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DE FOE'S GHOST STORY
EFFORTS FOR MY REVIVAL: DE FOE, WESLEY AND DODDRIDGE.
THE seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed a great and rapid decline in the belief of my personal existence. Not, however, without serious opposition was its demolition to be effected. The professional ministers of religion, whether Papal or Protestant, had long been assured that the interests of their faith and ministry were welded together with the belief in the various lines and manners of action ascribed to me in connection with alchemy, necromancy, apparitions and witchcraft. Accordingly, in their opinion, to contradict these unrealities was to endanger Christianity. Hence ensued a new batch of spiritualistic falsities. The tendency of the period is illustrated by the trick played by the celebrated De Foe on the credulousness of his age. One Dr. Drelincourt had written a treatise on Death. The subject, not one of the most attractive, consigned the lucubrations of the pious author to total neglect. The sheets of the work lay a heavy burden on the publisher's shelves. But publishers have their resources in cases of a bad investment; and might not a loss be turned into a gain, perhaps a considerable one, if the popular author of Robinson Crusoe could be induced to write a Preface to the heavy and cumbrous volume? He undertook the task, and produced a ghost story which was so simply and naturally told as to defy disbelief, while in its tenor it put to flight all the objections taken by the active and daring infidels of the day to the existence of another and invisible world. The narrative is too characteristic of the manner in which, from being the offspring of speculation, fancy and fear, I have become a divinity, to be omitted in this my Natural History.
“A True Relation of the Apparition of one Mrs. Veal, the next Day after her Death, to one Mrs. Bargrave, at Canterbury,
INVENTED TO SELL DRELINCOURT ON DEATH.
the Eighth of September, 1705, which Apparition recommends. the Perusal of Drelincourt's Book of Consolations against the Fears of Death.
"This thing is so rare in all its circumstances, and on so good authority, that my reading and conversation has not given me anything like it. It is fit to gratify the most ingenious and serious inquirer. Mrs. Bargrave is the person to whom Mrs. Veal appeared after her death; she is my intimate friend; and I can avouch for her reputation for these last fifteen or sixteen years on my own knowledge; and I can confirm the good character she had from her youth to the time of my acquaintance. Though, since this relation, she is calumniated by some people that are friends to the brother of Mrs. Veal who appeared, who think the relation of this appearance to be a reflection, and endeavour what they can to blast Mrs. Bargrave's reputation and to laugh the story out of countenance. But by the circumstance thereof, and the cheerful disposition of Mrs. Bargrave, notwithstanding the ill-usage of a very wicked husband, there is not yet the least sign of dejection on her face; nor did I ever hear her let fall a desponding or murmuring expression; nay, not when actually under her husband's barbarity, which I have been a witness to, and several other persons of undoubted reputation.
"Now you must know that Mrs. Veal was a maiden gentlewoman of about thirty years of age, and for some years last past had been troubled with fits, which were perceived coming on her by her going off her discourse very abruptly to some impertinence. She was maintained by an only brother, and kept his house in Dover. She was a very pious woman, and her brother a very sober man to all appearance; but now he does all he can to null and quash the story. Mrs. Veal was intimately acquainted with Mrs. Bargrave from her childhood. Mrs. Veal's circumstances were then mean; her father did not take care of his children as he ought, so that they were exposed to hardships. And Mrs. Bargrave in those days had as unkind a father, though she wanted neither for
MRS. VEAL APPELRS TO MRS. BARGRAVE.
food nor clothing; while Mrs. Veal wanted for both, insomuch that she would often say, 'Mrs. Bargrave, you are not only the best, but the only friend I have in the world; and no circumstance of life shall ever dissolve my friendship.' They would condole each other's adverse fortunes, and read together Drelincourt upon Death, and other good books; and so, like two Christian friends, they comforted each other under their sorrow. Some time after, Mr. Veal's friends got him a place in the Custom-house at Dover, which occasioned Mrs. Veal, by little and little, to fall off from her intimacy with Mrs. Bargrave, though there never was any such thing as a quarrel; but an indifferency came on by degrees, till at last Mrs. Bargrave had not seen her in two years and a half, though above twelvemonth of the time Mrs. Bargrave hath been absent from Dover, and this last half-year has been in Canterbury about two months of the time, dwelling in a house of her own. In this house, on the eighth of September, one thousand seven hundred and five, she was sitting alone in the forenoon, thinking over her unfortunate life, and arguing herself into a due resignation to Providence, though her condition seemed hard. 'And,' said she, 'I have been provided for hitherto, and doubt not but I shall be still, and am well satisfied that my afflictions shall end when it is most fit for me;' and then took up her sewing work, which she had no sooner done but she hears a knocking at the door; she went to see who was there, and this proved to be Mrs. Veal, her old friend, who was in a riding habit. At that moment of time the clock struck twelve at noon. 'Madam,' says Mrs. Bargrave, 'I am surprised to see you; you have been so long a stranger;' but told her she was glad to see her, and offered to salute her, which Mrs. Veal complied with, till their lips almost touched; and then Mrs. Veal drew her hand across her own eyes, and said, 'I am not very well;' and so waived it. She told Mrs. Bargrave she was going a journey, and had a great mind to see her first. 'But,' says Mrs. Bargrave, how can you take a journey alone? I am
THE STORY TOLD WITH ATTESTING CIRCUMSTANCES. 345
amused at it, because I know you have a fond brother.' 'Oh,' says Mrs. Veal, I gave my brother the slip and came away, because I had so great a desire to see you before I took my journey.' So Mrs. Bargrave went in with her into another room within the first, and Mrs. Veal sat her down in an elbow-chair in which Mrs. Bargrave was sitting when she heard Mrs. Veal knock. Then,' says Mrs. Veal, my dear friend, I am come to renew our old friendship again, and beg your pardon for my breach of it; and if you can forgive me, you are the best of women.' 'Oh,' says Mrs. Bargrave, 'do not mention such a thing; I have not had an uneasy thought about it; I can easily forgive it.' 'What did you think of me?' says Mrs. Veal. Says Mrs. Bargrave, 'I thought you were like the rest of the world, and that prosperity had made you forget yourself and me.' Then Mrs. Veal reminded Mrs. Bargrave of the many friendly offices she did in her former days, and much of the conversation they had with each other in the times of their adversity; what books they read, and what comfort in particular they received from Drelincourt's book of Death, which was the best, she said, on the subject ever wrote. She also mentioned Dr. Sherlock, and two Dutch books which were translated, wrote upon Death, and several others. But Drelincourt, she said, had the clearest notions of death and of the future state of any who had handled the subject. Then she asked Mrs. Bargrave whether she had Drelincourt? She said, 'Yes.' Said Mrs. Veal, 'Fetch it.' And so Mrs. Bargrave goes up stairs and brings it down. Says Mrs. Veal, 'Dear Mrs. Bargrave, if the eyes of our faith were as open as the eyes of our body, we should see numbers of angels about us for our guard. The notions we have of heaven now are nothing like what it is, as Drelincourt says; therefore be comforted under your afflictions, and believe that the Almighty has a particular regard to you, and that your afflictions are marks of God's favour; and when they have done the business they were sent for, they shall be removed from you. And believe me, my dear friend,
346 OTHER 66 GOOD" BOOKS, BUT NONE EQUALS DRELINCOURT. believe what I say to you; one minute of future happiness will infinitely reward you for all your sufferings. For I can never believe (and claps her hands upon her knees with great earnestness, which indeed she did through most of her discourse) that ever God will suffer you to spend all your days in this afflicted state. But be assured that your sufferings shall leave you or you them in a short time.' She spake in that pathetical and heavenly manner, that Mrs. Bargrave wept several times, she was so deeply affected with it.
"Then Mrs. Veal mentioned Dr. Kenrick's Ascetic, at the end of which he gives an account of the lives of the primitive Christians. Their pattern she recommended to our imitation, and said, 'Their conversation was not like this of our age. For now,' says she, 'there is nothing but vain frothy discourse, which is far different from theirs. Theirs was to edification, and to build one another up in faith, so that they were not as we are, nor are we as they were. But,' said she, 'we ought to do as they did; there was a hearty friendship among them; but where is it now to be found?' Says Mrs. Bargrave, 'It is hard indeed to find a true friend in these days.' Says Mrs. Veal, Mr. Norris has a fine copy of verses, called Friendship in Perfection, which I wonderfully admire. Have you seen the book?' says Mrs. Veal. 'No,' says Mrs. Bargrave; but I have the verses of my own writing out.' 'Have you?' says Mrs. Veal; then fetch them;' which she did from above stairs, and offered them to Mrs. Veal to read, who refused, and waived the thing, saying holding down her head would make it ache, and then desiring Mrs. Bargrave to read them to her, which she did. As they were admiring Friendship, Mrs. Veal said, 'Dear Mrs. Bargrave, I shall love you for ever.' In these verses there is twice used the word Elysian. Ah,' says Mrs. Veal, 'these poets have such names for heaven!' She would often draw her hand across her own eyes, and say, 'Mrs. Bargrave, do not you think I am mightily impaired by my fits?' 'No,' says Mrs. Bargave; "I think you look as well as ever I saw you.' After this