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grief, and superstition have added a vast variety of unauthorised circumstances. The passions and attachments which were incident to the individual in his earthly, are attributed to him in his spiritual state; he is supposed to be still agitated by terrestrial objects and relations, to delight in the scenes which he formerly inhabited, to feel for and to protect the persons with whom he was formerly connected, to be actuated, in short, by emotions of love, anger, and revenge, and to be in a situation which admits of receiving benefit or augmented suffering through the attentions or negligence of surviving friends. Accordingly, the spirit or apparition of the deceased was supposed occasionally to revisit the glimpses of the moon, and to become visible to its dearest relatives or associates, for the purpose of admonishing, complaining, imploring, warning, or directing.

Now all these additions to the abstract idea of immortality, though perhaps naturally arising from the affectionate regrets, the conscious weakness, and the eager curiosity of man, and therefore universal as his diffusion over the globe, are totally unwarranted by our only safe and sure guide, the records of the Bible; for though we are taught that man exists in another state, and disembodied of the organs which he possessed whilst an inhabitant of this planet, we are also told, that he is supplied with a new body, of a very different nature, and, without a miracle, indiscernible by our present senses. We are told by St. Peter, that even the body of our Saviour after his resurrection could only be seen through the operation of a miracle: "Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to he visible: Et dedit eum manifestum fieri." Vulg. "He was no longer," observes Bishop Horsley, "in a state to be naturally visible to any man. His body was indeed risen, but it was become that body which St. Paul describes in the fifteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, which, having no sympathy with the gross bodies of this earthly sphere, nor any place among them, must be indiscernible to the human organs, till they shall have undergone a similar refinement."

We have no foundation, therefore, in Scripture, nor according to its doctrine, can we have, for attaching credibility to the re-appearance of the Departed; yet. independent of the predisposition of the human mind, from the influence of affectionate regret, to think upon the dead as if still present to our wants and wishes, a state of feeling which, in Celtic poetry, has given birth to an interesting system of mythology entirely built on apparitional intercourse, the relations which we possess of the apparent return of the dead, are so numerous, and, in many instances, so unexceptionably attested, that they have led to several ingenious, and, indeed, partially successful attempts to account for them. One or two of these attempts, as terminating in some curious speculations on the character of Hamlet. and on the apparition of his father, it will be necessary more particularly to


A firm belief in Visitation from the Spirits of the Deceased was so strong a feature in the age of Shakspeare, and the immediately subsequent period, and was supported by such an accumulation of testimony, that it roused the exertions of a few individuals of a philosophical turn of mind, to account for what they would not venture to deny; Lavaterus and others on the Continent, and Scot § and Mede in our own country, attempting to prove that these appearances were not occasioned by the return of the dead, but by the permitted and personal agency

Horsley's Nine Sermons on the Nature of the Evidence by which the Fact of our Lord's Resurrection is established, p. 209.

See an elegant and very satisfactory Dissertation on the "Mythology of the Poems of Ossian," by Professor Richardson of Glasgow, in Graham's "Essay on the Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian.” Sva.


Lavaterus was translated into English by R. H. and printed by Henry Benneyman, in 1572. 4to. See his Treatise on Divels and Spirits. annexed to his Discoverie of Witchcraft, 4to. 1584. **Mede wns born in 1586 and died in 1638, and the doctrine in question is to be found in the fortieth of his fifty-three Discourses, published after his deccase.

of good or evil angels, who, as we occasionally find in Scripture, and more particularly in the case of Samuel, before the Witch of Endor, were allowed to assume the resemblance of the deceased.

But, though this hypothesis be constructed on a species of spiritual agency which we know to have existed, yet are the instances for which it is adopted by these writers much too trivial and frequent to secure to their solution a rational assent; nor is the presence of these superior intelligences, as objects of sight, at all necessary to account for the phenomena in question.

For it is obvious, that if relying, with Bishop Horsley, on the evidence of sacred history, we believe that the Deity oftentimes acts mediately, through his agents, on the human sensory, as a part of the material universe, thereby producing diseases and morbid impressions, the same effects will result. Not that we conceive matter can, in any degree, modify the thinking principle itself, but its organisation being the sole medium through which the intellect communicates with the external world, it is evident that any derangement of the structure of the brain must render the perceptions of the mind, as to material existences, imperfect, false, and illusory.

It is remarkable that a doctrine similar to this was produced in the last century to account for the spectral appearances of second sight, by a Scotchman too, himself an Islander, who has furnished us with an ample collection of instances of this singular visitation; this gentleman contending, that these prophetic scenes are exhibited not to the sight, but merely to the imagination. He adds, with great sagacity,

"As these Representations or waking Dreams, according to the best Enquiry I could make, are communicated (unless it be seldom) but to one Person at once, though there should be several Persons, and even some Seers in Company, those Representations seem rather communicated to the Imagination (as said is) than the Organ of Sight; seeing it is impossible, if made always to the latter, but all Persons directing their sight the same Way, having their Faculty of Sight alike perfect and equally disposed, must see it in common." +

We must refer, however, to the present day for demonstration, founded on actual experience, that the appearance of ghosts and apparitions is, in every instance, the immediate effect of certain partial but morbid affections of the brain; yet, it must be remarked, that the ingenious physiologists who have proved this curious fact, entirely confine themselves, and perhaps very justly, to physical phenomena, professedly discarding the consideration of any higher efficiency in the series of causation than what appears as the result of diseased organisation; so that their discovery, though completely overturning the common superstition as to the return of the departed spirit, or the visible interference of angelic agency, is yet very reconcileable with the pneumatology of Bishop Horsley.

In 1805, Dr. Alderson of Hull read to the Literary Society of that place, and published in 1811, an Essay on Apparitions, the object of which is to prove that the immediate cause of these spectral visitations "lies, not in the perturbed spirits of the departed, but in the diseased organisation of the living." For this purpose he relates several cases of this hallucination which fell under his own observation and treatment, and which, as distinguished from partial insanity, from delirium, somnabulism, and reverie, were completely removed by medical means.

In 1813, Dr. Ferriar of Manchester published, on a more extended scale, "An Essay towards a Theory of Apparitions;" whose aim and result are precisely similar to the anterior production of Dr. Alderson; both admitting the reality and universality of spectral impressions, and both attributing them to partial affections of the brain, independent of any sensible external agency; it is also remarkable that both have applied their speculations and experience in illustration of the

A Treatise on the Second Sight, Dreams, Apparitions, &c. By Theophilus Insulanus," Syo. Edinb. 1763 Reprint of 1815, annexed to Kirk's "Secret Commonwealth,” p_74.

character of Hamlet, a circumstance which has, in a great measure, led to these general observations on the progress of opinion as to the nature of apparitional visitation.

The state of mind which Shakspeare exhibits to us in Hamlet, as the consequence of conflicting passions and events, operating on a frame of acute sensibility, Dr. Ferriar has termed latent lunacy.

"The subject of latent lunacy," he remarks," is an untouched field, which would afford the richest harvest to a skilful and diligent observer. Cervantes has immortalized himself, by displaying the effect of one bad species of composition on the hero of his satire, and Butler has delineated the evils of epidemic, religious, and political frenzy; but it remains as a task for some delicate pencil, to trace the miseries introduced into private families, by a state of mind, which sees more devils that vast hell can hold,' and which yet affords no proof of derangement, sufficient to justify the seclusion of the unhappy invalid.

"This is a species of distress, on which no novelist has ever touched, though it is unfortunately increasing in real life; though it may be associated with worth, with genius, and with the most specious demonstrations (for a while) of general excellence.

"Addison has thrown out a few hints on this subject in one of the Spectators; it could not escape so critical an observer of human infirmities; and I have always supposed, that if the character of Sir Roger de Coverley had been left untouched by Steele, it would have exhibited some interesting traits of this nature. As it now appears, we see nothing more than occasional absence of mind; and the peculiarities of an humourist, contracted by retirement, and by the obsequiousness of his dependants.

"It has often occurred to me, that Shakspeare's character of Hamlet can only be understood on this principle. He feigns madness, for political purposes, while the poet means to represent his understanding as really (and unconsciously to himself) unhinged by the cruel circumstances in which he is placed. The horror of the communication made by his father's spectre; the necessity of belying his attachment to an innocent and deserving object; the certainty of his mother's guilt; and the supernatural impulse by which he is goaded to an act of assassination, abhorrent to his nature, are causes sufficient to overwhelm and distract a mind previously disposed to 'weakness and to melancholy,' and originally full of tenderness and natural affection. By referring to the book, it will be seen, that his real insanity is only developed after the mock play. Then, in place of a systematic conduct, conducive to his purposes, he becomes irresolute, inconsequent, and the plot appears to stand unaccountably still. Instead of striking at his object, he resigns himself to the current of events, and sinks at length, ignobly, under the stream."

Dr. Alderson, alluding to the common but cogent argument against a belief in Ghosts, "that only one man at a time ever saw a ghost, therefore, the probability is, that there never was such a thing," adds, in reference to the character of Hamlet, and to Shakspeare's management of his supernatural machinery, the following observations:

* Essay on the Theory of Apparitions, p. 111-115.-The following very curious instance of a striking renewal of terrific impressions, is given by the Doctor in this entertaining little work: it was communicated to him, he tells us, by the gentleman who underwent the deception :-"He was benighted, while traveling alone, in a remote part of the Highlands of Scotland, and was compelled to ask shelter for the evening at a small lonely hut. When he was to be conducted to his bed-room, the landlady observed, with mysterio as reluctance, that he would find the window very insecure. On examination, part of the wall appeared in have been broken down, to enlarge the opening. After some enquiry, he was told, that a pedlar, who had lodged in the room a short time before, had committed suicide, and was found hanging behind the door, in the morning. According to the superstition of the country, it was deemed improper to remove the body through the door of the house; and to convey it through the window was impossible, without removing part of the wall. Some hints were dropped, that the room had been subsequently haunted by the poor man's spirit.

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My friend laid his arms, properly prepared against instrusion of any kind, by the bedside, and retired to rest, not without some degree of apprehension. He was visited, in a dream, by a frightful apparition. and awaking in agony, found himself sitting up in bed, with a pistol grasped in his right hand. On casting a fearful glance round the room, he discovered, by the moon-light, a corpse, dressed in a shroud, reared erect, against the wall, close by the window. With much difficulty, he summoned up resolution to approach the dismal object, the features of which, and the minutest parts of its funeral apparel, he perceived distinctly. He passed one hand over it; felt nothing; and staggered back to the bed. After aku. interval, and much reasoning with himself, he renewed his investigation, and at length discovered that the object of his terror was produced by the moon-beams, forming a long, bright image, through the broken window, on which his fancy, impressed by his dream, had pictured, with mischievous accuracy, th lincaments of a body prepared for interment. Powerful associations of terror, in this instance, had excited the recollected images with uncommon force and effect." P. 24–28.

"From what I have related, it will be seen why it should happen, that only one at a time ever could see a ghost; and here we may lament, that our celebrated poet, whose knowledge of nature is every Englishman's boast, had not known such cases, and their causes as those I have related; he would not then, perhaps, have made his ghosts visible and audible on the stage. Every expression, every look in Macbeth and Hamlet, is perfectly natural and consistent with men so agitated, and quite sufficient to convince us of what they suffer, see, and hear; but it must be evident, that the disease being confined solely to the individual, such objects must be seen and heard only by the individual. That men so circumstanced as Macbeth or Hamlet, Brutus and Dion, should see phantoms and hold converse with them, appears to me perfectly natural; and, though the cases I have now related owe their origin entirely to a disordered state of bodily organs, as may be evidently inferred by the history of their rise, and the result of their cure, yet, with the knowledge we have of the effects of mind on the body, we may be fairly led to conclude, that great mental anxiety, inordinate ambition, and guilt may produce similar effects."

If Shakspeare, more philosopher than poet, had pursued the plan which Dr. Alderson has recommended, he would have injured his tragedy, and wrecked his popularity. We could have spared, indeed, any ocular demonstration of the mute and blood-boultered ghost of Banquo in Macbeth, but had the ghost in Hamlet been invisible and inaudible, we should have lost the noblest scene of grateful terror which genius has ever created.

Nor was it ignorance on the part of Shakspeare which gave birth to the visibility of this awful spectre, for he has told us, in another place, that

"Such shadows are the weak brain's forgeries." +

and, even in the very play under consideration, he calls them "the very coinage of the brain," and adds,

"This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in;"

but he well knew, that as a dramatic poet, in a superstitious age, it was requisite, in order to produce a strong and general impression, to adopt the popular creed, the superstition relative to his subject; and, as Mrs. Montagu has justly observed, the poet who does so, understands his business much better than the critic, who, in judging of that work, refuses it his attention. Thus every operation that develops the attributes, which vulgar opinion, or the nurse's legend, have taught us to ascribe to such a preternatural Being,' will augment our pleasure; whether we give the reins to our imagination, and, as spectators, willingly yield ourselves up to pleasing delusion, or, as judicious' Critics, examine the merit of the composition."+

That an undoubting belief in the actual appearance of ghosts and apparitions was general in Shakspeare's time, has been the assertion of all who have alluded to the subject, either as contemporary or subsequent historians. Addison, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, speaking of the credulities of the two preceding centuries, observes, that" our Forefathers looked upon Nature with reverence and horror-that they loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, charms, and enchantments.-There was not a village in England that had not a ghost in it-the churchyards were all haunted— every common had a circle of fairies belonging to it-and there was scarce a Shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit ;"S and Bourne, who wrote about the same period, and expressly on the subject of vulgar superstitions, tells us that formerly "hobgoblins and sprights were in every city, and town, and village, by every water, and in every wood.-If a house was seated on some melancholy place, or built in some old romantic manner; or if any particular

• Essay on Apparitions, annexed to the fourth edition of his Essay on the Rhus Toxicodendron, P68, 69 Rape of Lucrece,

Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakspeare. 8vo, 5th edit. p. 162, 165,
Spectator, No. 419.

accident had happened in it, such as murder, sudden death, or the like, to be sure that house had a mark set on it, and was afterwards esteemed the habitation of a ghost.-Stories of this kind are infinite, and there are few villages which have not either had such an house in it, or near it."

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Such, then, being the superstitious character of the poet's times it was with great judgment that he seized the particulars best adapted to his purpose, moulding them with a skill so perfect, as to render the effect awful beyond all former precedent. A slight attention to the circumstances which accompany the first appearances of the spectre to Horatio and to Hamlet, will place this in a striking point of view.

The solemnity with which this Royal phantom is introduced is beyond measure impressive: Bernardo is about to repeat to the incredulous Horatio what had occurred on the last apparition of the deceased monarch to Marcellus and himself, and thus commences his narrative:

"Last night of all,

When yon same star, that's westward from the pole,
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus, and myself,

The bell then beating one :"

This note of time, the traditionary hour for the appearance of a ghost, and, above all, the mysterious connection between the course of the star, and the visitation of the spirit, usher in the "dreaded sight" with an influence which makes the blood run chill.

A similar correspondence between a natural phenomenon in the heavens, and the agency of a disembodied spirit, occurs, with an effect which has been much admired, in a poem by Lord Byron, where the shade of Francesca, addressing her apostate lover, and directing his attention to the orb of night, exclaims,

"There is a light cloud by the moon

'Tis passing, and will pass full soon-
If, by the time its vapoury sail
Hath ceased her shaded orb to veil,
Thy heart within thee is not changed,
Then God and mau are both avenged;
Dark will thy doom be, darker still
Thine immortality of ill.Ӡ

The adjuration and interrogation of the ghost by Horatio and Hamlet, are conducted in conformity to the ceremonies of papal superstition; for it may be remarked, that in many things relative to religious observances, or to the preternatural as connected with religion, Shakspeare has shown such a marked predilection for the imposing exterior, and comprehensive creed of the Roman church, as to lead some of his biographers to suppose that he was himself a Roman Catholic. The adoption, however, is to be attributed to the poetical nature of the materials which the doctrines of Rome supply, and more particularly to the food for imagination which the supposition of an intermediate state, in which the souls of the departed are still connected with, and influenced by, the conduct of man, must necessarily create.

Such a system, it is evident, would very readily admit of some of the oldest and most prevalent superstitions of the heathen world, and would give fresh credibility to the re-appearance of the dead, in order to reveal and to punish some horrible murder, to right the oppressed orphan and the widow, to enjoin the sepulture of the mangled corse, to discover concealed and ill-gotten treasure, to claim the aid of prayer and intercession, to announce the fate of kingdoms, etc. etc. Thus Horatio, addressing the Spectre, alludes to some of these as the probable causes of the dreadful visitation which appals him :

* Bourne's Antiquities of the Common People, 1725, edition apud Brand, p. 119, 122, 123 The Siege of Corinth.

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