CLEVERNESS IN DREAMS.
(TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR:)
Dr. Littledale quite certain (to take only one of the points his letter raises) that the stories he composed in his dreams were good, or, if so, that they were not reminiscences ? What "Lusiad " Mickle's dream-poetry was, we all know. He woke one morning telling his wife that he would give worlds to Tecover a beautiful poem he had composed in his dreams. ." Well, you repeated a verse or two in your sleep," said Mrs.
Mickle, "and you shall hear them." They were utterly sense- less doggrel.
This just corresponds with my own experience. I have done :reams of philosophising, poetising, and joking, in dreams. I have fancied, with rapture, that I had solved "the painful 'riddle of the Earth" in an epigram, and then awoke to recol- lect a miserable platitude, or worse. I was once composing a lyric in a dream, and woke, with wet eyes and a beating heart, to recall these precious lines :—
" The firmament shall languish, The stars their light shall lend, To soften down the anguish Of a not-familiar friend."
I have, again, made hundreds of jests, including puns, in my dreams, but never mid that was not idiotic. Once, indeed, I composed, in sleep, a child's story in verse, beginning,—
" The Great besieged the Lesser Auk, In his castle of Aukvard-Ness ;
And (you may write it down in chalk)
He made a precious mess."
Here there is a gleam of reason in unreason, but all the rest was stupid; and that little bit is my dream-masterpiece. Dr. Littledale's letter is very interesting, and raises many points of uaterest ; but I will not trespass. Leaving the "second case" alone, I will only add this. I observe, of course, what Dr. Littledale says of his feeling certain his stories were both ori- ginal and readable, and I know he is a good critic ; but he also says they faded out of his mind while dressing. Taking, however, the supposition that the stories were fairly good as -dreamt (i.e., that nothing was read into them during the process of criticism), there is another question. The general stress or bent of Dr. Littledale's fine faculties being what it is, he would fail in a novel ; but he may have a faculty in reserve which, if that general stress were uplifted by any passing exaltation, would be set free for a time. I can confidently say, both from observation and experience, that it is easy for us to deceive our- selves in these matters. There was a time when I used to feel and say that I could no more invent a plot or tell a story, than I could fly. A certain stimulating event unbolted a door in my poor, thick skull (I was fully conscious of the unbolting), and since then. I have with ease stained much paper with stories. As to inventing plots,—it has been suggested to me that I might make an income by selling them. If this should meet the eye—but no, you would not allow such a stroke of business in your columns.—I am, Sir, &c., ATROCIOUS DREAMER.