Perceval murder

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"PERCEVAL MURDER." Times, 25th May, 1812.

"A Dumfries paper states that on the night of Sunday, the 10th
instant, _twenty-four hours before the fatal deed was perpetrated_, a
report was brought to Bude Kirk, two miles from Annan, that _Mr.
Perceval was shot on his way to the House of Commons, at the door or
in the lobby of that House_. This the whole inhabitants of the
village are ready to attest, as the report quickly spread and became
the topic of conversation. A clergyman investigated the rumour, with
the view of tracing it to its source, but without success."

The Times of 2nd June says, "Report without foundation".

Perth Courier, 28th May, quoting from the Dumfries and Galloway
Courier, repeats above almost verbatim. " . . . The clergyman to
whom we have alluded, and who allows me to make use of his name, is
Mr. Yorstoun, minister of Hoddam. This gentleman went to the spot and
carefully investigated the rumour, but has not hitherto been
successful, although he has obtained the most satisfactory proof of
its having existed at the time we have mentioned. We forbear to make
any comments on this wonderful circumstance, but should anything
further transpire that may tend to throw light upon it, we shall not
fail to give the public earliest information."

The Dumfries and Galloway Courier I cannot find! It is not in the
British Museum.

Transition from Dreams to Waking Hallucinations. Popular Scepticism
about the Existence of Hallucinations in the Sane. Evidence of Mr.
Francis Galton, F.R.S. Scientific Disbelief in ordinary Mental
Imagery. Scientific Men who do not see in "the Mind's Eye". Ordinary
People who do. Frequency of Waking Hallucinations among Mr. Gallon's
friends. Kept Private till asked for by Science. Causes of such
Hallucinations unknown. Story of the Diplomatist. Voluntary or
Induced Hallucinations. Crystal Gazing. Its Universality.
Experience of George Sand. Nature of such Visions. Examples.
Novelists. Crystal Visions only "Ghostly" when Veracious. Modern
Examples. Under the Lamp. The Cow with the Bell Historical Example.
Prophetic Crystal Vision. St. Simon The Regent d'Orleans. The
Deathbed of Louis XIV. References for other Cases of Crystal Visions.

From dreams, in sleep or swoon, of a character difficult to believe in
we pass by way of "hallucinations" to ghosts. Everybody is ready to
admit that dreams do really occur, because almost everybody has
dreamed. But everybody is not so ready to admit that sane and
sensible men and women can have hallucinations, just because everybody
has not been hallucinated.

On this point Mr. Francis Galton, in his Inquiries into Human Faculty
(1833), is very instructive. Mr. Galton drew up a short catechism,
asking people how clearly or how dimly they saw things "in their
mind's eye".

"Think of your breakfast-table," he said; "is your mental picture of
it as clearly illuminated and as complete as your actual view of the
scene?" Mr. Galton began by questioning friends in the scientific
world, F.R.S.'s and other savants. "The earliest results of my
inquiry amazed me. . . . The great majority of the men of science to
whom I first applied, protested that _mental imagery was unknown to
them_, and they looked on me as fanciful and fantastic in supposing
that the words 'mental imagery' really expressed what I believed
everybody supposed them to mean." One gentleman wrote: "It is only
by a figure of speech that I can describe my recollection of a scene
as a 'mental image' which I can 'see' with 'my mind's eye'. I do not
see it," so he seems to have supposed that nobody else did.

When he made inquiries in general society, Mr. Galton found plenty of
people who "saw" mental imagery with every degree of brilliance or
dimness, from "quite comparable to the real object" to "I recollect
the table, but do not see it"--my own position.

Mr. Galton was next "greatly struck by the frequency of the replies in
which my correspondents" (sane and healthy) "described themselves as
subject to 'visions'". These varied in degree, "some were so vivid as
actually to deceive the judgment". Finally, "a notable proportion of
sane persons have had not only visions, but actual hallucinations of
sight at one or more periods of their life. I have a considerable
packet of instances contributed by my personal friends." Thus one
"distinguished authoress" saw "the principal character of one of her
novels glide through the door straight up to her. It was about the
size of a large doll." Another heard unreal music, and opened the
door to hear it better. Another was plagued by voices, which said
"Pray," and so forth.

Thus, on scientific evidence, sane and healthy people may, and "in a
notable proportion _do_, experience hallucinations". That is to say,
they see persons, or hear them, or believe they are touched by them,
or all their senses are equally affected at once, when no such persons
are really present. This kind of thing is always going on, but "when
popular opinion is of a matter-of-fact kind, the seers of visions keep
quiet; they do not like to be thought fanciful or mad, and they hide
their experiences, which only come to light through inquiries such as
those that I have been making".

We may now proceed to the waking hallucinations of sane and healthy
people, which Mr. Galton declares to be so far from uncommon. Into
the _causes_ of these hallucinations which may actually deceive the
judgment, Mr. Galton does not enter.

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