. Three days after sending
away the letter, what was my astonishment when I re-
ceived one written the day subsequent to mine, and
stating that the relative of whom I had dreamed had
been struck with a fatal shock of palsy the day before,
that is, the very day on the morning of which I had
beheld the appearance in my dream ! 1 may state that
my relative was in perfect health before the fatal event
took place. It came upon him like a thunderbolt, at a
period when no one could have the slightest anticipation
of danger."*

Here is a witness disinterested beyond all possible
doubt; for he is supplying evidence against his own
opinions. But are the effects he narrates such as are
usually produced by a mere dream on the mind of a
person not infected with superstition? Inconceivable
terror, though there was no nightmare ; a presentiment
lasting for days, taking rooted possession of the feelings,
and which he strove in vain to shake off, that something
dreadful had happened or would happen ! Yet, with all
this alarm, unnatural under ordinary circumstances,
how does the narrator regard the case? He sets down
his terrors as a childish weakness, and declares, as to
the coincidence which so excited his astonishment, that
there is nothing in it to justify us in referring it to any
other origin than chance. Taking the case as an iso-
lated one, it would be illogical positively to deny this;

* "Philosophy of Sleep," 6th ed., pp. 134-136


yet may we not fairly include Dr. Macnish in the cate-
gory of those to whom Dr. Johnson alludes when, speak
ing of the reality of ultramundane agency, he says that
"some who deny it with their tongues confess it with
their fears"?

The next example I shall cite came, in part, within
my own personal knowledge. A colleague of the diplo-
matic corps, and intimate friend of mine, M. de S ,

had engaged for himself and his lady passage for South
America in a steamer, to sail on the 9th of May, 1856.
A few days after their passage was taken, a friend of
theirs and mine had a dream which caused her serious
uneasiness. She saw, in her sleep, a ship in a violent
storm founder at sea; and an internal intimation mado
her aware that it was the same on board which the
S s proposed to embark. So lively was the impres-
sion that, on awaking, she could scarcely persuade her-
self the vision was not reality. Dropping again to sleep,
the same dream recurred a second time. This increased
her anxiety; and the next day she asked my advice as
to whether she ought not to state the circumstances to
her friends. Having, at that time, no faith whatever
in such intimations, I recommended her not to do so,
since it would not probably cause them to change their
plans, yet might make them uncomfortable to no pur-
pose. So she suffered them to depart unadvised of the
fact. It so happened, however, as I learned a few weeks
later, that fortuitous circumstances induced my friends
to alter their first intention, and, having given up their
places, to take passage in another vessel.

These particulars had nearly passed from my
memory, when, long afterward, being at the Eussian
Minister's, his lady said to me, "How fortunate that

our friends the S s did not go in the vessel they

had first selected!" "Why so?" I asked. "Have, you
not heard," she replied, "that that vessel is lost? It


must have perished at sea; for, though more than six
months have elapsed since it left port, it has never been
heard of."

In this case, it will be remarked, the dream was com-
municated to myself some weeks or months before its
warning was fulfilled. It is to be conceded, however,
that the chances against its fulfillment were not so great
as in some of the preceding examples. The chances
against a vessel about to cross the Atlantic being lost
on that particular voyage, are much less than are the
chances against a man, say of middle age and in good
health, dying on any one particular day.

In the next example we shall find a new element intro-
duced. Mrs. S- related to me, that, residing in

Home in June, 1856, she dreamed, on the 30th of that
month, that her mother, who had been several years
dead, appeared to her, gave her a lock of hair, and said,
" Be especially careful of this lock of hair, my child, for
it is your father's; and the angels will call him away
from you to-morrow. " The effect of this dream on Mrs.
S 's spirits was such that, when she awoke, she ex-
perienced the greatest alarm, and caused a telegraphic
notice to be instantly dispatched to England, where her
father was, to inquire after his health. No immediate
reply was received; but, when it did come, it was to
the effect that her father had died that morning at nine
o'clock. She afterward learned that, two days before
his death, he had caused to be cut off a lock of his hair,
and handed it to one of his daughters, who was attend-
ing on him, telling her it was for her sister in Home.
He had been ill of a chronic disease; but the last -ac-
counts she received of his health had been favorable,
and had given reason to hope that he might yet survive
for some years.*

* Read over to Mrs. S on the 26th of April, 1858, and its accuracy

Assented to by her.


The peculiarity in this example is, that there is a
double coincidence: first, as to the exact day of death;
and, secondly, as to the lock of hair. The chances
against that double event are very much greater than
against a single occurrence only.

Abercrombie relates and vouches for the following, in
which, in a similar manner, a double event was truly fore-

A clergyman, who had come to Edinburgh from a
short distance, being asleep at an inn, dreamed of seeing
a fire, and one of his children in the midst of it. He
awoke with the impression, and instantly started out on
his journey home. Arrived within sight of his house,
he found it in flames, and reached it just in time to
rescue one of his children, who in the confusion had
been left in a situation of great danger.*

On this Abercrombie remarks, that, "without calling
in question the possibility of supernatural communica-
tion in such cases," he thinks the incident may be ex-
plained on natural principles; as originating, namely,
in paternal anxiety, coupled, perhaps, with experience
of carelessness in the servants left in charge. We may

Online LibraryRobert Dale OwenFootfalls on the boundary of another world : with narrative illustrations → online text (page 13 of 42)