Imatges de pÓgina

nifestly more pensive, and the idea which had formerly been a subject of mirth became an incessant torment to him. Without betraying his real cause of alarm, he went from one physician to another to consult them on the state of his health, and to stifle the voice of imagination by the opinions of the faculty. He resorted to all sorts of preservatives ; every conceivable cause of disease was obviated; and the ominous year only wanted a month of its completion, when he was seized with an ordinary fever, and at the same time with the horrors of death. The whole virulence of the disease was thereby determined to the head and nerves, and on the fifth day he was carried off by apoplexy.

I mean not to assert that there may not be cases in which the soul has a real presentiment, nay a decided certainty, of approaching dissolution. These occur chiefly in lingering disorders, when the vital powers decline by slow degrees, and the inward feeling of our physical existence may in a manner calculate daily the sum of the loss. Here a presentiment of the period when the little remaining store must be completely exhausted, when the oil in the lamp shall be quite burned out, seems to be possible enough. I shall never forget a friend, who was so reduced by pulmonary consumption that a breath seemed capable of extinguishing the feeble flame, and whose dissolution was every moment expected. He was himself a physician; and in this agonizing state he fixed the duration of his life at twentyfour hours, desired his watch to be hung up to his bed, counted every hour, and with steadfast look accompanied the hand to the completion of the twenty-fourth, when he closed his eyes for ever.

From the influence of the imagination, it is easy to conceive how diseases, especially those of the mind and the nerves, may have their periods, and be, in the strictest sense of the term, the fashion. Every age has, it is well known, its peculiar form and mode of thinking, and its own prevailing ideas, which at length become identified with ourselves. Nothing is more natural than that this form should communicate itself to our feelings, and particularly express itself in diseases of the nerves and of the representative faculty. To this is added a secret sympathy of the imagination, by means of which even defects and diseases of the mind easily excite imitation, and become really catching. By way of illustration, I need instance only the contagious influence of yawning. In this manner we may account for it why certain diseases of this class should be generally prevalent for a time, and then disappear; and why others, though the physical causes are the same, yet never appear again in the same form.

There are many remarkable instances of this kind. How long did the disease which manifested itself in the notions of witchcraft, and persons being possessed by the devil, prevail universally!-and yet, merely through a change in our way of thinking, and the different direction given to the imagination, it has gone quite out of fashion. People were so accustomed to regard every wicked thought as the suggestion of the devil, and every unusual sound at night as his voice, and to believe him to be continually behind the scenes, that at length this idea became the predominant one; the imagination was incessantly occupied with it; and hence unusual inward feelings of illness might easily be taken, by those to whom they occurred, for Satanic



impulses and agency, and they seriously believed themselves to be bewitched and possessed. It is astonishing what firm hold this conviction had taken of some, and how they retained it even on the scaffold and at the stake. We find incontestable evidence that many were as certain of their guilt as their judges ; and that the judges, as well as the unfortunate wretches condemned by them, were seized, in fact, with one and the same disease. The only difference was, that those were active, and these passive. It is, indeed, a pleasing occupation to compare the symptoms of those diseases attributed to infernal agency with the nervous complaints of our days, and the then way of thinking with the present; for it teaches us to admire the progress of natural philosophy and of the cultivation of the human mind, and gives us some idea of the blessed influence of genuine illumination.

One of the most singular fashionable diseases was that which caused people to believe themselves to be transformed into beasts. We find traces of it in the remotest antiquity. It is not improbable that many of the mythological fables may have originated in this source. The celebrated instance of King Nebuchadnezzar might have had a similar origin, and his extraordinary history may be reduced to this, that, de· ranged with inordinate pride, he fancied himself a brute, ran away, and with this notion actually lived several years among the beasts of the field, till at length, cured perhaps by the air and herbage, he recovered his reason and returned to his residence. But this disease was not properly in fashion till the 12th, 13th, and 14th century, when it received the distinctive appellation of Lycanthropy. In those times there were numbers of people who were sometimes seized with the extraordinary paroxysm of fancying themselves to be wolves. It was in fact a state of ecstasy or trance, in which the more delicate nervous system of the nineteenth century would perhaps have heard the voices of angels. Living at that time among wolves, people heard those animals howling, assumed in imagination the nature of wolves, and in idea acted accordingly. When they came to themselves, they related all that they had been doing in their dreams, just as if it had really happened. Many were even affected to such a degree, that they not only had visions, but actually ran away, wandered about for several days together in the forests, stealing lambs, devouring them raw, and conducting themselves exactly like wolves. At length this infatuation increased to such a pitch, that people firmly believed not merely that a man could fancy himself a wolf, but that he could actually transform himself into one. Hence the writers of those times gravely relate, that whole flocks of such wolf-men prowled about the country, that whole villages were seized with this mania, and that when a person killed a wolf, he could never be sure whether it was a real wolf or a man in the shape of a wolf; nay, it was even observed that the wounds inflicted on a supposed wolf very often appeared afterwards on the person of a man. At length it was deemed advisable to attribute this species of insanity also to the agency of the Devil, to anathematize the poor

wolf-men, and to burn all that could be caught; and as the wolves themselves meanwhile gradually became more rare, and the imagination ceased to be so much engaged with them, this singular infatuation at length subsided entirely.


The rest was deep at the slumberer's hour,

If thou didst not bear the blast
Of the savage horn, from the Mountain-tower, *

When the Wild Night-Huntsman past,
And the roar of the stormy chase went by,
Through the dark unquiet sky!
The deer sprang up from their mossy beds,

When they caught the piercing sounds,
And the oak-boughs crash'd to their antler'd heads,

As they flew from the viewless hounds;
And the falcon soar'd from her craggy height,
Away through the rushing night!
From the chieftain's hand the wine-cup fell,

At the castle's festive board,
And a sudden pause came o'er the swell

Of the harp's triumphal chord.
And the Minnesinger's + joyous lay
In the hall died fast away.
The convent's chaunted rite was stay'd,

And the hermit dropp'd his beads,
And the forest rang through its deepest shade,

With the neigh of the phantom steeds ;
And the church-bells peal'd to the rocking blast,
As the Wild Night-Huntsman past!
The storm hath swept with the chase away,

There is stillness in the sky;
But the mother looks on her son to-day,

With a troubled heart and eye,
And the maiden's brow hath a shade of care,
'Midst the gleam of her golden hair!
The Rhine Aows bright, but its waves ere long

Must hear a voice of war,
And a clash of spears our hills among,

And a trumpei from afar ;
And the brave on a bloody turf must lie,
For the Huntsman hath gone by!1

F. H.

The ruined Castle of Rodenstein, whence the Wild Huntsman is supposed to issue with his train, and traverse the air to the opposite Castle of Schnellerts.

+ Minnesinger, love-singers; the wandering minstrels of Germany were so called.

It is a popular belief in the Odenwald, that the passing of the Wild Huntsman announces the approach of war.

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Oh, how I am troubled, Dum
Bamboozled and bit!

Beggar's Opera. Salve magna parens ! All hail to the parent Society for the Suppression of Mendicity !-50 far from impugning its merits, I would applaud them to the very echo that should applaud again, always thanking Heaven that it was not established before the days of Homer, Belisarius, and Bampfylde Moore Carew, in which case we should bave had three useful fictions the less, and lost three illustrations that have done yeoman's service in pointing many a moral, and tagging as many tales. That I reverence the existing Association, and duly appreciate its benevolent exertions, is best evidenced by my proposal for a Branch or Subsidiary Company, not to interfere with duties already so fully and zealously discharged, but to take cognizance of various classes of sturdy beggars who do not come within the professed range of the original Institution. Mendicity is not confined to the asking of alms in the public streets ; it is not the exclusive profession of rags and wretchedness, of the cripple and the crone, but is openly practised by able-bodied and well-dressed vagrants of both sexes, who, eluding the letter of the law while they violate its spirit, call loudly for the interference of some such repressive establishment as that which I am now advocating. When I inform you, Mr. Editor, that I live by my wits, you will at once comprehend the tenuity of my circumstances ; and when I hint that I enact the good Samaritan to the slender ability in all such cases as fall within my own observation, you will not wonder that I should wish to provide some sort of amateur Bridewell for such personages as my neighbour Miss Spriggins.

This lady is universally acknowledged to be one of the very best creatures in the world, which is the reason, I suppose, why she never married, there being no instance, out of the records of Dunmow, of

any wife of that description. Her unoccupied time and affections followed the usual routine in such cases made and provided, that is to say, she became successively a bird-breeder, a dog-fancier, a blue-stocking, and lastly, the Lady Bountiful, not of our village only, (that I could tolerate, but of the whole district, in which capacity she constitutes a central depôt for all the misfortunes that really happen, and a great many of those that do not. Scarcely a week elapses that she does not call upon me with a heart-rending account of a poor old woman who has lost her cow, a small farmer whose haystack has been burnt down, a shopkeeper whose premises have been robbed of his whole stock, or a widow who has been left with seven small children, the eldest only six years old, and that one a cripple, and the poor mother likely to add to the number in a few weeks ; upon which occasions the subscription list is produced, beginning with the name of Sir David Dewlap, the great army contractor, and followed by those of nabobs, bankers, merchants, and brokers, (for I live but a few miles westward of London) by whom a few pounds of money can no more be missed froin their pockets than the same quantity of fat from their sides. My visitant, knowing the state of my purse, is kind

of my


person I


enough to point out to my observation that some have given so low as a half-sovereign; but then she provokingly adds that even Mr. Tag, a brother scribbler in the village, has put his name down for ten shillings, and surely a person of my superior talents

Here she smirks, and bows, and leaves off; and, partly in payment for her compliment, partly to prove that I can write twice as well as Mr. Tag, I find it impossible to effect my ransom for less than a sovereign. Thus does this good creature torment me in every possible way; first, by bringing my feelings in contact with all the miseries that have occurred or been trumped up in the whole county; and, secondly, by compelling me to disbursements which I am conscious I cannot afford. Nor have I even the common consolations of charity, for, feeling that I bestow my money with an ill-will, from false pride or pique, I accuse myself at once of vanity and meanness, of penury and extravagance. This most worthy nuisance and insatiable beggar is the very

first should recommend to the notice of the proposed Society; and I hope they will be quick, or I shall myself be upon her list. I shall be soon suppressed if she is not.

That the clergyman of the parish should put me in spiritual jeopardy whenever he preaches a charity sermon, threatening me with all sorts of cremation if I do not properly contribute to the collection, is a process to which I can submit patiently :—for though his fulminations may be alarming, his is not the power that can enforce them. But I do hold it to be a downright breach of the peace that Sir David Dewlap aforesaid, and Doctor Allbury, should take their station on each side of the church-door, thrusting in one's face a silver plate, in such cases quite as intimidating as a pistol, and exclaiming in looks and actions, if not in words—"Stand and deliver!" The former is the bashaw of the village, whose fiat can influence the reception or exclusion of all those who mix in the better sort of society, while his custom can mar or make half the shopkeepers of the place. The latter is our principal house-proprietor, and really, Mr. Editor, quarterday comes round so excessively quick, that it is never quite convenient to be out of the good graces of one's landlord. It is precisely on account of the undue influence they can thus exercise, that they undertake this species of legal extortion and robbery, for it deserves no better name. Is it not as bad to put us in mental or financial, as in bodily fear ? and is it not a greater offence when practised on the Lord's highway—(the churchyard), than even on the King's ? Every farthing thus given, beyond what would otherwise have been bestowed, is so much swindled out of our pockets, or torn from us by intimidation, unless we admit the possibility of compulsory free-will offerings. I am a Falstaff, and hate to give money, any more than reasons, upon compulsion : I submit, indeed, but it is an involuntary acquiescence. The end, I may be told, sanctifies the means: charity coveretk 'a multitude of sins ;-true : but undue influence and extortion on the one side, hypocrisy and heart-burning on the other—these are not charity, nor do they hold any affinity with that virtue whose quality is not strained," but droppeth as the gentle dew from heaven." Does the reader recollect a fine old grizzle-headed Silenus-faced demi-Hercules of a cripple, who, with short crutches, and his limbless trunk on a kind of sledge, used to shovel briskly along the streets of London ? Dis

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