« AnteriorContinuar »
as affirmed by divers apparitions themselves, that a ghost has not the power to speak till it has been first spoken to; so that, notwithstanding the urgency of the business on which it may come, every thing must stand still till the person visited can find sufficient courage to speak to it; an event that sometimes does not take place for many years. It has not been found that female ghosts are more loquacious than those of the inale sex, both being equally restrained by this law.
The mode of addressing a ghost is by commanding it, in the name of the Three Persons of the Trinity, to tell you
who it is, and what is its business : this it may be necessary to repeat three times; after which it will, in a low and hollow voice, declare its satisfaction at being spoken to, and desire the party addressing it not to be afraid, for it will do him no harm. This being promised, it commonly enters into its narrative, which being completed, and its request or 'commands given, with injunctions that they be immediately executed, it vanishes away, frequently in a flash of light; in which case, some ghosts have been so considerate as to desire the party to whom they appeared to shut their eyes : sometimes its departure is attended with delightful music. During the narration of its business, a ghost must by no means be interrupted by questions of any kind; so doing is extremely dangerous : if any doubts arise, they must be stated after the spirit has done its tale. Questions respecting its state, or the state of any of their former acquaintance, are offensive, and not often answered, spirits, perhaps, being restrained from divulging the secrets of their prison-house. Occasionally spirits will even condescend to talk on common occurrences, as is instanced by Glanvil, in the apparition of major George Sydenham to captain William Dyke, Relation 10th, wherein the major reproved the captain for suffering a sword he had given him to grow rusty; saying, Captain, captain, this sword did not use to be kept after this manner when it was mine." This attention to the state of arms' was a remnant of the major's professional duty when living.
It is somewhat remarkable that ghosts do not go about their business like the persons of this world. In cases of murder, a ghost, instead of going to the next justice of the peace, and laying its information, or to the nearest relation of the person murdered, appears to some poor labourer who knows none of the parties, draws the curtains of some decrepit nurse or alms-woman, or hovers about the place where the body is deposited. The same circuitous mode is pursued with respect to redressing injured orphans or widows; when it seems as if the shortest and most certain
way would be, to go to the person guilty of the injustice, and haunt him continually till he were terrified into a restitution. Nor are the pointing out lost writings generally managed in a more summary way; the ghost cominonly applying to a third person, ignorant of the whole affair, and a stranger to all concerned.-But it is presumptuous to scrutinize too far into these matters : ghosts have, undoubtedly, forms and customs peculiar to themselves.
If, after the first appearance, the persons employed neglect or are prevented from performing the message or business committed to their management, the ghost · appears continually to them; at first with a discontented, next an angry, and at length with a furious countenance, threatening to tear them to pieces if the matter is not forthwith executed; sometimes terrifying them, as in Glanvil's Relation 26th, by appearing in many formidable shapes, and sometimes even striking them a violent blow.–Of blows given by ghosts there are many instances, and some wherein they have been followed with an incurable lameness.
It should have been observed, that ghosts, in delivering their commissions, in order to ensure belief, communicate to the persons employed some secret, known only to the parties concerned and themselves, the relation of which always produces the effect intended. The business being completed, ghosts appear with a cheerful countenance, saying they shall now be at rest, and will never more disturb any one; and,
thanking their agents, by way of reward communicate to them something relative to themselves, which they will never reveal.
Sometimes ghosts appear, and disturb a house, without deigning to give any reason for so doing : with these, the shortest and only way is to exorcise and eject them; or, as the vulgar term is, lay them. For this purpose there must be two or three clergymen, and the ceremony must be performed in Latin ; a language that strikes the most audacious ghost with terror. A ghost may be laid for any term less than a hundred years, and in any place or body, full or empty; as, a solid oak—the pommel of a sword—a barrel of beer, if a yeoman or simple gentleman-or a pipe of wine, if an esquire or a justice. But of all places the most common, and what a ghost least likes, is the Red Sea ; it being related, in many instances, that ghosts have inost earnestly besought the exorcists not to confine them in that place. It is nevertheless considered as an indisputable fact, that there are an infinite number laid there, perhaps from its being a safer prison than any other nearer at hand; for neither history nor tradition gives us any instance of ghosts escaping or returning from this kind of transportation before their time.
Having thus given the most striking outlines of the popular superstitions respecting ghosts, I shall next treat of another species of human apparition, which, though it something resembles it, does not come under the description of a ghost. These are the exact figures and resemblances of persons then living, often seen, not only by their friends at a distance, but many times by themselves; of which there are several instances in Aubrey's Miscellanies: one, of Sir Richard Napier, a physician of London, who, being on the road from Bedfordshire to visit a friend in Berkshire, saw at an inn his own apparition lying on the bed as a dead corpse: he nevertheless went forward, and died in a short time : another, of lady Diana Rich, daughter of the earl of Holland, who met her own apparition walking in a gar
den at Kensington, and died a month after of the smallpox. These apparitions are called Fetches, and, in Cumberland, Swarths; they most commonly appear to distant friends and relations, at the very instant preceding the death of the person whose figure they put on. Sometimes, as in the instances above-mentioned, there is a greater interval between the appearance and death.
SKETCH OF A TRADITION *.
“ His soul was wild, impetuous, and uncontrollable. He had a keen perception of the faults and vices of others, without the power of correcting his own; alike sensible of the nobility and of the darkness of his moral constitution, although unable to cultivate the one to the exclusion of the other.
“ In extreme youth, he led a lonely and secluded life in the solitude of a Swiss valley, in company with an only brother, some years older than himself, and a young female relative, who had been educated along with them from her birth. They lived under the care of an aged uncle, the guardian of those extensive domains which the brothers were destined jointly to inherit.
“A peculiar melancholy, cherished and increased by the utter seclusion of that sublime region, had, during the period of their infancy, preyed upon the mind of their father, and finally produced the most dreadful result. The fear of a similar tendency in the minds of the brothers induced their protector to remove them, at an early age, from the solitude of their native country. The elder was sent to a German university, and the younger completed his education in one of the Italian schools.
• This appears to have furnished the ground-work of Lord Byron's 16 Manfred.
“ After the lapse of many years, the old guardian died, and the elder of the brothers returned to his native valley: he there formed an attachment to the lady with whom he had passed his infancy; and she, after some fearful forebodings, which were unfortunately silenced by the voice of duty and of gratitude, accepted of his love, and became his wife.
“ In the meantime, the younger brother had left Italy, and travelled over the greater part of Europe. He mingled with the world, and gave full scope to every impulse of his feelings. But that world, with the exception of certain hours of boisterous passion and excitement, afforded him little pleasure, and made no lasting impression upon his heart. His greatest joy was in the wildest impulses of the imagination.
“ His spirit, though mighty and unbounded, from his early habits and education naturally tended to repose; he thought with delight on the sun rising among the Alpine snows, or gilding the peaks of the rugged hills with its evening rays. But within him he felt a fire burning for · ever, and which the snows of his native mountains could not quench. He feared that he was alone in the world, and that no being, kindred to his own, bad been created; but in his soul there was an image of angelic perfection, which he believed existed not on earth, but without which he knew he could not be happy. Despairing to find it in populous cities, he retired to his paternal domain. On again entering upon the scenes of his infancy, many new and singular feelings were experienced,—he is enchanted with the surpassing beauty of the scenery, and wonders that he should have rambled so long and so far from it. The noise and the bustle of the world were immediately forgotten on contemplating
The silence that is in the starry sky,
“ A light, as it were, broke around him, and exhi