THE DETERIORATED BREED OF GHOSTS.
VOTHING is more remarkable in the democratic tendency of 11 the age than the deterioration it has brought about in the manners and breeding of Ghosts. The ghosts of a century, or even half a century ago,—the "ghosts of the old school," as they have been called,—used to feel it a solemn privilege to be ghosts. They acknowledged something grand, something of obligation, in their state. They seemed to say, Ililysiere oblige, as the nobility used to say, Noblesse oblige. It was not everybody who could be a ghost, and those who could were bound to keep up the influence and the dignity of the Order. In those days, ghosts fed their souls on solitude and were visible chiefly to the solitary. They flashed upon that inward eye which was the curse of solitude. Or if now and then, like the celebrated ghost of Mr. Wynyard, who appeared to both Sir John Sherbroke and General Wynyard, on the island of Cape Breton, on the 15th October, 1785, it proved itself to be no illusion by being seen by two persons at the same time, it would yet stalk noiselessly through the room, like the ghost of the royal Dane across the platform, and vanish without a sound. Ghostliness used to be a distingue sort of quality. One felt it a kind of renown to have a ghost in the family. To be an appari- tion was to be something lofty and awful, and though perhaps too dread a function to stimulate ordinary ambition, still one honourable after its fashion, and tending to keep a noisy, and familiar, and vulgar-minded generation under something like awe for the world of the supernatural. But such has been the progress of democratic ideas, that all this seems to have changed. Modern ghosts are " hail-fellow-well-met " not only with human beings, but with each other. If we are not mistaken, they not long ago declared it would be a " lark " to bring Mrs. Guppy through the air from her house in High- bury to Lamb's Conduit Street. Certainly there was, accord- ing to the authentic account of the story, much spiritual giggling amongst the preternatural agencies engaged in that manceuvre before they accomplished it. The ghost sometimes called Katie King, who professes, we believe, to be tire daughter of a b.uccaneer
of Elisabeth's or James L's reign, permitted Mr. Crookes to take her provisional and temporary body round the waist and kiss her, and then, according both to his evidence and that of Mrs. Ross-Church, A temporary human heartwas felt beating beneath the temporary ghostly organisation. There are stories in myriads of the extreme matter-of-factness and even vulgarity of the modern ghosts. Some
of them insist on aspirating unaspirated vowels, and show by vio- lent raps their objection to the authorised and more polite mode of spelling. Others of them delight in pinching your knees or neck like a child who is playing at blindrean's buff. A ghost who was indebted to Mrs. Guppy, we believe, for the power to manifest
himself in this world, was unpleasant enough to hurl two living lobsters on the table during a "dark !Attlee " in Russell Square, —(was a neighbouring fishmonger, we wonder, short by two lobsters of his rightful stock in trade, or did the ghost pay the money before abstracting the lobsters ? or did it catch the lobsters itself at sea, with or without the aid of a lobster-pot ?)—while the most common of all the freaks a modern ghosts are those in which they play violent games with heavy pieces of furniture.
Now how sad a deterioration we perceive in all these things from the old ghostly manners, which an orthodox kind of work on orthodox apparitions, * by an orthodox clergyman, has just agree- ably revived for us. It was worth while to know a ghost in those days. It made the blood curdle to think of him, and was in some respects, if not exactly a testimony to character, at least a testimony to mental or moral calibre. It was not for the ingni- cant then that the ghosts appeared, or that the ghostly bells rang. If a church-bell chose to toll without human hands for the dead, it was always for some member of the great local family. And, moreover, it was a great, deep-toned belief a great old clunch, and it rang at midnight, with proper solemnity,—and -not a little table which took to trotting about the room,sard bobbing its leg up by way of saying " Yes " or "No." And how much more sensible of their preternatural powers and rights the old ghosts were. There is the great Beresford ghost, the ghost of Lord Tyrone, who appeared to Lady Beresford on October 15, 1693, and of whom we have all heard, and whose story Mr. Savile has edited for us with great care in the volume just re- ferred to. Did he put himself into an ordinary physical shape, in which he could shake hands, and even be embraced without injury? On the contrary, when Lady Beresford complained that the next morning she would believe the whole to have been a vision unless Lord Tyrone gave her some sign of his spiritual pre- sence which she could not mistake, the ghost was fully equal to the solemnity of the emergency, and replied, "I must not touch you ; it would injure you irreparably. It is not for spiri- tual bodies' to touch mortal flesh." That is conceived in the fine old style, and the sequel is in keeping with it. Lady Beresford does not object to a small blemish for the sake of certainty, whereupon Lord Tyrone touches her wrist, and every sinew and nerve shrinks, "leaving an indelible mark as if a pair of red-hot pincers had griped me." And the ghost is fully aware of the magnitude of the occasion. "Now," said he, "let no mortal eye, while you live, behold that wrist ; to see it would be sacrilege." But what a falling-off is here ! In our days Katie King walks about quite cheerfully on the arm of her entertainer, does not object to kiss him, distributes snippets of her ghostly dress to her mortal friends, and never dreams of there being any sacrilege in the matter. But we need not go back to 1693 for instances of the "grand style" of ghostly visitors. No earlier than the beginning of the present century, according to Mr. Savile's book, the Rev. John Jones, of Holiwell, Flintshire, who did not die till 1858, just before the outbreak of spirit-rapping, was saved, as he believed, from death, by a spiri- tual visitor, who demeaned himself altogether in the "grand style." Mr. Jones was riding from Bala to Maehynlleth on missionary business, and this was his own account of his story
When I had performed about half my journey, as I was emerging from a wood situated at the commencement of a long, steep decline, I observed coming towards me a man on foot. By his appearance, judging from the sickle which he carried sheathed in straw over his shoulder, he was doubtless a reaper in search of employment. As be drew near, I recognised a man whom I had seen at the door of the village inn of Llanwhellyn, where I had stopped to'bait my horse. On our meeting he touched his hat, and asked if I could tell him the time * Apparitions: a Narrative of Pacts. [Oh! Mr. &vile, what a figure of speech is this, when many of your glories are the most baseless traditions, utterly without contemporary evideface.1 By the Bev. Bourehier Wray Bavile, ALA. London J.,ongmans.
of day. I pulled out my watch for the purpose, noticing at the same time the peculiar look which the man cast at its heavy silver case. Nothing else, howeve:-, occurred to excite any suspicion on my part, so, wishing him a 'good afternoon,' I continued my journey. When I had ridden about half-way down the hill, I noticed something moving,
and in the same direction as myself, on the other side of a large hedge, wi i :h ran nearly parallel with the road, and ultimately terminated at a gate through which I had to pass. At first I thought it an animal of some lend or other, but soon discovered by certain depressions in the hedge that it was a man running in a stooping position. I continued for a short time to watch his progress with some curiosity, but my curiosity soon changed to fear when I recognized the reaper with whom I had conversed a few minutes before, engaged in tearing off the straw-bald which sheathed his sickle. He hurried on until he reached the gate, and then concealed himself behind the hedge within a few yards of the road. I did not then doubt for a moment but that he had resolved to attack—perhaps murder—me for the sake of my watch, and whatever money I might have about me. I looked around in all direc- tions, but not a single human being was to be seen, so reigning in my horse, I asked myself in much alarm what I could do. Should I turn back ? No; my business was of the utmost importance to the cause for which I was journeying, and as long as there existed the faintest possibility of getting there, I could not think of returning. Should I trust to the speed of my horse, and endeavour to dash by the man at full speed ? No; for the gate through which I had to pass was not open. Could I leave the road and make my way through the fields ? I could not ; for I was hemmed in by rocky banks or high hedges on both sides. The idea of risking a personal encounter could not be entertained for a moment, for what chance could I—weak and unarmed —have against a powerful man with a dangerous weapon in his hand ? What course then should I pursue ? I could not tell ; and at length, in despair rather than in a spirit of humble trust and confidence, I bowed any head and offered up a silent prayer. This had a soothing effect upon my mind, so that, refreshed and invigorated, I proceeded anew to consider the difficulties of my position. At this juncture my horse, growing impatient at the delay, started off : I clutched the reins, which I had let fall on hi a neck, for the purpose of checking him, when happening to turn my eyes, I saw to my utter astonishment that I was no longer alone. There, by my aide, I beheld a horseman in a dark dress, mounted on a white steed. In intense amazement I gazed upon him ; where could he have come from ? He appeared as suddenly as if he had sprung from the earth. He must have been riding behind and have overtaken me. And yet I bad not heard the slightest sound : it was mysterious, inexplicable. But the joy of being released from my perilous position soon overcame my feelings of wonder, and I began at once to address my companion. I asked him if he had seen any one, and then described to him what had taken place, and how relieved I felt by his sudden appearance, which now removed all cause of fear. He made no reply, and on looking at his face, he seemed paying but slight attention to my words, but continued intently gazing in the direction of the gate, now about a quarter of a mile ahead. I followed his gaze, and saw the reaper emerge from his concealment and cut across a field to our left, resheathing his sickle as he hurried along. He had evidently seen that I was no longer alone, and had relinquished his intended attempt. All cause for alarm being gone, I once more sought to enter into conversation with my deliverer, but again without the slightest success. Not a word did he deign to give me in reply. I continued talking, however, as we rode on our way towards the gate, though I confess feeling both surprised and hurt at my companion's mysterious silence. Once, however, and only once did I hear his voice. Having watched the figure of the reaper disappear over the brow of a neighbouring hill, I turned to my companion and said, 'Can it for a moment be doubted that my prayer was heard, and that you were sent for my deliverance by the Lord ?' Then it was that I thought I heard the horseman speak, and that he uttered the single word, 'Amen.' Not another word did he give utterance to, though I tried to elicit from him replies to my questions, both in English and Welsh. We were now approaching the gate, which I hastened to open, and having done so with any stick, I waited at the side of the road for him to pass through; but he canto not; I turned my head to look—the mysterious horseman was gone ! I was dumbfounded ; I looked back in the direction from which we had just been riding, but though I could command a view of the road for a considerable distance, he was not to be seen. He had disappeared as mysteriously 8.13 he had come."
There is something quite elevating in the influence of such a spirit
as that, who appears on horseback no one knows from whence, disappears no one knows whither after accomplishing his work, and is only heard to say one single word,—a deep Amen,'—in answer to the endangered man's expression of his pious faith in the care of Providence. But if Mr. Jones had been saved by one of the modern ghosts, in all probability there must have been a table-rapping at some village inn in the neighbourhood, and a message rapped out ordering a party of muscular peasants to go to Mr. Jones's help for nothing is more remarkable than the liking of the modern spirits for company and noise. They have not only given up the grand style, they have mostly given up solitude, and can do much more with a lot of people round a table than they can with a solitary watcher by moonlight. They revisit not "the glimpses of the moon," but the flicker of the gag- lamp. They delight in playing accordions, in shouting through trumpets; in knocking hard on the roofs of cabs and railway car- riages, in whirling about dining-tables, in getting themselves photographed, and in manufacturing inexpensive pearls and rubies. 'The only thing in the least poetical they seem to affect much is the production of flowers. If the modern authoritiea may be truided; they really db. detti in &went to an extent very creditable to their taste ; but this is an exception to their ordinary demean-
our, which is, for the most part, not flowery at all, but exceed- ingly prosy, and of a kind almost expressly intended, it would seem, to rub off the awe which the supernatural world used to inspire. In one word, if our modern ghosts are trust- worthy, the world of spirits is now like our own in the hands of "the residuum." The angels, demons, saints, and penitents manifest themselves no longer. We have in their places ghosts of vulgar rhetoricians, who make speeches on matters they do not understand, of buccaneers or pugilists who show great mus- cular qualities with only temporary muscles, and shout audibly with provisional lungs, and of underbred shopboys or young women not too ghostly to flirt and romp, who treacle their speech with vulgar and somewhat greasy expressions of universal love. The change is great, but we cannot say it is one calculated to increase the reverence of men for the world that is unseen and eternal.