" This personage, arrayed in a court dress, with bag and sword, tamboured waistcoat, and chapeaubras, glided beside me like the ghost of Beau Nash ; and whether in my own house or in another, ascended the stairs before me, as if to announce me in the drawing-room ; and at some times appeared to mingle with the company, though it was sufficiently evident that they were not aware of his presence, and that I alone was sensible of the visionary honours which this imaginary being seemed desirous to render me. This freak or the fancy did not produce much impression on me, though it led me to entertain doubts on the nature of my disorder, and alarm for the effect it might produce upon my intellects. But that modification of my disease also had its appointed duration. After a few months, the phantom of the gentleman-usher was seen no more, but was succeeded by one horrible to the sight, and distressing to the imagination, being no other than the image of death itself—the apparition of a skeleton. Alone or in company," said the unfortunate invalid, " the presence of this last phantom never quits me. I in vain tell myself a hundred times over that it is no reality, but merely an image summoned up by the morbid acuteness of my own excited imagination, and deranged organs of sight. But what avail such reflections, while the emblem at once and presage of mortality is before my eyes, and while I feel myself, though in fancy only, the companion of a phantom representing a ghastly inhabitant of the grave, even while I yet breathe on the earth ? Science, philosophy, even religion, has no cure for such a disorder ; and I feel too surely that I shall die the victim to so melancholy a disease, although I have no belief whatever in the reality of the phantom which it places before me."
The physician was distressed to perceive, from these details, how strongly this visionary apparition was fixed in the imagination of his patient. He ingeniously urged the sick man, who was then in bed, with questions concerning the circumstances of the phantom's appearance, trusting he might lead him, as a sensible man, into such contradictions and inconsistencies as might bring his common sense, which seemed to be unimpaired, so strongly into the field, as might combat successfully the fantastic disorder which produced such fatal effects. " This skeleton, then," said the doctor, " seems to you to be always present to your eyes ?"—"It is my fate, unhappily," answered the invalid, " always to see it."—" Then, I understand," continued the physician, "it is now present to your imagination?"—"To my imagination it certainly is so," replied the sick man. " And in what part of the chamber do you now conceive the apparition to appear?" the physician inquired. " Immediately at the foot of my bed ; when the curtains are left a little open,"answered the invalid, "the skeleton, to my thinking, is placed between them, and fills the vacant space."—" You say you are sensible of the delusion," said his friend; "have you firmness to convince yourself of the truth of this ? Can you take courage enough to rise and place yourself in the spot so seeming to be occupied, and convince yourself of the illusion?" The poor man sighed, and shook his head negatively. " Well," said the doctor, " we will try the experiment otherwise." Accordingly, he rose from his chair by the bedside, and placing himself between the two half-drawn curtains at the foot of the bed, indicated as the place occupied by the apparition, asked if the spectre was still visible ? " Not entirely so," replied the patient, " because your person is betwixt him and me ; but I observe his skull peering above your shoulder."
It is alleged the man of science started on the instant, despite philosophy, on receiving an answer ascertaining, with such minuteness, that the ideal spectre was close to his own person. He resorted to other means of investigation and cure, but with equally indifferent success. The patient sunk into deeper and deeper dejection, and died in the same distress of mind in which he had spent the latter months of his life ; and his case remains a melancholy instance of the power of imagination to kill the body, even when its fantastic terrors cannot overcome the intellect of the unfortunate persons who suffer under them. The patient in the present case, sunk under his malady ; and the circumstances of his singular disorder remaining concealed, he did not, by his death and last illness, lose any of the well-merited reputation for prudence and sagacity, which had attended him during the whole course of his life.
Having added these two remarkable instances to the general train of similar facts quoted by Ferriar, Hibbert, and other writers, who have more recently considered the subject, there can, we think, be little doubt of the proposition, that the external organs may, from various causes, become so much deranged as to make false representations to the mind; and that, in such cases, men, in the literal sense, really see the empty and false forms, and hear the ideal sounds, which, in a more primitive state of society, are naturally enough referred to the action of demons or disembodied spirits. In such unhappy cases, the patient is intellectually in the condition of a general whose spies have been bribed by the enemy, and who must engage himself in the difficult and delicate task of examining and correcting, by his own powers of argument, the probability of the reports which are too inconsistent to be trusted to.
But there is a corollary to this proposition, which is worthy of notice. The same species of organic derangement which, as a continued habit of his deranged vision, presented the subject of our last tale with the successive apparitions of his cat, his gentleman-usher, and the fatal skeleton, may occupy, for a brief or almost momentary space, the vision of men who are otherwise perfectly clear-sighted. Transitory deceptions are thus presented to the organs, which, when they occur to men of strength of mind and education, give way to scrutiny ; and, their character being once investigated, the true takes the place of the unreal representation. But in ignorant times, those instances in which any object is misrepresented, whether through the action of the senses, or of the imagination, or the combined influence of both, for however short a space of time, may be admitted as direct evidence of a supernatural apparition ; a proof the more difficult to be disputed, if the phantom has been personally witnessed by a man of sense and 'estimation, who, perhaps, satisfied in the general as to the actual existence of apparitions, has not taken time or trouble to correct his first impressions. This species of deception is so frequent, that one of the greatest poets of the present time answered a lady who asked him if he believed in ghosts,—"No, madam; I have seen too many myself." I may mention one or two instances of the kind, to which no doubt can be attached.