« السابقةمتابعة »
No. 73. TUESDAY, JANUARY 18, 1780.
The Essay contained in this and the following number, was some time ago received from a gentleman of distinguished name in the literary world.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
“ In the course of his various inquiries into human nature, your illustrious kinsman, The Spectator, did not overlook Dreaming; on which he has given us many ingenious and useful observations. Having all my life been a great dreamer of dreams, I also have made some remarks upon that mysterious phenomenon, which, I flatter myself, may be acceptable to the author of The Mirror, as, I believe, some of them are new, and not unworthy of notice.
“I shall not take up much of your time with the opinions of the ancients in regard to the immediate cause of dreaming. Epicurus fancied, that an infinite multitude of subtle images, some flowing from bodies, some formed of their own accord, and others made up of different things variously combined, were continually moving up and down in the air about us; and that these images, being of extreme fineness, penetrate our bodies; and, striking upon the mind, give rise to that mode of perception which we call Imagination; and to which he refers the origin both of our waking thoughts and of our
dreams. Aristotle seems to think, that every object of outward sense makes upon the human soul, or upon some other part of our frame, a certain impression, which remains for some time after the obu ject that made it is gone, and which, being afterwards recognized by the mind in sleep, gives rise to those visions that then present themselves. These opinions, if one were to examine them, would be found either to amount to nothing that can be understood, or to ascribe to human thought a sort of material nature, which is perfectly inconceivable.
“Neither shall I trouble you with enumerating five different species of dreams acknowledged by some of the ancients, and particularly described by Macrobius. Dreams are, indeed, of different sorts and characters; but I see no reason why they may not be divided into five hundred classes, as well as into five. My own remarks I shall set down without method, and in the order in which they occur to me.
Though some of our dreams are exceedingly wild and extravagant, others are more regular, and more like real life. When the mind is at ease, and the body in health, we are apt to dream of our ordinary business. The passions, too, which occupy the mind when awake, and the objects and causes of those passions, are apt to recur in sleep, though, for the most part, under some disguise; accompanied with painful circumstances when we are in trouble, and with more pleasing ideas when we are happy. To this the poets attend; and, in describing the dreams of their heroes and heroines, are careful to give them a resemblance to their real fortune. Dido, when forsaken by Æneas, dreams that she is going a long journey alone, and seeking her Tyrians in a desert land :
- longum incomituta videtur
ÆN. iv. 467.
thus uniting as it were, in one image, the two passions that engrossed her through the day, love to her people, and a sense of her forlorn condition. Eloisa, separated forever from her friend, dreams of being again happy in his company; but, the next moment, says she,
- Methinks we wandering go
On these occasions, the poet will not describe a dream exactly like the real circumstances of the dreamer; he makes it only a sort of dark allegorical similitude; and this we approve of, because we know that it is according to nature. For a reason to be given in the sequel, it will appear to be mercifully ordered by Providence, that our dreams should thus differ from our waking thoughts; and, from what we know of the influence of our passions upon the general tenor of our thinking, we need not wonder that there should be, notwithstanding, some analogy between them. It is this mixture of resemblance and diversity, that makes some of our dreams allegorical. But, when that happens, an attentive observer, who is free from superstition, will find that they allude not to what is future, but to what is present or past, unless where we have been anticipating some future event; in which case our dreams may possibly resemble our conjectures. Now, if our conjectures be right, and if our dreams resemble
them, it may happen that there shall be a likeness between a certain dream and a future occurrence; but in this there is nothing more supernatural, than that I should dream to-night of what I have been employed in to-day; for this is nothing more than a particular train of thought impressed upon us in sleep, by a certain previous train of thought into which reason and experience had led us when awake. For example, when I see a man dissipating his fortune by debauchery, I may, with reason, apprehend that disease and poverty will soon overtake him. If this conjecture trouble me in the daytime, it may also recur in sleep, accompanied with some visionary circumstances; and I shall dream, perhaps, that I see him in rags and misery. Suppose this really to happen soon after, what opinion am I to entertain concerning my dream ? Surely, I have no more reason to consider it as prophetical, than I have to look upon the conjecture which gave rise to it as the effect of inspiration.
6 Some of our dreams bear little or no resemblance to any thing that ever before occurred to our senses or fancy. But this is not common, except in bad health. It holds true in general, that dreams are an imitation, though often a very extravagant one, of reality.
“ There are people who observe, that one particular dream frequently returns upon them. Socrates, in the Phædo of Plato, tells his friend, that he had all his life been haunted with a vision of this kind, in which one seemed to say to him, that he ought to study music. If this repetition of dreams be the effect of habit, which is not unlikely, we may from it learn the expediency of concealing such as are disagreeable, and banishing them from our thoughts
Indeed, it is a vulgar observa
as soon as we can.
tion, that they who never speak of dreams are not often troubled with them.
Intemperance of every kind, in eating or drinking, in sleep or watching, in rest or exercise, tends to make dreams disagreeable; and, therefore, one end of dreaming may be, to recommend sobriety and moderation. For the time we may employ in sleep bears a great proportion to the whole of human lite; and, if there be any expedient for rendering that portion of our time agreeable, it is surely worth while to put it in practice. Habits of virtue and soberness, the repression of turbulent desires, and the indulgence of pious, social, and cheerful dispositions, are, for the most part, effectual in giving that lightness to the animal spirits, and that calm temperature to the blood, which promote thoughts pleasurable through the day, and sweet slumber and easy dreams by night.
“ The ancients thought, that morning dreams come nearest the truth. In the morning, no doubt, the perspiration and digestion continued through the night, will make the stomach, and the whole frame of the body, more composed and cool than when we go to sleep; and hence, perhaps, it is not absurd to say, that dreams may be more regular then, and more like real life. But, if we have passed the earlier hours of the morning without sleep, and fall a dozing about the time we usually rise, our dreams are seldom agreeable, and our slumber is rather stupefying than salutary; whence we may, perhaps, infer, that it is the intention of Nature that we should rise early, and at a stated hour.
“ As agreeable thoughts accompany good health; as violent passions, and even frenzy, are the attendants of certain diseases; as dulness and confusion of thought may be occasioned by a loaded stomach;