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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


"At this tyme my father Pyne was in trouble and comitted to ye Gatehouse by ye Lords of ye Councell about a Quarrel betweene him and ye Lord Powlett, upon which one night I saide to my Cosin Towse, by way of jest, 'I pray aske your Appairition what shall become of my father Pyne's business,' which he promised to doe, and ye next day he tolde me that my father Pyne's enemyes were ashamed of their malicious prosecution, and that he would be at liberty within a week or some few days, which happened according.

"Mr. Towse, his wife, since his death tolde me that her husband and she living at Windsor Castle, where he had an office that Sumer that ye Duke of Buckingham was killed, tolde her that very day that the Duke was sett upon by ye mutinous Mariners att Portesmouth, saying then that ye next attempt agaynst him would be his Death, which accordingly happened. And att ye instant ye Duke was killed (as she vnderstood by ye relation afterwards) Mr. Towse was sitting in his chayre, out of which he suddenly started vp and sayd, 'Wyfe, ye Duke of Buckingham is slayne!'

"Mr. Towse lived not long after that himselfe, but tolde his wife ye tyme of his Death before itt happened. I never saw him after I had seen some effects of his discourse, which before I valued not, and therefore was not curious to enquire after more than he voluntaryly tolde me, which I then entertayned not wth. these serious thoughts which I have synce reflected on in his discourse. This is as much as I can remember on this business which, according to youre desire, is written by

"Sr. Yor., &c.,


"BOULOGNE, 5th August, 1652."

* * * * *

This version has, over all others, the merit of being written by an acquaintance of the seer, who was with him while the appearances were going on. The narrator was also present at an interview between the seer and Buckingham. His mention of Sir Ralph Freeman tallies with Clarendon's, who had the story from Freeman. The ghost predicts the Restoration, and this is recorded before that happy event. Of course Mr. Towse may have been interested in Buckingham's career and may have invented the ghost (after discovering the secret token) {127} as an excuse for warning him.

The reader can now take his choice among versions of Sir George Villiers' ghost. He must remember that, in 1642, Sir Henry Wotton "spent some inquiry whether the duke had any ominous presagement before his end," but found no evidence. Sir Henry told Izaak Walton a story of a dream of an ancestor of his own, whereby some robbers of the University chest at Oxford were brought to justice. Anthony Wood consulted the records of the year mentioned, and found no trace of any such robbery. We now approach a yet more famous ghost than Sir George's. This is Lord Lyttelton's. The ghost had a purpose, to warn that bad man of his death, but nobody knows whose ghost she was!


"Sir," said Dr. Johnson, "it is the most extraordinary thing that has happened in my day." The doctor's day included the rising of 1745 and of the Wesleyans, the seizure of Canada, the Seven Years' War, the American Rebellion, the Cock Lane ghost, and other singular occurrences, but "the most extraordinary thing" was--Lord Lyttelton's ghost! Famous as is that spectre, nobody knows what it was, nor even whether there was any spectre at all.

Thomas, Lord Lyttelton, was born in 1744. In 1768 he entered the House of Commons. In 1769 he was unseated for bribery. He then vanishes from public view, probably he was playing the prodigal at home and abroad, till February, 1772, when he returned to his father's house, and married. He then went abroad (with a barmaid) till 1773, when his father died. In January, 1774, he took his seat in the House of Lords. In November, 1779, Lyttelton went into Opposition. On Thursday, 25th November, he denounced Government in a magnificent speech. As to a sinecure which he held, he said, "Perhaps I shall not keep it long!"