Imatges de pÓgina

saturated the air with purple, that all revisitors of our purer atmosphere give it out, like a halo, and impart its hue more particularly to the lights that surround them. This seems to me a fond conceit, and moreover savouring of the same illiberality that made Barry so prodigal of stars, garters, and mitres, when painting the scene of judgment for the Arts and Sciences in the Adelphi.

Certain mysterious ignes fatui always assume spontaneously a bluish tint. In the Pyritegium, or Curfew Act, passed by the Conqueror, is the following exceptive clause: “Hoc nonobstante liceat ut Gulielmus de Wispo, alias Johannes de Lanterna, det luceum cæruleam quocunque quotiesque vellet."* "Be it enacted nevertheless, that Will-o'the Wisp, alias Jack-o'-Lanthorn, have permission to show his blue light wheresoever he will." Whence we learn, that so early as the Conquest this was the prevalent colour of all supernatural flames, and that they were specially exempted from the jurisdiction of extinguisher or snuffers. Swift, in a note on his lines

This squire he dropp'd his pen full soon,

While as the lights burnt bluelyhazards a conjecture, that as none but the ghosts of the wicked reappear, and candles, if properly made, are themselves wick-ed, there may be some secret sympathy or affinity between them : in support of which hypothesis, he affirms that they give out generally a faint blue whenever there is a thief in them. He asserts also, plausibly enough, that there may be a visual deception produced by the prevalent expectation of this coloured light, that nothing is so varying or uncertain as the hues which the same object assumes to different optics ; that men seem to take a perverse delight in confounding

* Vide Hawkins' Brief Abridgement of the Statutes, folio, vol. alaxi. p. 129.

the whole theory of colours, as one sees constantly written up over various shops-Grey, greengrocer -Brown, blacksmith-Black, whitesmith--Scarlet, blue-maker, &c.; while nature herself has given us the camelion as a puzzle ; and has so confused one of our field-fruits in its progress to maturity, that we may say with strict regard to truth, “ All blackberries are either white or red when they are green, (i. e. unripe.)* Men moreover,” he acutely remarks,

never see spectres except when they are in a fit of the blue-devils, which may impart their tone to surrounding objects; and that blue-devils are superinduced by the parties getting into hot water, which circumstance alone may account for a change of hue as violent as it produces on lobsters and fleas, and occasion the patients to imagine every thing blue, as men in a calenture fancy the whole world to be green. These lucubrations appear to me profound and philosophical, but I doubt whether we may implicitly adopt them without farther inquiry.

Dr. Plot, in his Natural History of Oxfordshire, informs us that-

“ Soon after the murder of King Charles I. a commission was appointed to survey the king's house at Woodstock, with the manor, park, woods, and other demesnes ; for which purpose they met on the 13th of October, 1649, and took up their residence in the king's new rooms, sitting in the Presence Chamber for the despatch of business. On the 16th of this month, in the midst of their debate, there entered a large black dog howling, who overturned three of their chairs, crept under a bed, and va. nished, although all the doors had been kept carefully locked. The next day, sitting in a lower room, they heard three persons walking overhead, though the chamber was locked up; the wood of the king's oak was brought from the dining-room, and thrown with great violence into the Presence Chamber; the chairs, stools, tables, and other furniture, were forcibly hurried about tbe room; the papers containing the minutes of their trans

See his and Sir Isaac Newton's joint Essay on Chromatics, which won the prize from the Board of Longitude, Philosoph. Trans, vol. vii.


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actions were torn, and the ink-glass broken; the doors all the while remaining fast, and the keys in the custody of the commissioners. The night following, Sharp the secretary, and two of the servants, being asleep in the same room, bad their beds' feet lifted up so much higher than their heads, that they expected to have their necks broken, and then were let fall again with a violence that shook the whole house. On the night of the 19th, all being a-bed in the same room for greater security, and lights burning by them, the candles in an instant burnt blue, and then went out with a sulphureous smell; and that moment the wooden trenchers whereon they had eaten the day before, and which had been locked up in the pantry, where hurled about the room with great violence. On several following nights the candles changed colour as before, strange noises were beard, their Honours received sore bruises from logs of wood and other substances thrown upon them, which kept rolling about the room all night, though next morning nothing could be seen. On the 29th, about midnight, the candles went out bluely as usual; something walked majestically through the room, and opened and shut the windows; great stones flew about in all directions; and at about a quarter after one, a noise was heard as of forty cannon discharged together, and again repeated at about eight minutes' distance; which being heard through the country for sixteen miles round, brought all the neighbourhood into their Honours' room, where they gathered up the great stones, fourscore in number, and laid them by in the corner of a field, where, in Dr. Plot's time, they were still to be seen. The commissioners during this visitation gave themselves up for lost, crying aloud for help; and Giles Sharp, snatching up a sword, had well nigh killed one of their Honours, mistaking him for the spirit as he ran in his shirt from one room to the other. Still, however, they resolved on continuing their labours, when, on the 1st of November, the most dreadful scene of all ensued: candles were lighted up in every part of the room, and a great fire made; at midnight, the candles all burning blue, a noise like the bursting of a cannon was heard, and the burning billets were tossed about even on their Honours' beds, who called Giles and their companions to their relief, otherwise the house had been burnt to the ground; an hour after, the candles went out as usual, horses' bones came pouring into the room with great force, the curtains, and windows were violently torn and shaken, and the whole neighbourhood alarmed with such tremendous noises, that even the rabbit stealers who were abroad that night in the warren were so terrified that they fled away, leaving their ferrets behind them. One of their Honours this night spoke, and in the name of God asked the spirit what it was, and why it disturbed them so ? to which, however, no answer was given.

“ One of the servants now ligbted a large candle, and set it on the door-way between the two chambers; and as he watched it, he plainly saw a hoof striking candle and candlestick into

the middle of the room, and afterwards making three scrapes over the snuff, scraped it out. Upon this he was so bold as to draw a sword, but had scarce got it out when he felt another invisible hand pulling it from him, and at length prevailing, struck bim so violently on the head with the pummel that he fell down for dead with the blow. At this instant was heard another explosion, like the broadside of a ship of war, and, at about a minute or two's distance each, no less than nineteen more suchs shaking the house so violently that they expected every minute it would fall upon their heads. But what put an end to their proceedings happened the next day as they were all at dinner, when a paper in which they had signed a mutual agreement to share a part of the premises among themselves (which paper they bad hid for the present under the earth in a pot in one corner of the room, and in which an orange tree grew,) was consumed in a wonderful manner by the earth's taking fire and burning violently with a blue flame and intolerable stench, so that they were all driven out of the house, to which they could never again be prevailed on to return.”

Thus far Dr. Plot, whose narrative, occurring in a grave and authentic county history, affords abundant testimony to the fact which forms the subject of this essay, while it supplies much matter for serious and deep reflection. Later writers offer concurrent evidence. Colman, in his pathetic ballad, describing the appearance of the gardener's ghost, particularly notes that the candles turned blue" though a large dip of four to the pound;" and Lewis, in his Lorenzo the Brave, fails not to record that at the appearance of the skeleton guest

All pleasure and laughter were hush'd at his sight,
The dogs as they eyed him drew back in affright,

And the lights in the chamber burnt blue : but neither author attempts any solution of the phenomenon.

My own theory, which I submit with great deference, is entirely founded on the system of chromatics. Every ray of light, it is well known, consists of seven primary colours, and that the colours of bodies proceed from their disposition to reflect one sort of rays and absorb the other ; such substances as reflect two or more sorts of rays appear

ing of various colours; the whiteness of bodies arising from their reflecting all the rays of light promiscuously, and their blackness from their inability to reflect any. Now, if a candle--but I forget to mention, in the conclusion of Dr. Plot's marvellous narrative, that the whole contrivance was subsequently discovered to be the inventon of the memorable Joseph Collins, of Oxford, otherwise called Funny Joe, who, having hired himself as secretary to the commissioners under the name of Giles Sharp, by knowing the private traps belonging to the house, and the help of pulvis fulminans, and other chemical preparations, and letting his fellow servants into the scheme, carried on the deceit without discovery to the very last. Combining this circumstance with the great doubt as to the exista ence of ghosts themselves, I conceive it less necessary to proceed with the exposition of my theory, because, if there be no spectres there can be no change of colour in the candles ; and if there be, the change is perfectly natural, for I should like to know which of us, standing in such a presence, would not look blue.



No. II. It may, perhaps, be urged by the admirers of dramatic facetiæ, that if our existing writers were not the first to discontinue this brilliant writing, they might at all events be the first to restore it, Granted :-a glance at Tooke's Pantheon might furpish them with a few classical allusions, and their own brains might with a little coaxing supply some occasional sallies even of abstracted wit. If their antagonists be illiberal enough to deny them even

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