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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


"The people much wondering at the strangeness of the accident, diligently sought the stone, and under the place where he sat they found not such a stone as they expected but a weight of brass or copper, which it seems the daemon had made use of on that occasion to give the poor young man that hurt in his forehead.

"The persons present were at the trouble to break it to pieces, every one taking a part and preserving it in memory of so strange an accident. After this the spirit continued to molest the young man in a very severe and rugged manner, often handling him with great extremity, and whether it hath yet left its violences to him, or whether the young man be yet alive, I can have no certain account."

I leave the reader to consider of the extraordinary strangeness of the relation.

The reader, considering the exceeding strangeness of the relation, will observe that we have now reached "great swingeing falsehoods," even if that opinion had not hitherto occurred to his mind. But if he thinks that such stories are no longer told, and even sworn to on Bible oath, he greatly deceives himself. In the chapter on "Haunted Houses" he will find statements just as hard narrated of the years 1870 and 1882. In these, however, the ghosts had no purpose but mischief. {118}

We take another "ghost with a purpose".


The variations in the narratives of Sir George Villiers' appearance to an old servant of his, or old protege, and the warning communicated by this man to Villiers' son, the famous Duke of Buckingham, are curious and instructive. The tale is first told in print by William Lilly, the astrologer, in the second part of a large tract called Monarchy or No Monarchy in England (London, 1651), twenty-three years after Buckingham's murder. But while prior in publication, Lilly's story was probably written after, though independent of Lord Clarendon's, in the first book of his History of the Rebellion, begun on 18th March, 1646, that is within eighteen years of the events. Clarendon, of course, was in a position to know what was talked of at the time. Next, we have a letter of Mr. Douch to Glanvil, undated, but written after the Restoration, and, finally, an original manuscript of 1652.

Douch makes the warning arrive "some few days" before the murder of Buckingham, and says that the ghost of Sir George, "in his morning gown," bade one Parker tell Buckingham to abandon the expedition to La Rochelle or expect to be murdered. On the third time of appearing the vision pulled a long knife from under his gown, as a sign of the death awaiting Buckingham. He also communicated a "private token" to Parker, the "percipient," Sir George's old servant. On each occasion of the appearance, Parker was reading at midnight. Parker, _after_ the murder, told one Ceeley, who told it to a clergyman, who told Douch, who told Glanvil.

In Lilly's version the ghost had a habit of walking in Parker's room, and finally bade him tell Buckingham to abstain from certain company, "or else he will come to destruction, and that suddenly". Parker, thinking he had dreamed, did nothing; the ghost reappeared, and communicated a secret "which he (Buckingham) knows that none in the world ever knew but myself and he". The duke, on hearing the story from Parker, backed by the secret, was amazed, but did not alter his conduct. On the third time the spectre produced the knife, but at _this_ information the duke only laughed. Six weeks later he was stabbed. Douch makes the whole affair pass immediately before the assassination. "And Mr. Parker died soon after," as the ghost had foretold to him.