|WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 2, Number 3 From the Textbase|
In a Life of sixty-four years, alas how times are altered! when I was young, what dread and reverence were paid to omens, dreams, visions, blue burning candles, knives and forks across each other, salt spilt by aukwardness, and every kind of prognostic that led into the avenues of fate! The present times, or rather the last twenty years of my existence, treat these important points as trifles. Owls screech unheard. I myself dream and repeat my dreams unregarded. Thieves appear in the watch-lights, and we lose a marrow-spoon the next day; no matter, nothing foretold our loss. My elder sister, bed-rid and very old I confess, assures me, that her curtains have been drawn aside three times within these five weeks, by something in the shape of a dog without a head; but she, poor woman, is looked upon as doating. Jett, my little spaniel, I am sure, often sees something that comes from the other world; but Jett´s a dog, and can only bark at it.
What a pity it is, madam, that we cannot at the same time when we abhor the superstitions of popery, retain that veneration, I had almost said duty, to celestial warnings, which, no longer ago than the protestant reign of good queen Anne, I can very well remember, had an influence over every action of our lives.
It was then, madam, that a winding-sheet in the candle, or a cinder coffin jumping out of the fire, sent many a wicked maid to her prayers and repentance for a whole week together.
It was then, madam, that doctor Aaron Sandford, the star-gazing haberdasher, of Bednal green, and doctor Duncan Campbell, the deaf and dumb conjurer, in Buckingham Court, were followed and revered with as true devotion as the methodists are in these wicked days.
Witches indeed have pretty well kept their ground, notwithstanding the thunder of an act of parliament, and the execution of poor Thomas Coliey, only for stifling Ruth Osborne, the witch of Tring, in a pond of water. It is not six months ago since I read an account in one of the news-papers of a witch in Northumberland. The best people in the parish assembled to take her; they surrounded her house boldly, and in a body; they burst open the door, but they found she was flown, probably up the chimney, and upon a broomstick. My mother and my grandmother have often informed me of many wonderful noises, apparitions, and visions, that have been seen and heard in our family. My honoured parents were not only pious matrons but great believers; and shall I degenerate? All good stars forbid! yet I foresee that with me must die the usual family-veneration for supernatural causes.
My two grand-daughters are incorrigibly obstinate and careless: they give each other knives and scissars, without considering the consequence, that such kind of instruments invisibly cut love and affection. Sukey, the eldest, never fails to quit the room as soon as I begin to read my fate in coffee-grounds, and her sister Nancy seems not to pay the least regard to Childermas day. What can I do? pray madam, assist me in correcting these two girls, and in teaching them to stand in awe of spirits, hobgoblins, fairies, deathwatches, and Will i´the wisp.
I am, Madam,
Your most Humble Servant,
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