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Chapter IV. Some Historical and Other Cases.
Of the premonitions of history there are many, too familiar to need more than a passing allusion here. The leading case is, of course, the dream of Pilate's wife, which, if it had been attended to, might have averted the crucifixion. But there again foreknowledge was impotent against fate. Calphurnia, Cæsar's wife, in like manner strove in vain to avert the doom of her lord. There is no story more trite than that which tells of the apparition which warned Brutus that Cæsar would make Philippi his trysting-place. In these cases the dreams occurred to those closely associated with the doomed. One of the best known of dream presentiments in English history occurred to a person who had no connection with the victim. The assassination of Mr. Perceval in the Lobby of the House of Commons was foreseen in the minutest detail by John Williams, a Cornish mine manager, eight or nine days before the assassination took place. Three times over he dreamed that he saw a small man, dressed in a blue coat and white waistcoat, enter the Lobby of the House of Commons, when immediately another person, dressed in a snuff-coloured coat, took a pistol from under his coat and shot the little man in his left breast. On asking who the sufferer was he was informed that it was Mr. Perceval, Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was so much impressed by the dream that he consulted his friends as to whether he should not go up to London and warn Mr. Perceval. Unfortunately they dissuaded him, and on May 13th the news arrived that Mr. Perceval had been killed on the 11th. Some time afterwards, when he saw a picture of the scene of the assassination, it reproduced all the details of the thrice-dreamed vision. There does not seem to have been any connection between Mr. Williams and Mr. Perceval, nor does there seem to have been any reason why it should have been revealed to him rather than to any one else.
_The Inner Light of the Quakers._
The Quakers, whether it is because they allow their Unconscious Personality to have more say in their lives than others who do not practise quietism as a religion, or whether it be from any other cause, it is difficult to say, seem to have more than their fair share of premonitions. Every one remembers how George Fox saw a "waft" of death go out against Oliver Cromwell when he met him riding at Hampton Court the day before he was prostrated with his fatal illness. Fox was full of visions. He foresaw the expulsion of the "Rump", the restoration of Charles II., and the Fire of London. Stephen Grellet is another notable Friend who was constantly foreseeing things. He not only foresaw things himself, but his faculty seemed to bring him into contact with others who foresaw things; and in his Life there is an excellent instance of a premonitory dream, told by Countess Tontschkoff three months before Napoleon's Invasion. The countess, whose husband was a general in the Russian army, dreamed that her father came to the room, holding her only son by the hand, and, in a tone of great sadness, said, "All thy comforts are gone; thy husband has fallen at Borodino."
As her husband at that time was sleeping beside her she dismissed the matter as a mere dream. But when it was repeated a second and a third time, she awoke her husband and asked him where Borodino was. She told him her dream, and they searched through the maps with the greatest care, but could not discover any such place. Three months later Napoleon entered Russia, and fought the bloody battle which opened the way to Moscow near the river Borodino, from which an obscure village takes its name. Her father holding her son by the hand, announced her husband's death, in the exact terms that she had heard him use in her dream three months before. She instantly recognised the inn in which she was then staying as the place that she had seen in her dream.