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FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY
FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Chambers's London Journal
Chambers's London Journal of History, Literature, Poetry, Biography, and Adventure, v. 2, no. 68, Se...
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Chambers's London Journal of History, Literature, Poetry, Biography, and Adventure, v. 2, no. 68, September 10, 1842.
Blanchard, Edward Litt Leman.
11 October 2015
London: W. Strange ... W. Clements ... and G. Berger
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-M... m - “ BY EDUCATION’ MEN‘ BECOME EASY 1'0 LEAD, B171‘ DIFFXCULT T0 muvit-EASY To GOVEIN, BIJ1‘ IMPOSSIDLI T0 ENSLAVI-:."-Loan nnovcl-IAM. NUMBER 68. A Gossip about Ghosts and Ghostesses. HY THE IDITOK. Now, that the chilling eastern blast begins to remind us that old Winter is approaching, and that it is high time the osier ornaments of the fire-stove were replaced by combustible: of a more substantial description ; we involuntarily turn to the contemplation of those things with which the forthcoming season is connected, and on nothing does the imagination alight more readily, than on the subject of apparitions. In the genial nights of June, one may wander alone after midnight with the utmost inditference, nay-even a churchyard is then a respectable horoughfare ; but let old Boreas once begin to shake the leaves off the trees, and the mind is startled from its propriety by sounds and sights of more than mortal import. Old castles, old houses, old churches, none come amiss to the peripatetic spectre who may choose to take up his winter residence in such snug quarters ; and accordingly, even now, in the year of grace, Eighteen-hundred and forty-two, now waning into its ninth month, the country is rife with rumours, promulgated in little ‘ t‘-the-way villages, of super- natural beings haviugbeen visible to mortal ken. These ghosts, by the way, are still for the most part hnbited in the same white shect fashion with which tradi- tion has invested them; being given to the same un- healthy practice of “ stopping out o' nights,” and con- tinuing the old established exercise, of playing at leap- frog with the tombstones, just as they did in the good old days of our ancestors. And this resolves itselfinto ' a rather singular consideration. T’ ‘er-boxes are voted obsolete, railways usurp the place of turnpike roads. The bude-light is snperseding gaslight, improvement is every- where visible; change is upon the face of "all things mundane, but ghosts, and ghosts alone, are the same with us now as in the days of Aubrey and Glanville. There they stand, immutable and unchangeable, etherial, ideal, and nnalterable. Innovation with them is un- known. We have dived deep into the archives of an- tiquity, hut we never yet heardofa ghostwitha wooden leg. a ghost with spectacles on his bony nose, or a ghost with an obliquity in his vision’! Why is this? Are these gentry nhovs displaying their defects, or is some Hollowayan ointment in use amongst them which we wot not of, and wh ch renders any personal ugliness invisible to the criti sing eye of humanity’! llowcver it may be, the fact is certain, and having thus disposed of the eccentricities of the class, we may proceed tocnn- sider the subject in a less fanciful but more philosophical point of view. Many of the ancient philosophers have attempted to assign a physical cause for the supposed re-appearance of the dead, and modern alchymists conti- nued their investigations with the sameiview. As rep- tiles nnd crustacea cast theirskins and shells, and leave behind their real external covering, so it was conjec- tured by Lucretius, that in like manner the spirits of the dead resulted from the superficial exwiiz exhaled from the human body, and which escaped theiorrlinary lot of humanity. The alchymists of the seventeeth century so far improved this speculation, that they conceived the possibility of reproducing the rose, or any other plant. from its ashes. In this system of Palingcnesy, as it was called, Kircher fancied that he had a clue to the ’ whole theory of apparitions. The saline particles of V each, exhaled by heat, and attracted to each other by their natural nilinity, gave rise, he considered, to the phantom, and thus, in a shadowy outline was $lV““ ll” lineaments of the living fonn. When Louis Quatorze No. 56.--Vol. II. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1842. PRICE THREE HALFPQNCE. - swayed the sceptre of France, the experiments made with reference to these resuscitations were all believed to have been successfully performed. Parisian alchy- mists having taken some earth from the burial ground of the Church of the Innocents, exposed it to distillation in a glass phial. The sudden appear- ance of human form: within their transparent prison, drove the terrified chemists from their laboratory, and terminated for awhile their magical transformations. The story, however, soon gained credence, and publicity being given to it, the philosophers of that age resolved to pursue these experiments at all hazards. One of these was so remarkable, that though it has been alluded to frequently before, we cannot resist giving entire: "A malefactor was executed, of whose body a grave physi- cian got possession, for the purpose ofdissection. After disposing of the other parts of the body, he ordered his assistant to pulverize part of the cranium, which was a remedy at that time admitted in dispensatories. The powder was left in a paper on the table of the museum, where the assistant slept; about midnight he was awakened by a noise in the room, which obliged him to rise immediately. The noise continued about the table without any visible agent; and at length be traced .it to the powder, in the 1nidst'of which he now beheld, to his unspeakable dismay, a small head, with open eyes staring at him; presently two branches approached, which formed into arms aud‘hands; then the ribs be- came visible, which were soon clothed with musclrs and integuments; next the lower extremities sprouted cut, and when they appeared perfect the puppet (for his size was small) raised himself on his feet; instantly his clothes came upon him, and he appeared in the very cloak he wore at his execution. The alfrighted specta- tor, who stood hithcrto mumbling his prayers with great application, now thought of nothing but making his escape from the revived rutlian; but this was im- possible, for the apparition placed himselfin his way, and, after diverse fierce looks and threatening gesture s, opened the door and went out." This veritable account ofa phantoui housebrcaker has always seemed to us to possess more of the facetious than the startling in its composition, but we must glance a few centuries back even previous to this period before we arrive at the origin ofthcseapparitions. The ancients seem to have chiefly employed optical instruments as their agentsin deceptions ofthis kind, and by this means they manufactured app-aritions wholesale and retail. The properties of concave and convex minors were certainly known to the ancient magi, and they were thus easily enabled to form images in theair which eluded the grasp ofan observer, and possessed all the attributes of an in- corpqrcal being. The art of the modern phantasmagoria, which now scarcely excites wonder amidst a Christmas party of scboolboys, was well known also to the Fgyp- tians. Damascius describes a mass of light as seen on the wall of the Temple, which at first appeared very Yemote. 1"“ 01‘ HPPT0nCl1ing the eye, transformed itself gradually into a countenance of divine and supernatural beauty. With this facility of transformation, which optical instruments so well supplied, it wzu no dillicult task totransform one apparition into another, and hence those changes which appear to have been effected by the ancient wizards and conjurors. The impenetrable secresy with which all operations in these temples were con- ducted, has not permitted any well-authenticated account of these appearances to be handed down to us,but when the magical manipulations became more familiar, se- veral instances of optical delusion are ' narrated, one of which will serve as a specimen of the rest. The Emperor Basil, being inconsolable for the loss of a. favourite son, had recourse to the prayers of Theodore Santabaren, Archbishop of the Euchaites, who had long been celebrated for possessing the gift of miracles. The empewr required a parting glimpse of his child: the prayers of the archbishop were heard; the disconsolate father was indulged with a sight of his son, exhibited in a magnificent dress, and mounted on a superb charger. The apparition advanced to the emperor, threw itself into his arrns,and vanished. It is impossible to sup- pose that a real horseman was on this occaniou the in- strument of deception. The disappearance of the ap- parition in the arms of Basil, exactly after the manner of a phantasmagoric image, clearly indicates its optical origin, and proves that the aerial image eithcr‘of n por- trait, or of a living youth resembling the deceased prince, was the evanescent spectre vrhich the father vainly pressed to his heart. But we must get back from antiquity, and come again down to our own time, in which, however, with the exception of two or three recent cases, ghosts and ghostesses have made but a. sorry figure. Imagination, in fact, has mod) to do with these fevered brain-spun phantoms than many persons appear to be at all aware of. Who has not felt a cold tremor come over him when, alone in achurch, the wind has howled along the aisles, and moaned dismally through the crypts and vaults of the ancient edifice‘! Doors and windows may open or swerve-a stone or a fragment of mortar may fall with some ominous sound to the earth, the moonbeams may gleam un- expectedly through a chink that gapes in the wall, and throw a cold reflex on the broken pavement till it assumes the appearance of a human form ; and any one of these things, much less all combined, must make a slight impression even on the shortest-nerved. Here then, perhaps, have we the true origin of spec- tral allusions, the retiua theory of Scott and Brewster to the contrary notwithstanding. Beattie, it is, if we remember rightly, who cites a rather curious instance of mental hallucination as occurring to himself, which, as it bears out in some measure this theory, we will give to the best of our rr.-collection. When at his house in Scotland, situated in a very secluded spot, hevras in the habit ofrepeatedly seeing directly be got into bed, the exact form of a man or woman sitting in the moonbeams us they fell upon the curtains of his bedside. llad he thrust his head under the bed-clothes without daring to look at the apparition. as is the common practice of many upon such occasions, he would, of course, have passed the night in horrors, and risen the next morning in the full belief that he had beheld an apparition. But one night at the full moon, when the impression of the image was stronger than usual, he rose determined to discover the cause, and then the phantom was discovered to have arisen from the invariable habit that he adopted of throwing his clothes carefully over the back of his chair, which, glistening in the moon, assumed the aspect ofa sitting figure that every night, from some accidental position of his garments, changed its position. What may then be said of one imaginary ghost, may in like manner be predicated of the rest. They are truly “ the children of an idle brain, brgot of nothing but -an phantasy,” and as such they ought to he considered. There is no reason to believe that the spirits of just men, made perfect, are reinvested with their sublunsry drapery, to frighten or to warn the careless, and still less ‘can it be supposed that the shades of the wicked are on- trusted with this spiritual diplomacy. 11', under the