VASTNESS AND ISOLATION. [To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
SIE,—Your correspondence on this subject reminded me of a passage in a remarkable book which had sufficient recognition fifty years ago to pass into its fourth edition : "A Converted Atheist's Testimony to the Truth of Christianity: being the Autobiography of Alex. Harris "(Smith, Elder, and Co., 1852), and I have looked it up. The following is a transcript, with the original typography :— " It is, in short, clear that something more than an
ordinary event was needed for my deliverance from this morbid state of feeling. I consider the circumstance I am about to relate as exhibiting such a preternatural interference by the
Divine Helper The occurrence I speak of was a dream. . . . . . I think I cannot, except during an illness that followed this period, recollect dreaming a dozen times in my life In short, there was just every natural reason why I should not
dream, with none why I should I found myself existing in some Awful Presence. No words were uttered : neither was th.ere either darkness or light. Only I knew I was lost. Powers of in- tolerable strength gathered in upon me from every side. Thought it rank, as it were, to a point—ceased. Peeling expaided to an in- conceivable exteot ; and I existed, a Sensation of Horror ;—but oh! of what awful capacities ! I had seen nothing—I had heard nothing; yet that dream seemed for months the one only thing that I was conscious of. I awoke, but with no start ; calm as the starlight of the frozen seas ; as it were, alive by force of agony. I saw the open entrance of the hut; the pit and the log motionless in the moonlight in front ; the little flat beyond full of thin mist; the faint forms of the trees on the narrow belt of forest beyond. But whilst I saw all this as clearly as I could see it without, I felt the dream as strongly as I could feel it within. There was an utter severance of outward and inward things; the perception of neither was varied, but they were as it were disconnected by a great gap. I grew suddenly sensible that the one was no more than a fragile creation of the organs of sense, which might crumble in an instant into nothingness—a mere vision to the eyes; but the other perdurable, necessary, absolute, which springing as it did within the soul, might last as long as the soul itself. This dream, meantime, lies at the bottom of immense effects in my character."
I may further be allowed to refer to a personal experience be- longing to the later" sixties," my own later " twenties,"—the in.
tensest and most painful dream I have ever known. Probably
some reminiscence of the foregoing—though several years had Passed since my reading of the passage—contributed to it. I felt reduced to a mere point of being; keenly, awfully con- scions, yet absolutely impotent for will, or thought, or effort. Next day I could describe the sensation to a, friend only by
saying that, save for the horrible knowledge that I was, my existence seemed limited to that of a bare abstract proposi- tion such as "two and two make four" !—I am, Sir, &c., ANOTHER W. W.