The first shall be the apparition of Maupertuis, to a brother professor in the Royal Society of Berlin.
This extraordinary circumstance appeared in the Transactions of the Society, but it is thus stated by M. Thiebault, in his Recollections of Frederick the Great and the Court of Berlin. It is necessary to premise that M. Gleditsch, to whom the circumstance happened, was a botanist of eminence, holding the professorship of natural philosophy at Berlin, and respected as a man of an habitually serious, simple, and tranquil character.
A short time after the death of Maupertuis,* M. Gleditsch being obliged to traverse the hall in which the Academy held its sittings, having some arrangements to make in the cabinet of natural history, which was under his charge, and being willing to complete them on the Thursday before the meeting, he perceived, on entering the hall, the apparition of M. de Maupertuis, upright and stationary, in the first angle on his left hand, having his eyes fixed on him. This was about three o'clock afternoon. The professor of natural philosophy was too well acquainted with physical science to suppose that his late president, who had died at Bale, in the family of Messrs. Bernoullie, could have found his way back to Berlin in person. He regarded the apparition in no other light than as a phantom produced by some derangement of his own proper organs. M. Gleditsch went to his own business, without stopping longer than to ascertain exactly the appearance of that object. But he related the vision to his brethren, and assured them that it was as defined and perfect as the actual person of Maupertuis could have presented. When it is recollected that Maupertuis died at a distance from Berlin, once the scene of his triumphs—overwhelmed by the petulant ridicule of Voltaire, and out of favour with Frederick, with whom to be ridiculous was to be worthless—we can hardly wonder at the imagination even of a man of physical science calling up his eidolon in the hall of his former greatness.
* Long the president of the Berlin Academy, and much favoured by Frederick II., till he was overwhelmed by the ridicule of Voltaire. He retired, in a species of disgrace, to his native country of Switzerland, and died there shortly afterwards.
The sober-minded professor did not, however, push his investigation to the point to which it was carried by a gallant soldier, from whose mouth a particular friend of the author received the following circumstances of a similar story.
Captain C-was a native of Britain, but bred in the Irish Brigade. He was a man of the most dauntless courage, which he displayed in some uncommonly desperate adventures during the first years of the French Revolution, being repeatedly employed by the royal family in very dangerous commissions. After the king's death, he came over to England ; and it was then the following circumstance took place.
Captain C-was a Catholic, and, in his hour of adversity at least, sincerely attached to the duties of his religion. His confessor was a clergyman who was residing as chaplain to a man of rank in the west of England, about four miles from the place where Captain C-lived. On riding over one morning to see this gentleman, his penitent had the misfortune to find him very ill from a dangerous complaint. He retired in great distress and apprehension of his friend's life, and the feeling brought back upon him many other painful and disagreeable recollections. These occupied him till the hour of retiring to bed, when, to his great astonishment, he saw in the room the figure of the absent confessor. He addressed it, but received no answer—the eyes alone were impressed by the appearance. Determined to push the matter to the end,
Captain C- advanced on the phantom, which appeared to retreat gradually before him. In this manner he followed it round the bed, when it seemed to sink down on an elbow-chair, and remain there in a sitting posture. To ascertain positively the nature of the apparition, the soldier himself sate down on the same chair, ascertaining thus, beyond question, that the whole was illusion; yet he owned that, had his friend died about the same time, he would not well have known what name to give to his vision. But as the confessor recovered, and, in Dr. Johnson's phrase, "nothing came of it," the incident was only remarkable, as showing that men of the strongest nerves are not exempted from such delusions.*
* The friend on whose information i rested the story in the text, has, since its publication in this shape, favoured the author with the following remarks:
"You have not quite done justice to my story of Captain Clifford. Having, in the words of your Glorious John,
' Proved what was the courage of a ghost,' by sitting down in his lap, he undressed himself, the ghost standing now before him. On Mr. Clifford's rising, the ghost retreated, and finally passed behind the curtains into bed, when Clifford turned in to him. Clifford was a singular man, somewhat fanatical in his religion, but a learned theologian. With this, he was a good-natured philosopher, an expert chemist, a passionate pursuer of all sorts of knowledge; in Another illusion of the same nature we have the best reason for vouching as a fact, though, for certain reasons, we do not give the names of the parties. Not long after the death of a late illustrious poet, who had filled, while living, a great station in the eye of the public, a literary friend, to whom the deceased had been well known, was engaged, during the darkening twilight of an autumn evening, in perusing one of the publications which professed to detail the habits and opinions of the distinguished individual who was now no more. As the reader had enjoyed the intimacy of the deceased to a considerable degree, he was deeply interested in the publication, which contained some particulars relating to himself and other friends. A visitor was sitting in the apartment, who was also engaged in reading. Their sitting-room opened into an entrance hall, rather fantastically fitted up with articles of armour, skins of wild animals, and the like. It was when laying down his book, and passing into this hall, through which the moon was beginning to shine, that the individual of whom I speak saw, right before him, and in a standing posture, the exact representation of his departed friend, whose recollection had been so strongly brought to his imagination. He stopped for a single moment, so as to notice the wonderful accuracy with which fancy had impressed upon the bodily eye the peculiarities of dress and posture of the illustrious poet. Sensible, however, search of which, he once attended Judge Buller in a circuit as judges' marshal. As to nerves, if ever there was a man without fear or weakness (saving his fanaticism), it was this man. He was a sort of Talu of the delusion, he felt no sentiment save that of wonder at the extraordinary accuracy of the resemblance, and stepped onward towards the figure, which resolved itself, as he approached, into the various materials of which it was composed. These were merely a screen occupied by great-coats, shawls, plaids, and such other articles as usually are found in a country entrance-hall. The spectator returned to the spot from which he had seen the illusion, and endeavoured, with all his power, to recall the image which had been so singularly vivid. But this was beyond his capacity ; and the person who had witnessed the apparition, or more properly, whose excited state had been the means of raising it, had only to return, and tell the young friend he had left, under what a striking hallucination he had for a moment laboured.