Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter VI - APPEARANCES OF THE DEAD - DAEMON OF SPRAITON IN DEVON ANNO 1682 - SIR GEORGE VILLIERS' GHOST - LORD LYTTELTON'S GHOST Post by :sachac Category :Long Stories Author :Andrew Lang Date :July 2011 Read :2517




Transition to Appearances of the Dead. Obvious Scientific Difficulties. Purposeless Character of Modern Ghosts. Theory of Dead Men's Dreams. Illustrated by Sleep-walking House-maid. Purposeful Character of the Old Ghost Stories. Probable Causes of the Difference between Old and New Ghost Stories. Only the most Dramatic were recorded. Or the Tales were embellished or invented. Practical Reasons for inventing them. The Daemon of Spraiton. Sources of Story of Sir George Villier's Ghost. Clarendon. Lilly, Douch. Wyndham. Wyndham's Letter. Sir Henry Wotton. Izaak Walton. Anthony Wood. A Wotton Dream proved Legendary. The Ghost that appeared to Lord Lyttleton. His Lordship's Own Ghost.


We now pass beyond the utmost limits to which a "scientific" theory of things ghostly can be pushed. Science admits, if asked, that it does not know everything. It is not inconceivable that living minds may communicate by some other channel than that of the recognised senses. Science now admits the fact of hypnotic influence, though, sixty years ago, Braid was not allowed to read a paper on it before the British Association. Even now the topic is not welcome. But perhaps only one eminent man of science declares that hypnotism is all imposture and malobservation. Thus it is not wholly beyond the scope of fancy to imagine that some day official science may glance at the evidence for "telepathy".

But the stories we have been telling deal with living men supposed to be influencing living men. When the dead are alleged to exercise a similar power, we have to suppose that some consciousness survives the grave, and manifests itself by causing hallucinations among the living. Instances of this have already been given in "The Ghost and the Portrait," "The Bright Scar" and "Riding Home after Mess". These were adduced as examples of veracity in hallucinations. Each appearance gave information to the seer which he did not previously possess. In the first case, the lady who saw the soldier and the suppliant did not know of their previous existence and melancholy adventure. In the second, the brother did not know that his dead sister's face had been scratched. In the third, the observer did not know that Lieutenant B. had grown a beard and acquired a bay pony with black mane and tail. But though the appearances were veracious , they were purposeless , and again, as in each case the information existed in living minds, it may have been wired on from them.

Thus the doctrine of telepathy puts a ghost of the dead in a great quandary. If he communicates no verifiable information, he may be explained as a mere empty illusion. If he does yield fresh information, and if that is known to any living mind, he and his intelligence may have been wired on from that mind. His only chance is to communicate facts which are proved to be true, facts which nobody living knew before. Now it is next to impossible to demonstrate that the facts communicated were absolutely unknown to everybody.

Far, however, from conveying unknown intelligence, most ghosts convey none at all, and appear to have no purpose whatever.

It will be observed that there was no traceable reason why the girl with a scar should appear to Mr. G., or the soldier and suppliant to Mrs. M., or Lieutenant B. to General Barker. The appearances came in a vague, casual, aimless way, just as the living and healthy clergyman appeared to the diplomatist. On St. Augustine's theory the dead persons who appeared may have known no more about the matter than did the living clergyman. It is not even necessary to suppose that the dead man was dreaming about the living person to whom, or about the place in which, he appeared. But on the analogy of the tales in which a dream or thought of the living seems to produce a hallucination of their presence in the minds of other and distant living people, so a dream of the dead may (it is urged) have a similar effect if "in that sleep of death such dreams may come". The idea occurred to Shakespeare! In any case the ghosts of our stories hitherto have been so aimless and purposeless as to resemble what we might imagine a dead man's dream to be.

This view of the case (that a "ghost" may be a reflection of a dead man's dream) will become less difficult to understand if we ask ourselves what natural thing most resembles the common idea of a ghost. You are reading alone at night, let us say, the door opens and a human figure glides into the room. To you it pays no manner of attention; it does not answer if you speak; it may trifle with some object in the chamber and then steal quietly out again.

It is the House-maid walking in her Sleep .

This perfectly accountable appearance, in its aimlessness, its unconsciousness, its irresponsiveness, is undeniably just like the common notion of a ghost. Now, if ordinary ghosts are not of flesh and blood, like the sleep-walking house-maid, yet are as irresponsive, as unconscious, and as vaguely wandering as she, then (if the dead are somewhat) a ghost may be a hallucination produced in the living by the unconscious action of the mind of the dreaming dead. The conception is at least conceivable. If adopted, merely for argument's sake, it would first explain the purposeless behaviour of ghosts, and secondly, relieve people who see ghosts of the impression that they see "spirits". In the Scotch phrase the ghost obviously "is not all there," any more than the sleep walker is intellectually "all there". This incomplete, incoherent presence is just what might be expected if a dreaming disembodied mind could affect an embodied mind with a hallucination.

But the good old-fashioned ghost stories are usually of another type. The robust and earnest ghosts of our ancestors "had their own purpose sun-clear before them," as Mr. Carlyle would have said. They knew what they wanted, asked for it, and saw that they got it.

As a rule their bodies were unburied, and so they demanded sepulture; or they had committed a wrong, and wished to make restitution; or they had left debts which they were anxious to pay; or they had advice, or warnings, or threats to communicate; or they had been murdered, and were determined to bring their assassins to the gibbet.

Why, we may ask, were the old ghost stories so different from the new? Well, first they were not all different. Again, probably only the more dramatic tales were as a rule recorded. Thirdly, many of the stories may have been either embellished--a fancied purpose being attributed to a purposeless ghost--or they may even have been invented to protect witnesses who gave information against murderers. Who could disobey a ghost?

In any case the old ghost stories are much more dramatic than the new. To them we turn, beginning with the appearances of Mr. and Mrs. Furze at Spraiton, in Devonshire, in 1682. Our author is Mr. Richard Bovet, in his Pandaemonium, or the Devil's Cloister opened (1683). The motive of the late Mr. Furze was to have some small debts paid; his wife's spectre was influenced by a jealousy of Mr. Furze's spectre's relations with another lady.


"About the month of November in the year 1682, in the parish of Spraiton, in the county of Devon, one Francis Fey (servant to Mr. Philip Furze) being in a field near the dwelling-house of his said master, there appeared unto him the resemblance of an aged gentleman like his master's father, with a pole or staff in his hand, resembling that he was wont to carry when living to kill the moles withal. The spectrum approached near the young man, whom you may imagin not a little surprized at the appearance of one that he knew to be dead, but the spectrum bid him not be afraid of him, but tell his master (who was his son) that several legacies which by his testament he had bequeathed were unpaid, naming ten shillings to one and ten shillings to another, both which persons he named to the young man, who replyed that the party he last named was dead, and so it could not be paid to him. The ghost answered he knew that, but it must be paid to the next relation , whom he also named. The spectrum likewise ordered him to carry twenty shillings to a gentlewoman, sister to the deceased, living near Totness in the said county, and promised, if these things were performed, to trouble him no further; but at the same time the spectrum , speaking of his second wife (who was also dead) called her wicked woman , though the gentleman who writ the letter knew her and esteemed her a very good woman. And (having thus related him his mind) the spectrum left the young man, who according to the direction of the spirit took care to see the small legacies satisfied, and carried the twenty shillings that was appointed to be paid the gentlewoman near Totness, but she utterly refused to receive it, being sent her (as she said) from the devil. The same night the young man lodging at her house, the aforesaid spectrum appeared to him again; whereupon the young man challenged his promise not to trouble him any more , saying he had performed all according to his appointment, but that the gentlewoman, his sister, would not receive the money.__

" To which the spectrum replied that was true indeed ; but withal directed the young man to ride to Totness and buy for her a ring of that value, which the spirit said she would accept of , which being provided accordingly, she received. Since the performance of which the ghost or apparition of the old gentleman hath seemed to be at rest, having never given the young man any further trouble.

"But the next day after having delivered the ring, the young man was riding home to his master's house, accompanyed by a servant of the gentlewoman's near Totness, and near about the time of their entrance (or a little before they came) into the parish of Spraiton aforesaid, there appeared to be upon the horse behind the young man, the resemblance of the second wife of the old gentleman spoken of before.

"This daemon often threw the young man off his horse, and cast him with such violence to the ground as was great astonishment, not only to the gentlewoman's servant (with him), but to divers others who were spectators of the frightful action, the ground resounding with great noise by reason of the incredible force with which he was cast upon it. At his coming into his master's yard, the horse which he rid, though very poor and out of case, leaped at one spring twenty-five foot, to the amazement of all that saw it. Soon after the she-spectre shewed herself to divers in the house, viz., the aforesaid young man, Mistress Thomasin Gidly, Ann Langdon , born in that parish, and a little child, which, by reason of the troublesomeness of the spirit, they were fain to remove from that house. She appeared sometimes in her own shape, sometimes in forms very horrid; now and then like a monstrous dog belching out fire; at another time it flew out at the window, in the shape of a horse, carrying with it only one pane of glass and a small piece of iron.

"One time the young man's head was thrust into a very strait place betwixt a bed's head and a wall, and forced by the strength of divers men to be removed thence, and that not without being much hurt and bruised, so that much blood appeared about it: upon this it was advised he should be bleeded, to prevent any ill accident that might come of the bruise; after bleeding, the ligature or binder of his arm was removed from thence and conveyed about his middle, where it was strained with such violence that the girding had almost stopp'd his breath and kill'd him, and being cut asunder it made a strange and dismal noise , so that the standers by were affrighted at it. At divers other times he hath been in danger to be strangled with cravats and handkerchiefs that he hath worn about his neck, which have been drawn so close that with the sudden violence he hath near been choaked, and hardly escaped death.

"The spectre hath shewed great offence at the perriwigs which the young man used to wear, for they are often torn from his head after a very strange manner; one that he esteemed above the rest he put in a small box, and that box he placed in another, which he set against the wall of his chamber, placing a joint-stool with other weight a top of it, but in short time the boxes were broken in sunder and the perriwig rended into many small parts and tatters. Another time, lying in his master's chamber with his perriwig on his head, to secure it from danger, within a little time it was torn from him and reduced into very small fragments. At another time one of his shoe-strings was observed (without the assistance of any hand) to come of its own accord out of its shoe and fling itself to the other side of the room; the other was crawling after it, but a maid espying that, with her hand drew it out, and it strangely clasp'd and curl'd about her hand like a living eel or serpent ; this is testified by a lady of considerable quality, too great for exception, who was an eye-witness. The same lady shewed Mr. C. one of the young man's gloves, which was torn in his pocket while she was by, which is so dexterously tatter'd and so artificially torn that it is conceived a cutler could not have contrived an instrument to have laid it abroad so accurately, and all this was done in the pocket in the compass of one minute. It is further observable that if the aforesaid young man, or another person who is a servant maid in the house, do wear their own clothes, they are certainly torn in pieces on their backs, but if the clothes belong to any other, they are not injured after that manner.

"Many other strange and fantastical freaks have been done by the said daemon or spirit in the view of divers persons; a barrel of salt of considerable quantity hath been observed to march from room to room without any human assistance.

"An hand-iron hath seemed to lay itself cross over-thwart a pan of milk that hath been scalding over the fire, and two flitches of bacon have of their own accord descended from the chimney where they were hung, and placed themselves upon the hand-iron.

"When the spectre appears in resemblance of her own person, she seems to be habited in the same cloaths and dress which the gentlewoman of the house (her daughter-in-law) hath on at the same time. Divers times the feet and legs of the young man aforesaid have been so entangled about his neck that he hath been loosed with great difficulty; sometimes they have been so twisted about the frames of chairs and stools that they have hardly been set at liberty. But one of the most considerable instances of the malice of the spirit against the young man happened on Easter Eve, when Mrs. C. the relator, was passing by the door of the house, and it was thus:--

"When the young man was returning from his labour, he was taken up by the skirt of his doublet by this female daemon , and carried a height into the air. He was soon missed by his Master and some other servants that had been at labour with him, and after diligent enquiry no news could be heard of him, until at length (near half an hour after) he was heard singing and whistling in a bog or quagmire, where they found him in a kind of trance or extatick fit , to which he hath sometimes been accustomed (but whether before the affliction he met with from this spirit I am not certain). He was affected much after such sort, as at the time of those fits , so that the people did not give that attention and regard to what he said as at other times; but when he returned again to himself (which was about an hour after) he solemnly protested to them that the daemon had carried him so high that his master's house seemed to him to be but as a hay-cock , and that during all that time he was in perfect sense, and prayed to Almighty God not to suffer the devil to destroy him ; and that he was suddenly set down in that quagmire.

The workmen found one shoe on one side of his master's house, and the other on the other side, and in the morning espied his perriwig hanging on the top of a tree; by which it appears he had been carried a considerable height, and that what he told them was not a fiction.

"After this it was observed that that part of the young man's body which had been on the mud in the quagmire was somewhat benummbed and seemingly deader than the other, whereupon the following Saturday , which was the day before Low Sunday , he was carried to Crediton, alias Kirton , to be bleeded, which being done accordingly, and the company having left him for some little space, at their return they found him in one of his fits, with his forehead much bruised , and swoln to a great bigness , none being able to guess how it happened, until his recovery from that fit , when upon enquiry he gave them this account of it: that a bird had with great swiftness and force flown in at the window with a stone in its beak, which it had dashed against his forehead, which had occasioned the swelling which they saw .

"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.

Finally, Clarendon makes the appearances set in six months before Felton slew the duke. The percipient, unnamed, was in bed. The narrative now develops new features; the token given on the ghost's third coming obviously concerns Buckingham's mother, the Countess, the "one person more" who knew the secret communicated. The ghost produces no knife from under his gown; no warning of Buckingham's death by violence is mentioned. A note in the MS. avers that Clarendon himself had papers bearing on the subject, and that he got his information from Sir Ralph Freeman (who introduced the unnamed percipient to the duke), and from some of Buckingham's servants, "who were informed of much of it before the murder of the duke". Clarendon adds that, in general, "no man looked on relations of that sort with less reverence and consideration" than he did. This anecdote he selects out of "many stories scattered abroad at the time" as "upon a better foundation of credit". The percipient was an officer in the king's wardrobe at Windsor, "of a good reputation for honesty and discretion," and aged about fifty. He was bred at a school in Sir George's parish, and as a boy was kindly treated by Sir George, "whom afterwards he never saw". On first beholding the spectre in his room, the seer recognised Sir George's costume, then antiquated. At last the seer went to Sir Ralph Freeman, who introduced him to the duke on a hunting morning at Lambeth Bridge. They talked earnestly apart, observed by Sir Ralph, Clarendon's informant. The duke seemed abstracted all day; left the field early, sought his mother, and after a heated conference of which the sounds reached the ante-room, went forth in visible trouble and anger, a thing never before seen in him after talk with his mother. She was found "overwhelmed with tears and in the highest agony imaginable". "It is a notorious truth" that, when told of his murder, "she seemed not in the least degree surprised."

The following curious manuscript account of the affair is, after the prefatory matter, the copy of a letter dated 1652. There is nothing said of a ghostly knife, the name of the seer is not Parker, and in its whole effect the story tallies with Clarendon's version, though the narrator knows nothing of the scene with the Countess of Buckingham.


"1627. Since William Lilly the Rebells Jugler and Mountebank in his malicious and blaspheamous discourse concerning our late Martyred Soveraigne of ever blessed memory (amongst other lyes and falsehoods) imprinted a relation concerning an Aparition which foretold several Events which should happen to the Duke of Buckingham, wherein he falsifies boeth the person to whom it appeared and ye circumstances; I thought it not amis to enter here (that it may be preserved) the true account of that Aparition as I have receaved it from the hande and under the hande of Mr. Edmund Wyndham, of Kellefford in the County of Somersett. I shall sett it downe (ipsissimis verbis) as he delivered it to me at my request written with his own hande.__


"Sr. According to your desire and my promise I have written down what I remember (divers things being slipt out of my memory) of the relation made me by Mr. Nicholas Towse concerning the Aparition wch visited him. About ye yeare 1627, {122} I and my wife upon an occasion being in London lay att my Brother Pyne's house without Bishopsgate, wch. was ye next house unto Mr. Nicholas Towse's, who was my Kinsman and familiar acquaintance, in consideration of whose Society and friendship he tooke a house in that place, ye said Towse being a very fine Musician and very good company, and for ought I ever saw or heard, a Vurtuous, religious and wel disposed Gentleman. About that time ye said Mr. Towse tould me that one night, being in Bed and perfectly waking, and a Candle burning by him (as he usually had) there came into his Chamber and stood by his bed side an Olde Gentleman in such an habitt as was in fashion in Q: Elizebeth's tyme, at whose first appearance Mr. Towse was very much troubled, but after a little tyme, recollecting himselfe, he demanded of him in ye Name of God what he was, whether he were a Man. And ye Aparition replyed No. Then he asked him if he were a Divell. And ye answer was No. Then Mr. Towse said 'in ye Name of God, what art thou then?' And as I remember Mr. Towse told me that ye Apparition answered him that he was ye Ghost of Sir George Villiers, Father to ye then Duke of Buckingham, whom he might very well remember, synce he went to schoole at such a place in Leicestershire (naming ye place which I have forgotten). And Mr. Towse tould me that ye Apparition had perfectly ye resemblance of ye said Sr George Villiers in all respects and in ye same habitt that he had often seene him weare in his lifetime.

"The said Apparition then tould Mr. Towse that he could not but remember ye much kindness that he, ye said Sr George Villiers, had expressed to him whilst he was a Schollar in Leicestershire, as aforesaid, and that as out of that consideration he believed that he loved him and that therefore he made choyce of him, ye sayde Mr. Towse, to deliver a message to his sonne, ye Duke of Buckingham; thereby to prevent such mischiefe as would otherwise befall ye said Duke whereby he would be inevitably ruined. And then (as I remember) Mr. Towse tould me that ye Apparition instructed him what message he should deliver unto ye Duke. Vnto wch. Mr. Towse replyed that he should be very unwilling to goe to ye Duke of Buckingham upon such an errand, whereby he should gaine nothing but reproach and contempt, and to be esteemed a Madman, and therefore desired to be exscused from ye employment, but ye Apparition pressd him wth. much earnestness to undertake it, telling him that ye Circumstances and secret Discoveries which he should be able to make to ye Duke of such passages in ye course of his life which were known to none but himselfe, would make it appeare that ye message was not ye fancy of a Distempered Brayne, but a reality, and so ye Apparition tooke his leave of him for that night and telling him that he would give him leave to consider till the next night, and then he would come to receave his answer wheather he would undertake to deliver his message or no.

"Mr. Towse past that day wth. much trouble and perplexity, debating and reasoning wth. himselfe wether he should deliver his message or not to ye Duke but, in ye conclusion, he resolved to doe it, and ye next night when ye Apparition came he gave his answer accordingly, and then receaved his full instruction. After which Mr. Towse went and founde out Sr. Thomas Bludder and Sr. Ralph Freeman, by whom he was brought to ye Duke of Buckingham, and had sevarall private and lone audiences of him, I my selfe, by ye favoure of a freinde (Sr. Edward Savage) was once admitted to see him in private conference with ye Duke, where (although I heard not there discourses) I observed much earnestnessse in their actions and gestures. After wch. conference Mr. Towse tould me that ye Duke would not follow ye advice that was given him, which was (as I remember) that he intimated ye casting of, and ye rejecting of some Men who had great interest in him, which was, and as I take it he named, Bp. Laud and that ye Duke was to doe some popular Acts in ye ensuing Parliament, of which Parliament ye Duke would have had Mr. Towse to have been a Burgesse, but he refused it, alleadging that unlesse ye Duke followed his directions, he must doe him hurt if he were of ye Parliament. Mr. Towse then toalde that ye Duke of Buckingham confessed that he had toalde him those things wch. no Creature knew but himself, and that none but God or ye Divell could reveale to him. Ye Duke offered Mr. Towse to have ye King knight him, and to have given him preferment (as he tould me), but that he refused it, saying that vnless he would follow his advice he would receave nothing from him.

"Mr. Towse, when he made me this relation, he tolde me that ye Duke would inevitably be destroyed before such a time (wch. he then named) and accordingly ye Duke's death happened before that time. He likewise tolde that he had written downe all ye severall discourses that he had had wth. ye Apparition, and that at last his coming was so familiar that he was as litle troubled with it as if it had beene a friende or acquayntance that had come to visitt him. Mr. Towse told me further that ye Archbishop of Canterbury, then Bishop of London, Dr. Laud, should by his Councells be ye authoure of very great troubles to ye Kingdome, by which it should be reduced to ye extremity of disorder and confusion, and that it should seeme to be past all hope of recovery without a miracle, but when all people were in dispayre of seeing happy days agayne, ye Kingdome should suddenly be reduced and resettled agayne in a most happy condition.

"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!"

Something had Happened !

On the night before his speech, that of Wednesday, 24th November, Lyttelton had seen the ghost, and had been told that he would die in three days. He mentioned this to Rowan Hamilton on the Friday. {129a} On the same day, or on Friday, he mentioned it to Captain Ascough, who told a lady, who told Mrs. Thrale. {129b} On the Friday he went to Epsom with friends, and mentioned the ghost to them, among others to Mr. Fortescue. {129c} About midnight on 28th November, Lord Lyttelton died suddenly in bed, his valet having left him for a moment to fetch a spoon for stirring his medicine. The cause of death was not stated; there was no inquest.

This, literally, is all that is known about Lord Lyttelton's ghost. It is variously described as: (1) "a young woman and a robin" (Horace Walpole); (2) "a spirit" (Captain Ascough); (3) a bird in a dream, "which changed into a woman in white" (Lord Westcote's narrative of 13th February, 1780, collected from Lord Lyttelton's guests and servants); (4) "a bird turning into a woman" (Mrs. Delany, 9th December, 1779); (5) a dream of a bird, followed by a woman, Mrs. Amphlett, in white (Pitt Place archives after 1789); (6) "a fluttering noise, as of a bird, followed by the apparition of a woman who had committed suicide after being seduced by Lyttelton" (Lady Lyttelton, 1828); (7) a bird "which vanished when a female spirit in white raiment presented herself" (Scots Magazine, November-December, 1779).

Out of seven versions, a bird, or a fluttering noise as of a bird (a common feature in ghost stories), {130a} with a woman following or accompanying, occurs in six. The phenomena are almost equally ascribed to dreaming and to waking hallucination, but the common-sense of the eighteenth century called all ghosts "dreams". In the Westcote narrative (1780) Lyttelton explains the dream by his having lately been in a room with a lady, Mrs. Dawson, when a robin flew in. Yet, in the same narrative, Lyttelton says on Saturday morning "that he was very well, and believed he should bilk the ghost ". He was certainly in bed at the time of the experience, and probably could not be sure whether he was awake or asleep. {130b}

Considering the remoteness of time, the story is very well recorded. It is chronicled by Mrs. Thrale before the news of Lyttelton's death reached her, and by Lady Mary Coke two days later, by Walpole on the day after the peer's decease, of which he had heard. Lord Lyttelton's health had for some time been bad; he had made his will a few weeks before, and his nights were horror-haunted. A little boy, his nephew, to whom he was kind, used to find the wicked lord sitting by his bed at night, because he dared not be alone. So Lockhart writes to his daughter, Mrs. Hope Scott. {131} He had strange dreams of being in hell with the cruel murderess, Mrs. Brownrigg, who "whipped three female 'prentices to death and hid them in the coal-hole". Such a man might have strange fancies, and a belief in approaching death might bring its own fulfilment. The hypothesis of a premeditated suicide, with the story of the ghost as a last practical joke, has no corroboration. It occurred to Horace Walpole at once, but he laid no stress on it.

Such is a plain, dry, statistical account of the most extraordinary event that happened in Dr. Johnson's day.

However, the story does not end here. On the fatal night, 27th November, 1779, Mr. Andrews, M.P., a friend of Lyttelton's was awakened by finding Lord Lyttelton drawing his curtains. Suspecting a practical joke, he hunted for his lordship both in his house and in the garden. Of course he never found him. The event was promptly recorded in the next number of the Scots Magazine, December, 1779. {132}

If you like this book please share to your friends :

The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter VII - MORE GHOSTS WITH A PURPOSE The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter VII - MORE GHOSTS WITH A PURPOSE

The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts - Chapter VII - MORE GHOSTS WITH A PURPOSE
CHAPTER VII - More Ghosts With A PurposeThe Slaying of Sergeant Davies in 1749. The Trial. Scott's Theory. Curious recent Corroboration of Sir Walter's Hypothesis. Other Trials involving Ghostly Evidence. Their Want of Authenticity. "Fisher's Ghost" criticised. The Aylesbury Murder. The Dog o' Mause. The Ghosts of Dogs. Peter's Ghost.Much later in time than the ghost of Sir George Villiers is the ghost of Sergeant Davies, of Guise's regiment. His purpose was, first, to get his body buried; next, to bring his murderers to justice. In this latter desire he totally failed.THE SLAYING OF SERGEANT DAVIESWe now examine a ghost with


CHAPTER V - AN ASTRAL BODY. IN TAVISTOCK PLACE. THE WYNYARD WRAITH. VISION OF THE BRIDE"Spirits of the Living." Mistakes of Identity. Followed by Arrival of Real Person. "Arrivals." Mark Twain's Phantom Lady. Phantom Dogcart. Influence of Expectant Attention. Goethe. Shelley. The Wraith of the Czarina. Queen Elizabeth's Wraith. Second Sight. Case at Ballachulish. Experiments in sending Wraiths. An "Astral Body". Evidence discussed. Miss Russell's Case. "Spirits of the Dying." Maori Examples. Theory of Chance Coincidence. In Tavistock Place. The Wynyard Wraith. Lord Brougham's Wraith Story. Lord Brougham's Logic. The Dying Mother. Comparison with the Astral Body. The Vision of the