" In the year 1686, in the months of June and July," says the honest chronicler, " many yet alive can witness, that about the Crossford Boat, two miles beneath Lanark, especially at the Mains, on the water of Clyde, many people gathered together for several afternoons, where there were showers of bonnets, hats, guns, and swords, which covered the trees and the ground; companies of men in arms marching in order upon the water side ; companies meeting companies, going all through other, and then all falling to the ground and disappearing; other companies immediately appeared, marching the same way. I went there three afternoons together, and as I observed there were two-thirds of the people that were together saw, and a third that saw not, and though I could see nothing, there was such a fright and trembling on those that did see, that was discernible to all from those that saw not. There was a gentleman standing next to me, who spoke as too many gentlemen and others speak, who said, ' A pack of damned witches and warlocks that have the second sight! the devil ha't do I see and immediately there was a discernible change in his countenance. With as much fear and trembling as any woman I saw there, he called out, ' All you that do not see, say nothing for I persuade you it is matter of fact, and discernible to all that is not stone-blind !' And those who did see told what works [i. e. locks] the guns had, and their length and wideness, and what handles the swords had, whether small or three-barr'd, or Highland guards, and the closing knots of the bonnets, black or blue; and those who did see them there, whenever they went abroad, saw a bonnet and a sword drop in the way."*
This singular phenomenon, in which a multitude believed, although only two-thirds of them saw what must, if real, have been equally obvious to all, may be compared with the exploit of a humorist, who planted himself in an attitude of astonishment, with his eyes rivetted on the well-known bronze lion that graces the front of Northumberland house in the Strand, and having attracted the attention of those who looked at him by muttering, " By Heaven, it wags!—it wags again !" contrived in a few minutes to blockade the whole street with an immense crowd, some conceiving that they had absolutely seen the lion of Percy wag his tail, others expecting to witness the same phenomenon.
On such occasions as we have hitherto mentioned, we have supposed that the ghost-seer has been in full possession of his ordinary powers of perception, unless in the case of dreamers, in whom they may have been obscured by temporary slumber, and the possibility of correcting vagaries of the imagination rendered more difficult by want of the ordinary appeal to the evidence of the bodily senses. In other respects, their blood beat temperately, they possessed the ordinary capacity of ascertaining the truth, or discerning the falsehood, of external appearances, by an appeal to the organ of sight. Unfortunately, however, as is now universally known and admitted, there certainly exists more than one disorder known to professional men, of which one important symptom is a disposition to see apparitions.
* Walker'a Lives, Edinburgh, 1827, vol. i. p. xxxvi. It is evident that honest Peter believed in the apparition of this martial gear, on the principle of Partridge's terror for the ghost of Hamlet—not that he was afraid himself, but because Garrick showed such evident marks of terror.
This frightful disorder is not properly insanity, although it is somewhat allied to that most horrible of maladies, and may, in many constitutions, be the means of bringing it on, and although such hallucinations are proper to both. The difference I conceive to be, that, in cases of insanity, the mind of the patient is principally affected, while the senses, or organic system, offer in vain to the lunatic their decided testimony against the fantasy of a deranged imagination. Perhaps the nature of this collision—between a disturbed imagination and organs of sense possessed of their usual accuracy—cannot be better described than in the embarrassment expressed by an insane patient confined in the Infirmary of Edinburgh. The poor man's malady had taken a gay turn. The house, in his idea, was his own, and he contrived to account for all that seemed inconsistent with his imaginary right of property ;— there were many patients in it, but that was owing to the benevolence of his nature, which made him love to see the relief of distress. He went little, or rather never, abroad—but then his habits were of a domestic and rather sedentary character. He did not see much company—but he daily received visits from the first characters in the renowned medical school of the city ; and he could not therefore be much in want of society. With so many supposed comforts around him—with so many visions of wealth and splendour, one thing alone disturbed the peace of the poor optimist, and would indeed have confounded most bons vivans,—" He was curious," he said, " in his table, choice in his selection of cooks, had every day a dinner of three regular courses and a dessert; and yet, somehow or other, every thing he ate tasted of porridge" This dilemma could be no great wonder to the friend to whom the poor patient communicated it, who knew the lunatic ate nothing but this simple aliment at any of his meals. The case was obvious ; the disease lay in the extreme vivacity of the patient's imagination, deluded in other instances, yet not absolutely powerful enough to contend with the honest evidence of his stomach and palate, which, like Lord Peter's brethren in the Tale of a Tub, were indignant at the attempt to impose boiled oatmeal upon them, instead of such a banquet as Ude would have displayed when peers were to partake of it. Here, therefore, is one instance of actual insanity, in which the sense of taste controlled and attempted to restrain the ideal hypothesis adopted by a deranged imagination. But the disorder to which I previously alluded is entirely of a bodily character, and consists principally in a disease of the visual organs, which present to the patient a set of spectres or appearances, which have no actual existence. It is a disease of the same nature, which renders many men incapable of distinguishing colours ; only the patients go a step farther, and pervert the external forms of objects. In their case, therefore, contrary to that of the maniac, it is not the mind, or rather the imagination, which imposes upon, and overpowers, the evidence of the senses, but the sense of seeing (or hearing) which betrays its duty, and conveys false ideas to a sane intellect.