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Ne tibi neglecti mittant mala somnia manes.
used for this purpose was the offering of a cake sprinkled with salt:
Somnia fallaci ludunt temeraria nocte,
Et pavidas mentes falsa timere jubent ;
Farre pio placant, et saliente sale.
Our childish antidotes of salted cake, "I quote this from Tibullus; who, in another passage, describes himself as occupied in expelling evil dreams from the slumbers of his sick mistress, by the same means :
Ipse procuravi, ne possent seva nocere
Somnia, ter sanctá deveneranda molâ.
From sad tumultuous dreams her sacred sleep. “I know not whether the practice among the vulgar in many parts of this country, of laying a piece of cake under their pillow on certain occasions, to procure pleasant dreams, have not taken its origin from this old ceremony; and I have no doubt but that a regular analogy might be traced between the notions and customs of the ancients, and those of the moderns, on this curious subject, since superstition is nearly the same in all ages and countries. Instead of the agency of the manes, we have substituted that of good and evil spirits ; and the belief of this supernatural interference will continue till the natural cause of dreams is generally understood. Milton has given countenance to this opinion by the wellknown passage which he puts into the mouth of Adam:
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,
“ And more strongly still by the description wherein Satan is represented in the act of inspiring evil dreams into the fancy of Eve:
Him there they found Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve, Assaying by his dev'lish art to reach The organs of her fancy, and with them forge Illusions as he list, phantasms and dreams; Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint Th’animal spirits that from pure blood arise Like gentle breaths from rivers pure; there raise At least distemper'd discontented thoughts, Vain hope, vain aims, inordinate desires, Blown up with high conceits, engend'ring pride. “ I do not mean to examine whether supernatural communications have at any time been made tomen during sleep; but it is certain that the greater number of dreams proceed from natural causes. It is generally agreed, that a person will seldom fail to dream in the night of whatever has seriously engaged his attention during the day. An uneasy posture in bed, a bad state of body, or any impressions of disease or pain, will likewise infallibly produce uneasy and frightful dreams. The same effect attends a heavy supper, or, in short, any thing which overloads and oppresses the body, or agitates the mind. An instance is mentioned by Mr. Locke, of a person who dreamed that he was ascending Mount Ætna, and that he felt his feet scorched with the heat of the soil, which was really occasioned by a bottle of warm water that was applied to his soles.
Every person is furnished with stories and instances in proof of this observation. Those who have known what itistolove, will have no occasion to be reminded of the influence of this powerful passion on their sleeping thoughts. In short, the prevailing passion, or the leading habit of our lives, if it do not create, will at least always give a tinge and colour to our dreams, which is fancifully attributed by Shakspeare to the influence of Queen Mab, who
Gallops, night by night,
ROMEO AND JULIET.
“I have only to remark further, that in very sound sleep the mind is not subject to be disturbed by dreams; and accordingly it is in the morning chiefly that these allusions appear, when the slumbers are light. This naturally suggests a remedy, which while it goes to the bottom of this complaint, will circulate at the same time its moral advantages through the whole system ofour duties and exertions -I mean that of early rising, which I consider as an object of such importance as to lay claim to a separate discussion in some future paper. The fresh air of the morning is a sort of bath to the spirits, that braces and restores them after the tumultuous toss, ings of a feverish night.
"I do not mean to say that the remedy I have
mentioned will be of any avail to save the mind of the oppressor from nightly fears, or to wipe away remorse from an evil conscience : these are the proper rewards of crimes. The blessings of a sound and undisturbed imagination are not to be procured but by temperance, activity, and a good life.
“ I am, Sir,
" and most humble servant, London, 26 March 1792.
- G. —."
My correspondent's sensibleletter leaves me room for a few remarks, with which I shall close this
paper. In the course of my speculations upon human life, some thoughts have naturally been bestowed upon that large and miscellaneous part of it which is spent in dreaming. Mankind are divided in their opinions on this subject, as on most others on which two opinions can be held, by too wide an interval. The vulgar and superstitious regard their dreams as oracular; while those who pretend to greater culture and intelligence consider them as wholly unworthy of regard. There is a point that stands equally distant from these two opposite sentiments, by attending to which some useful ideas may arise on the subject.
When we carry our respect for ordinary dreams so far as to suppose them prophetical, very serious impressions may be given, and much inconvenience may result to the waking and substantial parts of our lives. It has often happened, no doubt, that a dream, by presenting to the imagination a lucky number, has induced a poor man to commit himself in the lottery: and I have been told of young ladies, who have stooped to low alliances, in obedience to the suggestions of these empty counsellors. I think
too I have observed, in the nature of these nightly conjurations, a tendency to invert the order of things, as it stands in reality. What we have contemplated with reverential awe during the day, we encounter in our dreams with a careless familiarity, and are frequently drawn into the closest intinacy with what has filled our waking thoughts with dread and abhorrence.
In the drama too of our dreams, the most topsyturvy dispositions are made, and the different parts are sustained by the most improper persons in the world: thus, our best friends will sometimes act in these scenes like the bitterest enemies, and the purest characters will be concerned in the basest actions. To draw therefore from such confused appearances rules for our daily practice, and to suspect virtue and honesty because our mischievous fancy has traduced them in our dreams, would be to lay a foundation for such caprice, misconstruction, and abuse, as totally to disqualify us for the commerce of society.
A confidence in these chimeras has led many persons into mistakes respecting their real qualifications and their proper parts in life. A very peaceful hard-working cobbler of my own parish, by some distortion of his fancy, became suddenly so valiant in his dreams, and so wasted his spirits by night with his military achievements, that he actually needed repose in the day-time, and was obliged to excuse himself to his customers on account of his double profession. His fancy became at last so possessed with images of war, that he considered it as impious to oppose Heaven any longer; and accordingly enlisted for a soldier, leaving a farewell epistle to his family, in which he assured them that he felt him. self born to great actions, and exhorted them to