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head shaved, and betake myself to some place of safe custody with as little delay as may be. In the arrogance of my supposed wisdom, I should myself, only a few weeks ago, have probably adopted one of these courses towards any other similar delinquent, which will secure me from any splenetic feeling, however boisterous may be the mirth, or bitter the irony, with which I may be twitted and taunted for the following narration. I have no sinister purposes to answer, no particu. lar creed to advocate, no 'theory to establish; and writing with the perfect conviction of truth, and the full possession of my faculties, I am determined not to suppress what I conscientiously believe to be facts, merely because they may militate against received opinions, or happen to be inconsistent with the ordinary course of human experience.
The author of the Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, represents Berkeley as teaching us, " that external objects are nothing but ideas in our minds ; that matter exists not but in our minds ; and that, independent of us and our faculties, the earth, the sun, and the starry heavens have no existence at all ; that a lighted candle is not white, nor luminous, nor round, nor divisible, nor extended ; but that for any thing we know, or can ever know to the contrary, it
be an Egyptian pyramid, the King of Prussia, a mad dog, the island of Madagascar, Saturn's ring, one of the Pleiades, or nothing at all." If this be a faithful representation of Berkeley's theory, it may be adduced as a striking illustration of the perversity of human reason, that such a man shall be deemed a philosopher, and persuade bishops and divines, in spite of the evidence of their senses, to adopt his notions, and deny the existence of matter ; while the poor wight, who, in conformity to the evidence of his senses, maintains the existence of disem-. bodied spirit, is hooted and run down as a driveller and a dotard. Dr. Johnson's argument, that the universal belief in ghosts, in all ages and among all nations, confirms the fact of their apparition, is futile and inconclusive ; for the same reasoning would establish the truth of necromancy, witchcraft, idolatry, and other superstitions ; but the opposers of this belief not only brand as impostors all those who relate their own experiences of its confirmation ; they not only repudiate the Agatho-dæmon of Socrates, and slight the averment of Scripture, that Saul desired the Witch of Endor to raise up the spirits of those whom he should name ; but they deny even the possibility of the fact. To admit a posthumous existence in the next world, and reject the competency of nature to accomplish a similar mystery in this, is surely an unwarranted limitation of her powers. Who shall circumscribe the metamorphoses of our being? When we start from the ante-natal void into existence, the change is certainly wonderful; but it is still more strange, startling, and incomprehensible, when we quit life in the fulness of intellect, and return into the invisible world. In the first case, we advance from nonentity to a very confined state of consciousness, to an animal existence, for an infant has no mind. That celestial portion of our system is evolved by the painful elaboration of time and of our own efforts ; it requires a series of years to perfect its inscrutable developement; and is this sublime image and emanation of the Deity to be suddenly, instantly, degraded into a clod of earth, an inert lump of matter, without undergoing any intermediate state of
existence between death and final resurrection ? Abstract theory sanctions the supposition of Ghosts; and by what authority do we gainsay those who solemnly declare that they have beheld them? They never appear, it is urged, to more than one person at a time, which is a strong presumption of individual falsehood or delusion. How so?—this may be the law of their manifestation. If I press the corners of my eyes, I see consecutive circles of light, like a rainbow ;, nobody else can discern them- but will it be therefore maintained that I do not? It is notorious, that in dreams objects are presented to us with even a more vivid distinctness than they assume to the visual organ; but it would be idle to assert that those configurations were not presented to us, because they were invisible to others. Our waking eyes may indeed be made the “ fools of our other senses, or else worth all the rest;"granted; but still you may give us credit for the sincerity of our relation, for we pretend not to describe apparitions that other men have seen, but those which we ourselves have witnessed.
It may not be unimportant to remark, that so far from my being subject to the blue devils and vapours with which hypochondriacs and invalids are haunted, I possess that happy physical organization, which ensures almost uninterrupted health of body and mind, and which, in the elasticity and buoyancy of my spirit, renders the sensation of mere existence an enjoyment. Though I reside in the country, winter has for me no gloom; nature has prepared herself for its rigours; they are customary ;
and every thing seems to harmonize with their infliction ; but for the same reason that the solitude of a town is desolating and oppressive, while the loneliness of the country is soothing and grateful, I do feel the sadness of perpetual fogs and rains in July, although they excite no melancholy feeling at the season of their natural occurrence. To see one's favourite flowers laying down their heads to die; one's plantation strewed with leaves not shaken off in the fulness of age, but beaten to earth in the bloom of youth : here a noble tree laid prostrate; and there a valuable field of corn lodged in the swampy soil (which were familiar objects in July last), is sufficient to excite melancholy associations in the most cheerful temperament. Confessing that mine was not altogether proof against their influence, and leaving to the caviller and the sceptic the full benefit of this admission, I proceed to a simple statement of the fact which has elicited these preliminary observations.
Actuated by the clisheartening dulness of the scene to which I have alluded, I had written to my friend Mr. George Staples, of Exeter, requesting him to walk over some day and dine with me, as I well knew his presence was any instant antidote to mental depression, not so much from the possession of any wit or humour, as from his unaffected kindness and amiability, the exuberance of his animal spirits, the inexhaustible fund of his laughter, which was perpetually waiting for the smallest excuse to burst out of his heart, and the contagion of his lilarity, which had an instant faculty of communicating itself to others. On the day following the transmission of this letter, as I was sitting in an alcove to indulge my afternoon meditation, I found myself disturbed by what I imagined to be the ticking of my repeater ; but, recollecting that I had left it in the house, I discovered the noise proceeded from that little insect of inauspicious augury, the death-watch. Despising the puerile superstitions connected with this pulsation, I gave it no farther notice, and proceeded towards the house, when, as I passed an umbrageous plantation, I was startled by a loud wailing shriek, and presently a screech-owl flew out immediately before me. It was the first time one of those ill-omened birds had ever crossed my path; I combined it with the memento-mori I had just heard, although I blushed at my own weakness in thinking them worthy of an association ; and, as I walked forward, I encountered my servant, who put a letter into my hand, which I observed to be sealed with black wax. It was from the clerk of my poor friend, informing me that he had been that morning struck by an apoplectic fit, which had occasioned his almost instantaneous death! The reader may spare the sneer that is flickering upon his features : I draw no inference whatever from the omens that preceded this intelligence: I am willing to consider them as curious coincidences, totally unconnected with the startling apparition which shortly afterwards assailed me.
Indifferent as to death myself, I am little affected by it in others. The doom is so inevitable; it is so doubtful whether the parties be not generally gainers by the change ; it is so certain that we enter not at all into this calculation, but bewail our deprivation, whether of society, protection, or emolument, with a grief purely selfish, that I run no risk of placing myself in the predicament of the inconsolable widow, who was reproached by Franklin with not having yet forgiven God Almighty. Still, however, there was something so awful in the manner of my friend's death, the hilarity I had anticipated from his presence formed so appalling a contrast with his actual condition, that my mind naturally sunk into a mood of deep sadness and solemnity. Reaching the house in this frame of thought, I closed the library window-shutters as I passed, and entering the room by a glass-door, seated myself in a chair that fronted the garden. Scarcely a minute had elapsed, when I was thrilled by the strange wailful howl of my favourite spaniel, who had followed me into the apartment, and came trembling and crouching to my feet, occasionally turning his eyes to the back of the chamber, and again instantly reverting them with every demonstration of terror and agony. Mine instinctively took the same direction, when, notwithstanding the dimness of the light, I plainly and indisputably recognised the apparition of my friend sitting motionless in the great arm-chair!! It is easy to be courageous in theory, not difficult to be bold in practice, when the mind has time to collect its energies ; but taken as I was by surprise, I confess, that astonishment and terror' so far mastered all my faculties, that, without daring to cast a second glance towards the vision, I walked rapidly back into the garden, ifollowed by the dog, who still testified the same agitation and alarm.
Here I had leisure to recover from my first perturbation; and as my thoughts rallied, I endeavoured to persuade myself that I had been ideluded by some conjuration of the mind, or some spectral deception of the visual organ. But in either case, how account for the terror of the dog? He could neither be influenced by superstition, nor could his unerring sight betray him into groundless alarm, yet it was incontestable that we had both been appalled by the same object. Soon retrovering my natural fortitude of spirit, I resolved, whatever might be i he consequences, to return and address the apparition. I even began to
fear it might have vanished; for Glanville, who has written largely on ghosts, expressly says "that it is a very hard and painful thing for them to force their thin and tenuous bodies into a visible consistence; that their bodies must needs be exceedingly compressed, and that therefore they must be in haste to be delivered from their unnatural pressure.” I returned, therefore, with some rapidity towards the library; and although the dog stood immovably still at some distance, in spite of my solicitations, and kept earnestly gazing upon me, as if in apprehension of an approaching catastrophe, I proceeded onward, and turned back the shutters which I had closed, determined not to be imposed upon by any dubiousness of the light. Thus fortified against deception, I re-entered the room with a firm step, and there in the full glare of day did I again clearly and vividly behold the identical apparition, sitting in the same posture as before, and having its eyes closed !!
My heart somewhat failed me under this sensible confirmation of the vision, but, summoning all my courage, I walked up to the chair, exclaiming with a desperate energy-" In the name of heaven and of all its angels, what dost thou seek here!"-when the figure, slowly rising up, opening its eyes, and stretching out its arms, replied—“A leg of mutton and caper-sauce, with a botile of prime old port, for such is the dinner you promised me." “ Good God!” I ejaculated, w what can this mean? Are you not really dead ?” " No more than you are," replied the figure. “Some open-mouthed fool told my clerk that I was, and he instantly wrote to tell you of it; but it was my namesake, George Staples, of Castle-street, not me, nor even one of my relations, so let us have dinner as soon as you please, for I am as hungry as a hunter.”
The promised dinner being soon upon the table, my friend informed me, in the intervals of his ever-ready laughter, that as soon as he had undeceived his clerk, he walked over to Star Cross to do me the same favour ; that he had fallen asleep in the arm-chair while waiting my return from the grounds; and as to the dog, he reminded me that he had severely punished him at his last visit for killing a chicken, which explained his terror, and his crouching to me for protection, when he recognised his chastiser.
Bloom'd on its cheek, and sparkled in its eye ;
On that sad mother's breast-stern Death was nigh,
it stretch'd upon the bier,
Calm, and unconscious of its mother's tear,
But on its lip the unearthly smile expressid,
“Oh! happy child, untried, and early bless'd!” Reydon, Suffolk.
NOTWITHSTANDING the very able and philosophical reasoning of the Edinburgh Reviewers concerning the unruly tendencies towards criticism of the age we write in,” we cannot quite bring ourselves to believe that authors exist in the great scale of nature for the sole purpose being set up, or set down by the critics, like so many nine-pins, which stand or fall, as the bowler goes wide of his mark, or “tips all nine" in one furious sweeping article. We cannot indeed deny that the taste of the times should be respected, and are fully aware that " those who live to please, must please to live;" still less are we disposed to question the "great moral lesson” which the " article on the press" displays ; or to doubt the sharpsightedness of our brethren in the North on the subject of " utility;" but we do think it advisable in a reviewer not to make too free with the Cayenne and mustard of vituperation, if it be only to avoid exhausting the gustatory nerves of the reader, and so spoiling the market; and we for the most part endeavour to “do our spiriting gently," and bear in mind that live authors have "eyes, hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, and passions ;" that they “laugh when they are tickled, and die when they are poisoned," and are warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is."
It has been said that there are very few books wholly bad ; and literary faults are scarcely to be computed as crimes against society (the case of libel, of course, being duly excepted): although, therefore, it may be necessary that reviews should now and then have “a severe article," and give some unlucky scribbler “a good cutting up,” in order to retain the ear of the public; yet is it neither policy nor humanity to run a muck against all author-kind, and treat every one as an enemy who has written a book.
Having premised thus much, the reader will doubtless be prepared to find us in a merciful mood; and we frankly own that the production now under consideration is one that has some claims to our lenity. First, whatever may be thought of the matter, because its author is a woman ; and next, because she does not write from mercenary motives ; but is actuated, in thus publishing her labours, by a mere good-natured wish of multiplying innocent amusement. We are no advocates for giving the great exclusive privileges in literature, for permitting them to abuse argument and lay down the law, on the strength of their aristocracy. To spare designing malice or tolerate dulness and pretension in the “ nubiles et tanquam nobiles” of the earth, for the sake of their gold tassels, is a base dereliction of duty to the public; but when all is fair and above board, a reviewer is bound in courtesy to practise some forbearance to those who are much better employed in writing even a bad book, than in setting society a bad example of idleness and dissipation; and a critic may be permitted to consider a noble author, as one who is anxious to make some return to the community for all those accumulated advantages which its institutions bave heaped on his favoured head.
There is one very considerable advantage to the public attendant upon the literary propensities of the great, which still farther tempts us to a lenient estimate of their “doings;" and this lies in the insight