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And in the hardy camp, and toilsome march,
Men, therefore, who think more than others, may have more need than others have, of that amusement and variety which is produced by dreaming. Certain it is, that dreams are often a relief to those who are in perplexity, or who have long been ruminating upon disagreeable objects, or upon any one set of ideas which they cannot easily get rid of. Nor is it necessary in order to effect this, that a dream should in itself be pleasing. Scenes of difficulty, and even of danger, are, as we have seen, recommended to the patient oppressed with melancholy; and, if a dream shall only give a new impulse, even for a short time, to the minds of those persons of whom I now speak, it may do them an important service, however disagreeable in itself. Seldom, indeed, are they happy in their dreams, whose faculties are worn out with much thinking.
“ Dreams depend, in part, on the state of the air. That which has power over the passions may reasonably be presumed to have power over the thoughts
For the thoughts that occur to a mind actuated by any passion are always congenial to that passion, and tend to encourage it. Now, most people know by experience, how effectual, in producing joy and hope, are pure skies and sunshine, and that a long continuance of dark weather brings on solicitude and melancholy. This is particularly the case with those persons whose nervous system has been weakened by a sedentary life and much thinking, and they, as I hinted formerly, are most subject to troublesome dreams. If the external air can affect the motions of so heavy a substance as mercury, in the tube of the barometer, we need not wonder that it should affect those finer liquids that circulate through the human body. And if our passions and thoughts, when we are awake, may be variously modified by the consistency, defect, or redundance of these liquids, and by the state of the tubes through which they circulate, need we wonder that the same thing should happen in sleep, when our ideas, disengaged from the control of reason, may be supposed to be more obsequious to material impulse ? When the air is loaded with gross vapour, dreams are generally disagreeable to persons of a delicate constitution.
“If, then, our thoughts in sleep may receive form and colour from so many circumstances; from the general state of our health, from the present state of the stomach and fluids, from the temperature of the air, from the position of external objects in contact with our body, and from the tenor of our thoughts through the day* ; shall we be surprised at the variety of our dreams; and when any uncommon or disagreeable dream occurs, is it not more rational to refer it to one or other of these causes, than to terrify ourselves with a foolish conceit, that it is supernatural, and betokens calamity ? How often, during the day, do thoughts arise, which we cannot account for, as uncommon perhaps and incongruous as those which compose our dreams! Once, after riding thirty miles in a very high wind, I remember to have passed a night of dreams that were, beyond description, terrible: insomuch that I at last found it expedient to keep myself awake, that I might no more be tormented with them. Had I been superstitious, I should have thought that some disaster was impending. But it occurred to me, that the tempestuous weather I had encountered the preceding day might be the occasion of all those horrors: and I have since, in some medical author, met with a remark to justify the conjecture. A very slight cause may check that insensible perspiration which is so necessary to health ; and when this happens, we cannot expect that our dreams should be
* See Number 73.
easy as at other times. Let no one, then, be alarmed at an uncommon dream. It is probably nothing more than a symptom of a trifling bodily disorder; and, if so, it has nothing more to do with futurity, nor is one whit more supernatural, than a cut finger, or a pang of the tooth-ach.
“Concerning the opinion, which some have entertained, of our dreams being suggested by invisible beings, I shall only say, that I think it very improbable. For, first, I see no reason for believing that the Deity would employmillions of spiritual creatures' in such an office as that of suggesting our ordinary dreams. Secondly, I cannot conceive how those creatures should be affected, in such an operation, by the external air, or by the state of our health, which are known to have great influence on our thoughts, both in sleep and when we are awake. And, thirdly, from what we know of the rapidity of our fancy when awake, we need not suppose any foreign impulse necessary to produce the various appearances of dreaming ; as the soul seems to possess in herself
purpose. Madness, melancholy, and many other diseases, give an extravagance to the thoughts of waking men, equal, or even superior, to what happens in sleep. If the
of unseen beings is not supposed to produce the first, why should we have recourse to it in order to account for the last? But it is urged that, in sleep, the soul is passive, and is haunted by visions, which she would gladly get rid of if she could. And it may be urged in answer, for it is no less true, that persons afflicted with anxiety and melancholy, too often find, to their sad experience, that their soul is almost equally passive when they are awake; for that they are, even then, haunted with the most tormenting thoughts, from which all their powers of reason, all the exertions of their will, and all the exhortations of their friends, cannot effectually relieve them.
“To conclude: Providence certainly superintends the affairs of men; and often, we know not how often, interposes for our preservation. It would, therefore, be presumptuous to affirm, that supernatural cautions, in regard to futurity, are never communicated in dreams. The design of these remarks is not to contradict any authentic experience, or historical fact, but only to show that dreams may proceed from a variety of causes that have nothing supernatural in them; and that, though we are not much acquainted with the nature of this wonderful mode of perception, we know enough of it to see that it is not useless or superfluous, but may, on the contrary, answer some purposes of great importance to our welfare both in soul and body.
“ I am yours, &c.
No. 75. TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 1780.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
SIR, “ I REMARK that you meddle not with the high matters of politics. For this you must answer to yourself, being that you are able to write printed papers. I am a member of eighty-five societies, all zealous for the liberty of the press, in consistency with, and in conformity to, our establishment; and so I think that you are at liberty to write of those things only whereof you have understanding; and if so be that, by reason of your silence, you abuse, or, as one may say, vilipend the liberty of the press, judge you yourself; as for me, I say nothing.
But, although you give us no news yourself, perhaps you have something to say with the gentlemen who make the news; and if so, I hope that you will recommend it to them so to write, as that they may be understood of men who are not booklearned.
“ They, being book-learned gentlemen, write in divers tongues, whereby we poor simple men are at a loss, and Europe may be overthrown by compacts and associations, or ever we can understand the danger.
“ Not many days ago, I read in the news, that some good men put up an advertisement on a sta