On Dreams.


Was sung in parts by the Furies Three;

And the Devil took out Medusa."

I remember once reading, during the evening, an essay of several pages length, and, on going to bed, repeating it word for word, from beginning to end. De Quincey immortalized himself by his wonderful visions. There is that remarkable work of Cicero's on the vision of Scipio, a work that I have often thought must have suggested to Richter the idea embodied in his well-known Dream of The Universe. Bunyan is continually saying, "Now I saw in my dream." And thus a thousand and one instances might be cited, in which, merely as a flight of the imagination, or to serve a more practical Deus-ex-machina end, dreams have been used by authors. Before such an array of wonderful dreams, we cannot but admit that dreams are among the strangest things in a strange universe. We begin to feel as humble as old Socrates, who said that he knew only that he knew nothing. It is from this very fact of our growing humility that I draw the conclusion that we are in advance of the past ages in our learning in regard to dreams. Joseph Glanville published in 1665 his book "Scepsis Scientifica," in which he very successfully shows that "Confest ignorance is the way to science." If, then, the vanity of dogmatising is not overrated, we are in a fair way, I think, of becoming very much more learned on this subject of dreams. May we not hope that, in the near future, dream lore will no longer be superstition in regard to dreams; that before many years have passed we shall know so much about dreams that we may make them to order; and that the dream book will have vanished, except from the work basket of some aged country maiden of seventy years or more, or from the casket of some boarding school miss, where it will lie amid complexion powders, scented stationery and love-letters?

This was an admirable period, and an admirable place for me to lay aside my pen. But my conscience, or a dxmon, or a vision, or something bids me write on. For to tell the truth, ever since I wrote the first paragraph of this desultory essay, I have been seeking to find a place to insert a portion of a dream I had a few nights ago. It may be wearisome, but I am bent on making it public. "The prophet that bath a dream let him tell it," says Jeremiah. You, my kind but tired reader, I advise to stop at the end of this sentence. For I warn you,- there are no angels, or robbers, or Frenchmen's calculus problems, or earthquakes to recommend my dream to you. It is a very commonplace bit of allegory. For you who are listening I begin:

-I seemed to my self to be wakened from a deep sleep. A being not of this world stood by my bedside. "Come," he said, "I am to show you all classes and conditions of men tonight." I followed him and he kept his word; but the knowledge of only one class remains fixed indelibly upon my memory, and this alone I can describe. We were in the vicinity of a great university. We entered an old-fashioned hedge-surrounded house and found ourselves in an apparently well-stocked library. A large open fire-place yawned at its opposite end. A few dull embers flickered dimly there, sending out barely light enough to reveal the features of the room, and making the corners and recesses all the more fit abodes for the uncanny beings that haunt such places in the dead of night. Hundreds of volumes were ranged up the sides of the walls. Ancient tapestries from Venice and Florence draped gracefully in the corners. Marbles and vases, gems and intaglios, represented the civilization of Greece and Rome. Knickknacks and curiosities from foreign lands lay scattered with studied carelessness among the books. The library was all that a man of letters could desire. I rubbed my eyes that I might be sure that I was not asleep. "O, that this were mine!" I whispered to myself. My companion heard. "And so are these your highest dreams of life?" he asked. "Listen, my friend," he continued. "He who dwells here is one of a class of men who regard themselves as forming the highest society in the land. But this man cares more for that old Aldine or that rare Plotinus yonder, than he cares for the outside world or for his own soul. The world is centered in his library. A few intimates there are to whom he lays bare his feelings, and of most authors he is desirous of winning the respect; but the great mass of men, 'the unknown public,' who have not his fame or wealth, he loathes and spurns from his side. He remembers having heard of a book known as the Bible, once when he was a boy, and he has an edition of this work in his library; it is preserved on account of its antiquity. He has never heard of the Christ, or, at least, he regards him as below his notice. He is a Hedonist. His aim is to live at all odds a happy life. If he sees misery in any form he becomes queasy, and he therefore regards it his duty to shun all poverty and to refuse to render any aid to the poor. The hedge around his house he has grown that he may not see Poverty as it passes by. Society he hates; ordinary men, men of the forum, are beneath his notice. Their institutions are follies to him. He is wise enough, in his own conceit, to rule the Parliament of Man; but never casts a vote at a civil election. What is politics to him? The play of infants!"


"His children are growing up to be more supercilious than their father. They are still more cold and haughty. They smile at the people as they pass by to the church and say 'How foolish! We are the only wise ones of the earth.' They have no regard for any but the few that are like them, and they are few indeed."

"But how is it," I asked, "that such men, men who have no connection with the world, can write for the amusement of ordinary men?"

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