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In what are called the actual sufferings of life, a principle of resistance, and means of defence are ever within our reach,-(Is peak not of cowards who lie down under misfortune,) philosophy, religion, and the various energies both of body and of mind, each fitted by the hand of nature to its task arise as our necessities invoke them, but in sleep it is otherwise, our suffering are beyond the measure of mortality, our powers of resistance are prostrate, every faculty, save the imagination, is in chains, and she, with the riotous elty of a drunken slave, tramples on the fallen reason.
I do not doubt that in the world of sleep there may be elysium fields for the happy in life to wander in; all I know is, that from my own experience I can say but little about them; the winged tyrants to whom I have been given up in the long nights of my bondage, have borne me to far different
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades where peace
Our memory, as I often felt to my cost, is a fearful instrument of torture in the hands of sleep; the scenes of our youth, the friends that we have parted from for ever come back with the vividness and distinct beauty of life; we sit beneath the shade of well remembered trees, taking sweet counsel with the brothers and sisters of our childhood, as if death, or marriage, or the heartless policy of years, and of the world, had never chilled our young affections;-and then we awaken, and the dead, die, as it were, again, and the dark grief of the house of mourning comes back, and the dull sound of the first stone on the coffin, rattles in our ears.
If you go on thus, interrupts the reader, you will never get to the end of your story, whatever it is, for you will never make a beginning; true; most logical of readers, but suppose I am not going to tell my story at all, at all, to borrow the emphatic iteration of an Irishman;-it is true, I told you about a page ago, when first we joined company, that I could, if I would, tell strange things;-but I made no promise,-wait until we have jogged on together a little longer, and perhaps you may know more; at all events I can tell you, like Slawkenbergius, that you will not know any thing about me, a whit sooner, by interrupting me; I am thinking on paper, and I will think my own way, or not at all.
Oh the bright days of my childhood; when above me, within me, and around me, there was "light, and splendour, and joy;" when my days were days of gladness, and my nights were wrapped in sleep that knew no dream, the sleep that annihilated time and space, and from which I sprang into a new morning of enjoyment;-reader, most patient reader, I will recal those days, and you and I shall leave this foggy, nook-shotten capital, and breathe a breeze that sea-coal has not tainted, and listen to the deep melody of the woods,-I will bring you to a king's theatre, not made with hands, and you shall have an opera that the wealth of London could not purchase.
From the brow of this rising ground (I fear my eye-sight is better than yours,) we catch the first glimpse of the lofty woods that surround the place of my birth-yonder,-but afar off,- -are the blue hills that I love to climb, Oh! how unchanged, there is an eternal constancy in the aspect of mountains that makes a more durable impression on the memory, than any thing
else in nature; lowland scenery may fade from our recollection, but we never can forget the mountains that we once have known, like antient friends, grave, but not stern; with what a quiet welcome do they receive us, when after years of folly, misfortune or sorrow, we return into their peaceful bosom all that is familiar to us in lowland scenery, passes away like the unstable friendships of prosperity; woods disappear in one placeplantations spring up in another;-the pasture feels the plough like a cholic in its vitals;-mushroom villas arise like exhalations; the plain becomes "every thing by turns, and nothing long;" but the fickle, busy hand of man, cannot tear from the mountain its solemn and eternal beauty.
As the lagging avenue winds with us through the trees, how every well remembered sound arises in my ear, the deep, fond voice of the amorous wood-quest, tire thrilling melody of the unseen black-bird, or the tenderer eloquence of the thrush, and marring all with discord unbidden, the shrill scream of the lordly peacock;-I wish peacocks were not too proud to learn from their companions of the woods, they always remind me of beginners on the clarionet.
There, beside its quiet waters, and beneath the shadow of its venerable yews, stands my favourite noontide retirement, the hermitage;-does it not look as if an anchoret had raised it? many a poet, philosopher, and sage, will we hold charmed converse with beneath its humble roof.
There was a spirit in that sweet place,
An Eve in this Eden, a ruling grace
Which to the flow'rs, did they waken or dream,
The most cheering sound in nature,' is the sweet laughter of girls; many a time as I listened to it, rising through the still evening from the garden or the grove, I have joined in it, though, I knew not its cause, from the very gaiety of heart that it awakened;-now I hear it as distinctly as everI do believe, that these girls, like Duncan's son, laugh in their sleep, at least they never meet me but with smiles; one, indeed, is somewhat sedater than the rest, but I would not give the tranquil melody of her sweetest voice, and the gentle eloquence of her dove-like eyes, for all the sparkling witchery of mirth that ever smiled a man's heart out of his bosom..
Most diligent reader, I do assure you, in verity that the things whereof I speak, I most distinctly see and hear; but as for you, I fear in my heart that you fare no better than Shakabar at the table of the Barmecide;-but say you, will you, like the Barmecide, after describing the ideal banquet, at last feast me with the reality?-Alas! you task me beyond my power, the things whereof I speak, had once indeed, a local habitation, and a name; like a fool, I said in my heart that the freshness of spring would not fade, and that the eyes that smiled upon my childhood, would weep over my grave; but death, whose pupil I have been for many a year, has taught me otherwise; the scenes I have glanced at, and the dear companions of my youth, are now but tenants of my memory, and often in the unkindness of sorrow, I would fain eject them from their melancholy dwelling. I have come to a resolution never to write more than one sheet at a time, so if it be morning, good morning, if it be evening, good evening, if it be night, good night; at all events farewell for the present.
July 16th, 1825.
In my last paper, I said when speaking of the pains of sleep, that they' exceeded in measure, and in intensity, the sufferings of waking life; now as this assertion may startle sound sleepers, (for they seldom dream) I feel that I am in some sort called upon to prove it.
I can fully appreciate the difficulties of my task, but since it is a voluntary one, I have no right to complain of them; I shall only remark that it is no easy matter to place you in such a point of view, as will enable you to comprehend the circumstances which awakened,-if not created, in my mind, the terrible faculty of dreaming, yet give you no insight to those parts of my history, which it is not my intention to disclose; and this I' mention, that you may not blame me for the absence of a connecting narrative, in the scenes I am about to describe.
You will soon perceive that I separate, as by a great gulf, the healthy dreams of the sound in body and mind, from the fearful hauntings of the devoted few, to whom the second sight" of sleep is a besetting curse; who in the abysm of night, as in Dante's deepest hell, are fated to endure all that the imagination can fashion out of the actual sufferings of mortality, and the gigantic horrors of poetry and madness.
The dreams of the healthy and properous are, generally speaking, dim' and incoherent recollections of events of the day, combined fantastically with earlier passages of memory, full of chasms and strange transitions, communicating no acute perception of pleasure or of pain, and forgotten as soon as past; even the night-mare, the only fiend that ever haunts them, is a weak monster; she can but sit upon the breast making strange faces, and oppressing with a sense of languid helplessness, and indistinct. shadowy fear; her sway is for the most part over heavy eaters, and power is given her to torment them for a season, if forgetting the duty of kind masters, they burthen their stomachs with an unreasonable load.
Many years ago I was attacked by fever, and narrowly escaped with my life, and it was during that memorable illness that the faculty of which I am to speak, began to develope itself; I say began, for even in the worst hours of that fever I but saw as in a glass, dimly, the awful phantoms, whom in after nights I was to meet face to face.
Through the course of my illness, I was not at any time actually delirious, at least I never lost the consciousness either of my own identity, or that of those who attended me,-attended me!-is this my cold acknowledgment of the silent watchfulness, the quiet and untiring affection that followed each look, anticipated each wayward wish, and like a gentlest spirit, beguiled the dreary night with a tender constancy that felt no weariness,--sought no repose:-little knows the careless selfishness of health, the measureless value of those thousand nameless attentions, those delicate flowers of innocent love, that the hand of woman strews on the bed of sickness;-the wealthy may buy the jostling officiousness of menials,the selfish zeal of interested followers watches by the couch of the powerful, but the treasures of the deep cannot purchase, the majesty' of Kings cannot command the winged kindness of a sister's affection.
I remember as distinctly as if years were hours, the hideous visions of my fever; one I shall mention, because it haunted me more perseveringly than the rest, and because, after an interval of years, it returned, “but with addition strange;”-in this dream, if dream it can be called, when I had a waking consciousness that I was lying in my bed, I learned for the first time, how truly relative are our notions of me and space, and what a
despotic power the faculty which was awakening within me, possessed over them; first like a solemn prelude came a deep, melancholy sound, one mournful note interminably prolonged, that weighed upon my ear like a groan that never would end, and then, as obeying the omnipotent call, slowly, and in regular progression, every thing around me dilated and receded into gigantic size, and measureless distance; the roof of the bed rose into a pillared canopy, like the lofty dome of some gloomist temple,→ the room became an endless plain,-dim-seen, countless faces, wavering, dilating, and contracting, as if traced upon unsteady clouds, but full of ghastly and terrible expression gathered around me, and a heavy roll, as of the waters of some mighty sea, came upon me, depth, after depth, until I was buried in the hopeless abysses of a fathomless ocean.
I envy those who when the crisis of their dream arrives awaken with a start, and shake off the ghastly imposture; that power was denied to I was ever oppressed by a palsying despondency, linked to a sense of duration stretching into eternity, for in sleep we personify every thing,→ our very fears, and the dread that my sufferings would last for ever, rea→ lized, as it were itself,-lifted up to the veil of time, and shadowed out, as in a dim perspective, the indefinite series of years, the "for ever, and ever," by which the mind endeavours to represent eternity.
At length the fever left me, the unquiet race that troubled me receded; I returned with a bounding heart to the circle of the gentle friends who had borne me through my illness, and the dark nights that I had passed were forgotten; again I sought my accustomed rural haunts, and my evenings were passed as before, in tranquil study, or domestic amusement.
Before I leave these scenes for ever, let me take one long look at them:they say that those who have been restored from blindness to sight, ever feel a horror of dark colours, and I believe it, for I have a strange desire to linger about this period of my life, and a dread to encounter, even in memory, the miserable years that followed it;-wisely and kindly does providence soften the past, and veil the future.
The summer that followed my illness was the last we ever spent at stately B--- ; it was sold soon after, and I bid it farewell with a regret that I cannot easily describe; it was the place of my birth, and although the days that I passed there were comparatively few, yet they were among the happiest of my life, and the memory measures time, not by years, but by events;---besides it was a magnificient seat, and parting from it hurt my youthful pride, I deemed it, and justly, the presage of our downfall.
My father's health, began visibly to decline; he was no longer able to visit his favourite summer retreat, quiet woodland L-; the cursed litigation too, in which he had so long been involved, seemed as far from a termination as ever, and the embarrassments which it created, preyed on on his haughty spirit;---but above all, faint suspicions of the unutterable treachery of one whom he had cherished in the bosom ofhis family, began to awaken in his mind, and sicken his heart,---I have seen his very chair, after some long consultation with that wily hypocrite, and his sordid wooden-faced father,---I have seen his very chair, I say, shake with the fierce agitation, that convulsed his powerful frame, but I was full of the credulity of my age, and I never dreamed of the cause of his emotion;---I had yet to learn the villainous chemistry, which out of the unsuspecting generosity of his lofty mind, could extract the means of ruining his family. On the of my father died.
I am about to pass over a gulph of years, the events that are buriedi n 14. shall never see the light with my consent; I am not stoic enough to sit down to detail them,-they were years of fiery anguish, of hopeless miserable watching, closed by death, the cruel treacherous death, that brightens the eye, and flushes the cheek while it steals the life, as a vampire drains the blood,---I am not equal, I say, to the detail, and all that it is necessary for you to know is the result,
July, 17th, 1825,
Look for me no more in the circle of a happy family,-in the sight of innocent youthful beauty ;-from henceforth I am to be found in the recesses of wild mountains, or in a gloomy solitary in (it was not always gloomy and solitary) or in an University, plunged in deep study when my mind will permit, or when that is impossible, to the full as deep in the wildest extravagance of riotous folly, the chief of a society associated for the express purpose of disturbing the quiet of the city, and beating the police;-I was the terror of all lovers of good order, the Zisca of constables, when the lights were out in a row, I used to feel for their rough coats;-I have slain more Charlies with my single arm, than half the Tom and Jerry gentry of the present day put together, my companions used to wonder at the audacious hardihood with which I thrust myself upon danger, but the unhappy are very courageous.
These were pitiless times,-I was beset night and day;-I was never what is called a melancholy man, constitutional hardness of nerves exempted me from the melting mood,-I never shed tears, but when I thought much on my dismal reverses I was seized with strange paroxisms of rage, rather than grief, which determined the blood to my head, and tormented me sorely;-so much for the days,---then, what nights!
I never dreamed of daylight, the chearful sun never shone upon the regions I was borne to---the light was ever the dusky glare of torches, or the terrible splendor of enormous fires that dazzle my eyes, and baked my blood, and withered my heart, even in sleep-many a time I have awakened with the fierce glow, burning on my cheek, and the sullen roar of the mighty flames, tingling in my ears, and here let me give an example of uses to which sleep can turn realities.
I once was present at a fire, where several persons perished; it was attended by circumstances of peculiar horror: all the sufferers were females, one of them was a beautiful girl, and had a single spark of presence of mind existed in the mighty crowd that witnessed her fate, she might have been saved, for she appeared at one of the windows supplicating for assistance, but before a hand was stretched to save her, before a ladder could be dragged through the Babel of riotous confusion that surrounded the house, the floor gave way, and the wretched girl went down alive into the flames: I came in view of the house at the very instant when this occurred, and I as flew, rather than ran along, the ten-fold fury of the fire, bursting like a whirlwind through the falling floor, and the frantic yell of the assembled thousands told me that was byer.
I forced my way through the press in front of the house, and never will I forget the scene that presented itself; the vast multitude, whose united shriek the instant before had pierced my very brain, was as silent as the