A second, and equally remarkable existence, was communicated to the author by the medical man under whose observation it fell, but who was, of course, desirous to keep private the name of the hero of so singular a history. Of the friend by whom the facts were attested, I can only say, that if I found myself at liberty to name him, the rank which he holds in his profession, as well as his attainments in science and philosophy, form an undisputed claim to the most implicit credit.
It was the fortune of this gentleman to be called in to attend the illness of a person now long deceased, who in his lifetime stood, as I understand, high in a particular department of the law, which often placed the property of others at his discretion and control, and whose conduct, therefore, being open to public observation, he had for many years borne the character of a man of unusual steadiness, good sense, and integrity. He was, at the time of my friend's visits, confined principally to his sick-room, sometimes to bed, yet occasionally attending to business, and exerting his mind, apparently with all its usual strength and energy, to the conduct of important affairs intrusted to him; nor did there, to a superficial observer, appear any thing in his conduct, while so engaged, that could argue vacillation of intellect, or depression of mind. His outward symptoms of malady argued no acute or alarming disease. But slowness of pulse, absence of appetite, difficulty of digestion, and constant depression of spirits, seemed to draw their origin from some hidden cause, which the patient was determined to conceal. The deep gloom of the unfortunate gentleman—the embarrassment, which he could not conceal from his friendly physician—the briefness and obvious constraint with which he answered the interrogations of his medical adviser, induced my friend to take other methods for prosecuting his inquiries. He applied to the sufferer's family, to learn, if possible, the source of that secret grief which was gnawing the heart and sucking the life blood of the unfortunate patient. The persons applied to, after conversing together previously, denied all knowledge of any cause for the burden which obviously affected their relative. So far as they knew —and they thought they could hardly be deceived— his worldly affairs were prosperous ; no family loss had occurred which could be followed with such persevering distress ; no entanglements of affection could be supposed to apply to his age, and no sensation of severe remorse could be consistent with his character. The medical gentleman had finally recourse to serious argument with the invalid himself, and urged to him the folly of devoting himself to a lingering and melancholy death, rather than tell the subject of affliction which was thus wasting him. He specially pressed upon him the injury which he was doing to his own character, by suffering it to be inferred that the secret cause of his dejection and its consequences, was something too scandalous or flagitious to be made known, bequeathing in this manner to his family a suspected and dishonoured name, and leaving a memory with which might be associated the idea of guilt, which the criminal had died without confessing. The patient, more moved by this species of appeal than by any which had yet been urged, expressed his desire to speak out frankly to Dr.-. Every one else was removed, and the door of the sick-room made secure, when he began his confession in the following manner : " You cannot, my dear friend, be more conscious, than I, that I am in the course of dying under the oppression of the fatal disease which consumes my vital powers ; but neither can you understand the nature of my complaint, and manner in which it acts upon me, nor, if you did, I fear, could your zeal and skill avail to rid me of it."—" It is possible," said the physician, "that my skill may not equal my wish of serving you ; yet medical science has many resources, of which those unacquainted with its powers never can form an estimate. But until you plainly tell me your symptoms of complaint, it is impossible for either of us to say what may or may not be in my power, or within that of medicine."—" I may answer you," replied the patient, " that my case is not a singular one, since we read of it in the famous novel of Le Sage. You remember, doubtless, the disease of which the Duke D'Olivarez is there stated to have died ?"—" Of the idea," answered the medical gentleman, " that he was haunted by an apparition, to the actual existence of which he gave no credit, but died, nevertheless, because he was overcome and heart-broken by its imaginary presence."— " I, my dearest doctor," said the sick man, "am in that very case ; and so painful and abhorrent is the presence of the persecuting vision, that my reason is totally inadequate to combat the effects of my morbid imagination, and I am sensible I am dying, a wasted victim to an imaginary disease." The medical gentleman listened with anxiety to his patient's statement, and, for the present judiciously avoiding any contradiction of the sick man's preconceived fancy, contented himself with more minute inquiry into the nature of the apparition with which he conceived himself haunted, and into the history of the mode by which so singular a disease had made itself master of his imagination, secured, as it seemed, by strong powers of the understanding, against an attack so irregular. The sick person replied by stating, that its advances were gradual, and at first not of a terrible or even disagreeable character. To illustrate this, he gave the following account of the progress of his disease.
" My visions," he said, " commenced two or three years since, when i found myself from time to time embarrassed by the presence of a large cat, which came and disappeared I could not exactly tell how, till the truth was finally forced upon me, and I was compelled to regard it as no domestic household cat, but as a bubble of the elements, which had no existence, save in my deranged visual organs, or depraved imagination. Still I had not that positive objection to the animal entertained by a late gallant Highland chieftain, who has been seen to change to all the colours of his own plaid, if a cat by accident happened to be in the room with him, even though he did not see it. On the contrary, I am rather a friend to cats, and endured with so much equanimity the presence of my imaginary attendant, that it had become almost indifferent to me ; when within the course of a few months it gave place to, or was succeeded by, a spectre of a more important sort, or which at least had a more imposing appearance. This was no other than the apparition of a gentleman-usher, dressed as if to wait upon a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a Lord High Commissioner of the Kirk, or any other who bears- on his brow the rank and stamp of delegated sovereignty.